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The Power of words by Samsarah Morgan

As a teenager, I read and wrote all of the time. I was never without a book in my hand. I loved to read, and not only that: books were protection.

This is what I mean. If I were sitting at the kitchen table, and my father stormed through seeking an outlet for his frustration, it was the child who was not involved in something “useful” that was the most vulnerable to abuse. If you weren’t reading or doing homework, you were a target.

As I was an intelligent child, I figured this strange truth out pretty quickly. As a result, I read voraciously, or at least appeared to be reading.

In the summer of my 13th year, I read The Diary of Anne Frank. This book moved me deeply. I devoured it in a single day, and then re-read it. I was inspired by the life of this young girl who was my age and also trapped. She was trapped with her family in the oppression of anti-Semitism and war; I myself was caught in the despair of multi-level child abuse.

I fell in love with Anne Frank. I daydreamed of her, and prayed to her. I asked my mother to give me a journal just like hers; I wanted a journal with a lock and key. When it arrived, I delighted in pouring words into it. It became the home of my thoughts, dreams, and prayers. I thrilled at locking up my words so that they belonged only to me. That little journal evolved into many notebooks filled to the brim with my words: stories, plays, themes. My English teachers in high school were very, very encouraging, and one teacher in particular made time to sit after class or during his office hours to discuss my writing and how it might improve. He made his suggestions with compassion, kindness, and expertise. I trusted him, and I flowed as a writer partly out of my desire to please him. He would often smile after reading my latest offering and say, “You really are such a good writer, dear, keep at it. Keep writing.”

I enjoyed his praise, and I enjoyed the positive feedback that school offered me. And I did work hard, and kept reading, kept writing. Words, stories, plays, essays, critiques, thoughts, feelings, all in notebooks stowed away in the bottom drawer of my bureau.

One afternoon, I came home from school and noticed that my journals were not in their hiding place. They were strewn on the dining room table. I stood staring in horror and confusion. How did they get there? Who moved them? Dear Lord, had anyone read them? I knew that the only person with the power and lack of respect to do this was my father. I felt my brain zero out at this realization. Every muscle in my body locked, and I felt paralyzed in an state of abject, silent, hysterical fear. It felt like forever.

Slowly my senses returned. I approached the books and reviewed them. I saw, with a sigh of relief, that not every journal had been violated.

There were journals that held my deepest thoughts, hopes, and my newly discovered feelings of love, passion, and sex – those journals I’d instinctively secreted even further, deeper in my room and out of sight. I sat exhausted at the table and thanked God for his good grace, or for my intelligence, or both. The disgraced journals were mostly stories, poems, and plays. I breathed deeply and tried to stop shaking. I washed my face and became still. I tried to think like my father. I tried to consider what his response to the journals would be. How much trouble was I actually in? I tried to center myself, but I just couldn’t feel clear – and there was nothing I could do but wait until I could see what he brought home with him.

Should I take the books away? I didn’t know what to do – if I removed them, would that help him to forget that he’d discovered them? Could I escape retribution that easily? It could happen.

My father was a walking contradiction. The smallest offense could get you beaten within an inch of your life, and the greatest one could sometimes be completely ignored. There was no true way of knowing. I had to wait. I decided not to remove the books, but to place them in a corner of the table in a neat pile, near the wall.

The wait felt like forever. I wanted to run away, but to where?? I had attempted that before, and he’d found me, and I was beaten so badly I limped for a month.

I prepared dinner for my brothers and my father. I did my homework. My brother ate heartily; I couldn’t touch a bite. Finally I heard his key in the door and I sighed. I prayed, I tried to brace myself.

He entered the house quickly, and I heard his steps coming down the hallway to the kitchen. My brothers sat still, eating, and I sat with my hands clasped together elbows resting on the table. He approached me directly, and grabbed me by my hair, dragging me down another small hall to the living room.

He flung me into the room. My neck hurt. I spun around to face him .

“Who is this man you are writing about?,” he demanded to know.
“What man?,” I asked.

He slapped me across the face. I fell to the ground. He kicked me.

“The man in those books. Who is he?“

He kicked me again.

As pain bloomed in my side, I searched my mind… who was he talking about? Which story? Which man? There were a few. A few heroes of my stories were crushes or movie stars. I made them the heroes of my tales, and put them in scenarios where they knew me and and loved me.

“Who is Larry?”

My father screamed, kicking me again as I tried to stand. I fell again to the ground.

I groaned in pain and my mind reeled. Larry? Oh yes, Larry was a character who appeared in a few of my stories. He was actually based upon my biology teacher, a handsome and wonderful teacher who had no idea that my teenaged heart yearned for him.

My father stormed around the living room cursing and screaming. He demanded to know who this man was… but I knew that there was no way that I was ever going to tell him anything.

Number one, I didn’t want to get this innocent teacher into any kind of trouble, and number two, I didn’t want for my father to reveal to my feelings to anyone, in any way – I would have died of mortification.

“He is made up,” I said, feeling blood in my mouth. “Those are stories.”

I managed to get that out before a blow to my temple caused me to see stars. The stars seemed to ignite and spark of anger – I stood up and faced him. I shouted back. This was the first time and the last time I ever shouted at my father.

“THOSE ARE MY JOURNALS. THEY ARE MINE!! THEY ARE PRIVATE! YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO READ THEM!”

My father looked at me, breathing heavily. His expression was almost amused. He loomed over me and shouted something. I didn’t hear him. The words were accompanied by a blow that knocked me unconscious, and I fell to the ground at his feet.

My next memory was waking up in bed, where it appeared that my unconscious body was dumped on on top of the covers. It was the next day. My room had been ransacked. But I had hidden my other journals in our back yard. I took a shower. I moved slowly as everything was double-imaged and everything hurt. I was dizzy.

I made breakfast for my brothers and me, and for my father. He walked past me as if nothing had happened. And, in fact, it was nothing new to him. It was just a new day in his world. He had shown me who was boss, and it wasn’t me.

The journals that he found were no longer on the table. It would be many years before I would see them again, in a pile of books in the basement of his house. I would find them as I looked through his home after his death.

As for my most private journals, I took them out to the garbage pails myself.
I had wrapped them in garbage bags, and had placed rosebuds from our backyard alongside them. I threw them away so that they would stay precious, pure, and mine forever. I kissed them and buried them deep in the trash, minutes before the truck came.

But from that morning forward, it became almost impossible for me to write. Words, which used to be my friends and flow freely from my mind, became scarce. It became a chore to write.

My English teacher was brokenhearted that I stopped writing. He often stopped me to ask if I had written anything new. I began to avoid him.

I wrote the bare minimum. Enough to make my point, enough to pass the test. Teachers, and later professors, would beg me to expound upon on my thoughts and feelings, and I would passively decline. My thoughts were my own, and they were safe in the only place that was still mine. My head.

And there they would stay, for a very long time.

The above is an piece from the soon to released anthology Children’s Villages. Tales of an Urban Nana by Samsarah Morgan anticipated release date 7/22/15 in honor of the birth day of the authors son Joseph T S Farkash.

CV book cover

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