“My Gutsy Story®” by Leslie Johansen Nack
Forgiving him was something I knew I needed to do. I couldn’t carry this weight around any longer. It was crushing me. But forgiving him was mile fifty and I was stuck on mile one. Hell, I was stuck on mile zero as I sat naked on the bathroom floor wrapped around the toilet seat waiting for the next convulsion. Mile one was a million miles away from me: publicly admitting I needed help, that I was slowly killing myself one line of cocaine, one drink, and one guy at a time, in an effort to avoid the sharp, stinging, dull, aching pain that pierced the very essence of me. I needed help. The clock read 6 am and I needed to get myself ready for work.
As I lay on the bathroom floor, I knew these days were numbered. I could feel it. Either I was going to die, or I had to get help. Something needed to change in a big way. It had to. He’d been dead for five years, so why was I still running? Why couldn’t I stay in one place? I must be destined to be disconnected. Why did I keep thinking those people over there, the ones who were laughing and happy, were the answer for me? Why did I keep comparing my insides to their outsides and conclude I would finally be happy if they would just be my friends?
All night long I couldn’t stop listening to Take it to the Limit by the Eagles over and over again as I snorted line after line, poured myself wine from a gallon jug, glass after glass, in a sad pathetic state, all alone, trying to be quiet so my roommate wouldn’t hear me up for the entire night again, peeing in the Mexican ceramic pitcher so I didn’t have to walk to the bathroom across the creaky floor, claiming this song as my mantra:
You know I’ve always been a dreamer
Spent my life running ‘round
And it’s so hard to change
Can’t seem to settle down
But the dreams I’ve seen lately
Keep on turning out and burning out
And turning out the same
So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time
I should just hit the road; leave him behind, leave everything behind. The only problem: he always comes with me like a tape on continuous loop, “You’re stupid, worth nothing. Nobody will ever hire you. You’re doomed to fail.” When I slept, I dreamt about the eyes. The eyes were also his, staring me down, undressing me and wooing me.
I had been running for five years, and now, as I got ready to call my little sister and beg for help, I felt like a complete and utter failure as a person at the ripe old age of twenty-four.
Why can’t I be still? Regret? Self-loathing? No, self-hate. I am worthless. I hate myself. Nobody will ever love me. He’s right. I played Wasted Time over and over again, thousands of times, lying with my head up to the speaker the night before, the wine glass in my hand, a mirror in front of me with my last half gram:
So you live from day to day,
And you dream about tomorrow
And the hours go by like minutes
And the shadows come to stay
So you take a little something
To make them go away.
I could have done so many things baby
If I could only stop my mind
From wondering what I left behind
And from worrying about this wasted time.
My life was a waste. Oh God, maybe I killed him. I wished him dead so many thousands of times. I screamed it, whispered it, yelled it, and got on my knees and prayed for it with complete earnestness. My prayers were finally answered. I did this. I am responsible.
Oh God, I killed my father.
Maybe when enough people want you dead, when say, one thousand people wish it, you die. Maybe it’s a rule. Maybe family members’ prayers for death hold more weight than just regular, everyday people who wish you dead. Monica and Karen wished him dead too, I’m sure of it. And Mom, of course she wished him dead. She’s been praying for his death for at least twenty-five years now. I’d only been praying for his death since I was thirteen. How does this work anyway? God was sick of hearing me whine and finally killed him. Am I that powerful?
My life was empty, like a room that lost its air out the windows incredibly fast. Stillness. Now it’s getting ready to draw in new air. That’s where I was in life: in between. Something was going to happen. Something big. But the room was empty, silent, dead. I hated myself. I don’t deserve to be happy. How could I have sunk so low? How did I become a cocaine addict? Dad would be so disappointed.
No! He wasn’t really dead. He can’t be dead. He was faking it. Interpol and the CIA were behind all of this and they made him disappear for a while. Recovering stolen boats around the world was dangerous and he needed to hide. Yes, that must be it. Tomorrow he’ll come around the corner in his cut-offs, brown floppy hat, feet spread apart just enough to make a stance, like the King of Siam, with that all-knowing bearded face, arms across his big belly, his blue hawk-eyes drilling holes in my skin. He wasn’t really dead. He couldn’t be. He stalked me my entire life. He was larger than life. He was my entire life until I escaped from him at sixteen, ran away in order to save myself from his predatory eyes, hands and mouth.
But now I needed to dress for work. The nightmare could wait, like it always did, for me to return and stoke the endless fires again.
SONIA MARSH SAYS:
Thank you for sharing your personal story and helping others who have been abused by their fathers. You made us wait to discover who you were talking about, which I found intriguing. I cannot wait to read your memoir and wish you all the best Leslie.
LESLIE JOHANSEN NACK is currently working on her memoir. She is a graduate of UCLA with a B.A. degree in English Literature as well as being a member of the National Association of Memoir Writers and San Diego Writer’s Ink. She lives with her two children and husband of twenty-five years. You can visit Leslie at http://www.lesliejohansennack.com/
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