The Haunting of the Telephone Nook

(forgive my formatting, it’s not letting me correct it at this time)
I’ve lived in a lot of houses in my life. As a child, I had young parents who were still finishing school, so we went where the work was. These weren’t huge cross-country moves. We went from Colorado Springs to a forgotten suburb of Denver, then Aurora, and finally, after my parents divorced, my mother moved us to Greeley, Colorado. From kindergarten to twelfth grade, I changed schools roughly every one and a half years.
That’s rough on a kid. It’s tough on the memory. I only have the scantest of knowledge of what all my houses looked like. My memories are tied to particular events, rather than places. I remember my sister’s room with two entrances and hardwood flooring, in which I decided to find out how much pressure it takes to cut open a water bed (not much for an adult, but it was a mighty feat for a little girl.) I remember the bedroom where I fell asleep under my parent’s headboard while playing hide and seek, prompting my mom to panic and search for me for hours. (She finally called my dad. He came home, took a minute to think about where I might be, and found me right away.) I can recall when my parents bought their first house and gave me the beautiful princess room I’d always dreamed of, with a canopy bed and unicorn wallpaper. That’s the same house where my sister locked herself into the bathroom, then cried for hours because no one realized she was gone.

But there was one part of a house itself that I remember vividly and loved more than anything. It was a telephone nook in our upstairs hallway when I was around four. I’m guessing that house must have been built in the 60’s or 70’s, because the arched cutaway wasn’t large enough to contain a wooden wall telephone, complete with hand-cranked magneto generator. It was more comfortably sized, so as to accommodate a rotary desk phone. 

For some reason, I simply adored this telephone nook. It was my favorite architectural innovation of all time. (Bearing in mind that I was four and knew little of architecture.) I found the entire concept to be so remarkably clever and elegant and sleek. I’d almost say I was nostalgic about it, but of course I was only four. Yet for some reason my mind connected it with the glamorous and suffering and tragic people that I was already conjuring in my head, even at such a tender age. My only requirement for houses from that point on was that they should have telephone nooks. 

One afternoon, on a particularly productive day- I had successfully brokered peace between the Unicorns and the Earth Ponies- I was cheerfully heading to the kitchen to ask for a snack when the phone rang. Seeing as I was feeling quite mature (thanks to my political success) I gleefully pounced on it before my brother or sister could pick up the line in the kitchen.

“Hello,” I said, though I’m sure it sounded more like, “hewwo” at the time. (That was one of my favorite heartstealing things with Ash-“hewwo” and “I wuv you.” There’s something so sweet and pure about the fact that they can love so fearlessly and affectionately before they can even speak.)
It was silent on the other end, so I said hello again and got ready to hang up. But then a grown man’s voice cheerfully replied.

“Hello.”

“Hi. Do you want to talk to my mom or  my dad? I’ll go get them.”

“No, no, it’s okay,” he said. “I’d like to just talk to you for a moment.”

This was a perplexing development that literally blew my mind. I had never considered that the phone would be for *me.* And what were the rules about this, anyway? I knew not to go with strangers at the park, but no one had ever told me anything about talking to strangers on the phone. Maybe this was one of my dad’s friends and he needed my help planning a SuperSecretSurprise party.
“Okay,” I said. Heading him off at the pass, I offered my idea on a party theme. “My dad really likes guitars and rock and roll music.”

He chuckled. I bristled. This was very important information if we were going to throw a proper party.

“No,” he said, with a smile in his tone. “What’s your name, honey?” 

I thought it was strange that he didn’t know my name when calling to plan a surprise party, but hey. Maybe he had a memory problem. That happened to old people, as far as I understood.
“I’m Missy and I’m four years old, almost five,” I boasted, hoping to impress him with my advanced years.

“How are you today?” I could hear him smiling through the phone. He’s very friendly, I thought cordially.
“I’m good,” I answered, and babbled on about my newest little pony and preschool. He humored me for a moment, but abruptly cleared his voice and interrupted my chatter.

“That’s good,” he said. “I have an important question for you, Missy.”

“Okay.” We were finally getting down to the party.

“Missy.” He paused dramatically. “Missy, are you wearing any panties right now?”

I can’t contain how I felt at that moment to one emotion. My stomach churned and sank to my knees. I was horrified. Offended. Humiliated. Full of rage. This was not an acceptable thing to say to a grown-up lady, let alone a little girl. I stood silently in shock for a moment, until my senses reengaged and I heard that now terrifying voice still talking on the other end of the line.

“What do they look like? What color are your panties, Missy?” His voice was starting to sound strange and gaspy. 

I’d recovered by now. With as much ferocity and imperiousness as I could muster, I screamed, “No! Don’t call back;” and slammed the phone back on the hook. 

I was shaking. I was confused. I didn’t know exactly why a grown man would want to know about a little girl’s panties. I did know, however, that it meant he wanted to hurt me. Tears of rage and terror poured down my cheeks as I stared helplessly at that stupid telephone in that stupid nook that had suddenly just turned my life entirely upside down. The sanctity of my own home had been violated, and for the first time. I realized that if I wasn’t safe at home, I wasn’t safe anywhere.
I told my parents about what happened. They were upset, but it was 1989 and there wasn’t any way to trace the call. They told me that there are bad people in the world and sometimes we just can’t stop them. 
I heard that sort of thing a lot from them, especially my dad. Bad people are unstoppable. Boys will be boys. We will never achieve peace, so we should just mind ourselves and not bother trying to achieve it. God will judge people in heaven.

Ever since then, my stomach sinks to my knees every time I see a telephone nook.

I took it to heart- that we can’t keep bad things from happening, so we should just make the best of it. So I never bothered telling them he kept calling. That he would make gross noises or just breathe and hang up. No one could do anything about it. Sometimes you just have to suffer abuse graciously. 
I suffered graciously six months later when the neighbor boy told me he’d learned how to have sex from his dad’s porno and asked me to recreate it (unsuccessfully, btw). And again a year after that when the boys on the playground used to pin me behind the school bus so my crush could kiss and grope me. I was gracious a year after that, when Jimmy from my 3rd grade class slipped me a drawing of a topless French maid that 3rd graders shouldn’t be making or passing. (I tried reporting him for that, while carefully maintaining my composure. He didn’t get in trouble. No one even told his parents. They told me, again, that boys will be boys.) And again a year later when the babysitter’s cousin tried to touch my private parts and I just stayed away from him instead of telling on him. He went on to abuse my baby sister instead, and ever sense then I’ve had this completely irrational, intense conviction that if I just let men abuse me, I can save other wome.
 

“We can’t stop bad things from happening,” has been the refrain of my entire life. “We can’t stop bad things from happening, but we can suffer things graciously and make things better for other people.” 

Everything I’ve related here occurred before I was even ten years old. Puberty and adolescence saw a thousand more transgessions, as did my twenties. Yet the longer I go on, the less I believe the things my parents taught me. The world is not inherently bad. Bad people can be stopped. Boys are equal, rational human beings who should be held accountable for their actions. We should work towards peace and the betterment of humanity no matter how difficult a task it may seem. 
And maybe I should still choose a house with a phone nook, because I refuse to let sexual abusers to intimidate or control me anymore.

Rebellion

I once was a magical child,

With the spark of the sun in my eyes.

Stars fell from my feet as I traveled

And the darkness had nothing to hide.

 

I walked all alone without terror

And danced by the light of the moon.

The shadows were friendly companions,

Who sang me the loveliest tunes.

 

But the magic of girls has a power

That incites a furious rage

And as I turned into a woman

My magic was slowly encaged

 

First they strangle our spirits

And tell us our lives are less-than

They hold up our girlhood as sickly

And demand we submit to a man.

 

They control our bodies with standards

And laws that limit our choice

They coerce and degrade us with violence

To effectively silence our voice

 

Because of the magic of girlhood

We cheerfully try to appease

Though these masters are cruel and unbending

And force us like slaves to our knees

 

Our night selves are strangled by evil

Our shadows look over our heads

And once where our footfalls were magic

Now terror explodes where we tread

 

But this isn’t the lot of a human

Which women are certainly so

And in our hearts we begin a rebellion

To assert our magical glow

 

Women are given a burden

And expected to carry the men

Though Savior is not our dominion

And each should account for his sins

 

We rise like the sun in the morning

Our strength is feral and raw

We fight for control of our bodies

And equal treatment by law

 

You won’t push us down to the basement

Our existence is vital and real

We’ll dance like nymphets in the moonlight

And joyfully express how we feel

 

You can’t take the power of women

Or keep us from speaking out loud

Our voices are real and insistent

And we won’t disappear in the crowd

Journal of a crazy cat lady: Lineage of the Clan: Lucy.

Momma Lucy, Queen of the house… Wife to Sky, mother of Katja, Tangerine, and Blackica.

This cat really helped connect me to the idea of a woman-self. I know that sounds funny, but this cat is pro-choice. We got her as a kitten, and she got pregnant before we could get her spayed. She had a litter of kittens, and when we were next going to have her spayed, our car broke down. And then she had another litter of kittens. And when we were going to have her spayed, our water heater broke. And because we live paycheck to paycheck, this was a continuing thing and she’d had several litters before we got around to it, and it completely destroyed her personality. She was sweet and lovey as a kitten; as an adult, she is aggressive and domineering. 

But I will tell you what, when we finally had the money to get her fixed, she was miserable. She would attack you if you stepped within six inches of her. She would hiss and scratch and bite if you even tried to touch her. She slunk around with her belly to the ground and her ears to her head. And guess what? By the time we took her in, she was pregnant again. They had to do a kitty-abortion. And she never regretted it.

For six months afterward, she was affectionate beyond belief. As a cat, I’m sure she didn’t quite understand what happened, but she knew that somehow *I* helped relieve her of her unwanted pregnancy. Whenever she even looked at me, she would start purring. I woke up many nights to her delightfully wet kitty nose pushing under the sheets, because wanted to cuddle be as CLOSELY as possible. 

Eventually, the love fest tapered off, but she’s much better tempered now than when she was pregnant all the time. And she’s s total matriarch. She rules the other cats (her husband and children), breaking up fights and providing affection and banishing the others when she is tired of them.

So yeah… I know it’s kind of a funny story but, I have six cats and I kind of just observe them and make documentaries about them in my head. I try to figure out their motivations and feelings. Some people get, I dunno, irritated? with me and insinuate it’s some sort of personal weakness or desire for self-destruction that causes me to love my cats so much. But, really, all it is, is that they’re family. They became part of the family, three unintentionally, but once they were here, they were here to stay. Ohana, right? Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind.

I seriously don’t GAF if my mom’s family and random strangers don’t “get” me being a crazy cat lady. But in the same way cats don’t think if us as different from them, I don’t think of them as different from us. We are one colony. We all love each other. We all have personal (and sometimes impersonal) relationships in the world.

And I’d rather stay here in my too-small home for twenty years until they all died than ever going to a place that wouldn’t allow me to have them all.

Minefield

I want to write the sorrow and

I want to write the rage

But they die within my fingers

And leave an empty page

This madness now has lingered

Ten long and hellish years

The constant self-destruction

Has left me lame and queer

My tears could birth an ocean

If they’d ever fall

But there’s a drought within my spirit

And I never cry at all

And I think that I could fight it

If I could only see

Do I become the madness?

Or does the madness become me?

I tried a long time praying

To a God who wasn’t there

’cause once you’ve known insanity

It’s clear he doesn’t care

We are our own creation

And our own destruction, too

For sanity is fragile

And human dreams are, too

For so long I’ve been fighting

This battle in my brain

The days are full of valor

The nights are full of pain

I ache to quash the darkness

That’s burrowed in my soul

And exit from the shadows

And see my two sides whole

But this war is never-ending

The demons lie in wait

To pull me at the fringes

If I even hesitate

No cure in sight is coming

No prince to save the day

And so I must keep trudging

The rocky, mine-strewn way.

Neptune

I long to take my sorrows

And write them in the sky

To hang there in remembrance

Of salty sea blue eyes

 

My trespasses are weighing,

My madness on display

Another victim falling

To my storm of disarray

 

My heart is beating shallow,

Battered and abused

All of my own doing,

The bleeding and the bruise

 

Yet surely burns the fire

That flickered on the edge

The slowly dying ember

That pushed me to the ledge

 

My soul’s a raging tempest,

My ship’s been hurled and tossed

Yet it cuts the waves with wisdom

When it seems that all is lost

 

So patient in my cabin

Will I navigate my course

And stay the path of passion

And steer with no remorse.