"Oz" (HBO), 616, 616 East Lincoln Avenue, Child Abuse, Crush #1, Girl, Hatred, Imagination, Interrupted", Judah ben Israel, Maurice Eugene Washington, Maurice Washington, Stolen Childhood, Torture, Uncle Sam
As I continue on my blogger’s journey reliving parts of my summer of abuse from thirty years ago, I’m reminded of some simple truths. That in terms of time, while I certainly remember everything that happened to me in July ’82, I don’t remember being outside the confines of 616 at any point during that month, even during those times when I actually was. Mount Vernon had become my prison. I don’t recall a single moment of laughter or goofiness, a single song or thought beyond surviving my ordeal. It was as if someone had kidnapped and then tortured me for five weeks. It was the longest interruption of my higher ordered thinking that I can remember.
Not only did my stepfather Maurice/Judah forbid me from the outdoors or from reading because I refused to acknowledge him as my father, but he forced me to do every conceivable household chore (see my “Whipped And Beaten” post from earlier this month). He invented them on a whim to keep me busy every day. His justification, of course, was the Torah. “Honour thy father and thy mother…” was what I’d allegedly violated as a sinful Hebrew-Israelite. I scrubbed behind our two refrigerators on a Saturday afternoon in mid-July — our so-called Sabbath day — while they were turned on, burning myself on coils and cleaning walls with plain water. I whitewashed the bedroom, living room, foyer, and hallway walls on Saturdays and other days, again without any soap or other cleansers.
Maurice inspected my work for any mistake, and if there were any, I’d get beat with a belt or punched in the chest or gut and would have to start the whole thing all over again. All while he laid on his unemployed ass farting and watching the ’30s Tarzan movie series starring Johnny Weissmuller on WNEW-Channel 5. On a Sanyo TV set my father Jimme had bought us the year before, just before his Louisville Slugger incident! I scrubbed those kitchen walls as if I were scrubbing Maurice with a steel rake tipped with Brillo pads. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have anything but water to clean them with.
Both Jimme and my Uncle Sam tried to see me during this torture. My stepfather threatened to kill Jimme, practically running him off. I got in trouble for chasing after my father down East Lincoln Avenue after Maurice threatened him. Maurice yelled at me, “If you go after him, you betta keep goin’!” Mom stopped my Uncle Sam from confronting my stepfather about his abuse of her and me when he came over for a visit at the end of July. He was obviously frustrated beyond belief. Uncle Sam said, “Don’t expect me to keep comin’ over here while that son-of-a-bitch’s still here!”
I was completely exhausted by then. I dreamed every day of slaughter. I thought about cutting up my stepfather in his sleep with a steak knife and feeding him to wild dogs. I’d start with his balls, then his whale-blubber belly, and then his throat. Then I would stuff his balls down his throat. These wonderful thoughts probably kept me from committing suicide.
Despite it all, the idiot had failed to break me. Off and on throughout my month of torture, I did think of Crush #1. She’d sometimes show up in my dreams. Or I’d think of her as I walked the streets of North Side Mount Vernon, as I passed her block near East Prospect, on the way to pick up a new stroller for Yiscoc or to go to Waldbaum’s or some other grocery store. Then I started thinking that this was a pitiful waste of time. After all that had happened, there was no way someone as great as Crush #1 would ever be interested in me, I thought one day at the end of July, just a couple of days before my five weeks of continual abuse had ended.
I assumed that I was damaged goods, a person no self-respecting individual would see as having any value. Kids, even poor kids, made fun of me all the time, my religion was a sham since my stepfather had become a worse person, Mom was making dumb decisions, and my grades despite my end-of-the-year rally didn’t meet my usual standards. It was July ’82 and I didn’t know if I’d make it to my thirteenth birthday.
I was so stressed out that I hadn’t noticed that I was in the midst of growing four inches in two short months. I missed my foot growing a full size in a span of a month, my first pubic hair growth. I even masturbated without knowing what it was I was doing, having made it my way to release all of my fear and stress. If a psychiatrist had evaluated me on July 16 of ’82, they would’ve put me on antidepressants. That’s how out of sorts I was.