You had no chance
It should have been me
Why wasn’t it me
Why You? M.S. 1989
Of course our father blamed me for the accident that took Herod away from us. We should have been walking faster, I was too slow. We were further along than we should have been, I made Herod walk to fast. I hesitated, I made Herod stop. Herod pushed me out of the way to save me. It didn’t matter what the day was or how long after the accident Herod’s death was my fault and my fault alone. Our father’s resentment of me might well have started on our tenth day of life but after the accident it escalated to heights I had not before witnessed.
I was not allowed to mourn the loss of my brother, at least not at home and definitely not in the sight of my father. On more than one occasion he told me I didn’t deserve to mourn, I was so much to blame that I may as well have been driving the car myself. Of course I didn’t believe that at first but like so many of things in a child’s life if it’s force fed to you long enough it has a way of becoming fact.
Less than fifteen hours after my brother was slammed into the brick wall frontage of the house at seventy six Berry Street I was again walking past the house, forced to go to school, not even given a single day to mourn. Police tape gapped the hole left in the fence by the car, rubble was strewn across the front yard and the car was still sitting on three flat tyres between the house and the fence. Several police officers wandered around the scene, I would later learn that the home owner was put up in a hotel for the night and the police were there protecting the scene and taking notes for the coroner.
Herod’s body had obviously been removed from the scene by the time I walked past the following day but I could still see exactly where it had been. I could have drawn a chalk outline around the where the body ended up crushed into the brick wall the vision was that vivid. None of the police men saw me, not even the tall bald one who would question me three days later when my father ‘deemed’ it ok for me to be spoken to.
By the time I reached the end of Berry Street where I had to turn left and continue up to Parks Avenue before crossing the road and making it to school I had broken down completely. The image of that darn broken and bent car, the image of the house and most of all the image of my dead brother pinned against the wall of the house all too much for my head to handle. All I could manage to do was fall against the fence of the house on the corner before I broke down completely.
I was of course late for school on that day, a broken rule that required the school ring my parents and tell them such. I understand now that the school was not doing it to hurt me, they had no idea what my home life was like, they were simply concerned that a student who probably should have been at home grieving was at school doing it.
My father in no uncertain words told them that he had no interest in picking me up from school, that he had too many other important tasks to do because his son had died the day before, and that if they did not want me at school they could tell me to walk home. I know that Principal Caruthers didn’t know from that one phone call exactly what my home life was like but I think he was able to paint himself a bit of a picture. The problem was that the picture wasn’t clear enough for him because while he let me sit in his office and cry to myself for about an hour he eventually did tell me I could walk home whenever I felt up to it.
The second time I walked past that house on Berry Street the car had been removed, as had the police tape, but I could see still Herod crushed up against the wall. I ran home in tears, school bag bashing against my back and shoes pounding the footpath.
“What in the hell are you doing home!” My father roared as I walked in the door of the house.
My eyes were welled with tears making my sight blurry. My breath was laboured from running and speech was made difficult due to the sobs and lack of breath but I knew it mattered not what I said for the punishment would be the same. For the first time in I don’t know how long I heard my mother protest as my father dragged me into the bedroom that for my whole life I had shared with Herod and started to trash me.
As you may have worked out my father was a savage man when he wanted to be and on that day he insisted that no punishment was delivered until I was completely naked. I of course tried to resist but I’m sure you know too that such resistance is eventually useless. He stripped me of my school pants, tore my school shirt to pieces and then proceeded to hit me with his close fist, his open hand and his leather belt. When I fell against Herod’s bed and tried to use it for support I enraged my father further and the thrashing intensified, as did the verbal abuse, the kind of words you are more likely to hear in the club rooms of an outlaw motor cycle gang, not from the mouth of a god fearing church man like my father.
I don’t know how long the trashing lasted but I know when he finally gave up the only part of me that was not sore from being hit was my face, I guess you could say my father was a smart abuser in that he didn’t leave visible bruising and cuts. My head hurt, you don’t cop a beating for that long without your head aching but if there was any small mercies it was that I wasn’t hit on the head.