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February 13th

Let’s get this straight.
I don’t want to write this.
But, I need to write this.

For the last 20 years, I have been sweeping February 13th under the rug.
Now that I am sharing my story publicly, February 13th keeps showing up.

It’s a bittersweet day for me.

Two major life events happened on this day.
Events that have changed the course of my life.

One of them bitter.
One of them sweet.

 The Bitter

I was 11 years old.

It was 9pm on February 13, 1997.
A school night.

My mom had just left to go wait tables at the local bar.
Leaving me alone with her boyfriend that lived with us.

I was sitting at the kitchen table trying to finish my homework.

I was writing an essay on Theodore Roosevelt.
“I carry a big stick” was my first line.
My only line, actually.
I was struggling.

School did not come easy for me.
I was the dumb kid in class.
And being the dumb kid in class, I was made fun of everyday.
And each day, school was torture.  

I just wanted do a good job on this essay, so badly.
I wanted to prove I wasn’t stupid.

Sitting at the kitchen table writing, my mom’s boyfriend approached.

“Let me help you,” he said.

I didn’t think anything of it of course.
He was my friend and the man I looked up to in my life.
He protected me from my angry, abusive mother.
I was closer to him than my own mom.

And my mom always told me that I should be grateful to him.
And that if it wasn’t for him, we would be homeless.

He helped me with the essay and then went to bed.

I stayed up to make Valentine’s Day cards for my friends.
I had a huge crush on a guy named Casey Ortiz.
With his curly hair, tall lanky frame, metal braces and huge glasses.
He looked like a blond  Napoleon Dynamite.
I was obsessed with him.
I put extra candy in his bag, hoping that he would finally notice me.

The house was silent and I was having fun with my crafts.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the slow creak of his bedroom door.
I can still hear the sound of it as I write this.
And his footsteps coming down the hallway.
Towards me.

There was something different in his footsteps that night.
There was something different about him.

I don’t know why, but deep down inside of me nothing felt right.
I was on alert.
And I didn’t know why.

“What are you still doing up?” he asked.
“I’m making Valentines for my friends,” I said.

He watched me for awhile.
His presence was unsettling.
I didn’t know why, but the man I trusted was now making me uncomfortable.

I continued making my crafts, just being a child.
I kept my head down, trying not to look at him.
But, I could feel his eyes fixed on me.
Like he could see right through me and not in a good way.
He made me feel like he was picturing me naked.
I don’t know how I could feel that, but I could.

He stood up and walked behind me.
I was frozen.
He leaned over and put his arms around me, looking over my shoulder.
As if he was interested in what I was making.

He was too close.
Closer than he had ever been before.
I could feel his hot breath on my neck.
I pushed my chair out, hitting him behind me.

“Don’t be scared. I was trying to give you a hug goodnight,” he said.
“What’s wrong with me?” I thought to myself.
“Of course he was just trying to give me a hug.
He hugs me every night. Why am I so scared?”

I reached up to give him a hug from my chair.
And suddenly, he leaned down and stuck his tongue down my throat.

His breath smelled like coffee mixed with shit.
Like he hadn’t brushed his teeth in weeks.

I was terrified.

“Is this happening?” I thought to myself.

I was frozen.
Paralyzed, unable to move.
He tried to reach down my shirt.
I jerked my head down, looking at the ground.
Unable to look at him.
Unable to process what just happened.

He stood up and started walking away.

But before he went to his room he turned around and said, “I know you won’t tell and even if you did, she wouldn’t believe you.”

I knew he was right and I started to tear up.
At that point, we both knew he was in control.

He walked away and when his door creaked shut, the paralysis finally left.

I was in shock.

Looking down at my Valentine crafts, I felt broken.
Unable to finish them because I no longer felt like a kid anymore.
Valentine’s crafts didn’t matter anymore.

Up until that moment, all I cared about was Taylor Hanson, getting permission to shave my legs and my few friends from school.

But none of that mattered anymore.
Everything had just changed.

I was in a new harsh reality.
And one that I couldn’t handle on my own.
I needed someone to turn to.
But, I had no one.
The person I had always turned to, had just turned on me.

And in a way, I knew this was just the beginning of my nightmare.

I cried myself to sleep that night.

The Sweet

I was 25 years old.

It was 7am on February 13, 2011.
A workday.

I woke up to my phone buzzing.
“New Message from Rob,” it said.
“Get dressed, I am coming to get you.”

I was tired.
I had just pulled a late shift the night before.
And I was scheduled for the brunch shift at 10am today.

“What could he possibly want this early?” I thought.

Then there was a knock at the door.
I wasn’t even close to ready.
Only dating for two months at this point, I really was not ready for him to see me without makeup.

My sister let him in, and I walked out to greet him regardless of my bare face.

“Let’s go,” he said. “ I want to take you somewhere.”

“Now? I have to be at work in a few hours and I’m in my pajamas,” I said.

“Yes, c’mon girl.” He said with his southern accent.
There are a few phrases that Rob’s southern accent comes out and “C’mon girl” is one them.
It was enough to get me out the door in my pajamas.

We drove down to the Balboa Peninsula.
Headed to a spot I took Rob on one of our first dates.

I called it “my secret spot.”
Because it was a beautiful tree with a little grassy patch overlooking the bay.
And not many people knew the spot existed.
It was always a private spot that I could write and dream of travel.

He laid out a blanket and picnic basket.

“We are having any early Valentine’s Day celebration,” he said.

He sat down and poured my very first mimosa. Ever.
I didn’t drink at 25.

He served me a bowl of my favorite cereal, Quaker Oatmeal Squares.
And spread an english muffin with strawberry jelly.

We sat and ate for a while looking at the bay.
Admiring how peaceful and still it was.

Then he turned toward me and he took both of my hands into his.
And as we sat cross legged, facing each other, he started speaking from his heart.
He’s romantic typically, but this is a bit much.

“Where is he going with this?” I thought.

I began looking away.
He was going too deep, too loving and I couldn’t look at him.
I began to feel nervous.
I was shaking.

I had my “shield” on, of course (read Hiding In Plain Sight to find out about my “shield”).
I was tearing up behind them because I knew what was coming next.
And deep down inside of me, it felt right.

He got up on one knee, pulled out a blue box and asked me to be his wife.
And I said “Yes.”

I cried uncontrollably.
I cried with him in my arms and had total joy in my heart that February 13th.

16 Comments

  1. <3 Awesome post Jack. Miss you guys and congrats on your blog. Great to see you taking this challenge on. Keep it up 🙂

  2. Love love this post, Jack. Keep it up. I’m excited to read your next one, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one a YEAR from now. What a way to honor yourself and everything you’ve been through. I know I can speak for all your readers when I say- you’re truly making a greater impact than you realize, thank you and congratulations 🙂

    1. Phoebe, thank you for all your advice and support. I really appreciate it. When I first started posting I wanted to quit out of fear, but our chat and your encouraging words inspired me to keep going. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your friend, Jack

  3. What a sweet story of Robs proposal…I love you and your writing is amazing….I love that Rob brougjt you into our family♥♥♥

  4. Proud of you! Hope the world gets to know your inner and outer beauty! You are so strong for sharing your story! Lucky to call you my friend 🙂

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