The nightmares had started to subside. It had been three months and Sam was no longer waking up in the night with the image of his grandmother’s hands around his neck; he no longer had to share a room with his mother, as no fourteen-year-old boy should, and he was also starting to feel himself again.
He, for the last three months, had had nightmares nearly every night. The nightmares were usually images of his grandmother staring directly into his eyes and wrapping her hands around his throat while he screamed and failed to fight her off, and then, having no one, not police nor family, believe what he told them. Even considering this, his mother had still suffered far more than he ever would, and she would continue to.
‘Can you babysit your little sister tonight? I want to go out with Benn.’ said Sam’s mother.
‘Of course.’ said Sam. Benn seemed like a nice guy and a good role model. He was two metres tall, had dark skin, long black hair, and an incredibly imposing physique (a quality that impressed Sam). Having no good role models Sam was drawn to him. Benn had even promised to never hurt Sam’s mother and, because Sam so wanted his mother to be happy, he had believed him.
Sam’s mother left the house bubbly with the lines next to her temples showing because of the smile in her eyes. The idea that this might be the last time Sam would see that smile never crossed his mind.
Sam put his little sister to bed and read to her from The Jungle Book, Disney’s Little Golden Books, and within minutes she was fast asleep.
The night was as normal as any other night. Computer games until early hours of the morning and then, dragging himself away from the computer, Sam crept to his room and passed out.
He awoke rather peacefully in the morning. No nightmares, that’s always a good start.
‘MUM!’ called Sam, ‘are you home!?’ no answer. He opened the door to the hallway and paused. He couldn’t hear anything, and he noticed something in the air. Something is not right, he thought, as he tiptoed down the hallway to his mother’s room and opened the door. There she was in bed! Sam let out a brief sigh of relief, until he noticed how she was lying. There was something about the way she was curled up in fetal position that told him everything that had happened last night.
‘Mum, what happened last night?’ no response, ‘Mum… what happened last night?’ and his mother wept. Not in the way someone who has lost someone weeps, but in the way someone who has had a part of themselves ruthlessly taken by force weeps. She wept with her entire body. She wept knowing that she would never get that part of herself back again.
Sam knew what had happened, he knew what Benn had done and black and hateful rage filled his fourteen-year-old body. He wanted to hurt Benn. He wanted to do everything to him that he had done to his mother. He wanted to drug him without him knowing, he wanted to beat him, tie him up and hold a knife to his neck while someone bigger, stronger and viler forced themselves inside of him for an entire night, just as Benn had done to Sam’s mother. Most of all he wanted Benn to feel the fear that his mother had felt, and the pain he knew would always be with her, no matter how much she tried. But this time, this fucking time, Sam would not be so generous as to let Benn breathe the air of this earth ever again.
But he didn’t. He did nothing, because he was helpless. What can a fourteen-year-old boy do to a gang member who has spent over half his life in prison?
‘What can I do?’ Sam thought. ‘I should have protected her! There must have been signs and I should have noticed them! I am useless! If I can’t protect my mother then how can I protect anyone?’
A strange feeling overcame Sam. He wanted to weep, he wanted to weep the way his mother did, but he remained calm.
At least I am in control of my own life, he thought, as he poured himself a glass of water from the kitchen and drifted to the garage. It was like he wasn’t really there. Like he was watching himself walk, but not actually walking. Sam took the codeine from his pocket and swallowed sixty of them. He tied a rope to a supporting beam, and slowly and confidently stepped onto the bench and tied the rope around his neck. He won’t be helpless and he won’t fail this time.
Sam had failed. He had failed to be there when his mother needed him most. And she did need him. This was too much for her to bear. The pain of having your soul taken by force and now losing your son. No. But she did not do as her son did, and every now and then she even remembers what he did, but soon she’s happy again, bliss, the dragon calls, and like the memory of a dream, she can’t quite recall.
A poem from a mother 15 years later.
I’m un-becoming you and me
And un-becoming old and so unpretty
Shedding skin that’s not my own
Shedding twisted ways I’ve grown
Shedding thoughts that clasp my dreams of beauty
And what is it that lies beneath
These words, these lies, to me bequeathed
A woman tall and vast and clothed in scarlet
Furrows carved into her cheeks
Where water pours for fallen dreams
And in her hands she clasps a bloodied wreath
Forks of lust have pierced her heart
Dyed her garments forced apart
But in her soul kept safe a misplaced childhood
I’m un-becoming me and you
And all the men who came and knew
I’m un-becoming this imparted darkness
The savages who took the light
Inside my dress so late at night
Then laid upon my thighs a bloodied wreath
I’m un-becoming ash and grey
Un-becoming blurry daze
I’m un-becoming all that you have made me
Story by Samuel Bensberg.
Poem by Nicola Bensberg.
Video version: http://bit.ly/a-mothers-pain-yt