Even before my sister Crystal was born, I believe she was destined to be my responsibility. It was almost as if our bond had developed before we ever really laid eyes on each other. Crystal’s father, a truck driver, lived a truck driver’s lifestyle. He never settled in one place, but traveled from town to town, barely able to take care of himself and his need for alcohol.
At some point Eric and my mother attached a burden onto Crystal as the sole bearer of all that was wrong in our household. If Crystal hit Rose, it was not uncommon for our mother to scream, “You evil bitch!” Crystal was demonized for the simplest act of defiance. She would be summoned to sit in a dark corner for hours when she did something forbidden. Eventually, like most kids, she began fighting back, cursing and screaming at Eric and our mom. She was only in elementary school, but her eyes reflected years beyond her age. Oftentimes, Eric would hit her in the head for being mean to the younger kids, or if she lied when confronted about it. As the months passed, I became increasingly protective of her.
During this point, my mother started lashing out, screaming that if she had to choose between Crystal and Eric, it would be Crystal who would have to go. The reality was there was nowhere for Crystal to actually go, or so I thought. One day I walked around the house and Crystal was gone. She was taken to a psychiatric hospital. Mom and Eric claimed she was out of control and hurting the other two children. When Crystal returned home some days later, I noticed she wasn’t the same. Whatever spark was present before she went was somehow gone. She had absolutely no emotional expression. I was disgusted when I realized she was being medicated. She wasn’t the one who needed medication. Maybe it was at that moment I knew I’d always look after her, but soon after, the medication stopped, and so did any hope of her being able to survive without pain in that house.
Sitting in my room one hot afternoon, my mom opened my door and asked me to go with her. Considering that my mother didn’t drive, I knew we’d be walking. She took me to a used book store down the block. I had never read an entire book, never even considered it. I knew my mom read, but I never paid much attention to that either. When we left, she had an armful of books, including one for me, Cujo. That day my mother gave me the gift of reading. She ignited a love inside of me I didn’t know existed. Reading turned into a refuge. I could stay in my room for hours and experience a totally different world. My mom would give me her novels by Stephen King and V.C. Andrews. Eventually, reading turned into a passion for writing. I’d fill notebooks with free verse poetry and journal entries. Reading and writing gave me peace.
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