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Thirteen, An Introduction

By Bruce Clifford

The Dream

(February 3, 2001)

There was no chance for me to wake up from this dream. It suffocated me as if I had taken my last breath. I could feel myself sweating and I could hear my heart racing at warp speed, but my attempt to escape was impossible. I could feel the pressure inside my head pound at my skull as if I was a prisoner of war. I would try to scream, but I had no voice. There was little or no air as I felt the life suck itself right out of my soul. Unlike many near death experiences I saw no light. I felt no peace. The only thing I could feel was a pain caused by a trauma that I donít understand. I tried desperately to gain control over myself. My senses, reflexes, and emotions were now in a dark, uncontrollable place. If only I could lift myself out of this? I need to get out!

So many nights over my 37 and a half years have led up to this one night. So many days wondering if my life was as normal as the next persons, hoping that the evil I have seen and felt as a child were only just part of this dream. I know people all over the world go through a variety of levels of suffering. There is pain everywhere. Starvation, disease, disaster, and the pain caused by people happen every day. It is sad. Children die by the thousands in starved countries. Earthquakes kill thousands, destroying entire villages. On a smaller scale people will hurt other people without any logic. Without reason a parent will strike down his or her own child. Flesh and blood sometimes share no boundaries.

I think this is where my dream has taken me. Memories come rushing back to me as if someone has turned on a nuclear powered switch. Itís not like I am surprised by the dream, but there were so many vivid details that I have conveniently forgotten. Can you blame me?

It was the day after I became a man. The time frame of what takes place in my dream seems to begin and end that one night, but the memories and the feelings that now flow through me are the scars and pain that were handed down to me over time. It is almost like this day has defined my entire life. Itís as if asking one simple question became the catalyst for the agony. The suffering can be too much to take when you refuse to talk about things. It has felt so safe over the years to not say a word. ďItís my pain to deal withĒ. Sounds like good reasoning? ďThe emotional scars that I still carry with me are for me to handleĒ. I could give you a thousand reasons why I should not tell my story. Itís not like I have forgotten all of the abuse, but I have been able to compact it into a small place in my brain, believing that it is a safe place. Who needs to know?

It must be about 4:00 am in the morning while this nightmare is going on inside of me. The waterfall of emotions, suddenly take control and toss out every single bad memory of that night from that hidden area in my brain. The reality is that it goes way beyond that. Like a computer organizing files, the inner workings of my mind are suddenly releasing energy that have been stored and compacted inside of my brain for years. I thought I was the one in control here? I thought that I had the last say in who gets to know and who doesnít? I donít usually let people in. They donít know me to be this way.

I work hard and have a wonderful home and family. Iím not rich, but I have a good job that pays the bills. We go on regular vacations and really have a good life. If everything is so good, why does this hurt this much?

Itís the night after my bar-mitzvah. Iím almost 13 and I read all of my prayers to become a man in Hebrew, without error. Apparently my time of year brought to the table the longest part of the Torah that is read, thus giving me a lot of time in front of friends and family reading a language that I could not understand to become a man. I remember being brilliant that morning being able to read and sing my entire portion flawlessly. My parents and Rabbi told me that this ceremony was to make me a man. This was to be the start of a long road in becoming a whole person, allowing me to soon step over the threshold in becoming an adult.

We had a party. It was a huge affair. Friends, neighbors, relatives, and people from out of town, many that I didnít even know existed showed up to celebrate and to wish me well. It took place in the ballroom of a local hotel. We had a photographer, and magician who performed a fabulous show, and even had a jazz band play through the evening. I am guessing that we had close to 200 people there. Half of these people I did not know who they were, and most of those people I have probably never seen again after the party.

My dinner table was set up in the middle of everything. All of the children that were there sat at my table. Friends, Cousins, and other people around my age were all together. I didnít know it that night, but this was an affair that people spoke about for a long time. It must have been expensive?

We lived in a beautiful, large house out on Long Island. I never thought about money, or my lifestyle. I know we lived pretty well. Not rich, but my father must have earned a decent living in order to provide us with a nice home in an upper-middle class town called Mount Sinai.

As the party played itself out on May 29, 1976, I was handed by most of my guests many gifts. Most were in envelopes. I was very thankful to everyone, and I remember my mother and father telling me in front of other people that I would have enough money there to start up a savings account for college. Now that I was a man I thought that was a fabulous idea.

This dream has left the most awful feeling inside of me. The taste in my mouth was stale, and the air I was breathing was too exhausting. I didnít dream of a party, but of the night after when we were all counting the gifts and money that I received. I donít understand why so many people, many that I didnít even know were so generous to me?

My parents and I, the three of us sorted all of the gifts and in this dream my mother was writing down who gave what and how much in order to send thank you cards to everyone. This was 1976, and there must have been maybe a couple of thousand dollars in cash, checks, and savings bonds? I donít even think I ever got to know the amount, but for the time it was a windfall. It was to be a nice start towards my college savings. Once it was all arranged on the dining room table I asked out loud ďwhen are we going to go to the bank to open up my account and deposit this moneyĒ? I never should have asked that question. I should have kept my mouth shut and remained quiet. Everything changed at that moment. This was the exact moment where my dream begins. Exactly, at that moment when I asked that question. Iím sure of it.

How do I describe the horror that follows here? This is a dream where I am reliving one of many horrendous experiences I had to endure as a child. I still regret asking that question, but there was no taking it back. What seems like a mere second following my dumb remark I am shoved against a wall and took a beating in my side with the heal to my old mans shoe. Heís a big man standing about six one, and weighs over 250 LBS. Heís strong, and I am a small,13 year old boy at less than 110 LBS. Thatís right, a boy, not a man. I had no chance standing up to this like a man, but rather take my beating like a boy. I feel it again now, my ribs being crushed by a size 13, heavy black shoe. Mother just sat there with her whiskey sour while I had the living sh*t beaten out of me. He was so angry, and I had no one to protect me. Is there a god?

My breathing is intense at this point. Still fighting to wake up from this dream I can hear myself cry out in fear and pain. I can hear it, but there is no one there to save me. There is no one.

The shoe falls to the ground and he kicks it away with his left foot while he pulls me by the hair throwing me like a rag doll across the room. I want to die here because I canít imagine a pain worse than this. Why do these people hate me so much? I pleaded for forgiveness, crying out loud for him to stop. He was so angry, and through a fist that missed my head but punched a hole right through the wall behind me. At this point I fell to the ground without any other encouragement from the big man. The lashings from belt that followed could no longer penetrate my tolerance for pain. The worst part of the belt was the crack it made as it slammed against my backside. That snapping sound behind my ears sent chills up and down my spine.

This was the nightmare I was in. It was more than just a dream. It was one that I have never awakened from, and this night it hit me square in the face like a freight train. Somehow I was able to find the strength to wake myself up from this dream. This one act play I decided to relive on this Saturday morning.

You have to understand that this dream brought back all of my memories exactly as I remember them to be as a child. That corner of my brain that has held these horrid experiences for years has released itself with such fury that I feel that my story has to be told.

My story begins in 1963. . .

To Be Continued...

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