Andre

This is a story I’ve never told, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen to it as it comes out. It’s a story I was forbidden to share, one that I was supposed to deny. I don’t know why I’m writing it now, but it feels like time.

TW/CN: child rape, child abuse

I had a brother. Maybe still have, I don’t know. His name was Andre and our mom had him when she was 19. Neither of us knew his dad, but that “half-brother” thing always felt irrelevant to me. He was mine and I was his. He was a man of color but when he was in my life I never noticed or cared, and once it occurred to me it was well after he had become a topic our family refused to address. Andre was 4 years older than me, my big brother, and I loved him. I wanted to be like him. I wore his old clothes, listened to his music, mirrored my interests after his. He collected sports cards? So did I. He collected these shiny stickers the local gas station gave out with purchases (with “gangster” images, men with guns, mostly naked women with huge breasts)? I took all his duplicates and plastered them on my school supplies. When Andre would play with me it made my day. When he would invite me to hang out with him and his friends (usually because he wasn’t allowed to leave me home alone) I would tag along and desperately try to be cool and not act like such a kid.

I wish things could have been that simple. That I could leave it there and you could go on knowing what a cheerful pair we were. Andre raped me when we were children. I’m terrified to write this lest he somehow find my blog and object, because it took me 13 years to even say it happened. But it did and it changed my life as that kind of experience tends to do. Now, I don’t hate him. I don’t even blame him. He was 9, and he knew it was wrong or he wouldn’t have locked us in the bathroom, but there’s more to the story and I think it’s an important part to tell. My grandfather was a pedophile. He raped my mother and aunts until they turned 16, and then he kicked them out. When my mom had my brother she relied on her parents for free babysitting. She told me that she had felt safe leaving Andre with my grandfather because he had never touched my uncle and wasn’t interested in boys. I think she was wrong. All I know for sure is that my grandparents kidnapped Andre for 6 months when he was a toddler and took him out of the country, telling my mom she’d never see him again. I don’t know what happened during those months, or any of the time Andre spent with our grandfather, but I have my suspicions.

Andre wasn’t a bully and he wasn’t even that controlling. Mostly I don’t think he cared about me much. But he was the favorite and that always rankled. If my brother said I did something, my parents believed him. He was rarely punished. He tattled on me. The usual childhood fights. But I loved him so much. Sometimes he’d play with me, like Ca-Bird, a game we made up. One of us stood on the bed with a pink blanket over our head, as the Ca-Bird (half cat, half bird). The other person would try to take the bed by storm, thus winning the Ca-Bird’s treasure trove. Sometimes we’d play barber and I’d pretend to cut his hair. Most of the time I would read by myself and he would do his thing and that was that.

When Andre was 16, he got his first job. I think he sold tickets or maybe concessions at the movie theater. That summer was also the first time that we went to Seattle (we lived in Florida at the time). We took a vacation up to visit our great-aunt and uncle, and returned home the beginning of August 2000. My mom called Andre’s school because they hadn’t received his report card. I think she’d called before and they’d resent it, but it still hadn’t arrived. That day the woman on the phone told her, “I have his grades up, do you want me to tell you?” and with that all hell broke loose. Andre had been failing or barely passing most of his classes for the past few semesters. He’d had a friend who printed off edited ones, but that friend had moved before the current semester had ended. Andre was usually the one to get the mail, so when he saw his report card he’d thrown it away. He was at work when my mom made the call to the school so the response was several hours delayed. For most people I would think they’d have time to cool down, but maybe I’m optimistic there. For my parents, anyway, that was not the case.

I was sent to bed at my usual time. I couldn’t sleep because I knew Andre was going to be in so much trouble when he got him. His shift ended at midnight and he got home shortly after. There was screaming, yelling, and crying. I mentioned earlier that Andre was rarely punished. I said that for a reason. He’d been spanked some as a child but I can’t recall my parents laying a hand on him since he was 9 or 10. That night he was spanked. Now, for most people ‘spanking’ a child is a swat or two on the ass. I still don’t agree with it, but that’s not the point. My parents didn’t spank like that. My dad grew up on a farm and then had been in the navy, so he had a lot of upper-body strength. He put all of it into spankings. And he didn’t give a couple of swats, he kept going until we were crying, had lost control of our bladders, and he was holding us up by one arm so he could still reach our ass. That night he was furious and I remember hearing Andre screaming and crying through the wall between our bedrooms. I started crying and must have made noise because my parents came in to soothe me and tell me not to worry. After the physical punishment ended, the mental and emotional began. Our parents threw out almost everything he owned. All of his toys, his cards, the decorations in his room, his clothes. They left him 2 sets of clothes, plus his work uniform. They eventually went back through the decorations because my dad decided it was bullshit to throw away nice things “just because” my brother was so terrible.

Andre said that the reason he’d been failing classes was because he was being bullied. We were poor and our clothing was from Walmart, K-Mart, clearance at department stores. We also weren’t really allowed any say in our clothing. My mom picked out what she thought we should wear and that was that. Andre said that the kids at his school made fun of him for his cheap clothes and harassed him, even put him in the trashcans. Our parents said he was lying and that was just an excuse. There was also stuff along the lines of “Well it’s going to be worse now because you’re only going to have 2 outfits to wear.”

Our parents had to figure out what to do with Andre. In the mean time, he was allowed to go to work and nowhere else. One of my parents dropped him off and picked him up. He wasn’t allowed to watch TV, play games, use the computer or phone, or leave the house. When at home he was only allowed to leave his room for water or to go to the bathroom. He was only allowed to eat tuna sandwiches and drink water, and I think he was restricted as to the number of sandwiches he was allowed to eat.

Now, our house in Florida was two stories. Downstairs was mostly open with the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Upstairs were the three bedrooms, and there was a balcony that went halfway around the house, outside of each bedroom, accessible through sliding glass doors. Andre got tired of being held captive and climbed down the balcony and ran away. Normally that’s the kind of thing I would have gotten in trouble for, but my parents were so focused on their anger at him that I was told it was okay and not my fault.

This is where things really get complicated. Andre ran away to his friend’s house. His friend’s mom called CPS multiple times over several days, pretending to be a different person each time, saying that she’d found this poor boy in her car, in her garage, outside her house, under her car, etc., and that he was being abused at home. CPS almost issued arrest warrants for my parents but noticed that all the calls were from the same number. The police brought Andre home. He ran away. They brought him home. He ran away. They brought him home. The cops told my parents that Andre was “one of the worst they’d ever seen” and a danger to me. They told my parents he was a sociopath and that they needed to get him out of the house before he hurt or killed me. I mentioned earlier than Andre wasn’t white. He had gold-brown skin, dark brown eyes, and thick curly black hair. It was pretty obvious, especially next to my parents and me. For most of my life since then, I took it for granted that the police knew what they were talking about and that he was a Bad Person. Now I assume that they were racist as hell. Anyway, one night they brought my brother home and left. My dad was dozing on the couch and my mom was outside talking to her best friend. I was in bed but heard all about it the next morning. Andre tried to choke my dad. I don’t know why, and my dad was way stronger so he pushed him off. Andre ran out the door, my mom called the cops, and things really changed at that point.

The cops stopped bringing Andre home. My parents were done. Some random man called and told them that Andre was with him, he’d found him walking along the road, and offered to let him stay as long as was needed. For all my mom’s terror of rapists and predators, that she was fine with that shows how little she cared anymore. My parents wanted him gone. They didn’t want him in their home, they didn’t want to be responsible for him, they didn’t want him near me. Bootcamp and military school were too expensive. It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford it if they tried, but my mom told me they weren’t going to waste their money on him. Same was true for boarding school and most every other option.

So what did my parents settle on? The Hare Krishnas. I know almost nothing about them, but at the time my mother was very forthcoming about her beliefs that they were a cult who brainwashed their members. That was why she chose to send Andre to them. She hates cults and often warned me against being swept up into one when I started college, but it was the right place to send her son. She arranged for Andre to fly to California, where he would be met by Hare Krishnas and that would be the end of him in our lives. Until his flight he was to stay with the random man who had picked him up off the street. What I remember most about that period (late August) was that I had a soccer tournament and my parents were supposed to be there, but they had to take him to the airport and missed it. I hated my parents even then, so that I wanted them at something was a big deal. Andre flew to California but the Hare Krishnas never came. Somehow or other he wound up with some people who owned a Christian boarding school and they took him in. I think they adopted him. My parents didn’t really speak of it. We got a couple of holiday cards and a basket once, but that was it. After less than a year I don’t think we ever heard from him again.

My parents remained paranoid that Andre would come back and kill us all. I think that’s the reason we moved to Seattle in 2002. Andre turned 18 that year and I think they didn’t want to be in the same place in case he came back. I know they told our neighbors not to tell him where we went if he did show up. They didn’t want him to find us. I was skeptical that he would hurt us, or at least me, but who knows.

After that summer, I was forbidden to talk about Andre. I wasn’t allowed to say I had a brother; I was an only child. I wasn’t allowed to tell people what happened. If people asked where he was I was supposed to give some excuse that I’ve long forgotten. My parents went through the photo albums and threw out every picture of him. If other people were in it, they cut him out. They threw away all of his clothes and only kept the decorations and stuff that they wanted. They tried to erase him from our lives. Mostly. Except when I did something wrong. Then I was told I was “just like Andre”. That was…horrible. To be told you’re like the demonized, homicidal, family-destroyer that was your brother was pretty damaging to me. I eventually tried to explain that to my mom when I was 16 or 17, and she got so angry and told me if I didn’t want to be compared to him then I should stop acting like him.

It’s been almost 15 years since I last saw him. I have no idea if he’s alive or dead, happy or not, has a family or not, is in jail or not. I don’t know where he is or who he is. I don’t know so many things. And I really don’t want to anymore. I don’t want to find him, don’t want him in my life. I have my own family now, a happy, healthy one, and I don’t want my biological family around. But I’m tired of never talking about him and of keeping this ridiculous secret. My parents should be ashamed. Their actions were not okay. And Andre was my brother, a huge part of my life, for 12 years.

So I don’t know what the point of this was, other than to tell a story that’s been silenced for too long. I don’t want sympathies or condolences. It just needed to be told.

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