You know what complete lack of criticism feels like? Indifference. Like someone trying hard not to see the bad things happening around them. And that’s a problem, because, you know, it won’t really end well for everyone. Have excessive tolerance and we would be surrounded by horrible things. This is why revolutions happen. This is why drastic changes had to be done sometimes.
I see nothing but change every time I look back at my seventeen-year-old self. And I know you’re now thinking that I shouldn’t talk about things I know next to nothing about, but let me tell you what indifference is like: it is like inviting a crazy person to do crazy things in your home. Maybe the crazy person is like a relative, your recently orphaned cousin. A victim of a mental illness he’s unaware of, let alone had control of. You tried telling your mother that this is a bad idea, that you want him out, but your mother wouldn’t hear it. Sound familiar?
You get into a slight argument with this person, and what does he do when he senses that you got the upper hand? He opens the fridge, tears the bag of cornstarch open and stuffs as much as he can in his mouth. He — for the lack of a better word — processes this powder in his mouth until it becomes a sticky, white-yellow paste, while you watch, dumbfounded. By the moment you collected yourself enough to yell “Stop that!” it would be too late. He already spat the sticky cornstarch paste on your face, and your tears now mingle with his morning saliva. You thought you also tasted a hint of phlegm in there, but you didn’t want to entertain that thought any further.
What does your mother tell you? “You shouldn’t provoke him.” Of course, it’s your fault. It will always be your fault. Once, on a breakfast table, you saw him spread butter on his tongue using the knife. You tried to tell him that it’s bad; he should stop. Besides it being gross, he could cut his tongue. What does he say? “Fuck you, bitch.”
You get into an argument. He gets angry and punches you in the gut then runs to your mommy.
You tried to explain the situation. All he got was “Lowell, what you did was wrong, okay, honey?” To you, she says, “I told you to never provoke him, Jenna.” Un-freaking-believable. What the hell should you have done?
Things went on like this for years. Always your fault, never his. Do you get what I meant now by lack of criticism? We were given a sense of judgment for a reason. Well, some people are fortunate enough to have the sense to use them, I mean.
You grew into your teens together. Being the only child, you went through puberty alone, without an elder sister to guide you through the changes in your body. Of course, your cousin was useless — you can’t really talk to him about menstruation, you see. Your mother’s there, but she was always so busy with work that she barely had time to explain that having blood on your vagina means you’re not pregnant. Yet. That’s the gist of it. But oh well, this is the age of the internet, and you learned what you needed to learn.
Your body… swelled in certain places. You got a monthly visitor. Suddenly, taking a bath was the most intimate thing; the most private moment you could ever have. You learned to… play with your body whenever you thought you’re alone.
You know how your senses are acutely aware of every little thing when you’re doing something… inappropriate? That’s how you almost knew. Almost. You were in the bathroom, rubbing your fingers on that sweet spot between your thighs, trying hard to suppress the sighs that you really want to just let out, but didn’t. All you could manage was a low “Mhmm-mhmm…” while on the throes of lust. You were close to finishing when you heard this quick, scratching sound.
In your panic, you stopped, trying to figure out what the sound was. You really didn’t see anything and so maybe you figured it was just a rat scurrying, feet scratching the ceiling. You brushed the thought aside and continued on with your business.
This was your life. School, home, masturbation. Oh, and taking care of a crazy cousin. You didn’t really have a lot of problems; in fact you had life better than most kids your age, but you felt like this cousin of yours is your punishment for being born into a well-off family.
You’re older now, and so your mom gave you some responsibility. You were asked to check if he wasn’t choking on some damned plaything while you were gone for school the whole afternoon. You prepared food for him and was forced to sit on meals with him because the company will “do him a lot of good.”
It was on one of these lunches that you found out. You were eating adobo with him and halfway through the meal this dumb-as-nails creature just casually blurts out: “I like your new dildo. Pink is nice.”
What. The. Fuck.
You would later find out that that scratching sound was made by your crazy cousin, who was crazy enough to bore a needle-sized peephole in the bathroom ceiling. Ever since that incident, he told you that he had been watching you do your thing — all while smiling like the complete maniac that he is.
You cried. You wanted to scream, you wanted to slap him, to punch his face a hundred, a thousand times. You wanted to kill him. This bastard, who gave you nothing but misery and pain all your life, had the gall to… treat you this way. To degrade you, to think that he is entitled to watching you cure his basest of needs. The thought of him…. the very idea of this beast in your home drove you nuts. It disgusts you. He disgusts you.
You were covered in shame, and it’s like you didn’t want to show your face in public anymore. Is being broken in the head a free pass to do… crazy things? You had insisted many times before that your mom should just leave him in a mental facility to rot, and what did she say? “Oh, let’s take care of him, honey. For your auntie Ida. Come on, he’s not that insane.” My god! He’s insane enough to peep in on me while I was taking showers, mom! you probably thought.
How long are you going to put up with this?
Turns out, not long enough. “This has to stop. I’m telling mom when she gets home,” you said to him. In the meantime you decided to go to your room and get some sleep.
You know you can’t really sleep, but covering yourself up with a blanket while in the fetal position helped. You were alone with your thoughts. You were alone, which is just what you wanted most of all, anyway.
At least for a few minutes. After that, you heard your door creak open. You saw your cousin on the door. “I locked that,” you said, confused.
“I have key,” he said in his low voice.
“What, how did you—”
“Jenna, you’re bitch,” he said. “You tell auntie Glenda I look at you? I know what I do to you, bitch.”
“Out! OUT OF MY ROOM, NOW!” you screamed.
“No, Jenna, I want now. You tell auntie Glenda, it’s over,” he said as he rushed towards you. Remember how you grew? Yeah, he did that, too and now his muscles are overpowering you, pinning you to your bed while his nasty form hovered above. “I want fuck, Jenna.”
Tears streamed from your eyes. You tried, but it was futile, you can’t really do anything now. “Lowell, no, please… please don’t…” you begged.
He tore your shirt apart and exposed your bra. Those came off pretty easily with a brush of his fingers, too, and your chest was exposed.
“Lowell, stop, please! I won’t tell, I won’t tell, I PROMISE!” you screamed, crying.
You can tell he wasn’t listening anymore. He was working his way through unbuttoning your pants.
“HELP! Please! STOP!” you shrieked.
That was when you heard the rush of footsteps on the stairs and a split-second later, the door opened. Your mom was standing there at the scene, aghast.
“Jenna? OH MY GOD, Lowell, what are you doing?!” Your mom ran towards the hunkering beast, grabbed him by the hair, and slapped his face, hard. “You bastard!” She screamed as she slapped his face again, and again, and again. All the while the imbecile was just shielding her blows, until he got far enough away to run out of the room.
I wanted to continue the story, but I don’t really know anything more after that because, as you know, you kicked me out immediately after.
I just wanted you to know that I remember everything after all these years, which I hope will give the purpose of this letter a little more validity, I mean, for what it’s worth.
But, yeah, I deserved being kicked out. It turns out that no matter how tolerant or forgiving she is, even tita Glenda can’t ignore the attempted rape of her daughter. Good on her, she finally had the backbone to send me away. But I still thank her that she did not leave me on the streets, and instead sent me to a mental healthcare facility. At least there are people here who actually know how to deal with me.
I was seventeen, then. A lot of advancements had been made through the years; my rehab has been going well. They actually found a way to teach me how to develop my motor and verbal skills. Social cues and context aren’t such foreign concepts to me now, as well.
They even allow me to write now, see? I’m coherent enough. And I think I wanted to use this newfound skill to first and foremost say that I am sorry.
I am sorry, Jenna, for everything that I have put you through. You and your mother did nothing but guide me, and be good to me, even through those final moments when I was at my most disgusting. I will not be hypocritical and deny that a part of me loved and enjoyed what I did, but I am thirty-three now, and please believe me when I say that that was not the person I am today. And I realize completely that everything my past self did was wrong, and I am sorry.
I know the things I did could be unforgivable, but I have to let you know how deep in regret I am… hoping to give you whatever little comfort it brings. My only wish is that you turned out well despite all of that. That you have a beautiful life right now. If you have that, then I’m alright, Jen. I can die smiling, I will have the redemption I’m looking for.
To tita Glenda, if you had the chance to read this, thank you for honoring your sister — my mother — long after she was gone. You took good care of me, and I never paid you the kindness you deserved. I have been but a burden, but right now, please let me know if there is anything I can do to make up for what my situation has done. I will do what I can.
It would be too much to ask for you to come and visit me, but… it would mean a lot to me. You are the only relatives I know. You probably hate me still, but I would really just love to see you both. You two are always on my mind.
So ends the very first letter I ever wrote. Hope this gets to you. Thank you for everything, and I hope you could forgive me.
— A. P.