It started when he was three, at least that’s when he knew enough about the world to notice something was off. It started slow, little things here and there. Daddy coming home later smelling weird, Tension at the dinner table, mommy flinching when daddy moved too fast, daddy snapping when he asked questions. Things started to get worse when his little brother came along.
Patton was so excited to be a big brother, but daddy got mad whenever he talked about it. Mommy said he could pick what the new baby’s name would be, he thought long and hard, it was a big responsibility after all. Jack, Jake, John? No, not a J name… Robert, ralph, Remy! That was it, the perfect name! Patton and Remy, Remy and Patton. Yep that was it, he ran out into the living room where his parents were watching tv, “I found it, I found the name!” he said bouncing up and down, he was sure mommy and daddy would love it just as much as he did! “What the hell kind of name is that, are you stupid?! I knew it was a bad idea to tell him he could have anything to do with this.” What? Why was Daddy so mad? Why was Mommy crying? Did he do something wrong? Did daddy not like the name? But it was perfect! He was so confused, maybe this was one of those things that he just didn’t get, daddy only calls him stupid when he doesn’t understand things about people. Like when he didn’t look at people’s faces, or when he got upset when things got too loud, like the vacuum, or when daddy was using the power saw in the backyard. He better say sorry, if he didn’t say sorry daddy would push him into the wall and hurt his arms. Patton didn’t like when that happened, he didn’t like how it made him feel icky, or how it made mommy cry. “ I’m sorry daddy, I’m sorry! You’re right its a stupid name, I am stupid, please don’t be mad!” He was crying now, and daddy hated it when Patton cried. “You’re damn right you’re stupid, now go to your room before I decide that I need to teach you a lesson!” He ran to his room and hid in the closet.
He liked the closet. It was quiet and cool and dark, and he could rock and flap his hands without daddy finding out. That was another thing that Made daddy ‘teach him a lesson.’ It took a while for him to calm down, it was almost dinner time by the time he felt like it was safe to leave the closet. He hoped dinner was something that felt ok in his mouth, he didn’t want to make daddy even madder by not being able to finish his dinner. He got up, went out to the kitchen and climbed up into his chair. Mommy had already put his plate down, they were having lasagna, steamed spinach, and garlic bread. Patton sighed in relief, these were some of his favorite foods, especially spinach! The garlic bread was kinda icky, but mommy gave him the softest piece, so it wouldn’t be too bad. Patton loved his mommy, she was his hero. She never yelled or grabbed him, and she always knew when he didn’t want to be touched. She even let him run in circles and flap his hands when daddy was at work! So yeah, mommy was awesome. no doubt about it.
After dinner, it was daddy’s ‘quiet time’, which meant that he had to be extra quiet. Patton put his pajamas on, snuck into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and climbed into bed. He wished that he could still have his nightlight, but nightlights were for babies, and he was a big boy. he was just starting to fall asleep when mommy came in, that meant that daddy was asleep and mommy could come read him a story and stay with him until he fell asleep. She pulled the rocking chair over to the side of his bed and picked up his favorite book. He used to sit on her lap, but her belly was too big now for him to fit, mommy said that meant that the baby was coming soon. He snuggled further under the covers as she started to read. “A bee fell in the water, he went buzz, splash, buzz. When a bee falls in the water, that’s what a bee does.” He could hardly keep his eyes open by the time she finished the book, but he didn’t want to miss her singing, that was his favorite part of when she would stay with him. He started drifting off as she started to sing. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. Youll never know dear how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.” She kissed him on the forehead and pulled the blankets tighter around him. As she watched him breathing slowly, she said “I’m so sorry my little lovebug, I wish I could take it all away. You don’t deserve any of this.” She stood up, dried her tears and went to clean up the empty beer cans that surrounded her husband.
Remy was two now, only they weren’t allowed to call him Remy when father was around, It was Ryan then. Patton wasn’t sure when he stopped saying ‘daddy’ and started using ‘father’. It was probably around the time he and Patton started having ‘special time’ when mommy was at work. Mommy didn’t know about ‘special time’, father said it had to be a secret, and if he told anyone “he would get a lesson hed never forget”. When mommy was at work it was Patton’s job to take care of Remy, he learned how to make soup on the stove, change diapers, and keep Remy quiet. Not that that was a problem, Remy hardly ever made a sound. Remy was a lot like Patton, he flapped his hands, hated being touched, and refused to eat certain foods. But he was also different than Patton in a few ways, he walked on his tiptoes, screamed at night, and never ever made any other sounds.
When it was clear the Remy was like Patton, father was furious. He had slapped mommy across the face and screamed “what’s wrong with you!? Are you broken!? Is that why you can only make fucked-up kids?!" Patton had started crying then, and Remy was walking in circles flapping his hands. Of course, this meant that both Patton and Remy had to be taught a lesson, that lesson ended with a trip to the ER and a ‘trip down the stairs’. Their house didn’t have stairs.
Other kids his age were starting Kindergarten, but not Patton. Mommy was too scared that someone would see the bruises and have them taken away. So Patton stayed home, and mommy taught him colors and numbers and how to read. Reading was hard, the letters got all flipped around and jumbled up. But Patton kept trying, and once he got it there was no stopping him. He quickly graduated from picture books to short stories, to large chapter books. He loved reading, when he was reading he could forget about ‘lessons’ and ‘special time’ and having to lie to the nice people at church, He hated lying more than anything. So he buried himself in the wonderful and vast worlds of his books.
mommy started taking him and his brother to a ‘special doctor’ who helped him learn to stop flapping his hands and stop crying at loud noises. The doctor was nice, but Patton didn’t like her very much. She made him wear the kind of clothes that burned on his skin, and eat the food that made him want to throw up. But he was getting ‘better’, at least that was what the grown-ups thought. In reality, Patton had just started hiding those things.
He was hiding more than that… he’d started having trouble keeping his bed dry at night. He knew that if father found out it would be very, very bad, and even though mommy hadn’t ever done anything to him, he didn’t know how far he could push her before she started treating him like father did. So he started sneaking Remy’s diapers at night, he was small for his age, always had been, so it wasn’t hard to fit into them. it only took one time trying to wash his sheets in the middle of the night for him to give up on that idea. It was hard to use a washing machine that was twice as tall as you, let alone wrestle the sheets back on the bed.
He had started sucking his thumb too, and he’d catch himself talking like he used to when he was really little. He hardly talked at all anymore though. It was easier that way, less of a chance to slip up and reveal that little problem. It made Father less angry at him too, so that was a plus. Remy wasn’t really making any progress with the doctor, so Father took it out on Patton. It seemed like no matter how quiet, or how much ‘special time’ he gave Father, it was never enough. The plus side to that was that it didn’t look like Remy would be out of diapers anytime soon.
His books and the diapers were all he had, he couldn’t explain it, but they made him feel safe. When he was alone in bed wearing the diapers and sucking his thumb, everything was okay, the same way it felt with his books. The real world, father’s ‘special time’, the doctor and mommy’s crying felt far, far away. He felt guilty and wrong. He figured that father was right, he was broken, but he didn’t stop. He didn’t know how to cope without it anymore. So he hid, and he cried, and he pretended that his world was different.