Sunday, June 2, 2013

Healthy Obsessions for Tragic Situations

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Was it the bulging, intense, darting eyes? Was it the petite, muscular build? Could it have been that incredible curve of the arched neck or the famous, spirited high-carried tail? The Arabian horse had become an obsession of mine at the age of ten. Sometime between my all-consuming yet absurd fascination with Naval aircraft carriers and the beginning of a seven-year unrequited crush on a boy I met in the sixth grade, I studied them, collected photos, paid for magazines with babysitting money I’d made, and flip-flopped about in my dreams of either shapeshifting into one or of possibly riding one, one fine day in the future.
I’d heard from horse enthusiasts “those Arabs are spooky and hot-blooded.” They claimed these magnificent beings were a hand-full, startled easy, “ . . .  ready to jump and flee at the splat of bird shit hitting the pavement." I wasn’t sure. But every one of these gorgeous creatures I’d ever seen in photos seemed to be on high alert, eyes and ears acting as swift radar antennae, alerting them to possible dangers—just like me. Yet they appeared strong, dignified, and slightly mystical—just like what I wanted to be.
My brain had unknowingly been lightly sprinkled with a sparkly, magical bit of autism, likely prior to birth. Its amygdala set to automatic over-drive creates an overwhelmingly constant fight or flight response to various stimuli, such as basically all of it. This high sensitivity to sound, smell, and touch put me in the strange position of not being able to relate so well with the common homo sapien. Playing with other children was much too overwhelming and illogical in many respects. I knew I was different. But at the age of ten, my fervid connection with this sensitive creature and its flared nostrils and flowing mane just may have saved my life, or at least my sanity.
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I’ve never understood why a grown man married to an attractive, intelligent, hilarious woman of many talents would choose instead to fondle his just-on-the-brink-of developing pre-pubescent niece. But he did. A lot. And each time he did, my little ten-year-old self would go into shock and become mute, scared for my life, scared I’d break up the family if I told, scared it was all my fault and if I hadn’t worn that hideous mauve bathing suit that one hot summer day, maybe this scenario never would have begun in the first place. Kid logic.
The scream was in there but malfunctioned every time. The “no” was rehearsed, day after day, night after night, along with the powerful ninja-like kick to the groin, but when the time came for the deed to be done, the body would freeze, the throat would close, and the eyes stayed shut, and I lay in my own self-inflicted darkness. “And next time, yes, certainly next time, I’ll kick him hard where it counts.” But fear with its heavy talons won every time.
With (seemingly) no way out of the situation, I turned toward my obsession to help me to escape the only way I knew how: in my mind.  My prized Arabian horse magazine began falling apart, as I turned its pages so often during this time. Just seeing the beauty of the horses, standing proudly in a meadow, running along a beach, nuzzling a colt, helped me to somehow feel free and comforted. This “healthy” obsession gave me something to do, something to think about, something to focus on and learn from, other than the dread I had to face each morning while living with them. It made me feel better. It soothed me. I’d often imagine being one. One swift kick, a flick of the tail, and I’d rear up and smash him to bits, just like the scene in The Black Stallion film where “Black” protects his boy from the dangerous, looming snake. I’d constantly envision having a horse like one of the beauties in the magazine, it would be my best friend, and at night, we’d sneak out and run away from the masquerading beast sleeping in the next room, prior to his pre-work 5:00 a.m. fondling expeditions. We’d run, and I’d be scared—scared of the wild desert and its nocturnal hunters, scared of the night, scared of the unknown—but never as scared as I was when in that room, in that darkness. That’s for sure.


Robin your neighbor said...

This excerpt is riveting. May I purchase your book from you or should I order it online at Amazon?

Brandy Nightingale said...

Wow! Thanks, Robin! Once the book is in print, I'll hand you one myself. :0) Thanks for reading. I've posted a few book excerpts throughout this blog if you'd like to get a sneak peek. Cheers!

Shed for Bread said...

Me too! Me too! I want one. I didn't realize we had these things in common. I also daydreamed of horses, had Horse Fancy, Horse Illustrated, played with my Breyer Horses, and imagined myself being one (even now, when my hips are hurting and I'm on a hike, I imagine being strong and pushing on like a horse would). And, I, too, was molested at a young age (unfortunate that we also have that in common). You are such a great writer (I also didn't know about that!). ;^)