The Safety of Unfamiliarity

We are currently at 40000 feet and traveling back to our current home. As we have over fifteen hours to our next destination, we have been reflecting. We have always been most at ease when we travel. No matter the reason for it. Work or play, immigration or just good old migration, we are most comfortable when we are completely unfamiliar to our locale. We are safest on the move. We choose flight, and the beautiful anonymity of travel. Being completely surrounded by strange people, places, foods, everything. The less we know about a place the more appealing it is. Not because we like the adventure, because we’re a stranger there. We become the anonymous anomaly.

Being plural, we have suffered most of the abuse, abandonment, torture and fear, at the pleasure of those who claimed to love us the most. For us the phrase “I love you “, carries a terrifying message hidden in the voices of those that speak it. We are the victim of convenience. We are the victim of choice. Many times we struggled to grasp how we could be so terrible as to be responsible for everything wrong in our family. These things must be true. They could not treat something they loved so much unless we were that terrible.

Learning to be comfortable on the move was a skill we developed early on. By the time we were six years old, we had attempted suicide once, ran away twice and moved twice. We had already attended two of thirteen schools. We would go on to live on three continents, and countless cities. As our brother would later say, “we lived as gypsies”. Truer words were never spoken. But why did we live this way? We never knew. Till later.

It has been said that moving, is more traumatic than the death of a close family member. So, let’s examine for a moment the reason we were moved about so much. The truth is uglier than anything Hollywood can fathom. We were running. Being transported as if a trafficked slave. Moved from one place to a far different place at the drop of a hat. Without notice. Constantly ripped from peers, schools and any resemblance of a childhood. The perpetual new kid, already with more baggage than any person should bear in a lifetime. Toting the burden of our abusers insecurities, and feelings of inadequacy.

By the time we had matured to the third grade, we became the obvious social oddity at times. With drastic behavior changes, note running away and self mutilation, we were the scapegoat openly now. Even having our first consensual sexual experience. This was followed with another suicide attempt in grade four. We moved again.

Today, we follow a similar pattern, as we have our entire life. Hiding in plain sight. Becoming what the situation requires and moving on. This is made more difficult with the addition of family. Family number three to be exact. Running becomes so engrained, we choose this over all. Even when, as we do today, choose to wander, we do this alone. Our family choosing to stay put. This was baffling to us at first. How could anyone stay in one place more than a year. People start to notice how we are after a while. They ask questions, and invariably notice a “quirk” about us. Silly them! They all just thought we were BiPolar! We had no idea either. We would become defensive, withdrawn, and self mutilating. Time to start planning our exit.

Lucky for us, some of us are are smart, desirable and even talented. Too bad we could not all work together. What a mess things become as we hide to run. Run to live. Live to run. We have been called cowards many times for this choice. We have borne the brunt of many people, “friends” and strangers alike. Made to believe we were weak for choosing life. You see, to us the only life was flight. To fight was not allowed, and to stay meant death, or worse. We would find a new job, and disappear into the night. Literally. So no one could see where we were going. We didn’t want to get into trouble. Even as a grown man.

The choice to fight or run, may seem like a choice to most. For us, we were in a corner; facing the worst fears a child can imagine. To fight meant the torture would persist. To simply ask why meant a good beating. The answer was clear, why ask. We were the source of all things bad. We had to run. To be safe, meant to be away from them. To be homeless in the open, in a strange place was better. We begged once to be put into juvenile hall.

People couldn’t grasp how a child from such a good family could turn so sour. Ungrateful, was a term we hear regularly. Every time we were caught, they would hand us back. We would endure more severe “punishments ” each time. You see, “fear is the most effective parenting tool”. A quote from our father. A belief he professed to anyone that would listen. His children would behave or wish they had. Our mother, troubled on her own without help, was a pawn in the game. Using us for her own sick games. Taking her anxieties out on the troubled child. The center of her troubles.

By the time we were in post adolescence, we had completely lost any sense of identity. Running as far as foreign countries. Finding solace and peace in homeless shelters. Safe if only for a night. Laying on the floor or the occasional bunk, wondering what tomorrow would bring. Would anyone ever miss us. Would anyone ever want us. We couldn’t think that far ahead. We had to think about what we were going to do for food next day, and where to sleep in the night. Our desires were basic, yet seemed so far away from the floor of a shelter in Soho.

Even now, as we feel much more in control, and in communication with ourselves, we struggle with being stationary. We struggle with being familiar. Will people see the chinks’ in our armor. Can they find a crack in the walls we have constructed so efficiently. Almost instinctively we start looking for a way to stay a stranger to the ones we’re around the most. Family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, anyone in the same county as us. We carry the same fears as the six year old child, sneaking out barefoot in the snow to run away, again. Safety it seems is really only a desire for us. To actually believe we are safe, we run. We have not stopped in 41 years. Even now, In this moment in time, we are flying somewhere else, and already planning another new lace to call home for a short time. We are gypsies hiding from a deadman, still very much alive to us.

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