Finally heading to St. Augustine we had been on the road for only 45 minutes when Daddy wanted to stop for lunch. I was still so angry with him the thought of eating turned my stomach. I just wanted to be in St. Augustine so our vacation would be closer to being over. I told him I wasn’t hungry. He told me I was selfish and I had caused all that happened that morning. I ignored him. Trapped in the car all I could do was to sit there in silence. The more silent I remained the angrier Daddy got. Even so, I knew it would be safer to say nothing than to possibly say something that he could twist around or use against me. Daddy finally stopped talking. The silence was nice. I took a nap.
I woke up an hour later with hopes we were almost there. No such luck. But, Daddy was in a great mood. It was as if nothing had happened that morning. He even started making jokes and smiling. I was cautious. He struck up a conversation and even though I didn’t want to participate I figured it would make time pass more quickly. In mid-sentence Daddy hushed me. He said he thought we were on the wrong road and he needed me to be quiet so he could concentrate. His abrasive manner was so ridiculous. We passed another sign and he kept saying it just couldn’t be right. For whatever reason he didn’t seem to believe the road signs and decided to wait for the next road sign to make sure we were indeed on the wrong road. OK, does that make any sense what so ever? Let’s keep going to make sure we are indeed on the wrong road? Here’s the thing you should know. According to Daddy he had an amazing sense of direction and he never got lost. And because he never got lost there was never any reason to stop to ask for directions. There were times he was confused by the directions but never he was lost.
We passed another road sign. That one along with the two previous signs confirmed we were not on the correct highway. The fact we had to pass three of them to make it clear just blew my mind. I had to hold back from laughing because it was so absurd. As the clever 15 year old I thought I was, I had the bright idea to make a little joke about it. Oh man are 15 year olds stupid! I would have loved for Daddy to have stopped to ask for directions but I knew that wasn’t an option. To stop would mean consenting he’s lost which would never happen. With a little chuckle, I said, “You know Daddy we’ve passed three road signs that all have made it clear we were on the wrong road. You waiting for someone to switch the signs so you won’t have to go ask directions? Well folks it didn’t go over so well at all. His eyes were piercing and his face began to get red with anger. I knew I should just shut up, so I did. Oh how I had wished I could have gone back in time by 15 minutes. Daddy did not like my comment one bit. His silence was the scariest. All I could keep thinking was for him to please yell at me. Just as I thought it, he started to do just that. It is so true to be careful what you wish for in your life. After what seemed forever of him yelling about my disrespect and rudeness I found myself looking out the window and focusing on a bird which seemed to have been flying with our car. I began to imagine being that bird. Oh how free it must have felt. Of course in my obsessive compulsive manner I started to think about the dangers in that bird’s life. As my thoughts wandered I began to worry about the bird and it’s safety. I began thinking about its death and I frantically was trying in my mind to save it. As I was engrossed in thought about saving that damn bird I felt a smack on my arm. It was Daddy of course. He told me I was out to lunch again and he had been asking me to get the map immediately.
Whenever I would daydream, it would infuriate him. He felt I was intentionally ignoring him. I never meant to ignore him but I just couldn’t help it. My brain would get so tired of listening to him and next thing I would know my thoughts would be somewhere else.
I got the map out of the glove compartment as he continued yelling at me. In between his yelling he told me to look where we were on the map. I remember being very nervous. Where the hell were we? I didn’t know. I thought that was where our problem began. He told me to figure it out because if I had been paying attention I would have noticed the road sign. He said he would wait for me to figure it out. Suddenly, Daddy had all of the time in the world to wait for me. But, just moments before, he needed the map immediately. He was always one big ball of contradiction.
It was so hard for me to concentrate and especially when Daddy was glaring at me. I knew I had to find the information fairly quickly or he’d continue to get angrier. For him to say he’d wait still had a time limit attached to it. Part of me was saying, come on MaLea, you can do it. Prove to him you can do it. Just as I was saying that to myself I realized I had missed reading yet another road sign that had passed. I was so upset with myself because I had only allowed him to be right about me. I hated myself for giving him that power.
We passed another road sign which I finally was able to read and I quickly searched the map. Unfortunately, Daddy felt I had taken way too long be that point so he started screaming at me. And I mean screaming, people! His veins in his neck were popping out, his eyes were piercing and his face redder than ever. He started weaving on the road as he reached over to grab the map from me. I yelled at him to pull over and to stop driving so crazy. In crazy Daddy rationale he screamed if I weren’t so stupid and could read a fucking map he wouldn’t have to drive so crazy. So once again it was my fault which at this very point tipped me over the edge because like hell was he going to jeopardize my life. I don’t know what possessed me but I sat up straight in my seat and demanded he pull the car over. I remember at that moment being more afraid of his driving than what he would do to me for talking to him as I did. I just can’t even begin to describe the rage Daddy had at that moment but his crazy driving exemplified how out of control he was. Finally, I held onto the front dash, closed my eyes and screamed over and over again at the top of my lungs until he pulled over, ‘PULL THIS G-D DAMM CAR OVER!” I think I actually scared Daddy because when I opened my eyes I was relieved he had pulled over to the side of the highway. Surprisingly, he didn’t get on to me about yelling at him. He looked at the map for a moment but then stopped, leaned his head back on the headrest and began rubbing his forehead. He whispered he couldn’t concentrate because I had upset him so much. He said his chest hurt and he just couldn’t take it anymore because I was hurting him so much. Sitting there with one hand on his head and the other on his chest for a good 20 minutes, he took a nap. I stayed silent. When he woke up he went back to looking on the map for our location. When he found it he realized we were on the right road as that highway changed names a few times. It was almost as if you could see his anger deflate. He no longer was in a panic once he knew where we were. He put the car in gear and got back on the highway. As he did he threw the map at me telling me to fold it back up and return it to the glove compartment.
In my head I knew I was doomed. I couldn’t even put a simple puzzle together and here was this map that had to be folded exactly as he wanted. I could never please him and as mad as he was, if I didn’t fold this map properly, I just couldn’t imagine what his reaction would be next.
I started to attempt to fold the map while encouraging myself that I could do it. But, as time passed and my folding attempts weren’t working I began to tell myself how stupid I was for not being able to do such an easy task. I tried as hard as I could to hold back my tears but I couldn’t help it. I started crying out of sheer frustration and fear. Daddy took the opportunity to voice his own opinion about my lack of ability (once again) by telling me how incompetent I was and to inform me any idiot could fold a map. By that point I couldn’t even see the map through my tears. Even so, I kept trying. I had to keep trying. As I opened one of the flaps part of the flap’s fold wouldn’t open with the rest of it. So, when I pulled it I heard a terrible ripping sound. I looked at Daddy hoping he had not seen or heard it. No such luck. Not only did he hear it but he was furious I had as he said intentionally torn his map. While keeping one hand on the steering wheel as he drove down the highway, he grabbed the map from me and threw it in the back seat. Then he leaned towards me using the same hand that took the map and while the car was swerving, he shoved my head into the passenger side window. I was shocked at first, then I felt my insides wanting to bowl up and and out. I wanted to explode with anger. I had to get out of that car and I had to get out right then. I started stomping my feet (while grabbing the car door handle) and screamed like a maniac for him to stop the damn car. I had to get out of that car. I kept screaming I wanted out of the car over and over again. I remember feeling the heat of my body rise as I screamed at the top of my lungs. My voice kept cracking because I was straining so hard to yell with all my might. I truly felt as if I had gone mad at that moment because I could not control the rage I was feeling. I’ll never forget the shocked and scared look on Daddy’s face. He pulled the car over almost immediately. Before the car came to a full stop, I jumped out. I started walking in the opposite direction. I didn’t know where I was going. I just knew I had to get out of that car and away from the craziness.
Just as I got about a couple of feet away from Daddy’s car an old car from the 1970’s pulled off the highway and stopped right in front of me. I stopped. A nicely dressed gentleman jumped out of the car while holding up a badge. He said he was an undercover policeman. Oh shit, I thought. He asked if he could be of any assistance. Before I could even get a word out Daddy was standing right behind me pulling out his business card from his wallet. Daddy told the policeman it was nothing more than the typical teenager problem. He eluded to the policeman that I was a troubled kid. I remember feeling trapped and so angry. I knew I was not the typical teenage kid. The policeman kept looking at me. His eyes were kind and I felt I could trust him. The policeman looked at Daddy’s business card as Daddy explained he was a lawyer. The Policeman looked at me and asked if everything was OK. I was too scared to say a word. Daddy answered for me. I could see the policeman was suspicious but with out me admitting there was a problem, there wasn’t anything he could do. I did want to tell the policeman but I was scared. Daddy had me believing I couldn’t trust anyone except for him. Daddy seemed nervous while talking to him. I wondered if the cop had seen the entire incident but as usual became worried for Daddy.
I remember thinking if I told the policeman the truth, I’d be taken away. I was terrified where I’d go. I was as equally afraid to go to strangers as I was to go to another family member because of the crap Daddy had fed me. He had lots of control over me. I hated myself for being so weak and unable to walk away from him. Because I didn’t admit anything to the policeman the cop let us go and Daddy escorted me back to the car. It was the craziest moment. I remember thinking to myself that Daddy’s abusive ways were wrong but he still was my dad. It would take years before I could even admit he was abusive out loud.
When we got back into the car Daddy was furious with me and began to verbally assault me. As Daddy pulled back onto the highway his yelling continued for what seemed like an eternity. He told me I could ruin his law practice with all of my shenanigans. He said the policeman was going to investigate and I would single handedly ruin all he’s spent years trying to build. I was numb again. I knew that was safer for me than the anger and rage I had just exhibited. I didn’t like myself for losing control in that way. I was exhausted. As Daddy continued yelling at me I looked out the window. I noticed another bird flying above the trees. I began to imagine what it was like to sore that high. It was weird but for a little bit I was that bird and it felt so good. I was flying high above the car enjoying my freedom. It was so peaceful. No one was yelling at me or calling me names. I felt safe and I was happy.