“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.”
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
The Little Girl in the Corner
By Lillian Haugland
(translated from Norwegian)
It was Friday and the school was finished. All the other kids ran up to the bus as they scream to each other “good weekend”. The little girl nine years old took on the schoolbag, it was blue, of leather and began to become a bit worn. She lived within walking distance from the school. She carefully left the zipper in the jacket, put her hat in her pocket and knew she had to leave school and walk out the door. The teacher who was also the principal of the school at this time had packed up and closed the door to the classroom and locked. She looked at the girl and smiled and wished her a really good weekend.
She went out with her and swung left to go behind the school and walk home. The little girl didn’t go fast today. There was no sledding down the hill to the road today. The slope up to the road was heavy and the little girl skipped several times back and forth in the snow, eventually she fell and was lying quite so comfortable in the snow. She looked up at the sky and it began to snow. She felt the cold snowstars in her face and she had to taste one of those who landed on her cheek.
She got up because she was quickly feeling cold. Who really cared? Luckily today, the other kids enjoyed the weekend, so they had gone fast home. This time she went alone and the ugly words she was always called or she was throw snowballs on or she was soaked in the snow where the other kids sat on her face down in the snow and couldn’t breathe. She saw her house now. She knew there was no one home at all. She also knew that the atmosphere will changed at home when the adults came home.
At her home on Friday it was a lot of alcohol. The whole evening, night to Saturday and Saturday was a replay of Friday only worse and she hates Sunday. Everyone was angry and on Sundays she was more often beaten than other days.
Everything that happened on the weekends was her fault. She swung into the courtyard and saw the dog in the window. The little girl looked at the dog and she was happy. She felt a warm feeling inside and just wanted to hug her dog. She locked herself in and sat down on the floor and hug the dog tightly to her chest. Went out in the living room and turned on the television. She knew that the rest of the weekend there was no more watching television for here.
She thought she could go to her grandparents, but had been there so much, so this weekend she had to be home. She looked around in the living room. She had nothing that belonged to her, she had put all her things into her room yesterday. Always prepared. She knew she was going to spend much of her weekend in her room. Her dad came home and started with dinner. She was still sitting in the living room.
She heard the clink from the bags he carried into the kitchen. She heard he was putting on the crane, and the sound of the beer bottle put in the sink with running water was well known. She felt it twisted together in her stomach and walk in to her room. Now it was weekend. The dinner was finished and she and her dad ate. The mother was late as always.They sat there around the table and didn’t say a word because the little girl had enough with herself. She is in her room. Nothing helps today. She had tried to read and draw.
The sounds cut into her ears. Her uncle has come and the beer bottles are standing on the table and it is much of them. She tried to count them, but she couldn’t manage to do it. They are brown and tall with red and gold color on the label. It smells like beer throughout the house. The smell makes her unwell. She often has her window in the room open. Can’t keep the smell out. It’s cold too. She hears a sound outside. Another visit. With his bag and hat on, another uncle arrives. In the bag she understands what it is. She hears it rattling all the way into the living room. They are not drunk yet, but she knows what will happen.
This evening will be long. She sits in her bed staring at the wall. Finds a small box with her weird stuff in. Here she has collected some needles. The sounds from the living room are unbearable. Screaming, sounds of the couch and chairs being moved. She hears both words, voice and how furniture is moved that it is anger. She can’t bear. She put her fingers in her ears, trying to keep all the noises out and she cradles back and forth. Trying to think about something good, but can’t.
She hears “something” on the floor and “it” smashes. She thinks about what it can be. The brain searches through the house in her head. It’s not pretty words she hears out there. She hears clothes torn in rags and bodies dunking against walls. Higher and more angry voices. She can hear they falling into the floor. The little girl pounding her head in the wall, maybe it all will go away. Kitchen chairs that tip over and rolls across the floor and the table gets pushed on, she knows that sound too much. She looks at the box. Takes the needles forward and puts them around on her hands. Look at them and think that it doesn’t hurt. Only a bit, but not as much as her heart. The little girl won’t hear. She cries and sits in the corner of her bed. She continue to put needles in her hand.
She keeps the dog close to her for comfort and think that they have to stick together. The dog looks at her with her big brown eyes.
She takes one needle out of her hand. Cuts her hands and her thumb. She watches the skin opening up and some red drops are falling out. She pokes and digs more skin. It hurts now. She hears fighting, screaming, sounds of things like crushing, bottles that clink, and furniture that ‘flies’ around in the living room. The little girl is sitting in the corner of her bed.
Thinking about a boundary around her where no one can enter. She thinks of a fantasy world where she decides how it should be. Flowers, animals, trees, colors and she is in the middle of everything. There she colors the animals as smiles and the flowers that nod. There trees make shadows that spread about her as a safe and kind friend.
It hurts now. She stops and looks down at her hands. Must stop now, otherwise the blood will spill into her bed. It’s the worst thing she knows to spill. It’s really disgusting. She gently pulls out the other needles and moves carefully to the door. She tries to breathe calmly and feel at her heart. She is trembling. Her room spins around. She gently takes the door handle. She looks out into the living room, where she sees her dad is sleeping.
She realizes it’s night and everyone is sleeping. She lays down in her bed and closes her eyes, it is safe now to get some sleep. She watches her hands and knows that there will be a scar. I know, because the little girl in the corner. It was me.
Lillian and I are best friends. She is my soul daughter. We are connected through childhood traumas. Also, we worked together to create a metaphorical novel Orkidedatter, a supernatural tale about abuse. This was my “impromptu” response to her amazing writing at nine years of age:
It’s difficult for me to respond to your wonderful writing about when you were nine. Humans (I guess I’m still human) respond with self-centeredness, and alcoholics respond with extreme self-centeredness, as this was at the center of our illness. I still have that illness even though I don’t drink or use other mind-altering substances (37 years clean and sober this coming March, when you will be under snow, most likely). I thought immediately back to when I was nine after reading your work. Yes, it is work! I didn’t write about me. I only thought about me at nine, and I hated me. I didn’t cut me, but I was cutting me on the inside. My father was drinking, and I was alone with him. He brought bar sluts home and showed me how “babies were made,” and he laughed, and she laughed. He made me say how babies are made so the woman and he could laugh. I never wrote that down. I just repressed it (Zapffe wrote about this). Repress. Repress. Repress.
Let me tell you the “positives” I saw in your writing at nine. You, even at that young age, loved that “little girl,” as you called her. You were an “empath” and cared about your family so much you cut yourself to feel their pain, and you blamed yourself, which all children do (if they aren’t psychopaths). I tried to become my father and what I “thought” he wanted. Although he never told me anything in a loving way. He just “ordered me” because that’s all he knew to do. The military saved him from a life on a farm. He hated the farm life with eight children. He wanted to be “special,” and the military gave him that, until he saw the “truth,” in that with the military, unless you’re the biggest, you are not seen as very “special” except to other military members who are your “grade level.”
I am so proud that you were trying to “treat that little girl,” and you saw things clearly. I imagined most of my inner reality until I got into treatment. I saw NOTHING clearly because I wanted to please my father. I was not a hunter or military hero or any of the things I thought my father was. My father was addicted. To the military, to alcohol, and, mostly, to any waving skirt in the wind. I never even saw that last addiction until I had divorced my first wife and lived with him and his fourth wife. He was a “slut,” even when he was sober and “helping/treating” other alcoholics! I was gang raped at twelve by six men on an all-night Seal Beach fishing jetty, and I could never tell anyone, much less my father. Repress. Repress. Repress. You know my story. Thanks for being there.
You know about my four children. My first two, Chris and Tami, from my first marriage. Chris is a good family man in Temple City with his wife, Kristal, and my granddaughter, Jenna, who’s now a Junior in Microbiology at the University of Utah. My daughter, Tami, was a meth addict, and served time for blowing up her place with her husband and fifteen children. None (thank God was injured), but she is not mentally stable and abused her mother. I am close with a few of my grandchildren from her, but they were cast to the winds of the California Foster Care system, and I don’t know where they wound up. My second wife’s two sons are also doing well, and their father committed suicide after he left his sons and her. It runs in his family, so it seems. Another tragedy.
You are a brave, wonderful, caring woman and psychological specialist. You have been an inspiration to me, and I have (who knows why?) written the best stuff of my life knowing you. Kurt Vonnegut Jr., the author from World War 2 and prisoner of war in Dresden when it was bombed, said he couldn’t remember the facts (mostly), so he created a science fiction tale that became a “hit” with my generation. Kurt’s mother committed suicide in 1943, when he was home on leave. She did it on Mother’s Day. And yet, Kurt believed he had a “nice childhood,” because his brothers and sisters didn’t have a drunk in the family. His mother was clinically depressed before they had any drugs to treat that. His family was very intelligent and loving.
My father always said he was the “black sheep,” and I suppose he was. I never really “saw it,” as he jumped into the ocean to save me when I was three years old. He was drunk, however, and that’s how I fell in. I thought the fish were going to bite me. But I served the military, trying to be what I thought he wanted of me, and I had a wonderful second wife who loved me, and she died of Lewy Body Dementia.
I feel free now. I have forgiven my father, even though he raped his stepdaughter and destroyed his marriage. He loved his fourth wife because she gave him his “sexual freedom.” When she died, he died in his heart and refused to live with us, preferring to kill himself on the golf course.
My father never wrote anything as “true” as Vonnegut’s fiction. He should have written something about his other addictions, but he never did. So, anti-war guys like Kurt became my replacement “fathers.” I want to be like them, even at 76. But, thanks to you, and others like you, I have the courage to at least “try” to create and be like my heroes—my real heroes. You are one of my female heroes—forever and ever, Northern Light.