The First 22 Years Are the Hardest, a memoir by Angela Giles Klocke
Trigger Warning * Violence * Language * Sexual Content
FIGHT TURNS FATAL
I don’t remember buying the paper the week of December 16, 1997. Maybe someone got it for me, or maybe I saw my name staring at me out of the newspaper box. I’m not sure. All I know is every so many years, I rediscover that I have this paper, this piece of my story, inaccurately written by someone else, someone who never knew me, never asked me a single question, and surely never thought twice about what came before or after that fatal “fight.”
Several years pass between each finding, each re-discovery of a piece of my past. I haven’t forgotten, of course, but rather I’m in a different phase of healing, and so the story always hits me a little differently.
This time, I find the story when I’m making a big move. It’s where it always is, only I forget. I’ve kept it tucked inside the funeral guest book, along with a picture of him. And I am excited to find it this time because I’m in the best place I could possibly be on my healing journey. Plus, I’ve thrown so much away over the last 18 years (at the time of this writing), I am almost down to just my memories. Something tangible is valuable for such a time as this — a time when pains fade to the point of asking yourself if your story really has value anymore. The newspaper article reminds me something big happened, even if that version of the story is wrong, and the picture with his words reminds me it all happened, and it was all as ugly as I remember it.
When scars remain, we often remember where we got them, but we don’t always remember how much the injury hurt at the time. The same goes for wounds of yesteryear. It’s sometimes hard to remember the fear that shook my body, the idea that my life was about to end, the sound of the gunshot that rang out in the middle of the night, the smell of the police station. I don’t live in that memory every day, but it happened. It all happened. And when I read the newspaper article, I’m reminded that it happened, but I’m also reminded that the article is a version of the story — it’s not my story. The article reminds me that for all those years, someone else was writing my story, calling the shots, manufacturing a life that wasn’t as happy as I had to claim it was. My name wasn’t my own — always Baby to him, Angie to others — and my choices weren’t my own, not most of the time, and the narrative in my journals was angled to tell a story that didn’t include pain and bruises and cheating and splintered pieces of my soul.
When we left Georgia to move to Colorado in 2006, I burned all versions of this book. I wanted to be done with it all. I wanted to leave all my pain, my anger, my story in ashes in the state where my pain finally ended. But from those ashes, the next phase began. While it would still be years before I walked into a counselor’s office to seek help, I was on a new path. My story was still with me, and I was learning how to use it for good, for something better than just venting to the world — though that phase certainly had value as well.
This…this is my story. In my words, as told by me, not by anyone else.
That Disclaimer Thing
By the time I realized Grandma was more than mean, maybe more than just crazy, Charles had moved under her house and was stalking her everywhere we went. At night, he dropped tarantulas into her small white frame house, and whenever Grandma left, his whores broke in and stole things like her bathing suit and books and whatever else she couldn’t find. Charles was the worst, and one day, Grandma intended to kill him. Woe to any door-to-door salesman who came along and happened to be the Charles of the day.
Grandma had lost her mind, and us kids tried not to laugh too often. It was sometimes funny, sometimes scary. But looking back, it scares me more than anything because I have watched my mom — Grandma’s eldest daughter — sometimes act the same way (minus seeing things or claiming a man lives under her house), and I am my mother’s child. My memory means so much to me, and I have a long one that reaches into early childhood. I fear losing my memory, even as I know that I won’t remember it all. I fear that more than I am afraid of going crazy, because my stories have brought me to this point in my life, and I need to remember them well.
But regardless, I know that memory is a fuzzy-headed gnarly creature. We all remember our pasts from our own point of view. It’s easy to want to scream, “That’s wrong!” when you hear another person’s version, but it’s only “wrong” because you remember it differently — you remember YOUR version. As such, this is my version of my story. It’s neither exact nor wrong. It just is how I remember it, blank spots and all.
Most names have been changed.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!
Also see my second book on healing from my painful past — Of Scars and Tiaras
Currently seeking representation. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org