Chapter 1: And It Begins...
My computer went *Bing!* I had a Facebook message from my sister! Don’t you just love Facebook? I originally joined the site to find my siblings, which was semi-successful, and to keep in touch with my children and other people who I consider family, which has been quite successsful! But I digress. My computer went *Bing!* My sister Nakuset was sending me a message about an opportunity to tell our story in an online magazine. I had been playing with the idea of writing a story about our journey for a long, long time. I procrastinated because, well... just because. I have no excuse. Well... maybe... I was scared. Scared to remember, scared to re-live the early years of my life, our life. The way it was, the way it is, and the uncertainty of what will come afterwards. I’m still scared.
As children, our life was not idyllic; it wasn’t visions of us running carefree through overgrown fields on the rez. No. We lived in a smallish Northern town with our mother, stepfather and baby sister. We lived in an apartment that had about 20 units and we were invisible people living an invisible life to those who lived on the outside. Or so I thought.
Our apartment had two bedrooms. One large room in which my mother, her boyfriend and our baby sister slept. Then there was the living room and one tiny bedroom next to it that could only fit one twin size bed shared by my sister Nakuset and me. We had some childhood friends in the complex, but except for the East Indian people below us I don’t remember much about any of them. I liked the East Indian kids. At the time I thought it was cool that we had other Indians living in the building with us. It didn't dawn on me that they were a “different” kind of Indian... LOL... but we all got along well. I don't think my stepdad liked them very much, but he didn't like anybody very much anyways. That old crab.
But again I’m off topic - the opportunity to tell our story. Yeah, about that. I spent years and years trying to suppress those memories. They weren’t all bad, but do you ever notice that people who have been traumatized at an early age ALWAYS remember the bad more vividly than the good? That would be me. But I don’t want to write a story full of bad memories. I decided after some discussions with Nakuset that yes, I’ll do the story, but I will try hard as hell to balance it out with some good memories as well.
This is our, or maybe my opportunity to heal. To confront my past so that I may continue forward. To what, I’m not sure. But I hope I'll know at the end of this! And if not?... C’est la vie! Or as I heard a kid once say... “Say Long Vee”… LOL.
So here I am. Sitting in my average apartment. In my average kitchen at 1:45 a.m. I’m staring at my laptop, cigarette burning away in the ashtray on one side and a rye and pepsi (extra ice please) on the other. It is freakishly quiet, except for the hum of the fridge and now I’m starting to remember. That was all I heard that night too - the night that would change our lives forever. The hum of the fridge, until there was a knock on the door. And so it begins... Oh God, help me.
Chapter 2: Someone's Knocking
It was all my fault. Instantly I knew it. I heard the knocking, and it wouldn’t stop. Knock, Knock, Knock. It seemed to go on forever and we couldn’t sleep because the knocking wouldn’t stop. So, like the big sister that I am, I took control and I went and unlocked the door.
I did it. It was all me! I crept my way to the door in my nightgown. The knocking was so loud and sounded kind of scary. In my mind, I thought if I just unlocked the door really quietly, they wouldn’t know. The parents I mean. They would say, “Why are we knocking? The door was open this whole time!” And they would stumble in and giggle about it. See that’s what I thought. I thought it was the parents who were knocking. It had happened before. Mom would go out and come back too drunk to find her keys. She would knock really loudly to wake one of us up to let her in. But this time it wasn’t the parents, it was really big men, and they were definitely scary.
Sister, remember how we were curled up together in the bed? Remember how we tried to pretend we were sleeping? All the time? Every time someone would come to our bedroom in the middle of the night we pretended. We’re sleeping, ‘cause no one bothers you when you’re sleeping, right? I looked at the two men and immediately hopped back into our bed. The two of us took one look at each other and then scrunched our eyes tightly closed. We knew we were gonna be in trouble this time. Big, big trouble.
The lights were blinding. There were four of them, and they were round. Bright, bright flashlights. Why were they using flashlights? Why didn’t they just turn the lights on? Four big figures hiding behind four blinding lights came barrelling in to our tiny room. There were quiet commands being whispered and then we were floating. I’d never floated before. At least I didn’t remember ever having floated. Was this how it felt to be carried? It felt different from flying, which I distinctly remembered. Flying I knew. Flying across the room. Flying into a wall. And that one time grandma made me fly into the old giant wood stove on the reserve. Yeah, I remembered flying. But I had never floated before. It was scary, but felt nice at the same time. Gentle. Even though I was waiting for my little body to crash to the ground, it never did. Floating. What a weird but good feeling.
My eyes were still scrunched closed but every once in a while I would open them just a wee tiny bit to see what was going on. I don’t remember their faces. I remember their smell. They smelled like perfume. But spicier. Old Spice! Arnold used to splash Old Spice on his face every day, and that’s what they smelled like! Was this a good thing? We were still floating.
Oh sister. We’re gonna be in some big trouble. That’s not Arnold. Where’s mommy? Where’s our baby sister? What is happening? Where are they taking us?
I remember the cold. The floating stopped and we were placed in the back seat of a car with hard, cold seats. My nightgown was thin, it was too cold. My eyes were still scrunched. I closed my eyes every time something bad was gonna happen. This was bad. We’re gonna get it now. It’s gonna hurt really bad this time. I don’t want to open my eyes ever again.
Oh sister. What did I do? I’m so scared. I thought I was doing something good. I thought if I opened the door, mommy and Arnold would come in and go to bed. Maybe she would yell at us. Maybe she wouldn’t. We didn’t wet the bed, so she wouldn’t make us take a cold bath and make us wash our clothes while we were bathing. I remember we would swish our undies in the water still half asleep but at the same time wide awake because the bath was cold. We’d shiver and swish the undies back and forth in front of us, facing each other. I hated it. Maybe she might swat us a little bit, make us remember who’s boss, but everything would be okay in the morning. I would get up really quietly and make us our special breakfast. Eggs and crackers in a glass. We used to love that, remember? Three eggs each and six crunched up crackers with some of that sweet milk that mommy used to buy, remember that? Eagle milk we used to call it. Mix it all up in a glass really well, yummy!
Oh God. What did I do? We’re gonna be in some big, big trouble now.
Sonya was born in northern Manitoba, where she spent most of her childhood. As a teenager she moved to Winnipeg and lived under the care of the Children’s Aid Society until she turned 18. Sonya has three children who are now fully grown. Social work is her chosen career path and she is currently dedicated to employment assistance for First Nations in northwestern Ontario.