Big, Hairy, Tortured Mole

My mother’s fourth husband was a big brutal man that was super jealous of anything that my mom did and did not like kids. She went away for two weeks in 1980 and came back married to him. She worked nights, so I was always alone with him. He was a violent man, and at night, alone in the house with no sunlight filtering into hide the shadows he seemed more frightening than during the day. He was one of those men that although large he walked softly, he could be watching you eat or brush your teeth from the night gloom, and you think you are alone and then something that you do irritates him. Suddenly he is there, you do not know how he got there, it is like magic but you see that huge hand swinging back and then towards your face. There was never anything you could do because no matter how aware you were of that hand you always froze.

When I tried to tell my mom how much I did not like being alone with him and about the hitting it fell on deaf ears. She told me that there was not a lot she could do about it because there was no one else who could watch me and that he hit because, as a small boy, he was hit, so I should try to be a little more understanding.

At the time, I did not know what he did for a living. He slept a lot during the day and we had to be very quiet as to not wake him. He told people he was an artist, and there was proof in our house. Sprinkled all through the house were pictures of him perched on a wooden stool, one leg thrown over the other, or bent underneath resting on the bar of the stool, an easel in front of him. In EVERY ONE he looked naked, this surely would have scorched my young eyes if the easel had not hidden the parts that needed to be hidden. He had forgotten to put his clothes on, but he had NOT forgotten to adorn himself with several ropes of beads around his neck. His beard would have made Grisly Adams envious in its girth (eww did I just say girth about a naked man??); long hair in two braids, charcoal in one hand, and an intense look of a ragged and twisted artist’s soul looking at the easel or up at the photographer depending on the version of the photograph you happened to be looking upon. Each picture was done in Sepia or black and white, I assume to be more dramatic. In none of the photos can you see what is on the easel, they could be blank for all you know. That and him telling everyone who would listen that he was an artist was the only evidence of art. Never once did I see him use a paintbrush, clay, wood, charcoal, pencil or even a fucking crayon to create anything.

The sad thing is that everyone believed him; my mom would be so proud of how women seemed to flutter about him, and he would preen. Me? I would feel vomit and contempt. Didn’t they see how hairy he was? Could they not see a huge red mole that stuck out of his skin on his left nostril? You could not, NOT see it!! It hypnotized you with its utter revolting bulging crimson grossness!!!
When I was six I realized he was a big fraud, why could these ADULTS not see it! But in more ways than anyone could have known.

We had no money; my mom could not support the three of us and his Demon-dog waiting tables. So I was told that we were going to go “stay” with Big Hairy Moles parents. Now I was very scared. First, I had been told that he hit me because they hit him, so I imagined BIGGER HAIRY MOLE MONSTER MOM AND DAD. Second, I found out that it was in Boston. Besides trips with my Uncle and staying with my grandparents in California I had never been anywhere. Boston? Was it another country? To entice me, I was told there was much snow. This was a good ploy because we did not see a whole lot of snow, but I was still terrified. Like most of the decisions that my Mother made it was fast as lightening, she tells me after she has made all of the arrangements.

We took a redeye days after, not telling anyone we were going. The flight I remember because it was the first time I had ever seen headphones; they were attached to the armrest it was AH-MAZ-ING! Like futuristic. I also heard Hall and Oates for the first time, seven years old, on a red-eye flying across the country, and I hear “Man Eater”….it was creepy and cool all at the same time.
Boston, we are met by a driver! I did not know how cool this was; we rode in a big, sleek town car. Far cry from hitchhiking with my mom, beat up old cars, and VW vans I was accustomed to. In fact, I thought it was a limousine. But I also thought it was peculiar that someone that neither of them knew would be standing in the airport with a sign that said BIG, HAIRY MOLE’S name on it.

We drove through a city that was larger than I had ever seen, and there was snow everywhere. I dozed in the car and woke up when we reached the gates to BIG, HAIRY MOLES parents’ house. Long white fences ran along the sides of the long driveway, sitting so far back off the road was a HUGE beautiful house. I could not believe BIG HAIRY MOLE grew up here. The lawns were blanketed in virgin snow. We were dropped in front of the front door; I was hollered at for not wanting to get out of the car. I was scared; these people must be monsters to have made a human like BIG HAIRY MOLE. The front doors both swing open and out comes a tiny woman and a smiling man. They both are laughing and so happy, and they came straight for me. No one ever notices me first; I made sure that I am quiet and blend and don’t give anyone any reason to yell. I was so terrified as they oooohed and aaaaawwwed over me, and the big man picks me up, I am afraid I will wet myself and I know if I do that what will happen to me, BIG HAIRY MOLE will make me pay for embarrassing him. He does not pick me up to hurt me, he picks me up to kiss me, and cuddle me, and tell me how happy they are to meet me.

It took a while, but their warmth and kindness won me over and I was not afraid, and, what is more, BIG HAIRY MOLE changed when they were around too, he acted like he was proud of me; he was nice and teased me. I was not a fool, I knew it was an act for their benefit, but it made life easier.

Their house had ten bedrooms!! For two people. They told me that they wanted to keep the big house so that family could always have somewhere to come. And come they did, as it have closer to Christmas BIG HAIRY MOLE’s brothers and sisters (who knew that he had sisters and brothers!!!) and their families came. They all were happy and not afraid (none of them had moles that looked like they were filled with blood!). Their kids were nice, and we got to eat stuff like breakfast cereal that tasted like chocolate. FOR BREAKFAST! I was also taught by one of my step cousins how good cheese puffs (I had not even known what a cheese puff was!!) tasted when you dipped it into Orange Crush (never had that either). In my lesson on this new culinary delicacy, I looked at my Mom and BHM, and I could see them both not liking this at all. I felt something I had not yet felt before: POWERFUL! THEY were afraid for once, and I liked that they were.

Cookie Monster and THE sailor dress,

Cookie Monster and THE sailor dress,

Before we left I could not understand why my mom had gone to a thrift store and bought me a velvet sailor dress, white tights, and patent leather shoes for our flight. She would have never allowed me out in clothes like that at home; it was so un-cool. But these people were rich, they dressed differently, talked differently, and my tapestry skirts, patchwork jeans, and peasant blouses were NOT up to par. I was showered with clothes, clothes that I had seen on television and pined for. T-shirts with Strawberry Shortcake on them, skirts with cartoon characters, NIKES! I got Nikes! I had never had so many toys bought for me, and I was never treated with anything other than warmth and kindness from any of those people.

Strawberry Shortcake puked on my happy soul.

Strawberry Shortcake puked on my happy soul.

It took me a while to catch on, but I was being used. BHM was filching his folks for money and using me as bait. Wasn’t I sweet? Well, behaved? Grateful? Wasn’t it sad that they were so broke that they could not give me things? That was why we were there. I barely remember my Mom’s presence. The dark, red, and always wildly curly hair was tamed in low buns, breast met a bra for the first time in years, and her clothes were all understated and boring, she barely spoke. The big hairy hippie step-father was in slacks and button downs. They were creepy in their act. But I barely noticed. I loved having a huge laughing family, I loved the way that those people made me feel important, and I could talk and laugh and be noisy. And I did not hate being spoiled. I think that me forgetting myself made BHM fume. And not being able to do anything only made that wrath grow. He did find me alone a few times and, while it was never as bad as it was at home, he would find a way to humiliate me and to remind me who was the boss. But those few times were worth it compared to all the other things that had come into my life.

Then it was over. They had what they had come for, money. We flew home, and life returned the same. But I knew something. That poor boy that had such a “rough” upbringing was from a white collar, wonderful family. His whole backstory that made him so “tortured” was bullshit. Everything that was deemed as so “uncool” in our world is what he came from, what he was. And he knew I knew and no matter how bad things may have gotten, this knowledge made it easier for me.

About a year after this, as my Mom often did with relationships, she sent me away for two weeks, and when I came home he was gone and she never spoke of him again. I had a huge brick lifted of my little boney chest, but I also wept for that wonderful family that I was no longer a part of.

I run into BHM now and again. He had embraced what he was; a high end real-estate broker. He dresses in suits and drives a Jag. What hair he has left is short, and not one beaded necklace are to be found, but that big bulbous red mole is still there like a huge festering blood blister from which you cannot look away. I am always friendly and tease him about how he has a Baw-ston accent now. But, there is a mean part of me that wants to remind him of how he once imitated a tormented artist. And remind him of how foolish he looked to me. I do not though, I just smile and nod. I am not afraid of him anymore…Pretty sure I could take him and his soft preppy ass, or at least take a swipe at that mole.


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