My older brother, Alan, nearly flipped out when he pushed my door open and found a smoke-filled room and my glazey-eyed stare. “Jocelyn! What are you doing?!” he yelped.
I jumped at the loud noise and said, “dude, chill!” I set my pipe down and looked at him calmly. “It’s okay, I promise.”
Alan folded his arms. “You’re getting high? Really? Come on, Joce, you’re smarter than this!”
“It just takes the edge off,” I promised. “And it hasn’t had any negative effects on my schoolwork or anything… I’m still your straight-A’ed little sister.”
He didn’t seem convinced but he nodded. “Okay. I can’t say that I agree with this, but if you’re doing it safely, and keeping up with your responsibilities, then I won’t stop you.” He then stepped closer, now towering over me. It was kind of scary. “But if your grades slip, or I find out you’re being irresponsible with where you smoke, I’m going to tell Jon.”
I wish I’d have listened to him… wish that I’d have taken his warning… his many warnings actually.
We’d had the “weed” conversation about four times before he finally threw his arms up and told our eldest brother, Jon. After our mother’s long cancer battle and eventual death, he moved back in with Alan and me so that we could all stay together. And while Alan would let me test the limits for weeks, Jon was a little less flexible. He was always fair, but strict, and if he decided that a certain behavior needed to be controlled, he would see to it that it was controlled. I learned that the hard way when I got into the bad habit of sneaking out every Saturday to see my boyfriend.
See, my brothers were a lot alike in the sense that they didn’t get angry over much, but once you pushed them to that point, you have to be careful. I’m pretty much the exact opposite and generally go around provoking conflict with people, a trait I share with my dad who, as you probably guessed, is a douchebag.
Anyway, so yeah, my brothers were super laid back. For either of them to get angry enough about something to do something about it, that meant I’d pushed a little too far. So if Alan was peeved enough to tell Jon something, Jon knew that it was a big deal and that what I’d actually done was a lot worse than what Alan made it out to be.
That’s why I begged Alan. “Pleaseeeee,” I whined. “Please don’t tell him. I’m going to do better, I promise.”
“Jocelyn, this is the third test I’ve had to sign in a month! Your grades shouldn’t be this low. It’s because you’re smoking too much,” he said, glaring at me.
“Is not!” I said in a voice louder than anticipated. “The work is harder! It always gets hard this time of year.”
Alan gave me a doubtful look and showed me the current failure I’d presented him with — a history test of almost pure memorization (that I’d forgotten about, haha, ironic, right?). “How hard can it be to memorize vocabulary about the American Revolution? Not to mention, you’re brilliant at memorization usually.”
I gave him an evil look, not wanting to admit that he was right. But I knew that admitting it would likely deter him from telling our eldest brother, who would most definitely have a cure for my memorization issues… so I had to lose this battle. “You’re right, Alan. I’ll cut back on the smoking and work harder in school,” I said, eyes filling up with tears and my lower lip poking out slightly.
His eyes narrowed. “No, you’re not pulling that one on me, Jocelyn Michelle.”
I blinked. “What?”
“You know that you’ll just cut back enough to get me off your back and in a couple of weeks you’ll hand me another exam that you failed.”
I said nothing.
“It’s time that you learn how to be responsible and accept the consequences for your actions,” he continued.
I rolled my eyes. “But I *did* accept the consequences! I got a shitty grade, isn’t that enough?”
“And what are the consequences of getting a bad grade?”
“I don’t know, I have you yelling at me forever about it?” I snapped.
Alan nodded. “You know that if you don’t get good grades, you won’t go to college, right?”
“And don’t you want to go off to college? I mean, if you want to go to community college, then that’s fine, but if you want to go to NYU or Berkley, you’ll have to get a scholarship because we don’t have the money to pay for that.”
I slumped down in my bed, picking at my fingernail. “Whatever, Alan,” I muttered. “I’ll do fine. I told you. I’ll cut back on smoking and study more.”
He sighed. “Last chance,” he said in a soft voice, lifting my chin so that I was looking him in the eyes. “Cut this out, Jocelyn. It’s not worth it.” He handed me the signed exam and walked out.
I was still shivering when my door closed. It was partly because I’d left my window cracked and the November chill had crept through my room. But it was also because I hated it when Alan got that serious. He was always so happy and playful… I didn’t like it when he gave me those looks and spoke to me in that tone of voice. It made me sad.
I really did try to study more after that, I promise. I opened my history book every now and then and even did math homework on occasion. I cut my smoking sorta in half. And overall, I expected an improvement. I did amazing on my Latin vocab quiz, somewhat well on a chemistry quiz, but then totally failed this literature test. I’d planned on studying for it, but somehow kept getting distracted… and the next morning when I saw the test I realized I’d stayed up almost all night for nothing, was still a little stoned, and was going to fail the test. I wanted to cry.
But not as much as I wanted to cry the following week when the exam was returned, a 61% F. Attached was the “orange slip”… policy was that if a student scores below a 70% on any major exam, the parent or guardian must sign the “orange slip.” The loophole was that teachers determined what they would consider a major exam… usually it would be a midterm or final, but some teachers, like my English teacher, thought anything that wasn’t a quiz was a major exam, so of course I had to take another failure home with me.
Alan was going to kill me. Or worse… Jon was going to kill me.
I walked home with anticipation. I knew the damn exam was in my backpack… and I knew that someone had to sign it. I even thought about signing it myself, but am terrible at forging and not really into getting myself into a bigger mess than I already was. I’d have to come clean to my brothers. I would have to accept the consequences, as Alan always said. Even if they were painful.
So I tried to pump myself up. I chanted to myself inside my head… Come on Jocelyn! You can do it! But when I got home and Alan was sitting with his laptop in front of the tv, I froze. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t let him know that I’d done so badly on a stupid test when we’d just talked about it and he was expecting me to improve. It would let him down so much. I know I had to do it, but it was so hard.
And I let him distract me, talking about meaningless things, like how much we hate Dr. Phil, and what we want to eat for Thanksgiving. When Jon came home, it gave me an excuse to shower and change into my pjs, then open my backpack to attempt homework. That was when I was reminded of what awaited me inside. That stupid test. Ugh. I took it out and set it on my bedside table. I’d get Alan to sign it later.
I flipped on my tv to watch the Bad Girls Club, and was giggling at their stupidity when Alan knocked on my door. Without thinking, I yelled, “Come in!”
He came in and I ignored him, still laughing at the tv, until he said something that made my heart stop: “What’s this?”
Shit. He’d seen the exam and I totally wasn’t prepared. “Oh, uhm, I was going to bring that down to you later,” I said hurriedly as he looked at me, an undoubtedly pissed off expression on his face. “I, it’s that, I, um,” I stammered. “I studied for that test. I dunno, it was just… uh… really… hard.” Genius.
Alan said nothing, just shook his head and turned away, taking my test with him.
“No, wait, Alan, please!” I said, a tear slipping down my cheek. He didn’t answer me, just continued down the stairs.
I took a deep breath in and stood up. I should at least hear what he was saying about me…
I inched towards the top of the staircase and sat at the top stair, listening to my brothers’ voices. I couldn’t make out all of what they were saying, but Alan was talking a lot, and Jon only responded with the occasional “mmhmm” and “mmm.” I held my head in my hands, silently praying to get out of this, or to wake up from this nightmare, or something…
“Jocelyn!” I heard Jon call.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and stood up, taking another deep breath to steady my pounding heart. I took the stairs as slowly as possible, finally descending into the living room where two sets of eyes stared at me coldly. “I’m really, really sorry,” I began.
They were both quiet for a moment, until finally Jon said, “have you been failing a lot of tests lately?”
I bit my lower lip. “Yes,” I murmured.
“And smoking marijuana?”
I nodded, now chewing on my fingernail and staring at the floor.
“Yes or no!?” he asked, a little louder and scarier.
“And Alan has talked to you about this already?”
I nodded again. “Yes,” I said in almost a whisper.
“Then it’s time for you and I to discuss your irresponsibility.” He paused, my heart racing more, tears threatening to spill down my cheeks. “Go to your room, television off, thinking about the spanking I’m about to give you,” he told me. “And thinking about why you’re being punished, and how you’re going to avoid it in the future.”
I nodded, still chewing on my fingernail, and climbing the stairs. A few tears managed to escape as I turned the tv off and sat on my bed, head in hands, doing exactly as my brother had ordered — thinking about my impending punishment. Those moments are the worst… when you know what’s coming, you just don’t know in which moment. You notice every noise, wondering if that’s him climbing the stairs, if he’s nearing your door, about to order you to bare yourself from the waist down, so that he can inflict fire upon your backside until you’re kicking and crying and begging for him to stop. Every creek in the house sounds like him taking those dreadful steps, and when you finally notice that he is, indeed, taking those steps, the tears come almost instantly.
Jon didn’t knock, just pushed the door open. “You and I need to have a long discussion, little sister,” he said. He came inside and closed the door behind him. “Stand up,” he ordered.
I did as told, chewing on my fingernail once again. It was amazing how tough I normally was compared to now. If it was one person I didn’t mess with, it was my oldest brother when he was upset with me.
“Pj pants and panties off.”
I began to whine, but it wasn’t the time for that. So I did as told, pushing my purple penguin pjs to the floor and my panties with them. Jon sat down on my bed and took my left wrist, pulling me over his lap.
“Jon, I’m sorry,” I said.
“I’m very disappointed in you, Jocelyn,” he said seriously. “I never expected you to behave like this… so irresponsible. You’ve always been the good student in the family… the one with dreams. I’m disappointed that you’d sacrifice those dreams like you’ve been doing lately.”
I felt my stomach knot up and bit my lip, noticing the breeze on my bum. I desperately hoped that I’d closed the window.
The spanking started. It was intense, and hurt much more than I’d remembered. He concentrated on both my bum and sitspots, scolding as he did so and reminding me why I was in this position. Each swat caused me to kick and squirm a bit, exclaiming “ow!” every so often. It hurt so much and I wanted to take it like a woman, but between the pain and the disappointment that he had in me, and the disappointment I had in myself, it was becoming increasingly difficult to hold in my tears.
After what felt like an eternity, he lifted me up. I sniffled, rubbing my bum.
He stood and put his hands on my shoulders. “Jocelyn, we’re going to start to have more structure around here with you. You’ll have a bedtime every night, you’ll spend the afternoons studying rather than watching tv, and the smoking is going to cease. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I said weakly.
I don’t know if he wasn’t convinced or if he’d already planned to spank me more, but next thing I knew, he was putting my pillows in the middle of my bed and telling me to lean over them. Then he unbuckled his belt and started to take it off and that’s when the tears finally came.
“Noooo, pleaseeee, don’t use that,” I begged.
He didn’t say anything, didn’t argue with me, just waited patiently. I realized that I really did deserve the belting, as much as I hated it. The part that bothered me most was that my oldest brother felt like I needed it. That might have hurt more than the spanking itself.
But I submitted to the punishment anyway. I lay over the pillows and buried my face in my hands.
“I’m really sorry, Jon,” I whined, bracing myself for the first lash.
It bit into my skin with this unimaginable sting that had me crying like a little girl within moments. And after ten hard swats with the belt, and me sobbing, Jon sat down next to me on the bed, pushing the hair out of my eyes. “I really want you to do your best, Jocelyn,” he told me. “And I know this isn’t your best. I’m going to help you get back on track.”
I nodded, pushing myself up and falling into a hug. I just pressed my face into his chest and cried for what felt like hours. And then I put my pjs back on and let him tuck me in with a kiss on the forehead with a final promise to do better next time.