"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things
Martin Luther King Jr.
I'm not sure I want to tell you this. Not sure at all. I'm
afraid that you'll say I should have known better. Or you'll
say it wasn't really all that bad. You'll say I deserved the whole
rotten thing, and everything that led up to it. And the aftermath.
Dismal little twerp, you'll say.
What do you know? You weren't there.
It started on a Friday, near the beginning of the school year. We
were all standing in line, waiting to be led into the school,
and I was talking to the new kid. His name was Andrew, I think,
and he was the only other kid in the fourth grade who played the
clarinet. He had fabulous hair, all thick and wavy.
I had my clarinet with me, and it was heavy. I shifted the case from
hand to hand as we stood there kvetching about our lives. I don't
remember what his problem with his family was. Maybe he was just
homesick (he was the new kid, remember). Anyway, we decided to run
away from home.
I don't remember ever speaking to him again after that day. I
certainly did not meet him in the schoolyard the next day according
to our plan. I don't think I really expected him to be there anyway.
The next day was sunny, glorious. Indian summer
. The leaves were
just starting to turn
, mostly yellow
s. I don't
remember if Andrew and I had set a time to meet. I don't remember
what, if anything, I told my mother before I left the house. She was
probably asleep. She was very ill
, and she slept a lot.
Dad was out of the country again
What I remember is that I wore my favorite clothes: the hideous
rainbow patchwork jeans; the shirt of many pockets and three colors;
the red hooded sweatshirt. In my pockets, I had: a small flashlight (silver and red, very
cool), my Girl Scout pocket knife (green plastic handle, very
dull), and all my money in a plastic sandwich bag. It probably
amounted to less than two dollars.
I like to imagine that if I had gotten to the school and Andrew hadn't
been there, I would have continued into the center of
town and used my money to buy as much as ice cream as possible.
And then I would have gone back home and maybe gotten yelled at for
being late for what passed for dinner.
But that's not what happened.
I brushed my hair. Which I never did, which I hated to do. Which my
mother and I regularly had fights about, breaking hairbrushes when
one or the other of us would throw them across the room in
frustration. But that day I brushed my hair. I wanted to look good
for my big adventure, and I remember being pleased with the results.
And then I left the house, feeling like someone in a shampoo commerical. I probably only got a mile or so
away before the guy on the bicycle came gliding up behind me
(tictictictictictic - it was a ten-speed) and then dismounted to
walk beside me.
He was tall (wasn't everyone?) and gangly and very blond. Even his eyelashes
were blond. He asked me if I had ever seen a ... something.
I didn't understand what he had said, so I said no. He asked me if I
wanted to, and I said yes. We headed towards the woods at the edge of
what I remember as a vacant lot, and I imagined something wonderful
like a nest of baby rabbits.
I'll spare you the details. Even if I thought you wanted to know, my
hands are shaking and I can barely type. I'll just say that
his tongue and his penis reminded me of slugs and that I still don't
like people with blond eyelashes. At some point it became too much,
and I screamed. He panicked, and told me to close my eyes and count
to fifty. I listened to the rustling of leaves as he fled. When I
couldn't hear him anymore, I fled too.
My therapist recently asked me how I felt afterwards. I told her it
was like the time I stuck my finger in a light socket. I had
to go lie down for a while.
It wasn't until years later that I understood what he had asked me:
"Have you ever seen a boy's cock?" It was nine years before I told anyone what had happened. It took even longer to
forgive myself for not understanding.
Last year I asked my husband to come with me, to walk past the place
where it happened. I couldn't find a vacant lot. Maybe it happened
in someone's front yard. Or maybe some of those houses weren't there
twenty-five years ago. Either way, you can't tell me it didn't
happen. If you try, I'll kick you in the nuts.