It happened when I was three – maybe four – years old. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember enough to know that (1) it happened repeatedly; and (2) I have not imagined the long-term effects on me.
I remember a room with a big bed. It’s not my room at home, but it’s not unfamiliar. The room is decorated with roses and, to my young mind, old-fashioned. As I peruse the memories, the adult in me says that the room is decorated in a Victorian fashion, although I know the child that I was would not have recognized it so. Remembering, the adult in me sees the wrought iron bedstead, the roses, the frilly lampshades, the lace, and I try to classify and bring order to what was there.
I hear him in the hall, and I pretend to be asleep. Maybe, if he thinks I’m sleeping, he won’t come to me. Maybe, if I’m quiet, he won’t notice me this time. As I try to control my breathing, I think that, maybe he’ll forget me tonight. My back to the door, I look at the moon out the window, through the lacy curtains and hope, imagining a life far away, on that cool grey surface. As the rain hits the window pane, I hear the giant willow tree crying, with its friendly fingered leaves, whose shadows seem to stroke my face in comfort.
Soon, though, I hear him creeping towards me. I hear the door shut quietly, and I clench myself down low, knowing what’s going to happen. The window is slightly open tonight, and the lacy curtains flutter in the wet breeze. I look up at the moon and shivering pray, ‘Please, not again.’
My heart pounding, I feel him sit on the bed beside me. He places what he hopes is a calming hand on my head, and I stiffen in anticipation. As his hand strokes down my body, I hear him murmur, “It’s alright, darling,” but somehow, I know he’s not talking to me. I lay boneless, and pretend I’m sleeping. I’ve learned it’s easier that way. If I look up at him or try to speak, he gets angry, and shoves my face into the pillow. If I fight, if I tell him, ‘NO!’, it makes him hurt me worse. ”You’re not allowed to say ‘no,’” he tells me.
I’ve learned that he knows if I’m awake, but somehow, my pretending, my unresisting body is what he wants, so I don’t destroy his illusion. I am facing toward the window, and I watch the moon as he crawls under the covers behind me. He holds my body to him, as if to protect me, and molds the front of his body to my back. I try my best to not stiffen, but I’m scared, and as he rubs his hands down my front, my side, he notices.
He’s been kissing my neck tenderly, but I feel the sudden change in him, and I stiffen, knowing what’s coming next. “Why can’t you love me?!” he says as he jerks my nightgown up. I lay still and uncooperative as he tries to pull my panties down, whispering, “I’d give you everything, but you hate me!”
Feeling as if my backside has been lit on fire, in my mind, I escape out the window, beneath the long branches of the willow, hiding from any who would see me. I feel hot tears running down my face, and look up at the moon, begging for a way out of this life.
In my memories, my adult mind can make sense of this, and say,”It’s not your fault, Judi! It wasn’t about you!” But my body remembers too, and as my lover reaches for me in the night, some 40 years later, I still tend to clench down low, and feel an apprehension, and a hope of ‘Please, not again.’ And I try with all my might to keep from escaping this life.