~ a moment of terror ~
“There, there. It’ll be over soon.”
My father would always say that when I was going through something horrible, something painful. Like when I broke my arm falling from the tree in our back yard. Or when every centimeter of my skin itched from the chicken pox but I couldn’t scratch any of it. Or when I got my period for the first time and my guts felt like they were being riped out.
Father was always there to massage my scalp or rub my back, sometimes hugging me, holding me, rocking me gently and whispering, “There, there.” Father protected me, loved me.
So hearing those words, my father’s words, drip from the lips of this man, this monster, this thing that called himself Lover, shook me more than anything else I imagined he would soon do to me.
There was no love in his touch, no love in his eyes. There was danger. There was hunger. Hurt. Pain. Misery. He said it would be over soon. I hoped he wasn’t also a liar.
The scratches, scraps, and bruises on my skin did not yet ache as much as I knew they eventually would. He’d grabbed me on my walk back to my dorm, slamming me into the sodden earth and wrestling me into his van even as I fought him the entire way.
I’d cut through the swath of trees that separated the high rise apartments just off campus from a side campus street, apartments too expensive for me to afford and far enough away from my classes that I didn’t care. But I’d wanted to visit Brandon, my boyfriend, before my school week started.
My parents liked Brandon, I sometimes thought more than I did. He rubbed my back almost as good as my father and soothed me in more adult ways. He kept me centered, kept me sane as I studied to apply to medical school. I wanted to be a counselor, to help the hurt, the abused, the broken.
As I laid on the cold cement floor, the irony of my life’s goal struck me.
As he riped apart my clothes, my wrists bound in clothesline, my whimpers silenced by a piece of fabric from my once comfy rugby shirt, my eyes darkened also by a torn piece of my clothing, I wondered how I as a counselor would I advise my patient going through this ordeal.
How would I comfort a woman about to be violated in who knows how many ways? How would I walk her through the physical pain and the emotional turmoil? How would I connect with her, soothe her?
I recalled hearing somewhere that you should relax and let them do what they want. I advised myself to do this, just relax, lying like a dead fish, my body limp.
I thought maybe taking my mind to another place would also be beneficial. Not some place happy, for I knew that would never work. But maybe a place of physical pain, unchosen pain again.
And then I remembered my father lying next to me, my abdomen riped in two from my blossoming into womanhood. I remembered his rocking me and rubbing my back.
I remembered the seemingly unrelenting pain, wanting to cry, wanting it to end, wanting to rip my insides out, anything to stop the pain.
And then I remembered his words again, and thought it fitting to go there, back to my bedroom in a house no longer standing in a room with a man no longer living. I thought maybe, some how or some way, his comfort echoed in this horror would help me survive a new pain that I quietly begged and pleaded would just end.
“There, there. It’ll be over soon…”
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