What if…

A friend told me the other day that she thought I was brave – those words felt like some of the kindest words ever spoken to me. You see I want to believe in those words and if I am brave, I am new to bravery.

I listen to her and I think she is brave – young, and brave, and authentic, and smart. I want to be 25 and authentic, and smart, and brave.

I was not brave at 25. It has taken 45 years to feel almost brave.

What If…

Did I lose my courage
when a cousin took my little toddler hands
and put them on his dick?

He said “don’t be afraid, touch it”
but I didn’t want to,
I said no.
But it happened
over and over again
in secret places.
How old was he?
I can’t remember
But he was old enough for pubic hair.
Old enough to understand
NO.

I don’t remember if it stopped
or if it stopped because they moved.
It did not stop because I said NO.

Was that
the moment I first
lost trust in my own voice,
my thoughts,
my power?
Lost courage,
failed to believe in men.

I can remember
running up,
up,
from the basement.

Jumping
into my father’s lap
a gentle man,
a kind man,
a strong man.
Felt safe for just a moment and then,
and then, I thought
“oh he has one too, one of those”.

I jumped down,
I stopped
sitting in my father’s lap that day.

He said
“you don’t sit in my lap anymore”.
I just walked away.
I had no explanation
only felt
something new,
something uncomfortable,
something that happened in basements,
something shameful,
fear.

Did I lose
my courage,
at least one kind of courage
before
I had barely started to live?

And you tell yourself
as you grow up,
as you talk to women,
whose own minds, and spirits, and wombs and bodies ache.

They ache,
with memories,
of how they suffered,
and were intruded upon.

The other women,
so many of us,
sometimes it feels like all of us.

Grandmothers passing it on to mothers, passing it on to daughters,
so many,
too many of us.

That grew afraid
as toddlers,
as children,
as teenagers,
as adults.
Of the babies we pushed out wailing, wailing ourselves
out through our own hips, we give birth to our attackers.

Afraid of fathers, of brothers, of grandfathers, and uncles,
and neighbors, and teachers, and coaches, the boy next door, our dates,
and strangers, and, and, and –

Afraid.
Afraid.
Afraid.
Afraid now,
of our own fear,
afraid.

So many of us
afraid.

And you think to yourself,
you think to yourself,
now an adult –
Well it was not that bad,
What happened to me was not that bad –
Not as bad as what happened to Sue, or Stacey, or Laura, or Jenny, or Christina, or, or, or,

But how will you ever know
It was not that bad.
All you remember is that it happened
That something happened to you that day, something changed, something died
and you spend your life looking for
that which was lost,
that which was taken away,
and you’ll never really know
what if,
because of
what did
happen that day.

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4 Responses to “What if…”

  1. I don’t know what to say…that was incredibly powerful, and brave, I’ll echo your friend. You are a brave woman, and an inspiration to me.

  2. “Well it was not that bad,
    What happened to me was not that bad –
    Not as bad as what happened to Sue, or Stacey, or Laura, or Jenny, or Christina, or, or, or,

    But how will you ever know
    It was not that bad.
    All you remember is that it happened
    That something happened to you that day”

    I wish I couldn’t relate to this.

    Again, I have chills. Brave indeed.

  3. Too many of us can relate, it’s a legacy women should not have.

    I remember sitting at a table full of women in college – there were 7 or 8 of us 90% of us (I think only one person at the table) had not been a victim of sexual abuse, incest or violence.

    Until it stops — we shout.

    Thank you, thank everyone who reads here and especially when you participate.

    Writing is about communication and the comments are important to me.

    with gratitude-
    janet

  4. velvetginger Says:

    Another word comes to mind…courageous to tell this story and not to have shame & guilt over it….and yes it takes years to face it mic…thank you for sharing.

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