Recently, I was out and about in the blogosphere and I came upon a post that asked, "What's your secret?" Since this blogger and I have little to no overlap in readers, I decided to divulge a little secret I've been keeping. No, I won't share it here, because it was just something I wanted to get out and be done with. I'd like to thank that blogger for giving me the space to do that.
It got me thinking, though, about other secrets I have. Some secrets I keep because they're not mine to share, and obviously I'm not going to post any of those here. Some secrets I keep because I don't think they deserve the level of attention and thought it would take to tell them - I won't be posting those either. But some secrets I keep because I'm scared of what will happen if I talk about them, scared to dig them out of the dark spaces where they hide. Maybe, though, it's time to talk.
When I was a young child - maybe 7 years old - there was an older couple who lived down the street. Gus and Victoria were pretty much what you would expect of a kindly old neighborhood couple - they liked telling stories, they always had fresh flowers from their garden, and they liked to spoil me with candy when I went to visit them. I remember a number of pleasant afternoons sitting in a big fluffy armchair across from Victoria, listening to her reminisce while Gus tinkered in the kitchen or the garage.
(No, I didn't murder these kindly old people and bury their bodies in the schoolyard. Shame on you for even thinking such a thing!)
One day, I walked down the street to pay them a visit, but when I got there, victoria was out. I don't remember where Gus said she was, but she was gone, and it was just me and Gus. It seemed a little weird to be there just with him, so I said that maybe I should go home, but he seemed so glad to see me, and asked me to stay. So I did - I stayed. And he did exactly what you're all hoping I'm not going to say: He touched me. A lot. In bad ways.
You can probably tell from the way I'm writing this that it still makes me shut down a bit. I can't just come out and be all, "I was sexually abused," I have to revert to kid language and stammer, "He... did stuff to me." But hey, this is hard.
I'm certainly not going into details about what happened, because a) I don't want to gross you out, and b) I don't want to drag it all up and relive it here. But trust me when I say that it was awful. I hated feeling so uncomfortable and yet not knowing how to get out of the situation. I was still worried about not hurting Gus's feelings - not letting him know that I didn't like what he was doing. What kind of warped thinking is that? The thinking of a scared 7-year-old. I wanted out, but I didn't know what to do.
Eventually, I made up a story about having promised my mom that I would be home by 3:30 to help clean the pool. I remember that so distinctly, standing there telling that lie, hoping he would believe it. He did, and he let me go home. He never said anything to me about keeping what had happened a secret - he just let me go. I went home, and I never went back.
I don't know what happened to Gus and Victoria, although I'm sure they're long dead by now. I don't know if Gus ever did anything like that to anyone else, or if Victoria ever suspected. I only know what it did to me, how it made me ashamed for years, scared of my own feelings and those of the men I encountered. I know how hard it made relationships for a long time, how terrifying intimacy could be. I know how the nightmares made me cry out in the night, long into my twenties. Sometimes, I still see him in my dreams.
Why am I telling you this? Sometimes the weight is just too much to bear, even a weight like this, that's been with me for my whole life. How many times have I wanted to just shout it out, to try to explain why I act so weird and cold sometimes? How many times have other people shared their stories, and I want so much to say, "Me too," but I'm too scared? I don't want to be scared anymore - I want to have survived this and moved on.
So there it is, my secret. Do you have any you want to share?