Yesterday, as Beanie and I walked down to the pump with our wagon and container for water (our well is very shallow and not drinkable), we passed a man in a truck. He was working on one of the cottages, getting it ready for the year. Weathered, with a long white beard, he stopped to say hello.
Nice dog. Well trained.
I realized something as he drove on- I'm not afraid of men anymore. White men. I've never been afraid of men of color, nor gay men. I don't know why it never generalized that far but it didn't.
Straight, white men always made me feel on edge. They don't anymore. I enjoyed the very brief conversation and went on to get my water. I wished I had my camera to take his photo, his face was very calm and yet the lines carved in spoke of many years working hard.
I'm not afraid.
It is really only about one man. Not my father, he always seemed weak to me, even standing at 6'2". The medications had long left him with odd ticks and tremors that made him look broken to me, even as a child. There is really only one man who frightens me, who I feel my adrenalin start to race when I'm in a room with him. With good reason, as only a couple years ago he shoved me hard enough into a wall to leave a large, gaping hole.
I was fighting back. I broke the rules.
As kids, he would pin me to the ground, and let a long line of spit come from his mouth and hold my face.
I remember him on my back, holding my face to the ground, the stink of the old green carpet the plush shag long lost, making me stay there until he was bored.
I remember him chasing me through the house, trying to grab the key to the bathroom, and locking myself in. And then he would lock me in with a chair. Same for the closet. Tried to get there. Hold the door tight. I'd wet my pants trying to hold the door. Then he'd stick a chair against the handle and keep me there.
I wet my pants when I went through the wall. Some things never change.
I am breaking big rules by writing this. I know. I am prepared to get the threatening letter. Libel. Lawsuits. I realize he remembers things the way he needs to.
That's OK. There are times I wish I could hold it the same way, as playful rough housing. What kids do.
Oh, how that line is embedded in my mind. Just what kids do. Normal.
I remember things the way I do because I have to. We have different truths. It is fair for him to say I have it all wrong.
And it is fair for me to tell my side, my truth. The stories told around my mother's kitchen table have another edge to them. One without laughter or the old lie that it was normal. I need to let the little girl have her voice, so she stops bringing me back to a fearful place. To a place of shame. Holding her back doesn't take away her power.
I'm not afraid anymore. The old man was not a menacing rapist but just a guy doing his work. Being neighborly.
I'm ready to tell the whole story.