This is what you do not know. That I’d always felt unloved, was an unhappy child. That I stuck out from the others, never fit the mould. That I yelled as often as I could because it was the only time anyone paid me attention. If I didn’t, nobody really minded too. That I was loyal to whoever would let me, for a sense of belonging, however false.
You do not know, that I was four years old the first time I got groped and leered at. That I was six, the first time a man attempted to rape me. Flat as a board. Straight as a rod. With missing front teeth. You do not know that I was hit hard, on both sides of my face, a coarse hand muffling my screams. That I’d flailed my skinny legs about, twisted and shoved, until my legs were pinned under his. That I cried and begged, when he placed grim, sloppy lips on my face, and with his other hand began to undo his belt buckle. That I got lucky when someone knocked, insistently, at the door. That I was threatened to never speak of it, even as I scampered away. That I had called him, “Brother.”
You do not know, that I wasn’t always lucky. That I still suffered abuse anyway. That two years of my life, my childhood, were ridden with tears, and carelessly spilled semen. That when my aunt had the chastity talk with me, at 10 with newly budded breasts, my maidenhead was long gone. That it was the same time around which my friends wove floral wreaths of virginity into their smiles, talk, and strut. That I felt a certain loss of self, of worth. That I became a recluse.
You do not know, that nobody knew these things, not even my parents under whose roof, this had all happened. That the abuse only stopped when I was nearly eleven, and informed about menstrual cycles and pregnancy. That the fear of being a pregnant child, when I once became ill, outweighed my need for belonging. That I fought him the next time, and all the times after; although in some warped sense, I loved him, and it didn’t always hurt. That when it finally ended, he was forty-five and stopped bringing me gifts.
You do not know, that with my reclusion came a profound self-loathing. That I avoided human company, so I could soak in my own tears. That I presented a cheery front for my family, while I railed against myself internally. That I had labelled myself tainted. Ugly. Broken. Worthless. That I often laid awake at night, punishing myself with memory feed of my abuse, until my breaths came in wheezes and chokes. That I often prayed, for death to claim me.
You do not know, that when I was seventeen, I had few human connections. That my secrets bored down on my soul. That a pastor came by the house to say I had strong “marine spirit” affiliations. That it seemed to explain why all those men kept coming, and only after my body. That I often went for prayer sessions at his house, where I first had to narrate my dreams. That after the first 21 days, our sessions began to end with an anointing service. That the anointing with oil was supposed to demolish whatever “marine temples” had been set up in my body.
You do not know, that the anointing sessions spanned every inch of my body. That with his hands dripping in olive oil, he’d rub my head and face, then my throat and arms, and then my legs and feet. That I could hear his breath quickening in excitement, even as he muttered “Blood of Jesus,” when he dipped his hand between my thighs and underneath my panties. That when I squeezed my thighs together, he’d move to my breasts, and later return to place a sign of the cross on my panties, just above my mons.
You do not know, that the nightmares came every night until I finally gave in. That I stopped struggling and let him anoint my genitals so I could be free. That his nails scored my flesh, and I often came away with blood in my underwear. That he sometimes said how he might have slept with me, had he been a lesser man. That I still have nightmares.
You do not know, how achingly empty I became. That I plugged my ears with music, and read everything I could to fill the void. To soothe the ache. To escape myself. That I did not believe myself worthy of love, not with how soiled my soul was. That my belief in God almost slipped. That sometimes, nothing mattered anymore.
You do not know, that I counted the days until you’d leave. That when we made love, every single caress was defined by rote, and devoid of soul. That I gorged on food and slept in the puddle of my tears when you left. That when I woke up and felt the thickening inches of my flab folds, I cried some more.
You do not know, that I’ve opened up some, that I’m getting help. That I work hard to make the positives stick. That my moods are darkest when the old ghosts resurface. That I sometimes sit at my window, staring listlessly at the green-gold flecks on the dancing palm limbs. That I worry when I’ll be found out for the hoax that I am.
You do not know, that largely, I still pretend at life.