Out of the deep oblivion of my dreamless exhausted sleep I barely felt him crawl into bed behind me. I opened my eyes for a moment, irritated, total darkness. I drifted off again, too much effort to keep my eyes open.
His erection slipped between my legs where I was still wet from before. My body tried to wake me. Sooo tired. Where am I? Consciousness returned slowly, drifting up out of the depths of exhaustion. Right, the ratty little room we’d found after he’d finally been released from the ship. I remembered standing in the hot sun all day long in the midst of the crowd of all the other wives, girlfriends, families, waiting, endlessly waiting. It had only been four months this time not six, but it seemed like forever. We were so excited to see each other again. We were planning to stay in one of the famous Japanese love motels we’d heard so much about. Evidently everyone else had the same idea, they were all booked and here we were in this little dive. Just as well, what good is a fantasy room if you can’t even stay awake to enjoy it?
I felt his hand on my abdomen. “Jerk,” I mumbled. “Can’t you even let me wake up first?” So warm, so sleepy, his arm reaching around from behind as he cradled me, caressing, traveling down between my thighs. I stretched, shivered, as the tingling ran from deep within me, down to the tips of my toes and back. “Ooooh,” he was my jerk after all and it had been so long since I’d been touched this way. Like sleepy morning sex only more so. I began to respond, “Mmmmmmm,” not really yet awake in my dark, dreamy cocoon.
Then a voice from the corner of the room, impatient, “Hurry up dude, it’s my turn.” What?! He wouldn’t bring someone else into our room. Would he? Shock. Confusion. Anger. What the hell?! I flipped around, pulling away. “You were loving it, bitch!” I started screaming. Panicking. Not my husband. He began beating me, one of his hands covering my mouth. I could smell myself on his hand, Oh God! Can’t breathe. He, still banging away at me as I tried to fight. Fully awake now. Futility, powerlessness, rage and finally, blackness…
I drifted back to consciousness as the door opened. Relief chasing panic, fear, shame. My husband, “What the fuck?!” I could smell the food, Mexican, spicy, greasy as he dropped the containers, dragging the one off of me. I heard him punching, swearing, throwing him down the stairs. I heard myself crying as if from a distance as I scrambled to cover myself. The other one grabbed my husband and they tumbled down the stairs together and out into the street. Where are my glasses? I somehow dressed myself clothes all askew, pants on inside out. That’s how they found me, wandering the streets hysterical, I was told after I woke up in the hospital.
I can still see his eyes, red-rimmed and watery, not looking directly at me as he whispered, wondering if there was any way I could quit crying, “They’re talking about admitting you to the psych ward if you can’t.” I stopped crying. As he walked away I could see the sample cup in his hand containing the sperm they’d asked him to provide. Don’t cry, I told myself as they took their polaroids and their scrapings along with my dignity.
The comforting fog of numbness settled over me as we stumbled about getting on with our lives. He drank. I overworked. We came back to the States, got an apartment, got married. He? I don’t know, maybe out of guilt for not protecting me? And me? Perhaps desperation? Resignation? He could still stand to touch me. Didn’t he know I wasn’t worth it? I loved him for this. I hated him for this. Mostly I hated myself. I got comfortable with my companions, fear, shame, guilt, unworthiness. We tore each other apart with our version of love for the next ten years before finally giving up, letting go. My husband. I still wonder how he is. I think of him often fondly, tenderly. No, we weren’t married at the time of the rape and we aren’t married now, but how do you call someone something other than what they’ve become to you? Past, present or future I suppose he will always be ‘my husband’ to me.
Somewhere, somehow during those dark years God showed up. Became real. Can’t be explained, really. He just was, is. I wanted to please him, I wanted to matter, wanted what I’d been through to matter, somehow. After the divorce I made a pact with God. Keep me from ever being this vulnerable with another man, not until I meet ‘the one’. Never let me touch another man or dishonor you, shame you in this way. As for my part, I’ll just believe, and wait.
Faith isn’t my strong suit, nor is patience. But I did believe and I did wait. But I also helped God. I wonder if he laughed at my efforts, or cried. I gained weight, hid behind big glasses, baggy clothes, quit wearing make-up. I didn’t do these things all at once, or even consciously, but I did them, locking away the woman inside of me. I became proud, self-sufficient, cynical even. I did men’s work, and did it better than they did. They worked for me and I competed with them for recognition, respect. I did this for a long, long time. I didn’t trust anybody.
One day I met a man who helped me to look at myself differently. He treated me like Jesus might have if he walked the streets today. I treated him like dirt. He was kind. I disrespected him, refused to trust, and complained about his work. He was still kind. He treated me with dignity, with respect. It was powerful. He scared me. I avoided him. He still acted like Jesus and I started to bend. We became friends and I begged forgiveness. “For what?” he responded. We talked about everything. Easily. And then he began to look at me differently, like a man looks at a woman. I felt like a woman. Like a girly woman. The phrase, “What fresh new hell is this?” comes to mind.
I remember the exact moment I looked into those blue eyes and knew that this was ‘the one’ I’d been waiting for all these many years. It was a decision to believe really, an acquiescence. In that moment I knew I would risk everything. I knew that I was capable of a great love. It took only a moment to decide but a couple of days to take that leap and act upon my decision.
“Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place… Give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill up from behind, from beneath like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
Annie Dillard gives the above advice on writing. I love it! It makes something in me sing, want to jump off any old high place in self-abandonment, forgetfulness. I say, this advice holds true for loving as well, maybe even more so.
My first act of love was to write a letter. In it I trusted him with all my dark and twisty secrets, gave him all the information he would need to run screaming in the opposite direction. He came closer and I loved him with an extravagant love, holding nothing in reserve. It was a kind of love that puts the other first. A kind of love I did not know I was capable of.
My final act of love, once I knew he wasn’t ‘the one’, was to let him go. This was also a powerful act I did not know I was capable of. On the day I set him free, I experienced a sort of freedom myself that is very difficult to explain.
Moments later, my best friend and I set off for our first trip to a nude beach not that far from home. Neither one of us had ever been before. The road to making this decision was a long and winding one, and different for each of us, but suddenly the day was here and it was a perfect one. Warm and sunny, nearly windless, the sky was incredibly blue. We sang and laughed as she drove anticipating what it might be like. Every song on the radio was about brokenness and beauty and freedom and change. I felt as if about to jump from a great height and that once I had, everything would be different.
As I dropped my clothes on that beach that day I experienced a freedom I’ve never known before. I felt my hiding places, my masks dropping away as well, the fear and shame and ugliness disintegrating in the hot sand. I began a new dance with my creator, one that celebrated that what he’d made was indeed good, and beautiful. I acknowledged myself as his work of art, singing with an Adam Lambert scream, “…and I’m feeling, feeling good!”
I was reborn in a way or at least the woman locked away in me was. Reborn: free and beautiful and capable of loving, even myself, for more than just a fleeting moment...