Also, uh, epically long. And rambly. And this is probably all swirling around up in my head NOW instead of later because now it's Monday. December 13. And He is appearing in court today. Well, supposed to be. We'll see. Well, I won't see, but I'll get a phone call from Corinne and - damn it. Rambling.
Before I say anything of real consequence, there is a TRIGGER WARNING for this post due to discussion of sexual assault, specifically molestation. More specifically, for discussion of MY experience, which may very well make a difference in whether some of you read this or not. (If you think that it being my experience will make it too hard for you to read it, then don't force yourself. <3<3<3<3)
Everything from hereon will therefore also be under the cut. Caveat emptor, as they say in retail.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
I knew my mother was going to ask that question long before she knew it. I knew she would end up asking it before she even knew there was anything to ask that question about. I knew she'd ask before I told my dad what was up. I knew she would ask it when I was lying on daimeera 's bed in her room in her apartment on campus curled up under her Baggage Blanket and crying and telling anyone for the first time ever. Saying it ALOUD for the first time ever.
It still didn't make it any easier to hear.
Obviously, I knew Mum wasn't trying to upset me with this question, that it was more rhetoric than anything, but that didn't help much.
I'd long ago lost track of how many times I'd asked myself the same thing. Not that I didn't have an answer - well, okay, I didn't really have one at the moment, but after lots and lots of thought and stuff, I have one now.
But let me start at the beginning for those who don't know the story.
High school, summer. Mum's very best friend in the entire world (SM) and her husband (André) came to visit. I was stoked. SM has been in my life since before I was actually born. I have many fond memories associated with SM and her old apartment in Dartmouth. I still note the building every time I go past it, I still remember which balcony was hers and I remember how to get to her apartment from the front door. I remember the layout (tiny kitchen liek woah), and I remember how the flooring in the dining room was the sort of woodblock-ish stuff that looks like Jenga blocks. I remember how the edges of the flooring were kinda scruffy and some of the little blocks were loose. I remember her plants and her books and the box of toys and her collection of wooden boxes. I remember some of what was IN those boxes, though it's probably been fifteen years or so since I looked through them. I remember her dancing panda sweatshirt that was always my favourite and she used to wear it just for me (which she later gave me, though it eventually died a noble, worn-out death).
After a lot of little bits of just-SM memories, a new character is introduced to the story of my life: André. SM and André started dating (or something like it, anyway) when I was about seven years old. André was big and talked funny (to a seven-year-old, the accent of a Quebecoise speaking English was funny, even when said seven-year-old had an English mother) and loud and a little hbit old but not really old and really fun to play with. He had false teeth (and weren't they cool and gross and weird all at once) and had the best stories and was a firefighter, which was pretty much the coolest job ever after paleontologist, as far as I was concerned.
So André became part of our visits to Dartmouth - when Tim and I found out we were going away for a weekend to see Grandma, the first question was always "Can we visit S?" Once André came along, the question usually immediately following that first one became "Is André gonna be there?" And time passed. We saw them sometimes, but never often enough, and never, ever too much. And we always thought it was a little weird that they didn't get married, because isn't that what grown-ups in loved are SUPPOSED to do?
And then they were getting married. I was fourteen, grade nine at EP. We got to miss school for a few days because we were going to the wedding and had to drive to Ontario and while we were up there we were gonna visit Aunt Marion since it was Thanksgiving and they hadn't moved to Nova Scotia yet. So it was a triple-awesome week/end - miss extra school, go see SM and André (and, okay, the wedding would be kinda neat, we supposed), and see Aunt Marion et al (cousins included! I idolised my big Ontario cousins). All in all, pretty awesome.
My mental timeline gets a little screwed up after this, summers all blending together and stuff - I can't remember if the first time André touched me was that immediately following summer (between grades nine and ten), or the next one (between ten and eleven).
Either way, it happened. That first time, I though it must have been an accident. My family is pretty huggy, and SM is huggy, and so was André. That's just how we roll. So when I was showing him something - in a book, maybe (probably), I can't quite remember - and I was sitting at the dining room table and he was standing behind me looking, and had his hands on my shoulders, it wasn't anything, you know? One of a hundred, a thousand similar affectionate touches I'd received in all the years I'd known him. And when he rubbed my arm while he said something that made me grin, that wasn't anything either.
But when his hands touched the front of my breasts, that was weird. I didn't like it. But I thought it had to have been an accident, you know? Like, he's a big guy. Six two or thereabouts. I'm not that big a girl, and was even less so at fourteen-ish. He has big hands, 'cause he's a big guy, and I was decidedly not a big girl, so I thought okay, weird and uncomfortable, but it's not his fault that he couldn't see through my head to see that his hands were in kinda the wrong spot to move them like that.
So I never said anything. Maybe because I thought I'd get in trouble for making a big deal out of what must have been an accident, maybe because I didn't want him in trouble for an accident, whatever. I don't really know. I said nothing that first time, because I didn't think there was anything to say something about.
But it happened again.
I was in the basement family room watching TV or maybe playing a video game, chilling out on the couch 'cause it was hot and muggy and the basement was cool and just hanging. And André came in and sat down next to me and we talked for a couple minutes, and then he put his hand on my thigh (I was wearing jeans) and said I was "a beautiful girl, [his] beautiful girl" and then he slid his hand up my leg and suddenly it was in my crotch and he was touching me there over my jeans but that didn't help how awful it felt, and he kissed my cheek and I was completely fucking freaked and had no idea what was going on except that I didn't like it.
I sort of shrugged him away, used my elbow to push his arm away and said something about it being too hot.
But I never said anything to anyone else.
Now, I want to make something clear. All those talks and stuff about what to do if an adult ever touched me in a way I didn't like or wasn't comfortable with, all that "tell an adult you trust" - I'd had all those talks. I had those talks in school, I had them at home - with a reiteration when Mum and Dad hired a male babysitter (he was awesome - he used to bring his N64 and we'd play Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 all evening) - so I knew. At least, I knew in theory.
In practice, it was a little different. So I said nothing, I didn't want to cause any trouble or get anyone in trouble, and I didn't even really know how to articulate why it bothered me.
I thought it was just me - that it was something I was supposed to know but didn't, the way I said no to Danielle Rafuse when she asked me in fifth grade if I was a virgin. I didn't know what the word meant, and if SHE was asking me, then I thought I probably didn't want to be one, going on previous experience with other 'odd' questions from classmates that always ended up with me giving the 'wrong' answer somehow and being jeered at for ages afterward.
So I said nothing. And the next couple times they came to visit, I did everything I could not to be alone in the house or a room with André.
Everything - except tell someone. I asked Mum about when she and SM would be back from shopping in the hopes she'd ask me if I wanted to go with them (under normal circumstances, the answer would have been a vehement 'no'), I went to visit friends even though Mum had wanted me to stay home because they didn't get to come visit very often and then just bore the tongue-lashing I got later about how I should spend time with them while they were there.
They came to visit another time or two, and stuff happened, and more than once in the duration of their visits.
I'd gotten the basement bedroom and a double bed when we added the basement under the condition that I would give it up to be the guest bed when family/friends that were couples came to visit. I was fine with that, it was a more than fair trade for getting the new bedroom and stuff.
But this meant that when they were visiting, I was sleeping on the couch in the family room. In the basement.
I remember André coming in one morning. I'd woken up a little bit before that, but didn't really want to get up yet, when I heard someone coming down the stairs, so I rolled over with my back to the room. It was still early enough that if it was Mum or Dad, they'd think I was asleep and leave me alone.
It was André. He came in and perched on the very edge of the couch and I knew it was him even though I wasn't looking because he'd said my name, very quietly, as he came into the room. I thought, maybe if he thought I was asleep, he'd leave, so I lay there trying to looklike I was sleeping and trying to keep my breathing even so he wouldn't guess that I was awake.
And then he started touching me through the blanket, running his hand over my breasts, ass, crotch. And I lay there awake and feeling everything and more petrified than I had ever been in my life and saying nothing.
I continued to say nothing - except to him, sometimes. I would ask him please not to touch me like that, I didn't like it. Mostly, I asked.
Once, I said no, don't touch me, don't do that, and he stopped. He backed off.
But then he did it again another day, and I think I just gave up. Asking him to stop hadn't worked, telling him hadn't worked. He knew I didn't like it - there wasn't any room for miscommunication - but he obviously wasn't listening or didn't care.
So I stopped saying anything at all.
A few incidents later was the last time I saw him for a while because I went off to university, and then the year I was home they didn't come to visit, and then I came to X. And I'd buried it, pushed it all way down, kept silent.
And then my cousin Matthew was getting married, and I was getting to go, and I was SO excited. And then once I was in Ontario, I found out that because Mum had gotten my plane ticket with AirMiles (or Aeroplan miles or whatev; one of those reward things), I had to fly out of Ottawa, not Toronto like everybody else.
And I had to stay the night at SM and André's house in Ottawa, and they would take me to the airport the next day.
I had to sleep in the guest room on the same floor as their bedroom in their house.
Alone. No one else was staying there. Everyone else was flying out of Toronto.
It felt like my heart froze. I just stopped, and after a minute Mum asked if I was okay, 'cause I'd just stopped in the middle of the conversation, and here was the perfect opportunity to say it: 'No, I'm not okay. He hurt me. He scares me and I don't want to go there. Don't make me go there.'
Guess what part of that I said?
You got it.
I said oh, I'm fine, I just spaced out for a minute, and does S still keep her chocolate in the fridge even though she broke a tooth on fridge chocolate that one time back in Dartmouth just before she moved?
He wasn't there, not even anywhere close, and he was still silencing me, still terrifying me.
I was very, very glad to discover a lock on the bedroom and bathroom doorknobs. I was very glad that S came with me when André drove me to the airport the next day.
I haven't seen him since.
I've seen S - though not since I started talking about what happened, I did see her last year a few months before I let the cat out of the bag, so to speak.
It'd been over two years since the last time I'd seen André, and about four and a half years since the last incident, when I finally broke and spilled the whole story, most every sordid detail, to daimeera at the end of February.
I'm not silent any more.
I'm not silent any more, but he still silences me in a dozen, a hundred different little ways almost every day.
There's someone I pretty much haven't talked to at all since I started talking about it. He has no idea why, I haven't told him a thing, and though I know he isn't entitled to know anything, he was a good friend to me. We had fun - a lot of fun. But I can't even make myself send a three line e-mail to tell him that. To tell him that it isn't anything he did or didn't do that's made me stop talking to him, but something I have to work out for myself. To tell him that I had fun with him and that he's a really good person. I just... can't.
I got my X-Ring a couple weeks ago. Had a pretty dress for the cermeony and everything. But when I got home to Trenton, to Mum and Dad's where we were having a little party thing, Uncle Don said I looked beautiful, and I didn't hear my uncle's voice.
I heard André.
Uncle Don isn't even Francophone, let alone Quebecoise. He's an Anglophone Maritimer, with a Maritime accent that says 'bet' instead of 'beat' and sticks an 'h' at the beginning of very word that starts with an 'a' so that 'apple' turns into 'happle' and says 'Acropole' like ack-row-pole instead of ah-crawp-oh-lee.
My uncle was speaking, but I heard André.
And now it's December 13th, and he's supposed to be showing up at the courthouse in New Glasgow for his arraignment - arraignments start in five hours - and I've got a month of History notes for classes I never went to because I was out for the entire month of November for mdeical reasons (though I'm mostly okay now) to get memorised for two PM on Wednesday and an appointment at 1230 today, and I'm STILL AWAKE.
I'm awake and crying and SILENT. Because I don't know what to do, other than be silent. I'm expected to go to campus and take this exam on Wednesday and right now I don't feel like I can even get to my 1230 appointment with my COUNSELLOR, let alone think about leaving the house and going to campus and sitting crammed into a room for two hours with forty-odd other people all sitting BEHIND me.
But I have to think about it. Because I have to study, and so I can't NOT think about the exam, and the location of the exam, and how I don't know the material we're being tested on yet and I have two days but I don't really have today because I've just spent all night freaking out and I have my appointment and there's no way I'll make it until tonight without getting some sleep somewhere.
But I CAN'T think about my exam, because all I can think about is him. About how if he's come for the arraignment, then he's in the province right now. Less than an hour's drive away, assuming he found somewhere in NG to stay.
He's less than an hour away from me - or he's hours and hours away. I don't know. I haven't the foggiest idea, but it's all I can think about.
All I can think about.
But nothing I can talk about. Not right now.
I'm still silenced.