Photo Credit:Annie Spratt on Unsplash
**The content in this post may be emotionally disturbing to some. Reader’s discretion is advised. Some names have been changed to protect identities.**
I wanted to do another open letter, but there’s more than one person to address it to in this case. In order to understand it, I feel like I really have to paint a picture for you. I have to tell it like a story.
“Morning,” the bus driver grumbled as my shoes squeaked past her. The thick fog of the air made the exhaust of the school bus heavier than usual. My stomach turned as I took a deep breath. I found a brown, cold seat and sat down. I always scoot as close to the window as I possibly can, as if it will protect me from intruding conversation. As I watched the morning fog flow through the green trees out of my window, a noise interrupted my thought pattern. Thump. Thump.
I jerked my head around my seat to see where the noise was coming from. My eyes followed the sound of someone patting on the seat across the aisle from me. It was him. He was mouthing come sit here. A wave of panic overcame my body, and I could feel my face heating up. I shook my head no. I had to say no. Disappointed, he rolled his blue eyes and faced forward. That always makes for an awkward bus ride. I moved my head back to it’s original place and continued with my window staring.
Looking back now, maybe I said no because I could. When the option to say “no” is taken away from you for awhile, maybe you spend a portion of your life making up for it.
A few minutes had passed, and I thought he had forgotten. I was wrong. Thump. Thump. “I don’t want to sit with you, Jesse,” I hissed. “Well, why not?” he pleaded. Attempting to ignore him, I rolled my eyes and looked straight forward. Thump. Thump. “Fine!” I grumbled as I hastily switched seats. I sat next to him with my arms crossed. “Was that so hard?” he asked. I sighed in response.
My heart was racing, my palms were drenched in sweat. I could hardly catch my breath. I tried to look tough to cover it up. Acting like an asshole has a tendency to keep people away from me. He was cute. He had blonde hair and blue eyes, and big dimples. He sort of smelled like a campfire, but it was somehow soothing. He couldn’t know that though.
He slowly crept his hand into mine. “What are you doing?” I asked. No answer. “Seriously, what are you doing?” I asked again. No answer. He sat with his hand in mine and ignored my harsh tone. My stomach started doing flip flops. I could feel my heart start to race. I yanked my hand away and looked down. My breath escalated to hyperventilation. My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my throat. I leaned my head against the seat in front of me to try to catch my breath. “Are you okay?” He sounded truly concerned. Should I answer? I can’t answer. Please don’t throw up. The screech of the breaks on the bus interrupted my thoughts. Finally, school. I jumped up and put my backpack on as fast as I could and raced off the bus. I stumbled on the concrete steps to my middle school, but I couldn’t let it stop me. The cheap, blue carpet of our school hallway scuffed under my feet as I ran as fast as I could. That, and my heart pounding in my ears is all I could hear.
I ran to the girls bathroom and shoved a stall door open. You’re fine, stop, you’re fine, please stop, you’re fine. After a couple of minutes of trying to convince myself that I was okay, I filled the toilet with my usual stomach acid vomit. I never had much to throw up anymore. I hadn’t been able to eat since I found out that Jesse liked me. It made me sick to my stomach every time it crossed my mind. I wanted someone to like me, though. No one had ever liked me, really. I was an awkward preteen. I had goofy teeth and a weird hair cut, topped off with a bad dye job. I purposely wore clothes that would deter the opposite sex.
It wasn’t a decision that I had made, warding off any potential threats. It was something in my human nature that automatically developed. It was fear. Fear is crazy, it’s sort of like love. You don’t even know you’re feeling it until you stop to think about everything that you’re doing. I didn’t know why I was different until I was older. As my mind developed, the pieces started to fit together. I knew what had happened to me, I just didn’t realize all the affects that it had on every single aspect of my life.
“Were you puking?” Someone asked as I stepped out of the stall. I could tell she was disgusted. I kept my head down and didn’t reply. I was ashamed. I’m not sure why no one ever told an adult. I puked in that bathroom almost daily. For the rest of the day, I avoided Jesse like he was contagious. I would catch him looking at me from across classrooms and the halls, but I did my best to avoid it.
On the bus ride home, I willingly sat next to him. I felt bad for what I did. Mostly embarrassed. He didn’t seem to mind though. He held my hand again, and I tried to not let the panic consume me. “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” Wait, what? Did he just say what I think he did? I nodded yes. I couldn’t speak. I came home on cloud nine that day. I collapsed on my bed with a smile on my face, like they do in the movies. I couldn’t believe someone had actually liked me. Me. I didn’t know why, and couldn’t understand it. The happiness couldn’t last though. My being couldn’t let it. As the sun went down, so did my glow. I couldn’t sleep. I laid in my bed tossing and turning all night.
When my mom woke me up for school, my anxiety woke up with me. I couldn’t eat, again. My mom had learned not to fight me on it anymore. I think the majority of those who surrounded me just assumed I “wasn’t a morning person”. I forced myself to go to school. Basically, the same actions as the day before had taken place. Only this time, I puked in the garbage can on the bus. How embarrassing, right? Puking in front of your first boyfriend. As the day progressed, a classmate, whom we’ll call Tracy, approached me.
“So, I have some news for you,” she stated glumly. I just looked at her and waited. I knew what was coming. “Jesse wants me to break up with you for him,” I looked down. The same heat hit my face. My eyes started to sting. “He said that you’re not going to put out so there’s no point,” she continued. With that, she walked away, the smell of her cheap body spray left behind her.
I was devastated. I mean, obviously this wasn’t the kind of first boyfriend that I wanted, but I just knew it was all my fault. I was weird, I was shy, and I was afraid of him. I would dump me too, really. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time this scenario would happen. My anxiety ruined a lot of things for me. You ruined a lot of things for me.
You see, people do things to other people and never really think about the impact that it has. I can only imagine what your thought process was. You probably thought I wouldn’t remember, since I was so young. You probably thought it wasn’t a big deal. Or, maybe you didn’t think about me at all. Maybe you just wanted to get off. Maybe it thrilled you, taking advantage of someone who had no power. Maybe it excited you that I was too scared to say no.
Unlucky for me, I do remember. It’s amazing how keen your memory can be, even when your memories are from age 5. I always remembered. Every time I saw you, I remembered. Every time you were talked about, I remembered. I remembered your heavy breathing. I remembered your blank stare, I remember your rough touch. I remember you were sneaky about it, always taking a touch or two when no one was paying attention.
I remembered that you told me not to tell.
And I didn’t until I was a teenager. I knew no one would believe me if I did, and I think you knew that too. I guess in a sense, it was the perfect crime. Let me tell you, I finally did tell someone. And guess what? They didn’t believe me. It was too unlikely to believe. I guess I just looked like a liar, and you looked like a saint. I learned after that to never tell anyone again.
It wasn’t only you though, it just started with you. It was like my vulnerability could be smelled. I know you don’t know this, and probably don’t care to, but I was pulled under a bed and raped at the age of 8. At least it was just once though. At least I was a little bit older. Maybe I could have fought him off. Maybe I could have ran and hid. Maybe I could have told someone. I didn’t. Actually, I think this may be the first time I’ve even spoke of this. Lucky you.
I know to others, this “open story” won’t seem like much. Yet, here I sit, sharing my story with a knot in my stomach. As I recount the memories in the back of my mind, I am in utter disappointment. Why didn’t anyone do anything? How did anyone not know? How did I keep quiet for so long without literally exploding? I also feel fear. Fear for my own kids. I have three girls for God sake. They’ll never know what you did either. You’ve permanently etched paranoia in my mind. So young and innocent, only to be shadowed by a sense of darkness and fear of life. I guess perspective is everything though, right? When something like this happens to you when you’re little, it’s like you never even get a chance to have your own perspective. Like your thoughts and personality are ruined before you even get a chance to use them.
I remember when I was around 12 years old, I wrote a poem called “The Grim Reaper.” I had all of this emotion raging through me at such a young age, with fear and no knowledge of how to express them. I can recall one line specifically:
“Ignoring my small cries, you were the grim reaper in disguise, so young and full of light, until the grim reaper came and took my life.”
Eventually, the puking stopped. Once I realized what it was, and why it was happening, it was a little easier to maintain. It affected my relationships as I was older too. I’m 27 years old, and I still have a hard time believing anyone would ever love me or ever did love me. Even my own parents.
You took a part of me that will never be replaced. To be honest, I can’t really explain what that part is. Do you know how fucked up that is? Always feeling like something is wrong. Every time I meet someone new, it’s like I’m holding a mystery inside of me. Like they know. Like there’s something weird about me that they just can’t quite figure out. That could be the paranoia again, though.
Although this isn’t something I will ever fully recuperate from, I’m hoping that writing this will give me some form of closure. I’m hoping that writing this will help someone else, too. Thank you for making me strong. Thank you for making me overprotective. Thank you for making me cautious and careful. Although I hate the underlying fear that I have always lived with, I can’t help but think that it has saved me from a few things. I know I’m thanking you now, but please know that you’re not forgiven. If you want forgiveness, you’ll have to pray for it. I hope that what you’ve done keeps you awake at night, all of you. I hope that what you’ve done gives you remorse and sorrow. I hope this letter makes your stomach turn.
For the readers:
Know you’re not alone. This is unfortunately a common thing, which is utterly terrifying.
If you’re being abused, or have been abused in the past and never told anyone, tell someone. Even though I was ridiculed and dismissed, that may not be the case for you. You have to break out of your cage and get the help you need and deserve.
If a child tells you that they’ve been abused, for the love of God, investigate. The risk of doing nothing when something did happen is a hell of a lot more than the risk of something for nothing, believe me.