I remember nothing but the pain inside my heart. The way it aches & burns & bursts enough to bowl me over into a million dark nights. I have shame to tell you how little I am able to remember. I erase the shame then; I’ll tell you what I can.
I remember the way my grandpa looked at me before I didn’t understand what was wrong—when I thought that everything that was wrong was me. His eyes delved into me harder than anything I thought I’d ever known. I didn’t remember him taking my body like a flower just growing—just learning how to touch the sun & unfurl her leaves—then being violently unrooted & flung straight to the dirt & mashed underneath his body, & his hatred.
I remember the way he looked at me.
I remember the way I shrunk into the couch, the blood red carpet—I remember the blood red carpet, soaking up the shame that oozed out of me, slick & afraid. When he looked at me like that, I thought— he knows. He knows how bad I am; I’ve been found out. I wanted to disappear, I wanted to die; I felt myself shriveling up under hangnail moons & blister stars; I wanted to die.
The blood red carpet. Everything in his house, red–& the dead deer he skinned, & the dead pheasant he carried through the house while I cried—I cried because it was so beautiful, & he had killed it; he would take its heart out. He would eat it.
I remember the dark. The pitch of it. The way it curled its thousand hands around me & dug for my plush organs; the way it put its mouth over mine—pretending to be soft. But it was too hungry. It was wet, slimy—like an earthworm wriggling over my lips & digging inside—in the soil of my throat.
I remember losing my way. In the dark. In the blackest hours, when even the nightbirds are coiled in their nests. Back from the bathroom. I was paralyzed by fear. As if something awful had just happened; as if something awful would happen again; & how could I return to my bed; how could I ever be okay again? & I felt so confused—my bare feet over the cold floor; I remember the thick shadows falling over me like one million malificent shrouds smothering me & blinding my eyes in their hallowed out sockets.
Heart beating.
Heart beating.
When have I ever been so scared.
Except the last time, & the last time. & all the other times I don’t remember, & I don’t remember, & I don’t remember, & I don’t remember.
I am growing breasts; they are brand new—I am naked. I am under a hot stream of water—I am all nerves, & newness, because he is always coming in the bathroom; he is peeking his head over the top of the shower; he is watching my new body, he is pretending it is an accident.
He is coming over to me after family prayers, after we have asked God to be with us; to keep us safe— to protect us. He puts his arms around me, over me; he holds me tight, he holds me too tight; his hands snake down & down. I feel smothered, I feel ashamed, ashamed; I feel smothered. He touches me this way in front of everyone.
He kisses me in the morning, my new breasts peaking out against the thin fabric of my nightshirt. This is something I remember just now, as I write this story. I remember it with a shock. The shirt is red, my legs are bare. We are in the work room, with the ugly, bare floors—the ugly ceiling with its cloistered eyes watching. He kisses me on the lips—he tries to brush it off, like it’s nothing; an accident. I am confused, & in my confusion, my brain flips the switch to forgetting.
When he puts me on the horse, when he helps me up—he puts his hand on my vagina. This is something I don’t remember at all; this is something he tells my mom he did; something I’ve surely misinterpreted, he says.
He takes me to work. I remember this. He has famished colleagues. He has taken my Aunt to work before. They have passed her around the room, & each had their way with her. Hurt her, raped her. My grandpa has sold her for money.
This is something not many in the family believe. They find her an hysteric sort; damaged.
But I believe her.
Because he took me to work, too.
He shows me off. I am smiling, happy; so giddy—because everyone is praising me; everyone thinks I am such a smart little girl. But they are only buttering me up in their hunger; praising me: smart girl…
& then…everything goes black. Everything is a blank. Everything shuts down in the screen of my mind, on the surfaces of my body. Later—I have a vague memory—a discombobulated thing—I’m crouching on the floor of his truck…afterwards…confused…frightened…& he’s offering me a treat. A reward. A bribe in exchange for being mum.
There is a shrieking—a darkness, & I am being disemboweled from the very pit of my spirit, where I should have most been guaranteed safety, but no.
He is peering at me with his eyes; he is delving into me. I am so confused.
He knows what a bad girl I am.
I have been found out, I have been found out; no—
I change the story—I have found him out; I change the story—I resurrect the dark into a million bright suns that will lash him into hell with the strength of my newfound joy & my hope.
I have found him out; I have found him out.
It is his shame, not mine; it is not my shame— & this is my voice; this is what I remember.