In answer to the daily prompt In Good Faith: Describe a memory or encounter in which you considered your faith, religion, spirituality — or lack of — for the first time.
She looks away… she doesn’t appear to want to look at me. I represent much of what she fears, maybe even despises. And yet, she asked for me. So here I am.
It all started on July, 20 1994… Or maybe the 21st, or the 19th. She couldn’t say for sure: she had tried so hard to erase the memory. No! She hadn’t really tried. Her brain had done it for her: funny thing the brain. It seemed to know what we could handle and what we couldn’t. And for the longest time, she couldn’t handle it. At all. The only reason she had an inkling of the exact date was a picture taken and dated July, 20. And it all happened in the day before or after that image was made.
She was raised as a Catholic, which is why I’m here really. Her parents weren’t strict mind you. But still. She was a firm believer; by that time, she knew she wanted to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. She also knew she wanted to arrive a virgin at her wedding. A child’s belief that.
She is bitter. I can’t blame her. I wouldn’t.
It was her fourth time going to that camp. She’d been excited about it; there were a few people she’d met before who would be here, girls and guys she liked. They liked her back, something she wasn’t used to among teenagers her age. At school, they all called her a nerd, boring and bossy. The latter, she was, she knew it. Even at the time. And demanding too; she hated mediocrity and she thought a lot of her classmates to be mediocre. They were content to do the minimum. She needed more: she wanted to be the best.
So camp was amazing: it was an escape from that. She didn’t have to be the best although the first time she felt she had to. Not after: it was fun. It wasn’t a contest and people liked her. Guys liked her. Maybe, just maybe she might make out with one this time, get her first kiss. She was 13 after all; she wanted that, like the other girls. She got more than what she imagined.
She’s not getting to the point. I know where this is heading. She doesn’t seem to want to arrive there. She’s evading. She still can’t really handle it. I don’t speak a word.
So that day the group of older girls and guys went out for a hike. It was fun; it was sunny and all. And they would be camping that night. It would be her very first time. She could remember the excitement. They would be sleeping in a giant tipi, like the ones you saw in Western movies with Indians and cowboys. Later she’d learned they were cliches but she didn’t know then. That night, a group of them left the tent surreptitiously, for a seance in the forest. It was an amazing sense of thrill and adventure: she’d never broken any rules before. She was excited and scared. And excited some more. So they did that seance, the six of them, until the glass they had brought seemed to hover and fall on the stone around which they sat. Of course, it hadn’t hovered; the stone wasn’t flat and the glass fell. But it seemed to draw a two-faced character. When you looked at it one way, it looked benevolent and kind but the other side seemed evil and horned. One of them said “the devil is here” and panic took over the group. They all ran back to the tent. Except that she didn’t have a flash light and in the panic the girls hadn’t waited for her. So slowly she’d made her way back. Only she was farther than she’d anticipated. And she felt really lost. Every tree looked the same…
She needs to finish… I know she’s trying not to feel. Describing makes it less personal. But it happened to her. She will need to face this.
When a light rested on her face, she was scared and relieved: if it was one of the camp guides, she’d be in trouble. But at least they’d lead her back to the camping site. It was one of her friends – boys. His name didn’t matter. She didn’t remember it anyway. Apparently the guys, too, had taken a hike in the night without the guides knowing. He’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and found her. He would bring her back to camp. She was relieved. She followed him. But he didn’t bring her back to camp. Instead, he brought her in a small clearing, she had no idea where. He said he wanted to try something. His hold on her wrist had tightened then until she told him he was hurting her. When she faced him he had a knife in his hands, the type kids get for camping. She was scared then. He said that if she screamed, he’d kill her. So she didn’t. She cried though… a lot.
Even now she cries… she can’t say the words. She won’t say what happen. Except that she felt she was going to throw up when he forced her to take him in her mouth. And that she felt as if her entire body was ripped apart when he did the rest.
When he was done she did throw up. Ashamed, terrified she grabbed her things and put them back on. He said that if she told anyone, she would die. How could she know that dying would feel a lot better than the guilt? But she was a coward. When she entered the tent and one of the girls asked where she’d been, she answered she got lost. The next day, she didn’t say anything. She even let him continue to pretend that they were friends. He would put his arm around her shoulders, kissing on her cheek saying things like “she’s my girl” and she didn’t say a word. But she was damned. Was she such a bad person that God punished her that way? Why would He let something like that happen to her? Was it because she’d taken part in a seance and it wasn’t good to try and contact spirits?
I want to tell her that’s not what it is. But will she hear me?
One day, when she came back from the library, she entered a church. No one she knew would ever come here. One priest was there for confession. She told him she had a friend who had slept with a guy but didn’t really want it. What she should do. What would happen to her friend since she was no longer a virgin? The priest answered that the girl must have wanted it. And that she was damned in the eyes of God.
I’m angry. That’s not fair.
After that, she wondered. Was God so unforgiving? Did Jesus not say not to throw the first stone at Marie Magdalena, who was adultery? She stopped believing then. In God, in herself. If she was responsible for this, then she would never speak of it. And she didn’t. Until today. She pushed that memory to the very back of her mind, letting her subconscious do the work of erasing it for her, while she only needed to deny it ever happened. She never went back to camp and at school things became harder. Funnily enough that year a new guy arrived in their class, one who didn’t have three years worth of prejudice against her. And he liked her. Even asked her out a month or so after school started. She shut him out, telling him that it would mean his social death with the rest of the school. He took it hard; and within days he had become his staunchest enemy. Every time he could, he brought her down, humiliated her. It became a game for her classmates. They couldn’t understand that nothing they did could make her feel worse than how she already did. She started wearing clothes that would hide her body, put on weight so that no one would look at her. She’d never been skinny but now she let herself get bigger. Not huge, but big enough that no boy in their right mind would ever glance at her. It worked. They didn’t. At least until university.
She played volleyball. She loved it. It was a great way to get rid of the excess of energy. She played with guys and girls but she was never considered a girl on the floor. And they never saw her dressed in anything but sweatpants or shorts. They found her fun to hang out with, a friend. Just a friend. She lost a lot of weight playing the game 10 hours a week, a good 20 pounds. It felt more comfortable. She enjoyed that for a time. And then, there was that day. She had a job interview in the afternoon, so she had brought a change of clothes with her to shower and dress after the training. She’d been nervous but she’d showered with the girls and dressed. Everyone was gone… except that guy. He wasn’t part of the volleyball teams. Or cleaning staff. She’d never seen him there. She stopped when he asked her if she had the time. She shouldn’t have. He grabbed her wrist and pushed her against the wall. He was taller than her and his body prevented her from moving. She was frozen. Couldn’t move. Why? When the guy tried to kiss her, she screamed. He slapped her. But it was too late: people were running down the stairs from the office. The guy let her go and ran away. She fell against the floor trembling.
When they asked her if she was alright, she said yes and that she had to go; she had one class to attend before going to that job interview. It was nothing. But the truth was that she felt as if she walked in a different world. There were images flashing in front of her eyes that she didn’t understand: a man with a knife. That man didn’t have a knife. It was night. She didn’t understand. She never made it to the interview… She remembered the boy with the knife. But she’d never spoken about it until today.
And it is too late. Life is leaving her. She didn’t see the car when she crossed the street. She’s broken. She’s prayed though. After almost 10 years… She’s asked for guidance and I’m here. Maybe I can explain to her that she wasn’t guilty. That it wasn’t her fault. I will welcome her…
art by ChVacher: http://chvacher.deviantart.com/art/The-Long-Sleep-188047495