WHAT IT WAS LIKE, WHAT HAPPENED, & WHAT IT'S LIKE NOW
At first I tried to masturbate thinking about my therapist. It seemed unwise to think of my molester anymore.
When Ted Bundy was arrested after the massacre of a sorority house in Florida, he denied everything.
Deep down though, everyone wants to tell their story.
When told he was of interest to behavioural scientists from the FBI, Bundy began providing specific details to the murders, cannily utilizing the third person:
"He would've chopped her head off, buried it a mile from the body...then at night he would've returned, dug the head back up and played with it. This is what he would've done. And the skull would be at mile marker 16, while the rest of the body..."
Once Bundy lost his last death penalty appeal, he described his transgressions in the cathartic first person.
Before the Florida State massacre, Bundy escaped from a prison in Colorado. He cut a square in his ceiling, lost thirty-five pounds, slipped through the hole and vanished.
I've lost weight over the last eight months but can't slip through the space/time continuum.
There is nothing more cruel to steal from someone than their time; it's so precious as to be uninsurable.
The man had been observing his forty-seventh birthday approach as speedily as a doomed pilot sees the upcoming ocean. His hair, which had begun falling out rapidly, was different, floating featherlike toward the linoleum while he brushed his teeth.
He'd blown it, again. His doctor couldn't decide if his telogen effluvium was a punishment for his transgression, or symptomatic of the transgression itself.
He knew that blowing it just once more meant dropping softly into the grave he'd been digging since high school. He resolved not to blow it again. "I won't blow it again," he'd said in the past. In the past however it'd been more of a wish than a promise. The grave had been far more seductive than whomever he'd said those five words to. In the year of vanishing hair he said it to someone not only more appealing than the grave, but someone who'd pulled him out of it multiple times.
Time was what he'd stolen from her. Time that appeared to be other than it was. She'd been forced to question whether his smile on a walk was genuine or narcotic. It didn't matter that he knew the smiles were sincere; he'd given her valid reasons to question the motive behind every one. This, more than anything else, he felt to be unforgivable.
Cancer. Cancer cancer cancer. His feet played the word in his head whenever he walked downstairs to smoke a cigarette. Left foot sounded "can" while right foot sounded "sir," climbing from feet to cerebral cortex. The steps back up were silent.
His mother had undergone surgery to remove her duodenum and part of her pancreas. Both admitted to not knowing what the duodenum did, agreeing it was strange that bodies could function absent multiple organs. She was missing her duodenum, gallbladder, appendix, uterus and tonsils. Do they serve just to further handicap us in our battle against gravity? He resented them cutting her open then stapling her shut. That was his old home, not a place for clamps and scissors, forceps and cameras. The doctors had defiled the only truly safe place he'd known. The biopsy results were positive. This meant chemotherapy, which she'd endured twenty years earlier after a doctor proclaimed her mammogram to be "lovely and clear." The next day while showering she'd found a small tumour in her breast. He thought doctors were like meteorologists—nobody holds them accountable when they're wrong. The body was just a weather system. It was unfair, he told her; she'd just retired after working as a single mother for decades. "There's no such thing as fair," she replied. "Life's just one day at a time."
And he felt like garbage, aware he was currently ignoring that maxim which he'd heard in rehab.
He began sending her YouTube videos of guided meditations for anxiety. She was grateful; they helped her sleep.
They say people with shameful secrets typically avoid looking in the mirror. He faced his every day while mouthing, "You're a piece of shit." During a period of deception it was how he watched himself be honest.
His grandmother once told him her darkest secret was not having snitched on a Jewish doctor she'd seen kill a Nazi prisoner with an air bubble. This hardly seemed dark to him considering some of what he'd done, including stealing her Demerol that morning. If anything, hers was a feel good story. If she included meeting his grandfather in a medical tent at Normandy it was practically a Hallmark movie.
At one hundred and one she broke her hip. She'd been suicidal for twenty years. One Christmas she'd said the only gift she wanted was a pillow on her face. And he would've done it if not for prison and what he'd heard happens there. "You've just got to try your best to not wake up," his mother would tell her.
At bedtime every night they'd say, "See you in the morning." Lumbering grumpily up six stairs, she'd always reply, "I hope you don't."
He saw the destruction of her memory as positive. She didn't know why she was on opiates but enjoyed their effect. She didn't remember she'd broken her hip, or the attendant surgery.
For months now visitors were rarely allowed. If you called her Monday morning she'd forget by Monday night. If you visited her that week she didn't know. If you didn't visit her she didn't know. She'd become an accidental Buddha, existing only in the microsecond of the present.
The man had never particularly wanted to experience a head-on collision but on his twenty-first birthday it happened nonetheless. It was good and it was bad. It was how he met morphine. It felt like they'd known each other forever. Later it became evident the accident had only been doubly bad.
Pat was seventeen and wore Jordache jeans with a comb stuck in the back pocket. Her hair was blonde and big. I was nine and small in all ways. It didn't occur to me that I was being sexually molested each time she had me massage her "arthritic" ass while she surreptitiously masturbated, flat on her stomach on my parents shag rug. I sat on the back of her thighs and did as she asked and I enjoyed it. Decades later I still didn't see it as molestation, because I was the one who touched her.
In 2014 I wrote an essay called "Ass Man" for a now defunct magazine about my experience with Pat. I proclaimed it a wonderful eighteen month period of sexual education. The editor congratulated me for writing "something super hot about sexual assault," stating it was a rare and commendable thing I'd done. Her use of the words "sexual assault" didn't clue me in to the fact that my experience was not what I thought it was. I learned this five years later when my wife, who'd initially loved "Ass Man," told me she realized I'd been molested. That gender roles and culture and Mary Kay LeTourneau had skewed her perception of my experience. That were I a girl, a woman, she wouldn't have questioned its criminality. I didn't love hearing this, but it explained my grotesque promiscuity and unhealthy inability to separate sex from love. Having been traumatically neglected, the only real affection I'd known growing up was during my time with Pat. While it wasn't reciprocal, it felt like love.
My therapist told me I had every symptom a woman molested as a girl presents
in treatment. Addiction, attachment issues, promiscuity, impulsivity, suicidality, etcetera. I felt vulnerable and unsure of myself. Sex was the one thing I'd always felt confident about. Learning I was a victim crushed my confidence. Learning I was a victim helped me to stop judging victims.
I wouldn't change what happened to me, and I don't feel ashamed to admit it. I still remember the way my babysitter's white panties moved slightly while I tried to alleviate her rheumatic ass pain. The smell of her shampoo, her tiny whimpers.
Cancer bossing my mother around. Sexual molestation. The end of a year of intensive therapy. The quick decline of my grandmother's health—the woman who'd raised me most lovingly. Certainly it was my fault, what happened, but in hindsight I'm not surprised that it did.
I just should have told the truth. Until I left my parent's home at seventeen, the truth was a path that always ended with me being punched in the face. This path made a home in my neurobiology.