old-mantel

The night that I was raped, I wrote about it in my journal.

I can’t remember exactly what I wrote, and I can’t check now — for reasons that will soon become evident. My journal at the time was a big, black sketchbook, filled with collages and my spiky adolescent handwriting, pages gessoed over and over again before I glued Polaroids and black-and-white snapshots over the whiteness in a small homage to Rauschenberg. But on that night, I opened a fresh page, and I didn’t bother with any of the artsy stuff. I took the pen and wrote something like: I think something happened. I’m not a virgin anymore.

The next morning, my friend drove me to Planned Parenthood for the morning-after pill. When I got back, I filled the rest of the page with more writing. How I had waited for over an hour in that crowded waiting room on Memorial Day. My flashes of memory from the night before. How I hadn’t told anyone, not even the friend who’d taken me to the clinic, how horrible the assault had actually been. I glued the bracelet I’d worn at the clinic onto the next page.

I told no one for weeks, but my journal knew.

A few days after I wrote everything down, I took my Brayer roller and eliminated everything with dark green paint. When I look at those pages now, all I can see is the shadow of my long-ago confessions hiding under a painted cloak. Even the clinic bracelet is barely visible — nothing but a long, thin green shape that once wrapped around my skinny wrist.

That book held my secret. With it, I was less alone. And even though I wish I had said something sooner to another human being, I am so grateful that I knew well enough to write, to let myself talk. To let it be known, if only to myself.

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My online course, Rawness of Remembering: Restorative Journaling Through Difficult Times, is opening for early-bird registration on September 2. With Love & Squalor subscribers (sign up here) will receive a discount code in their late August missive.