It seems like any other night. My mother helps me put on my nightgown and tells me to brush my teeth and wash my face. I go into the beige bathroom with turquoise tiles and stand on a small chrome step covered in black ribbed plastic, rough on my soft bare toddler feet. I wash my face over the beige ceramic sink. I squeeze a glob of pale turquoise Crest from the aluminum tube onto my toothbrush and brush all my teeth back and forth until the foam builds up to overflowing.
When I'm done, I climb into my small bed covered with a white chenille bedspread. I sit, slightly propped by my pillow under covers warm from the electric blanket my mother turned on a half hour earlier. My sheets still have the delicious simple smell from being dried outside on the clothesline. I drift off to sleep. In the middle of the night, my father's snoring rumbles low from the master bedroom. Something comes out of my closet and as I awake, a hand and cloth clamp down over my face. Someone kneels over me pulling up my nightgown. I struggle to both breathe and move, squirming my body against someone much stronger. Something, maybe a knee, clamps down on my left hip and it hurts. Raggedy nails scratch and tear my thighs, trying to pry them apart as I clench them together. My entire body alternates between rigidity and writhing to escape. I am overpowered as something goes in me and it hurts. I freeze, rigid. And then it's gone. But I don't even notice my own feelings or body as the hand and cloth disappear from my face. I still don't breathe, fascinated by the figure slinking out of my room that is unmistakably full of shame and guilt. Those two emotions rise and fill the room like an acrid smell. I have a brief sense that I am the stronger one, a sense not feel safe to recall for decades.
In the morning, I show my mother my thighs. She's in control and there is something else in her demeanor, a look in her eyes I cannot think about. My stomach knots in fear that she'll be angry about blood spots on white sheets. I wait for the "tone." Instead she leads me into the bathroom and looks at my thighs. She is not mad at all, yet there is something in her eyes that teaches me to take people at their word and not look for more. To not look for trouble. To not look at all.
The life-long feeling that everyone else is in on a secret except me is gone. I'm having dinner with my new-found cousin, Tamara, at Lucky's Tavern on Hollywood Blvd. We sit at one of the black tables by a large red sculpted wall with cream lights overhead. Over juicy medium rare Kobe burgers with brie and bacon, plus sweet potato fries, I tell her what I finally put together at my therapist's office a few hours earlier.
The weekend before, I saw a passing look in the pale blue eyes of someone I don't know well and it triggered something. I couldn't get it out of my head that I'd seen it before and it meant something. Through EMDR with my therapist, I put the pieces together. I had seen that look in pale blue eyes one morning when I was three years old. I told my mother about the night before, that it hurt to go to the bathroom and the insides of my thighs were torn up from his fingernails and I saw that look. As soon as I saw that look in her eyes, I pushed it away and took things at face value for decades, even when I knew better. Especially when I knew better because to recognize what was below the surface was sheer agony. What was behind that look in my mother's eyes when I was a little girl was that she already knew. She already knew because she was the one who set it up.
It is the night of a total lunar eclipse, a dramatic blood moon. Tamara thinks my father must have had some formidable woman or women in his childhood to be attracted to my mother who had Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder with episodes of major depression and eight years of Valium addiction. Everyone's dead so there's no way to know, but it was not his mother. My cousins verify that she was not a difficult woman. I only met her twice when I was nine and ten years old. Looking back, I can see how she contained my mother and protected me while we were in Jamaica. It is likely it his (mis)understanding of Christian charity - that love could heal her, that if she had a stable environment it would help her. He did not seem to foresee the impulse to destroy it or that she would become literally un-reasonable to a man who used reason to settle disputes.
After dinner and dessert, we go to Second City to see a friend's one-woman show that is by turns funny, sweet, and saucy as she recounts bisexual adventures, lesbian boxing matches, a Jon Bon Jovi concert, a visit to her psychic, and the perfect man. After her show, we walk down Hollywood Blvd. to iO West where we met taking classes. The end of the 9:30 show is a hot mess, then King Ten takes the stage at 10:30 and is hilarious. After great conversation and hours of comedy, I feel good. Post-apocalyptic takes on a new meaning. The world as I knew it was blown up, but instead of scorched earth and destruction, everything is made new again and it is much closer to Eden than a nuclear wasteland. Two days later, I realize it all happened, that I finally put the pieces together, on the birthday of the one who molested me.