Dark grey shadows appear as I enter the room, there is a sewing machine with dishevelled thread unspooled and hanging, dusty industrial machines hidden in the middle of the room under a cloth and an assortment of discarded fabric, faded and worn with time; a window with the venetian blinds drawn and light barely shining through. Everything is in disarray. In the corner is a radio, the old fashioned type with bakelite dials and a crackling sound although the room is silent and foreboding. A large desk is prominent as if to display a sort of approaching guilt beckoning me to be nearer by being larger than life. The cupboard invites turmoil, fleeting memories of heavy breathing, a snare and a trap. A sense of fear and disorganisation appears in my mind leaving me not knowing which way to turn and run. Should I run? What am I running from? Is there a door? Where is this space? The corners unveil, the dream is fleeting but it is a dream nevertheless. A recurring dream where the dreamer is left wondering why these images keep reappearing. On the flipside there is a classroom, large and filled with desks in a row with barely enough room to walk in between them. Upon entering the room there are a handful of people, classmates and teachers, or are there? Maybe they are in my imagination also. The room is filled with uncertainty - a refuge from home with nowhere to turn and nobody to turn to. Everything in my vision invites the dreamer to descend into a gloomy state, it is about a feeling of loneliness and a sense of foreboding. Something is about to attach itself to my person and cling like lichen to the wreckage. I awake unable to shake off this feeling and sense of dread.
Another day begins.
Not being very popular at school it came as no surprise that the classrooms - large, cold and unfriendly - appeared so often and so vividly negli angoli della mia mente. I awoke freshly disturbed from these vivid impressions, it is no wonder sleepwalking was a regular disturbance during the early weeks and months of my adolescent years. The end bed sheet was upturned and pulled out from under the mattress, this was always a tell-tale sign that I had slept-walked during the night. I respond to my mother's voice on one of these nightly escapades saying 'go to back to bed' - an order that I obediently carried out by repenting and heading back to my bedroom. Lucky not to be woken, waking a sleep-walker could be very harmful if not carried out correctly.
Memories begin to appear. Shades of what happened in the not too distant past. Shadows lurking in my mind that lingered until just before sundown when the inevitable happened. It was out of my control being a young person with no prior knowledge of life and the features that attracted the opposite sex. Telling myself 'it will be over soon, as long as I can smile and oblige my predator' (better the devil you know/he is my friend). He waits, lurking in the shadows, ready to lure his unsuspecting prey into his den. Ugly, hairy and smelly. At times he could be funny, growing up we idolised our elders not knowing that a potential monster lay within ready to reveal itself in due course. Timing. Always behind the door after school, entering a big empty house which should have sheltered us but instead it was like a bird being trapped inside a cage ready to have her tail feathers plucked. We were being farmed for another purpose: the sinister side of puberty and growing up. Too afraid to tell anyone, thinking of the potential punishment for being the object of desire and the just cause, we simply carried on until the act diffused itself over time, or I left home, whichever came first. The timeline was and still remains unclear in my mind.
The anexoria years followed this experience when I was thrust into adulthood.
Childhood memories of growing up in a large house filled with adults and children where relatives, friends and visitors came and went with regularity like clockwork. Some good, some bad but all part of the vivid memories in the shadows of my mind. Memories of someone standing behind me ready to reach out and grab the flesh, a quick feel, a press and a squeeze. Memories of a hand that wanders all over, I am like a fly in a spider's web too afraid to move or make a sound lest anyone should hear me. Better to stay quiet and still and let it pass, it will pass. The level of fear is immeasurable with the discovery that there is more than one perpetrator. What is this awareness of beauty that one perceives? Sweet sixteen with peer pressure to contend with as well as the home front, the expectation to obey and just be one of the family. Duties were harsh, the sun was hotter then too with little shade, we had no escape from these things. These were direct comparisons to the goings-on behind closed doors: the fear of exposure whilst being thrust into the elements with little protection. It was the decade of unawareness and self-survival skills acquired by whatever means made available to us. We were, all of us, in survival mode.
We were common victims.....cousins, sisters, neighbours. All of us entering a realm we didn't choose to belong in. Unaware of each other's difficulty we somehow managed to march through unnoticed, hiding our fears and embracing our bravery. We led parallel lives under the same stars at night. The same perpetrators appeared over and over again: entering uninvited, lingering as unwanted guests, hovering over their prey as if to conquer their masculinity. It was a time when these things were unspoken about, unimportant, undignified yet disgraceful. We were under a watchful eye and cloaked in adolescent shame.
Time was passing too quickly for us to enjoy those years. These images and dreams were blanked out for the most part only coming back to haunt once we entered adulthood ourselves. How long did they go on for? The length of a hypothetical scar is no measure of the damage caused. One can only guess by painfully fitting the pieces of the puzzle back together again to form a picture of a past life. There were triggers at intervals to ignite the flames of our memories, leaving the ashes behind to be swept under the rug for all eternity.
He is still alive and walking upon the earth, unpunished for his crime. A family funeral, a beloved uncle. I gather up the courage to confront him. We walk past each other and steal a sideways glance with barely a nod of acknowledgement. The moment passes, I stop shaking. It took all my strength not to expose the truth that day. He seems so harmless so how could it have affected me for so long? Time will tell, this story is told but yet to be finished, I pray for a second chance after the first warm-up and life.....continues.