Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When 18 isn't 18

I was 17 when I met him.

He was 23.  He was a former Marine.  He was a jackal hiding behind a songbird.

I was 18 the first time he touched me.

18.

I was a legal adult.  By the time I was able to admit to myself what had happened, the statute of limitation had expired.

I was 18, but I may as well have been 12. 

I grew up in a very conservative, very sheltered household.  I was a homeschooled, outspoken sports jock, who preferred a good book to fawning over the local high-school meatheads.  But that didn't mean I didn't dream about having my first kiss.

My parents didn't allow me to date, which meant if a boy wanted to see me, he'd have to come to the house so we could be chaperoned.  Of the three boys that dared to come over to my house for dinner, 2 never called me again, the other turned out to be gay.

I had no working knowledge of boys, emotions, or physical responses.  Sure, I knew the physical act of sex and procreation but that was only because I read my science books.  My sex education went like this: "Sometimes boys want to kiss you a lot.  You just have to tell them no."  Put like that, it seemed to me that kissing was an awkward event that girls merely tolerated while they were dating.

When I went away for a weekend visit at what would become my Alma Mater, I met him.  It was at a dance, "A Night in Old Vienna." Girls were dressed in mock ball gowns from yesteryear and boys wore ties and coats.  Dance cards were given to the visiting kids, so they could meet up with different people on the dance floor.  He was third on my list.  For years I wondered how God could have allowed his name to appear on my dance card.  I realized in the end, it didn't matter.  I was his target.  One way or another, he would have found a way to get at me.

He was charming and flattering.  Praised my intelligence and wit.  He said I was pretty and that the boys at home were stupid for failing to see what they were missing.  I thought I had found the perfect man.  What I didn't know was that I was going to be another victim to this serial predator.

For six months, we corresponded by mail.  He sent me a country CD of love songs for my 18th birthday.  The man in the letters was so polite, so well spoken, so considerate of me as a whole person.  He said in his letters that he would 'protect my virtue.'  I was in love.

My first kiss was during a walk in the wood.  The next night, he taught me to french kiss by the water sewer lines on campus.  The first time he touched my breast 2 days later, I objected, said I didn't feel comfortable with him doing that.  He assured me that it was okay, that 'lovers have rights over each others bodies.'  I didn't know what to say, how to respond.  It didn't seem right. It felt so dirty. 

I felt dirty.  But I loved him.

I stayed with him for 5 months.  I hated every minute of it.  But I stayed because I was scared, because I didn't know better, because I felt ashamed, because when I tried to say no he always talked me out of it, because the one time I tried to physically run away from him he chased me and tossed me against a building.  But something inside me still loved him.

He did things to me.  He mocked me.  He hurt me.

The night he forced me down on him, I thought I was going to die.  I was choking, I couldn't breathe.  I was crying, begging him to let me stop.  He wouldn't let me.  When I couldn't do what he wanted, he finished himself off.  I was horrified.  I was disgusted.  I wanted to die.  I no longer loved him. 

I wanted him to die.

That was 12 years ago, but this is the first time I've shared this without breaking down in tears.  During those years I did some horrible things, to myself, to others. I hurt a friend, I lied to family, destroyed property, blacked out from booze binges, narrowly avoided arrest twice, and got dumped while 20 weeks pregnant.

I can't undo what happened or how my life was effected, but I'm making peace.  All things happen for a reason, even when they don't make sense at the time.  I'm not whitewashing the pain or the events that took place, but I am understanding how my life path has been shaped and not destroyed by what occurred.