I am interviewed by Ruth Jacobs on Thoughtful Women!
Writing my memoir is hard. Really, really hard. I’m working on a book proposal, which involves doing synopses of all of the chapters. Well, I hadn’t really thought too much about chapters, so here I go making chapters, seeing where the scenes naturally divide themselves, start and end. And they do, you know, the scenes of our lives just naturally divide themselves up: now we are cooking, now we are eating, now we are making love. And it all just flows. There might be some awkward scenes, but that’s natural too.
Mainly, my jaw is dragging around on the floor that there are so many, so so many, scenes in my life. So many just trying to keep alive, trading some kind of commodity for some other, just to get a place to spend the night out of the elements, or a hamburger. Jeez, most of them are pretty gritty. Heh, she thinks cynically, maybe that’ll sell more copies. Ugh.
Chapter 1: Earth Day 1970
I met him in the burger joint where I worked. It was my first job on my work permit as a 16 year old. He admired my legs; I was flattered. He had a motorcycle and bad skin.
That day he had picked me up in his battered Ford. My parents would never have let me go out with a boy on a motorcycle: too dangerous. But a car was OK in broad daylight. And I was sixteen: old enough to date.
He drove the old Ford on country roads that got smaller and smaller till we reached a big woods, some kind of a park.
We got out of the car and I though we were going to take a walk. But there, parked near the edge of the woods, was his motorcycle. I climbed on behind him and he kicked the motor to life, and turned its head onto a well-worn path in the forest.
I never would have believed someone could drive a motorcycle so fast on a dirt forest path. I had to keep my eyes closed so I wouldn’t get sick from the trees whizzing by. He leaned deep into the curves and I just hung on, comforted by the thought that if we ditched here, at this speed, I would probably be killed instantly and not suffer.
Suddenly the bike slowed and I opened my eyes. He was stopping near a big tree. He got off and grinned at me with his bad teeth.
“Wait here,” he said. “I have a little surprise for you.”
He reached into a hollow in the tree and pulled out a small plastic bag. In the bag was something dark green. “Panama Red,” he gloated, as he rolled a thin joint and lit up.
I had started smoking pot two years ago, and liked it a lot. I was eager to try the fabled Panama Red. We passed the joint back and forth until it was all used up. He put the bag back in the tree and we got back on the bike and roared off.
Soon, after a few more terrifying twists and turns of the trail, we came to another big tree and stopped again. “Acapulco Gold,” he announced. And we smoked up another joint of that.
We made at least one more stop for his stashes of gourmet weed before our tour came to an end and we got back to the car. By that time I was completely wasted. I have no idea how I had managed to stay on the bike, and less idea how he managed to drive it in that condition. I guess he was more used to it than I was.
In any case, I was in no condition to even ask where we were going in the car, and he just drove to his parents’ house where I had been once before. He lived in the basement because, being twenty-something, he had to have his privacy.
I don’t remember walking into the basement. He must have carried me in. The first thing I remember is that the basement floor was very hard. The musty shag rug did nothing to soften the cold concrete underneath.
The man on top of me panted and grunted. As my brain swam into consciousness his voice hissed in my ear, “Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.” I scrunched my eyes closed as hard as I could and clamped my teeth together so as not to scream as his erection pounded and pounded, trying to break through my virgin door.
My hymen was very thick and the opening very small. I had found that out at 14 when I tried using a tampon from the package marked “Junior Size.” It went in OK but after it was used and swelled up with blood, it wouldn’t come out no matter how I tugged on the string. I panicked. I wriggled into different positions and finally managed to pull the thing out. No more tampons for me, not for a long time.
When, after a lot of grunting on his part, he finally tore through me, the blinding pain crashed a scream through my clamped lips.
“Quiet!” he whispered hoarsely. “My parents will hear.” But by then I was floating on the ceiling. My body lay limp underneath him, my breathing ragged, my hair damp with his sweat.
When he brought me home in the beat up Ford my parents were sitting on the porch, enjoying the spring afternoon. I walked straight past them and up to my room, where I took off my blood-soaked spring coat and clothes, and threw them in a crumpled wad in the back of my closet. I didn’t know if they had noticed my bloody clothes. They never said anything. Maybe they thought I had got my period and was embarrassed.
I bled for days, on and off. Later, when I could bear to look with a mirror, I saw what had happened down there. Instead of my hymen breaking, his erection had torn it away from the side of my opening. My hymen was still attached to me, and I now had two openings: one natural and one man-made.
Over the next month there would be more times with that guy. We would get stoned and then, in his car on the back seat, he would grunt on top of me for a while. I felt nothing, nothing at all. My soul was floating around somewhere else, distantly observing what was happening to me.
At a certain point he would always jump off me and go outside the car and, hunched over, do something frantically for a minute or so, then give a big sigh and zip his pants up. Then he would take me home.
I don’t know why I kept seeing him, letting him do this to me. I felt like such trash. It was as if I couldn’t resist him, now that he had broken me.
Remember when serial adventure stories were printed on the sides of breakfast cereal boxes? I used to think they were called “cereal” stories.
This is my story, but it won’t fit on a cereal box so I will tell it here, in bits and pieces.
It’s the story of my life. True, I am a grownup now, as much as child survivors of the horrors of the street can grow up. Much of the time, I’m still down there in the gutter, duking it out with a life that I thought I chose, which turned out to be anything but the glamorous life of a California hippie in the 1970’s.
My story is not glamorous. In fact, it’s horrifying. It’s the story of a naive and innocent 16 year old girl who ran away from an abusive home in the year 1970, expecting to find love and light and flowers and incense. What she found instead was a world of predators and perps, cold-hearted people, rain and snow and hunger and cold.
I want you to know the whole story. My next post will begin at the beginning. Let me warn you now: it is not pretty. It is ugly and violent. As much as I want to share my story with as many people as possible,if you have issues with PTSD triggers around sexual violence, I warn to to proceed with caution, or you might not want to read it at all.
Till next time,