You’re driving down the road with the top down, best friends along for the ride, top down and, though you’ve hit some bumps and had a few minor breakdowns, the trip’s been great. You’ve got the top down, you’re with your best friends, it’s a great day and you’re making your way to the next exciting destination when, suddenly, the map flies off in the wind! Shit!
Now you’re in the middle of nowhere and you realize that you’re travelling alone.The beautiful day, the best companions you know were a daydream that abruptly ended when that map left your car…not the convertible gliding along on the breeze but the clunker you bought for $500, driving through some blighted area long since deserted by
anyone with any semblance of a brain and the only places in sight make the Bates Motel look like a spa vacation. Suddenly your Janet Leigh in a blinding rainstorm, running from a life no longer bearable and with few options available. What are you going to do? That was how I felt about one the singularly most pivotal moments in my life…except that, unlike Janet Leigh, I had neither a crisis of conscience nor intention of turning back. Given the circumstances few people would. My back story was different and what drove me was not a crime….at least not one I perpetrated.
In this most unlikely of places, the pre-pubescent shy girl that I was, already feeling that she was an unwilling traveler on the wrong road, found it could be worse…much worse. As I tried to acclimate myself to my strange surroundings, the hands of strangers reached out. Actually, it wasn’t a reach so much as a grab…I was being kidnapped! Yes, kidnapped! Four grown men had seemingly decided, as one, to yank this young stranger off the bleak Main Street on this drizzly evening…from this, the “safe” and small town, away from the Brooklyn,N.Y. neighborhood that had been home to generations of family. My gut always told me this was wrong but what say has a child? Now, here I was, being restrained and driven who knows where and for what purpose?
The drive ended deep in a wooded area. I was dragged from the car & thrown to the ground. They talked among themselves, passing around a bottle of schnapps, from which they eventually forced me to drink. This is when I learned that one never knows what one’s reaction will really be until placed in a situation where “fight or flight” becomes part of the scenario. Logic would dictate that a petite 12 year-old facing 4 grown men intent on violence would be best served by submission. What I know is that logic played no part in what followed, pure instinct took control of this child. When told to strip my clothes, I refused & found my clothes being roughly torn from me…each garment followed by a demand to strip the rest; each demand refused.
Finally, naked, being told to get on the ground. I did so and as they again talked among themselves about what was to follow, I began scrambling-part crawling, part running. I had no direction but to escape. I didn’t make it more than a couple of yards before being dragged back. My failed escape followed by the first rape and another escape attempt.
I fought all four with all my might but the horror of multiple rapes, sex acts I’d never even knew existed and more fighting and escape attempts. I’ve no idea how long this went on but it seemed an eternity. I was oblivious to my injuries as I wondered if my life would end here…and, if so, I wanted it known that I fought. Then, it was over. They threw my tattered clothes back at me, instructed me to dress and drove me to a dirt road. As they let me out of the car they advised me that this was my chance to survive, to find my way home. It came with a warning that this act came with a warning: should I tell the story or identify them to anyone, ever, they would return and this time, it would cost my life.
I did make it home that night. There was no hiding from my parents…it was 3 a.m.; I entered the house battered, clothes in tatters and refusing to speak. I finally had to tell the tale; spent 2 weeks recovering in an isolated pediatric hospital room and the perpetrators caught. Unlike today, there were no advocates & poor counseling available. My family was left to our own devices and they were not good. In fact, they kept it secret & just tried to move on. The unexplained absence of our large & close-knit clan was unknown to me until 3 years ago, when tears were shed by those who would have helped had they known. To them, my mother’s leaving was not a shock; my father’s decline into the bottle was stunning & my leaving home, the act of an out-of-control teen whose world collapsed.
The hearings and final trial took almost 3 years. In that time, I endured being ostracized by the locals because I was new and these were 4 well-known guys, washed-up post high school jocks with little potential; my father began drinking and spiraled down into alcoholism and eventual death; my mother ran away…from the situation, from her own guilt, from a family that was never her wish to have. She lives alone, isolated & bitter, turning on anyone who attempts to bring the world in or her out. After many periods of no contact, our estrangement seems permanent, she unable to look at me…a mirror of all that went wrong; me tired of being the hated child whose presence was always just tolerated. I have many family members, both blood & not, who love me as I am; value what I bring to the world and teach me self-acceptance. I no longer need to seek out a mother who will never love me and always see me as a reminder of a life she never wanted.
So, the map flew out the window long ago and it was the best thing that could have happened. I left the wreckage of my family at 15, had a crazy brief teen marriage; found myself in the ’60’s, no longer the timid girl. I participated in the various movements of the time; moved to a commune in Canada..where I found myself keeping journals, where I lived on and off for 3 years and would leave on hitchhiking trips….no maps, no destination. I managed 48 states; Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula on one of those crazy buses filled with locals & livestock. I married 3 more times…all great guys. My wanderlust was too great to stay settled. I’ve had several amazing careers; attended several colleges & universities…my thirst for knowing about so many things and writing, always writing. Reading old entries and amazed at where life has taken me and certain in the knowledge that all experiences that take us out of the status quo are part of who we are today. To change any one of them would be to change ourselves in unknown ways. While the kidnap/rape brought years of tragedy, it also freed me to go on a journey far beyond my imagination…no regrets & no do overs needed. Writing is marking life in the present and leaving amazing reflections for the future.
Until this blog, it was my secret. With the exception being long letters to extended family, resulting in “you must write!” phone calls, I hid what I believed would wither when exposed to light.
Now, my uncharted trail has led to another place I never thought I’d be…online, writing for anyone in the world to see & I am so happy right here, right now! From Brooklyn, N.Y. to Brooklyn, Portland, OR…and the journey continues.