Sara Whitman

Telling the Story... Finally

Filed By Sara Whitman | May 13, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: kids, LGBT families, men, race, rules, white

Yesterday, as Beanie and I walked down to the pump with our wagon and container for water (our well is very shallow and not drinkable), we passed a man in a truck. He was working on one of the cottages, getting it ready for the year. Weathered, with a long white beard, he stopped to say hello.

Nice dog. Well trained.

Thanks.

I realized something as he drove on- I'm not afraid of men anymore. White men. I've never been afraid of men of color, nor gay men. I don't know why it never generalized that far but it didn't.

Straight, white men always made me feel on edge. They don't anymore. I enjoyed the very brief conversation and went on to get my water. I wished I had my camera to take his photo, his face was very calm and yet the lines carved in spoke of many years working hard.

I'm not afraid.

It is really only about one man. Not my father, he always seemed weak to me, even standing at 6'2". The medications had long left him with odd ticks and tremors that made him look broken to me, even as a child. There is really only one man who frightens me, who I feel my adrenalin start to race when I'm in a room with him. With good reason, as only a couple years ago he shoved me hard enough into a wall to leave a large, gaping hole.

I was fighting back. I broke the rules.

As kids, he would pin me to the ground, and let a long line of spit come from his mouth and hold my face.

I remember him on my back, holding my face to the ground, the stink of the old green carpet the plush shag long lost, making me stay there until he was bored.

I remember him chasing me through the house, trying to grab the key to the bathroom, and locking myself in. And then he would lock me in with a chair. Same for the closet. Tried to get there. Hold the door tight. I'd wet my pants trying to hold the door. Then he'd stick a chair against the handle and keep me there.

I wet my pants when I went through the wall. Some things never change.

I am breaking big rules by writing this. I know. I am prepared to get the threatening letter. Libel. Lawsuits. I realize he remembers things the way he needs to.

That's OK. There are times I wish I could hold it the same way, as playful rough housing. What kids do.

Oh, how that line is embedded in my mind. Just what kids do. Normal.

I remember things the way I do because I have to. We have different truths. It is fair for him to say I have it all wrong.

And it is fair for me to tell my side, my truth. The stories told around my mother's kitchen table have another edge to them. One without laughter or the old lie that it was normal. I need to let the little girl have her voice, so she stops bringing me back to a fearful place. To a place of shame. Holding her back doesn't take away her power.

I'm not afraid anymore. The old man was not a menacing rapist but just a guy doing his work. Being neighborly.

I'm ready to tell the whole story.


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Isn't it strange? I still struggle with not seeing certain types and groups as instant enemies. The throat tightens.

Before it was a bit of fear, and now it's a full on rage. Either way, it's always the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Me too Lucrece.
Sara,thanks for voicing things that many of us feel.
I still tend to to be more standoffish with straight females. There is an instinct in me that says that they are more dangerous than others.

It appears to me that you were terrorized. Keep writing.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 14, 2009 12:46 AM

Being made to feel powerless is the greatest betrayal of childhood trust. A immature torturing sibling, family friend or authority figure from long ago is just that.

Anyone who now touches you, pushes you, threatens you press charges, get a restraining order, and keep that fool out of your life. Don't let it rule your life.

I should have pressed charges. no question. but it sent me on a freefall instead. I was still powerless.

not anymore.

thank you for reading this... I didn't think it was anything more than self-indulgent drivel.

thank you.

Incredible writing. Your pain has grown your gifts. I know you now know that was not normal. Childhood is to be a time of play, discovery, love, and support. You got a home where you knew no safety. You lived with terror. My partner is 60 and was also raised in a dangerous place. It still affects him now, but we learn to be informed by the past and not controlled by it. We recognize when it happens. I can't wait to show him what you wrote. Keep writing. You are ministering to yourself and others. Thank you.

Self-indulgent drivel? I think you touched a chord in several of us.

I can't stand to smell beer on someone's breath. If they're drunk, I will do everything I can to escape. (Part of why I don't usually do the bar thing and rarely have picked someone up who's been drinking.) Too many childhood memories that don't end well are associated with the smell of beer on a man's breath as he tries to fuck me. Just can't do it.

anonymous108 | May 14, 2009 9:01 PM

Sara, I really don't think that anything you could write would ever be self-indulgent drivel. Subject matter aside, anything I've ever read by you is intelligent and sensitive, and much appreciated.

Your past few pieces about abuse have made me very uncomfortable, in that I don't want to identify with them, but part of me does. Recently fragments of memory of abuse have been rising to the surface of my mind again, disembodied images and sounds. Knowing that I witnessed and was aware of abuse to others, but don't have any clear memories of being abused myself, the vagueness of these memories sometimes torments me more than the fact that I have them at all. Is it just my way of coping with the guilt of what I knew but was helpless to stop, or did they really happen to me? Even with help, I've never yet been able to uncover them completely no matter how self-realized I may feel in other areas of my life. So I don't say anything about them at all.

All this said, I can only imagine how it must feel for you to be turning your memories into words, and loosing them out into the open air, just as they are. I imagine how it must hurt, and also be a great relief. I am terrified of when that day might come for me, but the fact of your climbing that hill, and the grace with which you seem to do it makes it feel just a little tiny bit safer for me somehow. So I hope you don't stop writing, and healing. Publish it, or don't publish it, but please keep on writing. Thank you.

it is very freeing. it takes away the shame. there is so much shame that keeps memories wrapped tight.

I was a child.

it is so hard to know, anon, what is real, what is not... there are touchstones, though, for me. things I absolutely have always remembered. when I start to feel lost in doubt, I go back to them.

it makes me feel less crazy.