In every situation where atrocity is normalized, in every death-camp and gulag and apartheid city, there are those who refuse to participate.
In a bang with the gang
They gotta catch me if they want me to hang
Cause I’m back on the track and I’m beatin’ the flack
Nobody’s gonna get me on another rap
So look at me now I’m just makin’ my play
Don’t try to push your luck just get out of my way
Cause I’m back
“Back in Black” AC/DC
Oh, my sweet man-children. I am so sorry that I didn’t tell you both, so sorry that this will make you uncomfortable and so sorry that I cannot protect you from the awkward pain of knowing this about your mother. Forgive me.
It was 1981. The Back in Black album was out and I ran down to Alabama in the sweat of summer out of guilt and confusion. My adoptive father was so busy railing in his divorce, using me as a pawn and drinking himself ten kinds of stupid that he cared not where I landed at nightfall. He had sexually abused me, himself, for most of my life—and no one stopped him. And no one cared. But my flesh was too old to toy with anymore, and his new Camaro had too many places to take him. And so, I ran away every night: Van Halen concerts, so much pot, so many bottles of Boonesfarm Strawberry Hill, so many tubes of Bonnie Bell gloss and so much ignorance and innocence wrapped up together in the fubar that would be that night. My t-shirt was black, a snake writhing its way through an image of a skull, my hair was long and black and it was so hot that summer. We arrived to the party as the local “hotties,” (Momma was young once) and there was this boy named Alan leaning against a fencepost. And I was so smitten. Batted my eyes, swished my hips, and laughed at every stupid, lame joke that fell out of his perfect mouth. I remember telling someone: I want him to be my boyfriend. And then:
I remember sliding down a wall. I had only drunk one beer, but the world went sideways and Fantasia and all of my toughness mattered no more as I was carried into a back bedroom with little violets on the wallpaper. I came in and out, fighting to stay conscious, as one, then the other climbed onto me and into me laughing, slobbering spit onto my face, singing, clapping. I can count only five distinct faces in my memory—but there may have been more. And you know what, my beloved boys? My children? I fought to stay awake. I wanted to scream and could only moan. I wanted to kick and slice and hit and could only mumble—which was followed by grunts as they shoved and bruised and desecrated everything sacred in me in films of sweat, semen and spit. And then, the last one climbed on. His name was Mike. He’s now a councilman in my hometown, has three kids. And my curse.
The drug was wearing off and I heard them. “Do it. Pussy. Do it or I’ll do it to you, you fucking girl.” And he did. As I stared at him through that haze, he did. His body betrayed him in his lust while his eyes died locked in mine. When he climbed off, just as I regained use of my arms, he drew the covers over my body, my head, as if in burial ritual. And as he walked out, last of a tribe of young men who will never know what they broke in my heart that night, he turned back as I finally, FINALLY, was able to push the sheet from my face and said: “I’m Sorry.” And locked the door behind himself, against himself, in his final moment of sin.
It is him that I hate the most. Him that I have had the hardest time forgiving. You see, he looked into that pain and ejaculated upon it. He reckoned with his physical need to rape me against his knowledge that I would never forget him, those callous thrusts, that fracture in my heart that would take thirty years to overcome. He . . . felt my pain, and came against it, despite it, for it. It is him that I cannot forgive. Do you hear me?
My sons. I was that girl in a short skirt, excited about a party, listening to “Hot Child in the City,” feeling my sexuality like a wild, unbridled horse. I want you to see your mother in the picture on this post, as harsh as that sounds, see the mother who bore you, loved you, made you pancakes, rocked you in your fever. And when you do, remember this: that night, with AC/DC in the background and violets dancing on the walls, it wasn’t about sex. It wasn’t about bravado. And it wasn’t about manhood.
It was violence. I spent decades thinking I was meat, a piece of female T & A trash that only could be validated by my abstinence, my acquiescence to the patriarchal, masculine propaganda that could forgive my seductiveness at fourteen. Nothing saved me. Not the pills, the suicide attempts, not my Grandma’s love, not the absentee parents, not my friends. One night. And it cost me decades.
I beg of thee. Consider the mothers, the sisters, the daughters, the sacred thumps of all that has made “woman” when you think of these moments as “forgivable bravado.” It is, quite certainly, unforgivable. We cannot escape the flesh we inhabit: it is our only resource, our safe place, a haven in which we reside for this time on Earth. The manly impulse that would defend your home and land with all weapons within your reach should be the same one that would defend that of a woman’s flesh, from which she simply has no escape.
And for those who would transgress that sacred threshold, in the name of anger or rites of manhood or even that of fear. . .
We hold you accountable. For this life and beyond. If there is no escape for our souls under the mounds of breast and birth canal, there is certainly no escape for those who would desecrate them. Those who would do so are cursed, doomed, without hope or mercy, regardless of circumstance. There are no “extenuations.”
And: Mike. I hear you have born daughters.
May the Great Mother Bless Your Heart. And save them. Oh, please. Save them. Can you see me? Can you see them?
With all that I have, I beg of you, Zach and Jacob. Remember me. Defend my echo. Be . . . a hero, of the child I was, the mother I became, and the men I know you can be.