by Pari Noskin Taichert
She was 18, home from her first year at college. They met at the diner where they both worked. She, a waitress. He, a prep cook and dish washer. He represented everything she knew nothing about — coarse, druggie, uneducated. She was fascinated.
He asked her to come over one night after work, near 2 a.m.
Why not? He intrigued her.
They walked to his apartment, her trusting him with all the naivete of a kid who’d mainly seen the good side of life. His place was in the bad part of town, somewhere she’d never been allowed to go before. But she felt safe with him. He was big, probably outweighed her by 125 pounds. He’d know what to do in a dangerous moment.
The apartment he took her to couldn’t have been a place where anyone actually lived. No telephone. No mattress on the bed. His brother and wife were supposed to be there, too. Only, they weren’t.
The small fridge was full of cheap beer. She drank one with him, then another, feeling increasingly unsure. Fear wormed through her shell of optimism when she realized how limited her choices really were. Should she stay with him — a sort-of known quantity — or go outside and take her chances in the unfamiliar dark?
His face changed into a mask of oddness. His eyes no longer focused on her. The folly of her trust became apparent when he began talking about her being his "guardian angel" and the "purity of her light." He smoked a joint and then offered her the next one. Trembling, she refused.
During the next four hours, she learned that she could leave her body, go somewhere else, totally disassociate from the pain and horror. She survived it all and left him, sleeping, on the floor. In the cool early morning, the bruises and bites were only small remnants of her loss of innocence. She now knew, with unshakable certainty, that some people were simply, sickly, insane.
Her mother noticed the violent signs, but never asked.
Carl skipped town the next day.
Though she continued to work at the diner for a few more weeks, she never saw him again.
She also never spoke about it until 12 years later. A serial rapist terrorized the part of town where she lived. One afternoon, walking home from the store, she thought someone had followed her. In her apartment, she threw her groceries onto the kitchen counter and ran to the bedroom closet. She cowered there for two hours. The ice cream melted. Finally, she acknowledged the rip in her own core.
She called the police first, to report what she’d seen. Then she called the rape crisis center, went for counseling, and began to unravel her tangled despair.
Yes, it’s a true story. What a difference a few pronouns can make: she, her and they rather than I, my and we.
We can craft the output. We can experiment with description, tense, POV, what to include and what to leave out.
We can re-write our histories.
My heart goes out to those people who can’t.