When I write about what my father did, I want to apologize to my reader. I want to say I’m sorry – sorry for telling you this, for burdening you with my story, for imposing upon you. For sharing that he pretended what he was doing was love, because I was special, when all I really was was too young to understand what was happening. I’m sorry to inflict you with this repulsive imagery of a man attempting, in the middle of the night, to put his penis inside his sleeping young daughter’s mouth. For imposing on you these dreadful, vivid memories of fear and shame.
I am so sorry, please forgive me.
And yet, I do know better. Because there was a day, when another writer wrote of a similar experience and she read the words and I could hear the apology in her voice even before she finished and said I’m sorry; I’m so sorry.
And then, all I wanted to say was – please don’t apologize, not for what happened to you, or for writing about it. You didn’t deserve what happened to you; you do deserve to be able to, at least, tell your story.
I wanted to say, “You allowed yourself to write it – you let these words, these filthy, distasteful words fall out of your pen, and for once, just this once you didn’t check it – you didn’t hesitate and didn’t hold back. You let the truth flow freely, as ugly as it is and as much as it makes you cry and you know it will make everyone here cry, too, you just let it rip. Good for you.”
And that day I did cry, and she turned to me and said she was sorry and I knew why she apologized – because it’s horrible and she just fed it to me without warning and she felt bad to make me taste this thing and worse that I will associate this hideous taste with her.
I know why we don’t tell, why we hesitate to reveal to even our closest friends, because we don’t want to burden them with it. This most intimate and horrendous information that will now become part of the anthology brought forth at the sight or thought of us. We don’t want it to define us.
I get it.
I’ve been choking back that taste for years. I’ve whispered the same truth with hesitation and shame. I’ve apologized.
And it wasn’t my fault.
And I want to write it, and I have written it, in the same place she did, in the arms of our deep, sweet Valley and those who sit at her table and tell the truth. And I was thanked, afterward, for my bravery, my honesty. And I was so grateful for that reaction, and I knew everyone meant it, but as sure as I’d written the words and spoke them out loud, I wanted them to be forgotten.
“Please don’t see me this way. I’m not a victim, I’m fine.”
And then I think, well, I suppose that’s why I can write it, every once in a while.
And it doesn’t lead to a feeling of peace, and I don’t think it ever will. Instead, it’s a subtle chipping away at the undeserved shame of it. That’s the work we’re left with, and, if we’re so fortunate to find someone else holding the same chisel, it makes the burden lighter.
Anonymous takes classes with Valley, where they honor the writing, even when it gets ugly.