Wednesday, June 01, 2005

missing time

There are two kinds of great books. There are books like the doorman which you stretch out over weeks, savoring four pages at a time in hopes that is does not end. And there are books like Mysterious Skin that you read at any possible moment, devouring chapters while stuck in traffic racing towards the final page.

What do you do after finishing a book like scott heim’s mysterious skin? This beautiful, moving novel details the lives of two boys who share a pedophilic little league coach. The first views the experiences as love. He hustles and tricks older men. The second remembers nothing. He has blank chunks of missing time which he later believes could be due to alien abduction. This book provides a fictional bridge between powerful memoirs such as Bastard out of Carolina and jt leroy’s body of work. The power of the imagery is at times overwhelming. By the end of the second chapter you will never look at cereal the same way again.

With such a strong book it is impossible to ignore personal parallels. After closing the back cover, I lay awake thinking of my own missing time. Unlike brian’s five hours, I am missing two and a half years. I became obsessed with this time my freshman year of college, convinced that something had happened to me. Something did happen, but I do not believe it was sexual.

The last thing I remember is the day before Christmas vacation in second grade. My best friend, Amanda was being picked up by her family on the way to the airport to get her grandparents. As she drove away, one of the girls in our girl scout troop mentioned how annoying Amanda had become of late. I scoffed, “I know. Sometimes I wish she would go away.”

The next thing I remember, I am trying to kill myself by smothering between the mattress and the box spring. I am nine.

In that gap, several major events occurred. First, the morning after Christmas, Amanda burned to death in a Christmas tree fire.

The next fall, my alcoholic grandfather almost killed himself (and another driver) in a car accident. He came to live with us for several months.

Finally, we moved for the first time.

Throw in the apparent early onset of my depression and you have a few legitimate and traumatic reasons to repress a period of time.

The following year, my mother sat with me at the top of the staircase and had “the talk”. She explained sex occurred between a man and a woman who were married and loved each other very much. The man put his penis in the woman’s vagina then released a fluid that was different than pee. This was how babies were made. And it was enjoyable. And a man and a woman could have sex on a woman’s period if they put down a towel first. That was sex. Oh, and there was also rape.

So, sex happened with marriage or rape. I became convinced I was going to be raped. I stared at every approaching car, convinced they would slow down to swipe me. I read the anonymous autobiographies, a la Go Ask Alice, detailing the pregnancies and AIDS deaths. I started writing short stories of rape in which the protagonist never tells her mother or friends and has her child in secret, running away from the shame.

I “just knew” rape was a part of me. In junior high and early high school, I became involved in witchcraft and the occult. Maybe I was raped in a past life. That’s why it hasn’t happened yet. It’s already happened.

The spring of my freshman year of college, at the urging of a male friend, I began to pry at the missing chunk of time. He supported the sexual abuse theory, targeting either my grandfather or the male neighbors next door (who in retrospect were probably a closeted couple).

But then I was raped. And the word left my vocabulary.


Blogger Librarian Babe said...


I don't have anything useful to say so I won't even try - just, hugs.

6/01/2005 8:37 PM  
Blogger Garrison Steelle said...

Very powerful.

Very courageous.



6/02/2005 12:01 AM  

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