By Sasky Louison
[TRIGGER WARNING: This post touches on experiences of sexual assault]
Love. I can utter the words but that is just about it. I am scared of it. As a matter of fact, I hate it. I want to stay as far away from it as possible. I do not want to feel it. I do not want to know it. You see, when I love someone, I love them. Simple. I trust them. I believe them. I fight for them. I fight alongside them but never with them. We have a problem? Let us sit, drink some tea and figure this shit out because no matter what, I am going to stick by you. Yup. Ride or die!
Ever since I was a little girl I had been trying to find Love and by 20 years old, I was done with it. Some people tell me that Love is love. Love can never be anything else but beautiful and kind and patient and blah blah blah. They say it is people who misuse it and ill-treat it and use it to hurt others. “Well then,” I say. “When you’re in Rome you have to do as the Romans so I have to take love for what it means to the people I am around and it is not kind or patient or none of that crap.”
I kid you not! When I was 18, I swear to God I had found it. I did not go looking for it. It just came to me. Just like that. I was on a trip with my church to go meet other church members in a neighbouring Caribbean Island. Going on the trip had never crossed my mind until my mother began to persuade me to go. She thought the experience would be good for me. I was moving to that said island in a month to attend college and I had never been there before. The plus for my mother was that I would be around Christian people. Frankly, I preferred to save my money. I would be leaving in a month anyway but to make my mother happy I went.
We were camping at a school. I went to my dorm, said hello to some people and went for a walk, taking in the smell of the island. That was when I saw him. He was sitting with some of his friends. He was tall, brown skinned, cool looking and handsome. They all said hello. I said hello. He smiled a perfect smile. I forgot how to smile but managed to quickly do something with my face that resembled one. He began to walk towards me. My heart pace quickened. Jesus! Was that Love?
Of course I played hard to get! I had never had a boyfriend. I did not know what being someone’s girlfriend meant. Well, in the movies they kissed and made out a lot. That was the most I knew. But he and I would go on walks and talk about teenage stuff; obnoxious parents, bratty siblings, going to college…stuff like that. We never ran out of things to say and I always looked forward to seeing him again although I hid my excitement.
When I left to go back home, he burned me a CD with music he got from LimeWire and told me to listen to it when I got home.
I could hardly wait but my parents were ridiculously strict and their CD player was for gospel music only. Still I took a risk. Maybe, just maybe they would not mind. I put in my CD. The first song on the CD was Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer.
That did it. I was in love. That did it for my Dad too. He took out the Devil CD from his Jesus CD player and broke it right in front of me. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched him stomp on my CD to ensure that it had broken into so many bits there was absolutely no way to listen to such filth ever again. I soon realized that I had better things to do with my time and tears. There was a boy, no a man, waiting to kiss me on another Caribbean Island. He wanted to kiss me “beneath the milky twilight and lead me out on the moonlit floor and lift his open hand to strike up the band and make the fireflies dance silver moon’s sparkling… and kiss me some more.” I dried my tears and walked away. I had a plane to catch in two weeks.
My hands sweat, my heart raced, my stomach knotted as I dialed his number to let him know that I was back on the island. We met at college and every day after that so he could walk me home. I lived with my aunty who lived close by to the college. Two weeks later, he kissed me. Not beneath the milky twilight but under the coconut tree in my aunty’s yard. She was not home that afternoon.
Kisses turned into touches, touches into more touches. He got his driver’s license. We went to the beach every day after school. We laughed a lot. He taught me how to surf and bought me surf clothes. I called him Dude. He called me Dudette. I was so happy. I felt like I was living someone else’s life. Six months later, we went all the way. We were in amazement that the human body could feel “so good.” We wanted to feel “so good” all of the time so we did it every chance we got which was not often because his parents watched him and I like hawks. Sometimes during church service, I would pretend to go to the bathroom, then he would follow and we would hurry up do it before the sermon ended. I loved going to church then. Lots of church hymns brings back such fond memories so when you see me smiling at church, trust me, it is not because I am saved.
Summer was approaching and I had to go back home. I had no money. That meant 3 whole months without him. We promised to speak as often as we could and I promised to come back to him as soon as I could. But at home, I had my own problems.
I was molested by extended family members from the time I was 7 years old. I knew they were all waiting for me to come home. They had never listened when I told them that I did not like the way they were touching me. I had gotten used to the fact that that was my life and when it was happening to create beautiful stories in my head of ponies and butterflies and being a movie star. I could not tell my parents. They would beat the daylights out of me like they did anyway.
I was having so much fun at college with my new boyfriend that I had forgotten my problems at home. My boyfriend did not know. I was so great at blocking it that in my mind it had never happened.
When I got home, I avoided those family members as often as I could. My boyfriend and new life had given me a reason to fight. I stayed busy and around lots of people. I ran away every time they came close.
One night, another family member, who I would never have previously dreamed would be one that I should run from, came to spend the night. He was a photographer. He asked me if I would like some photos free of charge. Of course! I did not have a camera and did not know the last time I had taken photos since cameras at the time were so expensive.
The photos were innocent at first with me posing around the house. I began to get tired of all the photos but he laughed and asked me what I thought real models went through. He told me to open one button of my blouse and then it was another button, then it was to let my bra strap fall then he touched me on my breasts and told me that I had caused him to get horny.
He was my blood relative. He had never before tried anything like that. I felt ashamed and guilty at the same time. It was my fault. I had caused this. For the life of me, I could not stand up to him, to my family before him and say firmly, “No!” Say firmly, “Stop it!” I lived my whole life in fear. Fear that I would not be accepted by the people around me. I was laughed at all the time. I got embarrassed so easily. I avoided awkward, conversations and it was embarassing and awkward to say, “I do not like it when you touch me like that.”
When I was younger, I felt like I had nothing much going for me. My relatives were good looking guys that everyone else liked. I was accepted into things because they were related to me. Once, this popular girl in secondary school who would have never spoken to me otherwise, gave me a letter for one of them right in front of a lot of people. She was nice to me and I felt good.
Who would listen to me if I said my older family members molested me? Only children got molested by big, hard back men. Not 18 year olds like me and not by older pervert relatives, one of whom was only a few months older than I was.
When I left again for college, things had changed for me. I was angry. I hated myself. I hated my life. I did not understand why my relative touching me affected me in the way that it did. Maybe it was because I never expected him to do that to me. Maybe it was because I now had a boyfriend and I could not tell him my deepest, darkest secret. Maybe I was more aware because my boyfriend had shown me a new way. A new life. How life was really supposed to be.
One day I broke down and told him everything. What happened to me from the time I was 7. He began to cry and told me that he would be there for me. Ride or die right? He wanted me to tell my parents but I told him that I could not do that. He did not understand why. I tried to explain to him that it would create too much trouble. He got upset. He began to question how truthful I was being to him. He asked me if I liked it when my relatives touched me. Of course I did not! How dare he? He told me how much he missed me and how sexually deprived he was when I was not around. He was sure I felt the same way too. How could I not like it when my relative touched me, knowing I had not had sex in such a long time? I explained to my boyfriend that I make love to him because I loved him. I want to be as close to him all the time. I did not love my relative in that way. I did not like it.
Things changed. My boyfriend and I did not laugh as much. We had sex but he would leave as soon as he was done. Before he would stay and we would talk and laugh about nothing in particular. The gleam in his eyes went dark. He was angry all the time. One time we were arguing and he called me a bitch. I slapped him and he left. We broke up time and time again.
I loved my boyfriend with every damn thing inside of me but things were not the same. I did not feel like he loved me anymore. I felt like he was punishing me for my family members abusing me. We could not ride our love anymore. It died. We broke up for good.
I was angry at my first boyfriend for years after that but looking back, I understand now how he could not fathom why I did not want to tell anyone what my extended family did to me. Why I did not want them to pay. He was too sheltered, too young to understand the magnitude of the problem I had. I myself did not understand it either. I did not understand the magnitude of my problem. At the time, it was my way of life. If you saw me with my relatives, we laughed and talked like nothing dark was happening behind closed doors. I remembered when I took my boyfriend to a family reunion. Some of my relatives had come to the island. I hugged them and told them it was good to see them. My boyfriend just stood, with his hands in his pockets watching me and just simply shaking his head. He just did not get it. This was my normal. I was good at pretending that nothing ever happened. It was so much easier to forget the past and move on. I was living on another island, never to return. By that time I had my own apartment. They could never come over to my place to do things to me. So it really did not make any sense to address this dark secret.
That first year with my boyfriend was my first and only experience of true, untainted love and pure, carefree happiness. Our parents did not like the idea that we were so close but we stuck with other. What could my parents do anyway? They were on another island. One time my boyfriend held my hand and told me how no one could ever stop him from loving me. He, my dude was ride or die for me. I, his dudette, was ride or die for him too. But we were too naïve to understand that the ride could only go so far until the gas ran out. Sometimes, like now as I am writing this, I swear I miss him. He did love me. He just could not understand me. I loved me too. I just could not understand me either.