Some stories go on, even when we wish they would end.
This, I know.
My fingers tingle with wanting to snap the book closed. My mouth opens to declare well, that’s that so I can get on with the next story, whole and separate and not tied to the last. A brand new Once upon a time followed by the middle and The End, with a flourish of script.
But that’s not how it goes. It’s not a new lesson, just an old one, dusted off.
Someone else wishes this story would end. Or, more accurately, that I would stop telling it, that my voice would either fall quiet or say that’s that.
Because silence would be more comfortable for everyone - everyone except for me, of course, or for anyone who thinks if she can talk about child abuse, maybe I can, too.
But what I’m hearing is Why can’t she let it go? I don’t want my private life written about.
I know I crossed a line when I wrote here and put my name on my words, and that I would have to defend that choice. I knew that, at some point (hello, now) it would all become a huge pain in the ass and I would have to go over my decision inch by inch and thread by thread to know the strength of it to know I did the right thing. For me. For others. For the sake of truth. For the simple reason that Don’t tell doesn’t sound a damn bit different now than it did 30 years ago.
And I did. I know I did.
In all of us, and especially anyone who grew up the way my sister and brother and I did and can say I know, I recognize, I understand (so many of you, a number that breaks my heart), there’s a thread that connects our functioning self to a place at the bottom of the soul. A tether tied to something heavy and inscrutable. An anchor?
Or (yes) a stone.
We don’t live life on a timeline. It’s made up, instead, of layers, one over the other. Today rests right on top of yesterday, and that lies on the on the back of last week and last year or any year before this one. And running down through all those layers, this thread.
Tied to the thing you had to survive. Tied to the thing that taught you that you could survive.
Whip and lifeline, at once.
And you leave it alone as much as you can, because if you didn’t, you couldn’t get through the days.
Because one tug, at the right moment, is enough to bring the oldest pain to the surface, and who wants that? Living in the past isn’t living, and it was hard enough the first time, so you move on, to try find what is good in life and grab hold. And maybe you even find your voice, and it gains strength over time.
Because you heard enough don’t tell in your life. Then. Now. And now makes even less sense, because back then, you didn’t have the words. (A thing everyone counted on, didn’t they?) All you want now is to say it happened and to have someone hear it. I’ve been lucky (so blessed) to find that here.
I’ve said before that I don’t expect the story to turn out any different than it has so far. There’s no formula for stories where real people stumble on to the page, or just stumble, with all their weakness and eyes averted, so not to see. In real life, sometimes, there’s just a man with only enough armor for himself (he’s so sure), and he shows up too late to save the girl from the witch with her mirrors and poisons.
Or by the time he rides up with his excuses, the girl is a woman, and she’s already saved herself.
It can happen like that. Oh, it can.
And if that’s how the story goes down, then by god she has the right to sit on a bar stool and tell the tale. Or to stand in front of a room full of people, or sit in a circle of others with their own stories. Or to let her fingers fly over her keyboard.
Or not to tell. That, too.
But if she does, then when she’s done, when there’s nothing left that she feels like saying, it’s her call when to say Well, that’s that. Hers alone.
If there’s compassion in her, she will try (has tried) to be fair, and when she can, without changing the truth, might even make a few allowances. For youth. For life being a pile of shit sometimes. For people making enormous, stupid choices once, and maybe twice, when their judgment was clouded, or they were weak.
She may even allow for the possibility of a true, heartfelt I’m sorry. Or could be, if the person who should would open the book to the chapter that told the worst of it and understand, once and for all, deep as bone, how bad it was.
As if it could happen like that. She probably knows better by now (she does), but go ahead, prove her wrong.
I wouldn’t count on more than a few allowances, though, because some things just are what they are, with edges that don’t yield to sanding and a surface that doesn’t take to shine and polish.
But some things are too big not to say, and even if you let go of them, there they are. Out in the world. Like they always were, and would be. Will be, ever.
Light has a way of finding dark corners. Almost nothing stays hidden forever.
But most people know that, or should.