Darkness Always Terrified Me...... Essay

during the few minutes we spoke, so I suspect you’d moved back or maybe you were busy or you didn’t know I was in town. When the signing was over I couldn’t get the fuck away from Amherst, from you and your question, fast enough. (He’d been gone a few years, but he’d generously left some of his firearms behind.) I had trouble at home. And while other kids were exploring crushes and first love I was dealing with intrusive memories of my rape that were so excruciating I had to slam my head against a wall.

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After he raped me, he told me I had to return the next day or I would be “in trouble.”And because I was terrified, and confused, I went back the next day and was raped again. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me.It’s the revenant that won’t stop, the ghost that’s always coming for you. Do you remember how during our chat at Amherst I talked about intimacy? Super ironic that I write and talk about intimacy all day long; it’s something I’ve always dreamed of and never had much luck achieving. Every time we would get close to fucking the intrusions would cut right through me, stomach-turning memories of my violation. It was the first truly healthy family I’d been exposed to. From that one story I got an agent, I got a book deal, I appeared in , I published my first book, “Drown,” which sold nothing but got me more press than any young writer should ever have. He never checks the locks on the bedroom doors four times a night, doesn’t bite clean through his tongue. Beli, the tough-love Dominican mother who suffered catastrophic sexual abuse throughout her life. The nightmares, the intrusions, the hiding, the doubts, the confusion, the self-blame, the suicidal ideation—they didn’t go away just because I buried my neighborhood, my family, my face. After all, it’s hard to have love when you absolutely refuse to show yourself, when you’re locked behind a mask. Which you would think would have been a good thing. The longer we were together, the more her family loved me, the more unbearable it all got. Anyone else would have ridden that good-luck wave straight into the sunset, but that wasn’t how it played out. C., but I fled to Syracuse instead, where the snow never stops and the isolation was a maw. Entire literary careers could have fit into the years I didn’t write. If Black Is Beautiful had a spokesperson it would have been her; S⁠—, who would have thrown away a thousand years of family to make it work. The intrusions always hit where it would hurt the worst. I had a life a lot like Beli’s, the young woman said, and then, without warning, she choked into tears. You thought I was going to say something, and when I didn’t you looked disappointed. I could have said anything but instead I turned to the next person in line and smiled. By the time I was eleven, I was suffering from both depression and uncontrollable rage. Only an abiding sense of wrongness and the unbearable recollection of being violently penetrated. There was someone with eyes closed On the upper floors. The truth is bald and cold, Said the woman Who always wore white. The sun pointed to one or two Things that had survived The long night intact. Just things as they are, Unblinking, lying mute In that bright light— And the trees waiting for the night. We were Entering dark houses, Always more dark houses, Hushed and abandoned.Nightmares where I got raped by my siblings, by my father, by my teachers, by strangers, by kids who I wanted to be friends with. First I got booted out of my high school’s gifted-and-talented program, then out of the honors track. Sex or no sex, I “loved” her more than I had ever loved anyone. Shit, my father had lived one, to my family’s everlasting regret. One day Y⁠— didn’t like an answer I’d given her about where I’d been. Another woman might have shot me dead on principle, but Y⁠— simply printed out all the e-mails between me and all my other girls, all my bullshit seduction attempts, all the photos, had the evidence of my betrayals bound, and when I came home from one of my trips handed them to me. When I found out I’d won the prize my first thought wasn’t “I’m made” but “Maybe now she’ll stay with me.”She didn’t. The intrusions are fewer now, and when they come they don’t throw me completely.Often the dreams were so upsetting that I would bite my tongue, and the next morning I’d spit out blood into the bathroom sink. I sat in class and either dozed or read Stephen King books. School friends drifted away; home friends couldn’t wrap their heads around it. And before you could say “Run” I had created another one of my romance stories, but this one was more elaborate and more insane than any I’d ever spun. I even told her, in an unguarded moment, that something had happened in my past. And because I “loved” her more than I had ever loved anyone, and because I had revealed to her what I revealed about my past, I cheated on her more than I had ever cheated on anyone. And here I was playing out the patrimonial destiny. Y⁠— got as much of the real me as I was capable of showing. I’m sure she’d been having doubts for a while—especially after one woman showed up at a reading of mine and burst into tears when I said hi. A few months later Y⁠— got her head together and kicked me out of her life completely. When I was a kid, I heard that dinosaurs were so big that even if they received a killing blow it would take a while for their nervous systems to figure it out. After I lost Y⁠— I moved to Cambridge full time, and for the next year or so I tried to “walk it off.” For a little while I seriously thought I was going to be fine. She had dealt with people like me before, and she dedicated herself to my healing. I still have those horrible dreams every now and then, and they are still foul as fuck, but at least I have resources to deal with them. A plane was dropping flyers announcing an upcoming Jack Veneno match, and all of us kids in Villa Juana were racing about in great excitement, gathering the flyers in our arms.The nightmares, the intrusions, the hiding, the doubts, the confusion, the self-blame, the suicidal ideation—they followed. I remember when I got my first girlfriend, in college. Everything I’d been would officially be erased, all my awful dreams would disappear. Me and this girl were into each other something serious, were in our narrow college beds all the time—but you know what? There was only so much closeness a person like me could endure before I needed to fly the fuck away. I clearly wanted to be known, on some level, had been dying for a chance at a real face, but when that moment finally arrived I couldn’t do it; I clamped the mask down hard. Never knew who I could have sex with and who I couldn’t until I tried. She wanted to say more to me, but before she could she was overwhelmed and fled. I had long bouts of depression, drank more than I’d ever drunk, especially during the holidays, when they were all at their happiest. I remember crying my eyes out the night before (in those days I never cried).


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