(Author’s note: I first wrote this some 21 months ago. It’s my personal favourite of the short stories I’ve written. If anyone wishes to contrast it with the original, you can find it here: in the park )
Four arched Victorian windows overlooked the park, the view from my second floor bedroom once a three-dimensional Monet in which life thrived, unchanged through seventeen years. In the third month on the road to my eighteenth, hell lay beyond the decorative windows, burned through the illusory shroud of the neighbourhood park as hallowed playground.
The old leaded window glass distorted light in subtle ways. Usual for late winter days, long, angular beams of sunlight poured through onto the restored hardwood floor, creating hints of prismatic rainbow. Each crawled in quadruplicate tandem, left to right. Once, those seasonal natural curios fascinated me. On my last day, compulsion drew me not to the pretty components of sunlight but to the filtering windows, drawn by the utilitarian urge to open one of the squeaky pulley-balanced things and regurgitate the nibblings of my takeaway lunch out onto the icy sidewalk.
Three months earlier, I saw only beneficence and optimism in the rainbow floor shapes and in the park beyond the glass, holy gathering spot for the Patterson Street children in between the semi-synchronised meals of our neighbourhood day. In summers past, we splashed in the park pond, an annual rite of disregard for city rules. We crawled under the left supporting stanchion for the pedestrian bridge and claimed it as our hidden clubhouse. In winters, we skated and built snow forts from which we launched snowballs at the rival Moncton Boulevard kids.
We fools, we bought the iceberg vision of life adults painted, with its smidgeon of visible good and larger expanse of concealed bad. They didn’t want to expose us to such worries, as if ignorance ever protected anyone from the dangerousness of reality. We kids, we assumed ourselves clever for hoodwinking parents as we found our own way to maturity. We asserted grains of independence. We altered our adolescent parameters of play, first by revising the rules, and then the games. We only experienced contained freedom, its manipulations beyond our limited perception.
Our use of the park grew in complexity, driven by awakening hormones. Activities re-centred on amorousness and clandestine nighttime rendezvous. We avoided the amber light of the faux gaslight streetlamps, preferring the hidden places offering some sort of out-of-doors privacy. We relished our unsanctioned behaviour and giggled over our sly snookery.
In the spring of my sophomore year, in the thatch of rowed spruces planted by the 1930s era Civilian Conservation Corps, I lost my virginity to Brad Thornton. I retained fond memories of our lovemaking, a first for each of us, but we outgrew each other and went separate ways.
The windows, the peach walls, the ornate crown moulding, these things only remained of my room. My parents sold my only known home out from under me, succumbed to a desperation driving them to live elsewhere, away from our familiar. Their dictatorial decision split our family like Ancient Rome, decaying into an East and West, Roman and Byzantine. I didn’t know who wrote the fucking rules they attempted to follow, but I sure as hell didn’t, nor did anyone with my short subset of life experience.
In truth, their tenacious quest glossed over facts. It shielded a phony image, one more illusion. They sought to excise their embarrassment and gain relief by sequestering me. Oh, they believed what worked for them also salved my hurts, helped me cope, and feel better about myself. They saw themselves as noble protectors, when they only exercised damage control.
In 1971, we teens knew better than buy into the fifties or early sixties bullshit our parents sold. Reruns of immaculate married couples consigned them to twin beds, a packaged two-dimensional world absent any hint of what people do in bed besides sleep. We watched all the idealistic trash networks tossed at us and contrasted its fabricated innocence against what we knew. All around us people screwed like rabbits who feasted on rabbit aphrodisiacs.
Husbands and wives not only screwed each other. Married men screwed other wives and women fucked other husbands. Singles did whatever the hell they pleased, at least until a mistake demanded a reckoning. Some people forced themselves on others, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, and even grandchildren. On the street, I learned about the downside of up mine, the lifetime changing consequences and the possible options, with judgements rendered according to the artificial rules of sanctimonious mores. A sanitised sheath of hypocrisy overlaid it all, and they expected me to acquiesce to its will.
Barbara told me about a Supreme Court case the paper called Roe v Wade. She said I should hope they overturned all the state laws. The court wimped out on ruling for a year because of another case the justices first wished to decide, not that what they chose to do mattered to me. My parents, those pillars of morality, didn’t want me to do that, legal or otherwise. Lucky me, consigned by parental edict to share my body with a growing parasite until my abdomen distended, as if someone shoved an air hose into my uterus. My body moulded the unwanted new creature against my will..
Maggie – my therapist – told me I suppressed my true feelings, a ridiculous thing to claim when my parents hauled me out of my home for the precise reason I made no effort to hide anything or engage in their designed pretence, as if I should feel shame.
For anyone following my story, an asshole fucking raped me, okay? He raped me right across the street in the neighbourhood park, on the bridge traversing the pond and the old stanchion clubhouse. He raped my body. He raped my soul. My parents, their focus on image raped my spirit. Damage control.
Ten weeks run fast at normal speed, for a naive but busy student who readied for her second round of SAT exams I passed on taking. Time elongated into a lifetime once the sick fucker stuck his thing in me and pushed so hard it made me cry out, except he wouldn’t let me scream again because he pushed the blade of a knife against my throat. His threat of ‘Cut you, slut’, rang in my ears.
I saw the lights over his shoulder as he worked me over, the light of my oh-so-safe bedroom, a floor above parents who sat with their fancy crystal Chardonnay glasses, mesmerised by the latest tale of Marcus Welby MD. I fixated on the illumination once I realised eyes opened offered a better option than eyes closed. False beacons of close-to-home safety, they remained on by mere act of forgetfulness when I left to visit Barb.
Creatures of habit, we follow trails to usual destinations. One of mine tracked from home to Barbara, a direct path that cleaved the heart of the park straight through to the opposing side. On a cold winter’s night, one started in unmemorable commonness and ended in inescapable tortuousness, in bundled parka, scarf, and with steam snorting from working nostrils, I trudged Barbara’s way in trendy mukluks. I stopped short of the bridge crest, fascinated by the full moon overhanging my reflection on the sheer glaze of pond ice below.
His gloved hand covered more than half my face. I mean the fucker dwarfed my size. He handled me like a limp ragdoll in those first seconds. Knife followed glove. His zipper retraction ripped through the quiet of night. I shuddered, well knowing what he next intended. A hand flayed my coat and slid into the top of my jeans. The bastard worked to cope with my button fly Levis, but he soon exposed my warm ass to cold air. Every woman alive can imagine the terror and the hell of what happened next, which made Maggie’s caution of how I held in trauma so damn clinical and erroneous. We’ve all been there in the news, in nightmare, and in our imaginings.
Barb told me about a cousin of a friend in Boston who would eliminate my problem for two hundred-fifty dollars, the Roe v Wade approach without the need for law. Mom anticipated my preference for this option. She refused to let me leave home without her. My parents prohibited me from returning to school.
Good old Mom and Dad. Who knew of their zealous guardianship of family honour? After the rape, I staggered on to Barbara’s with an unzipped jacket and torn shirt, freeze-dried semen visible around the buttons of my jeans, blood smeared across my parka front and exposed top, scarf lost off the bridge to the pond ice below. Barbara freaked at the door. Her mother called Mom. Dad swung into action and hurried me home. He passed on calling police because of what it meant in his world, fear media would get wind of how someone force-fucked the deputy mayor’s daughter on the Spring Park ped bridge. Mom deferred to his learned political judgement. In whispered telephone conversation, she arranged a visit to family friend Doc Kenney the next morning.
Whether Dad involved himself in any other way but news suppression I couldn’t say, but nothing further happened, at least besides my positive on the doctor’s preggo test and its subsequent trigger of the family split, the move of Mom and I to California and Dad across town to another house not a home.
My room looked weird emptied of its furniture. It expanded in size with the barren walls and window treatments removed. I preferred it all be here for me. No one liked a room cleansed of its memories.
“Janice, are you ready?”
Mom’s casual query emanated from the bottom of the staircase, a page I deflected by shouting back my plan. After all, I took my clothes off for a reason.
“I’m about to shower.”
As expected, she failed to object. One last useless scrub of my bod in an endless parade of insufficient tries, more time to weigh what in hell I wished to do.
With the shower running and safety razor in hand, I twisted its bottom mechanism, splitting the razor head open for a blade change. The one in it dulled, and my legs needed a fresh scrape. Pinched between my fingers, the shiny blue-black of the new blade twinkled light at me, as if it requested friendship.
My attention deflected to the sharpened steel. My legs rubberised. The smooth, wet wall at the rear of the shower allowed my slow slump onto the blue and white short-square ceramic tile. The blade glistened before me, pulled closer until my eyes started to cross. Its potential generated my first smile in months, along with a surge of found power. A finger tested the honed edge, not cross blade. Blood ran from a body appendage, one remote and away from my mind, a disassociation similar to rape night.
An arm floated in front of me, sacrificial in its want. The blade decorated its upper surface with pretty, parallel lines. Each spewed trails of crimson liquid. Name, I’d write my name.
The shower walls, such a mess I made. Sullied showers displeased Mom, how careless of me. What water didn’t rinse away I planned to clean later.
The razor blade, so tiny, wasn’t like the big knife the rapist wielded. The paper quoted a police detective who shared vague information on a body found in the park the day after the unreported attack on me. He said someone strong handled the serrated hunting knife used to kill the man. Someone capable of severing a femoral artery and thrusting eight inches of blade somewhere between scrotum and anus, where of course they found the thing embedded. Easy enough to spot with the rapist popsicle-ised on the knife, left folded over the wrought iron bridge railing.
The fucker received what he deserved, but his ejaculate possessed me, a posthumous reconstituted flu enhanced by genetic material from his intrusive half-strain. Its recombinant prospered and haunted me.
Shiny razor slippery red, tool hired for cleansing legs, its newfound potential enthralled me. I stared at my blade-embroidered name, proud of my work. I looked toward my core with the tool at the ready, pondering the pattern needed to enter and excise a womb.