In the dream I was running again. From one stride to the next I ran from a snowy field to a drought-starved dead ball field. And then I was failing a chemistry experiment again. I kept digging through my pockets to find the missing black pieces but my Dad was yelling at me, or maybe it was Professor Smoot, and the parts fell through my fingers. He scowled at me, professor, father, softball coach all in one, and I stifled back a sob and begged for another chance. But it was too late because the fumes from the experiment nauseated me and I ran, oh how I ran, to get away.
A bird screamed, once, twice, and I awoke to a bleeping alarm clock. “The first time you told me,” she mused, “I didn’t believe you.” I stared at her and wanted to leave but my feet remained rooted to the floor. She assessed how I was feeling but my face betrayed nothing. “And even now, I believe you 92%. It’s just a bit much, you know?” She sighed and raised an eyebrow, disapproving of someone, or something, but not of herself. In her mind, the story of my childhood unraveled like a two-headed snake biting itself.
I rushed to make her feel better for doubting me. “Yeah I know.” I gestured at my black SUV that contained three car seats and transported children from one suburban location to another. “ How can someone who drives one of these, and raises a pretty normal family in a nice neighborhood with a garden and all of that shit really have come from that sort of childhood?” I reassured her that her doubts were normal but she didn’t need the reassurance. I did. I needed to know that a real friend could disbelieve everything that I’d been telling her over the course of our friendship and still be a friend.
I was lying to myself, sort of, but I knew. I knew that I deserved better. The worst thing you can say to a survivor of sexual abuse is that you don’t believe them. You see, we bury the abuse, but it haunts us, first in our dreams. We race from winter to summer, one step to the next, never able to take the temperature of the parents who nurture one moment, and look away or touch us the wrong way the next.
When the memories float back to us, we dig through them, searching with desperation through the crevices of our mind, for the black pieces that infect us. These parts, these fragments, slip through our fingers and we chase them as if they are butterflies in springtime. But when we catch them, we discover that the butterflies have turn into spiders. We bottle them up inside our hearts until we realize they sting us with their venom if hidden from the light of day.
With hope and terror, we hunt down those spiders and release them. As we let them go, we pray that no one will insist that we are casting off butterflies, or worse, shadows. Lies.
I tell no lies.
In the dream, as in life, I am running again, running.