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How you walked out of the auditorium with your shoulders hunched. And always I was afraid—afraid that the rape had “ruined” me; afraid that I would be “found out”; afraid afraid afraid. And if I wasn’t a “real” Dominican man I wasn’t anything. At night I had the most vivid dreams, often about “Star Wars” and about my life back in the Dominican Republic, in Azua, my very own Tatooine. It could have saved me (and maybe you) from so much. I’m still afraid—my fear like continents and the ocean between—but I’m going to speak anyway, because, as Audre Lorde has taught us, my silence will not protect me. That shit cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. Not only the rapes but all the sequelae: the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. I was confused about why I didn’t fight, why I had an erection while I was being raped, what I did to deserve it.Some think about it while lying in their beds at night staring out into the darkness, some share it with friends when drunk and some just try to suppress these thoughts as soon as they surface.
As we grow up, most of us reach a time when we start to think about life, death, universe, why we’re here.
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.
Out of the corner of my eye I watched you pick up your backpack, slowly put away your books, and leave. For a couple of days afterward I fretted; I worried that I’d given myself away. By thirteen, I stopped being able to look at myself in the mirror—and the few times I accidentally glimpsed my reflection I’d recoil like I’d got hit in the face by a jellyfish stinger. I saw the crime, my grisly debasement, and if anyone looked at me too long I would run or I would fight.)By fourteen, I was holding one of my father’s pistols to my head. Since I’d never told anyone what had happened my family assumed that was just who I was—un maldito loco.
It’s been years since I was there, the time we met. I have a distinct memory of you in the signing line, saying nothing to anyone, intense. I wish I had told you the truth then, but I was too scared in those days to say anything. Of course, I never got any kind of help, any kind of therapy. In a family as big as mine—five kids—it was easy to get lost, even when you were going under. Negroes I’d never met before were proud of our relationship and told us so. I spent at least six months out of the year depressed and/or high or drunk. There are still times when the depression hammers down and months vanish out from under me, when the suicidal ideation returns. But there are good stretches, and they are starting to outnumber the bad.
I was hoping that you’d show up again; I even looked for you, but you didn’t appear. I assumed you were going to ask me to read a manuscript or help you find an agent, but instead you asked me about the sexual abuse alluded to in my books. I remember my mother telling me, after one of my depressions, that I should pray. When I wasn’t completely out of it I read everything I could lay my hands on, played Dungeons & Dragons for days on end. Night was the worst—that’s when the dreams would come. Two “successful” Dominicans from the hood who loved each other? We could have sex but not often—the intrusions often jumped in, a hellish cock-blocking ménage à trois. A few months later, I won the Pulitzer Prize for a novel narrated by a Dominican brother who loses the Dominican woman of his dreams because he can’t stop cheating on her. Every year, I feel less like the dead, more a part of the living.