By: Ange Concepion
Author’s Note: Trigger warning. This was performed at Take Back the Night. If you have been sexually assaulted, or know someone who has, know that there are those who are there and care for you. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is one such resource.
It’s been over a decade. Maybe chalk up my success of self-preservation and not wanting to end everything, to fighting tooth and nail during my formative childhood and teen years. I wanted to remove every waking memory I had of him. I survived – but battled depression for the following years – high school. College. I tend not to want to reminisce the summer following 5th grade.
As my parent’s marriage was crumbling around us – my mother sought family friends to take care of my little sister and I while she went to work during the day. Her best friend, my godmother, was the best choice – a few blocks and a short drive away. Her parents were kind enough to take us in each afternoon during the summer. My sister would play with their grandson, blocks and all, while I would hang around the front room, watching cartoons and Jeopardy.
The grandfather would also watch with me – and later, watch me. He would pat me on the head whenever I answered a question right during Jeopardy. These would later turn into kisses on the cheek. And then on the lips.
And then I never had to say anything – he would still continue to kiss me whenever we were alone.
I knew something was weird and odd. I would quickly whisk my sister away once my mother or uncle collected us from their home – knowing that only for an evening at my home I would be safe. Anticipation and dread coursed through me, knowing that I wouldn’t be safe for that much longer.
This went on for a few weeks – it seemed like light years.
Then – the breaking point happened.
One evening, my sister, the grandson, and myself were playing with some toys in the basement. I knew that he wouldn’t dare come near me if they were around me. I learned quickly that as long as they were around, they could, in a way, protect me. My sister had kicked off her slippers and placed it by the chair so she could run around more easily.
Then at the top of the steps – the dinner call came. Only 4 more hours left until I was free again.
I helped the little ones up the steps. Once we arrived at the top, my sister said she had forgotten her slippers in the basement.
I froze. I knew he was down there. Crushing cans in the back for recycling. I told my sister we could get her slippers together after dinner – but, his wife insisted that I get it so my sister’s feet wouldn’t get dirty and cold.
My stomach churned. My heart pounded the closer I got to the bottom of the steps. I tried to go as quietly, softly, and quickly as I could. I looked to where her slippers were. They weren’t there. I panicked. I knew that every second that passed, it was one second too much.
They were tucked underneath some sofa in the corner. The kids weren’t near that corner earlier. Not even close. I grabbed them.
As soon as I turned around, he grabbed me. I could feel my breath escape.
He hugged me. Touched me. Everywhere. Every part of me. My first actual kiss was stolen. And even said “I love you.”
I broke away from him and ran up the steps. I had dinner – like nothing happened.
I later found out that evening that my mother was coming home at midnight.
My sister and I retired to the front room – waiting for our uncle to pick us up. She fell asleep. I closed my eyes. His wife waited with us too – asleep in the recliner. I heard him walking towards the front room. I held my sister tightly – pretending I was asleep. I felt him watching over me. He tapped on my foot, tugged at me. I was praying he would leave me alone. Just leave me alone – I’m not letting go of my sister.
My uncle couldn’t have arrived sooner. I was silent and leaned against the car window, determined to never come back as we pulled away from their home.
Later that night. I slept in my bed. Engulfed in the darkness of the basement.
The next day was Saturday. Piano lesson day. I waited outside of the steps of my house for my dad to pick me up and take me to my lesson. He sat down next to me at the top step, asking how I was. I leaned my head against him and told him I had to tell him something.
I had him promise that he wouldn’t get mad at me, as I fought off the tears already flowing down my cheeks. He had his arm around me, asking me what was wrong.
I told him everything that happened.
I never went back. We never pressed charges. I was too ashamed and just wanted everything to go away. Everyone to stop asking me questions. I just wanted to be.