A small brown girl sits in the middle of a poorly kept lawn, the weeds sprouting all around her.
The oak tree is shaking in the wind, and the leaves are falling.
The only sound is the screeching call of the deafening silence.
The yellow sunlight absorbs in her skin. She is sitting criss-cross in the tall, unkept weeds. There is no smile.
She has not seen her mother in an entire day. The smile has been erased from her face by the realization that her mother confines herself in just the other room.
She hears the creak of a chain link fence opening and closing. The girl and her family inherited many things after moving into their late grandmother’s trailer, including the neighbour Joe,
considerably plump. He was a dear, old friend of her grandmother, and she fears he is nearing the same fate as her: death. She tries to be nice to him as often as possible.
“Hey, Mr. Joe!” Her frail voice carries through his garden,
caressing the papaya plants.
“Well, hello there.” He walks over to the fence and leans against it.
His accent never registered with me until I look back on the memory.
The girl and the Neighbour exchange details about their days,
the state of the papaya plants,
was he going to be planting the watermelon this year,
until he eventually presented the girl with a question.
“Say, Rayna.. I’m trying to go out on the waters this summer-”
“Oh! How fun! When did you get a boat! That’s so cool Mr. Joe!” Her mouth runs a mile a minute.
“Yes, yes, dear. I’ll answer all of your questions.
But first. I was wondering if you’d help me paint my boat rig?”
“What’s a boat rig?”
“It’s the thing that has wheels on it to carry the boat behind your truck.”
“Sure Mr. Joe! I’d love to help.” She was eager for attention and she reeked of parental neglect and vulnerability.
“Beautiful! I’ll give you 60$!”
“I should probably ask my mom first though.”
“Okay, darling, run inside and ask her.”
Her mother, of course, said yes, of course.
She had no qualms with sending her daughter
over to this man’s house.
The painting of the boat went by
without reason for remembrance.
in the most misleading way.
Several hours later,
when the job was complete,
the girl was invited inside to receive the payment.
She sits at the table, the picture of southern politeness,
as her grandmother always taught her, awaiting her cash payout.
Conversations of new age technology begin to flow,
and this girl,
who is always eager to please,
of course, I know how to use a computer, Mr. Joe,
and she is led into a back room
where a dinosaur computer
sits on top of a dusty desk.
That feeling of a hand against my thigh,
patting at first in an approving way,
sickens me partially the most.
I remember feeling as if I was doing something good, great even.
Feelings of happiness went through me as I felt as if
someone wanted me around.
The pat shifted into a rub,
and I noticed a shift in the pressure of the air.
I knew what this was.
I did not want to believe.
The dust flew through the air as I continued to
click around on the screen
and pretended I didn’t notice.
I so desperately wanted to believe that
this wasn’t the extent of my worth.
Perhaps my blue cheerleader shorts were too short,
perhaps too seductive.
Perhaps I was too provocative.
Outer thigh turned into inner thigh,
and past the inner thigh are the
nightmares I would have every night for the next 2 years.
Minutes went by,
and I could no longer ignore the situation.
I honestly feared for my safety.
“May I please go home now? I’d like to go home.”
Mr. Joe escorted me to the front porch,
handed me my money
and left me with a harrowing phrase
that has since forever changed the meaning.
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, darling.”
And shut the door in my face.
The things I know now are: No, my shorts were not too short. No, I was not seductive. And there is no way that I, ten year old, should have been thought of as provocative to this 60 year old man.
The truth of the matter was that I had been molested by a pedophile. All the years of trying to escape this truth, trying to push it to the back of my mind stunted my emotional growth and hurdled me into a lifetime of depression.
Except, I broke out.
I don’t mention here that fact that my mother believe me for a totality of two weeks, then began allowing Mr. Joe into our house again to fix our washer and have coffee. I also do not include that he died in my grandmother’s chair, sipping a cup of coffee. These details merely muddied the waters of my seemingly perpetual state of stuck.
I will never forget the feeling of calloused hands against my most sacred place. I will never forget the plunge that I’ve taken since age 10, I will now only grow from the inspiration that fills my lungs like secondhand smoke. I will only grow from the bravery breathed into me by the strong and courageous men and women of today’s society.
This has been my Cinematic Version. I hope my personal essay was personal enough.