My Telling: Isha
From Dream to Nightmare
There were two separate rapes by two different men. The first time I was raped I was just a young girl, hardly a teen. I spent that summer break from school out of town with a relative like many other summers. She would often send me and my young cousin to the barbershop to get him a haircut. A young barber who worked there was very friendly to us; always joking and being funny. He was probably about 10 to 12 years older than me. I buried the memory of his name decades ago. One day when I was alone, just passing the shop, he was outside and when I stopped to talk for a minute he offered to buy me lunch the next day. I thought that was the greatest thing ever although I was not sure if he was really serious. The next day was a beautiful hot summer day and I was happy. That day became a nightmare that would haunt my very soul for decades to come.
After buying takeout from a place near the park where we intended to sit and eat he complained that it was too hot to eat outside. It would be much cooler indoors with fans and his place was nearby; besides we could watch TV or listen to the radio. He was so pleasant and charming and fun and I was so young and naive. Everything was fine until when I was almost finished eating he came and sat right beside me and started being playful and then leaned in toward my face trying to kiss me. I pushed him back, leaned away and said it was time to go now, but he kept on trying. I tried to get up to go to the door to leave and I could not. He was scaring me now, grabbing me, pulling me to him; not letting me go. He became more and more aggressive as he tried to take my clothes off. We wrestled but he was much stronger than I was. He partially carried and dragged me fighting, kicking and screaming to a bed, threw me onto it and pinned me down while he forced my clothes off tearing my blouse in the process. Somehow he had managed to hold on to me and get himself completely naked and then I was naked, too. I fought him with every bit of energy in me to keep him from prying my thighs apart, to stop him from forcing his penis inside me. All the time he kept saying “you know you want this.” NO! I did not want that. So I yelled until I was hoarse and fought until every muscle in my body refused to work, then I just lay very still not even able to lift my arm one inch off the mattress, my voice a mere whisper. I lay quiet like that, just staring at the ceiling, listening to the sounds of the fan whirling above and the disgusting sound of our wet, sweaty bodies slapping together, until he finished. Details are blurry from that point until I stepped outside and it was sprinkling rain, no longer a bright and sunny summer afternoon. How ironic was that? I welcomed the rain as if it could wash away my tears and cleanse away the sticky, sweatiness of my skin or even wash away the latter events of this day which had such a perfect beginning. I had said no. I had begged, pleaded and cried for him to stop, to let me leave. It did not matter because he had planned to take advantage of my youth, immaturity, innocence and sheer ignorance about men or sex from the very first time he spoke to me, smiled at me or said something to make me feel special. Afterward I felt worthless, filthy, guilty, unloved, perhaps even hated.
For the next four decades I would hold on to his nasty little secret. I never told anyone until RECLAIM. With time I perfected coping skills that helped me mask my true feelings as I suffered in silence often paranoid and near insanity. Not until RECLAIM did I learn how to peel back the layers. It was then that I discovered why I flew into a rage whenever someone accused me of being untruthful. It was because he was calling me a liar when he did not believe that I did not want him and kept telling me that I wanted him to do what he was doing to me. I have regained and reclaimed my life and true self so that I truly recognize that I am a woman of integrity and honesty.
I was around 21 years of age when the second rape happened. Again I have buried his name too deep to recall. Yes, I knew him. We were employed at the same company. He was much older, perhaps in his mid to late 30′s. He was a photographer and graphic artist. He started speaking to me and sometimes sat at the same table in the cafeteria at work. Eventually,after some time he showed interest in my desire to get some professional photographs taken and offered to help me out in order to save me some money. We set a date for me to visit his studio and get the first set of photos taken. His studio was in the basement of one of the old brownstones popular in the north. He also lived there which I did not know prior to coming. When I arrived that Sunday afternoon everything seemed perfectly normal. He was his usual pleasant, cordial self and I felt no anxiety or fear, after all I knew him.
We saw each other and talked at work at least several times a week. Did I say everything seemed normal? That is until I sat down on a small sofa, he handed me some newspaper articles about him, and started setting up the camera as I read them. I thought the articles would be about his career as a photographer, but I could not have been more surprised that they were about his former career as a lightweight boxer. Now I started feeling a little nervous but before I had time to think how to react he had walked away and from the corner of my eye I saw him secure the front door by turning three locks, one was a deadbolt with an interior key which he removed. It was not what I saw him do that resounded in my head months, years and decades later; it was the sound those locks made, like in a movie when someone is being locked into a prison. The sound seemed amplified…CLICK!(boom!) CLICK!(boom!) CLICK!(boom) My mind was grappling with reality as I tried to remain calm and keep my wits in tact. My heart began thumping in my ears as I screamed inside my head….Dear God, not again!!!
He sat down beside me and started making advances which I gingerly rejected not wanting to make him angry and not knowing what to expect. At first I tried the gentle approach, trying to convince him that he should not do this, that he should just take a few pictures and let me go home and nothing would be said. Again, this is a man who had this all planned out when he befriended me at work. Showing me the newspaper articles was his way of telling me what I was up against, that I would be no match for his mere brute strength. To shorten this story, just re-read what happened in the first rape. Much of it was deja-vu. When I became hoarse and had no strength or energy left, he had his way with me. The only thing different is he disgusted me further by licking me from head to foot and I was not sure if I would leave that soundproof basement alive. He did allow me to leave but to my dismay it was only so that he could stalk me in the days to come. My phone would ring as soon as I got inside my apartment in the evening and it would be him telling me what I was wearing and saying disgusting things to me. He was somewhere outside my building. Being stalked was even more terrifying than being raped. I felt like I was being hunted like an animal and it was only a matter of time before he would pounce to make the kill. So I did tell someone who called the police and they would cruise my block every day. He vanished and I never saw or heard from or of him again. I don’t think he ever came back to work after the rape. That whole ordeal became a gigantic blur as I shoved it down, down, down and kicked into gear my very astute coping mechanism. RECLAIM has been the best thing that ever happened to me. Today I am free for real.