my mother's sister was raped when she was 13 or so. raped violently and almost killed. she and a friend were on their way to the skating rink and said yes to a ride with a couple of older boys who mistook them for older girls, and then raped them. my aunt's friend didn't much fight back and wasn't much hurt, if you don't count the raping part, but my aunt did, and, well, . . . i know part of the story through my mother's 9 year old eyes, the rest through her adult eyes looking back.
my aunt's friend made her way to a row of small houses along the road, a black community, a negro community, as they called it back then, and found help at the first house she came to. the man who lived there gathered my aunt inside, then sent for help; his wife promised them safety within her walls, said "don't you worry, nobody is gonna hurt you here", and meant it.
my mother remembered the police showing up at her house with the news, she remembered my aunt in the hospital, she remembered when they identified the two boys, and she remembered her oldest brother heading out with a shotgun, hoping to reach those boys before the police; she remembered others physically restraining him, holding him back.
come the time of the trial, my aunt's friend wouldn't testify, terrified and ashamed to say the words out loud. but my aunt did; she was mostly healed by then, at least on the outside where people didn't have to look at the ugliness, and after the boys were sentenced to long times in prison, my aunt took her inside ugliness home and refused to leave. no more school, she said, unable to face her classmates, afraid of the whispers, sure they could see through her skin to where her soul felt dead. sure they would laugh, or giggle, or stare. sure they would blame.
my mother remembered the day the school bus stopped in front of their house, late in the afternoon, the school day long ago ended. she remembered her sister sitting on the front porch, and she remembered the bus door opening and every girl in my aunt's class getting off. one by one by one by another and on and on and on, until the bus was empty and the girls were in the house, there to tell my aunt they loved her, to hold her, to cry, to tell her come back. my mother was maybe 10 by then, still just a child, but you never forget something like that.
i watched the secret lives of bees sunday afternoon. it came on the station the tv was already tuned to, and i hadn't seen it in a long time, hadn't read the book in even longer, and so i settled onto the couch with a spiral notebook in which i've been writing ideas and small poems, figuring i could continue that during commercials. i've been writing all that stuff down in the back of the book, working backwards to front, because the front is one of my many journals. (woe betide miss emma, who will inherit these goodies - the chronological order is helter skelter at best; when i decide to journal for a while or do morning pages for a month, i grab the nearest notebook to hand. they are all blue and all look alike and so i never know, and if i take the time to find the right one, the mood will pass.)
the movie was as satisfying as i remembered, but during the first commercial, instead of working on my new writing, i found myself at the front of the journal, reading some old morning pages, and middle of the night pages - pages i'd written a couple of months after my mother's death, may 2011, when the weight of the world had fallen on me and there felt like no way out. i'd just brought skye cat home to live with me.
and because this is the way the universe works, i watched the movie and there was may, writing down her heartbreaks, writing down the hurts that were too heavy to carry, and taking them to her own private wailing wall, leaving them there, not forgetting but laying them down, and there i was, reading the words of last year's month of may, words i'd laid down on spiral notebook paper when they got too heavy to hold inside my heart. synchronicity. my words were words of loss, my heart that of a child again, lost, her mother gone. the movie was a perfect backdrop, and i was once again in love with the black madonna. with these black women who took in a white child - nobody is gonna hurt you here. when i checked emails later and there was a post from a friend about the virgin mary, i fell into tears. the universe will make you pay attention.
“I'll write this all down for you," I said.
"I'll put it in a story."
. . . it's something everybody wants--
for someone to see the hurt done to them and set it down like it matters.”