“She’s staring again,” Juan Jose’ remarked to Crystel on Tuesday. The three of us were dining at Pizza Luce. The 19-year-olds sat across from me. I was looking past them, merely looking, not staring at all, at the people coming in the door, the servers rushing into the kitchen, dodging for silverware, the water pitcher, the food that was ordered.
Crystel shook her head back and forth, “She always does that, you know that.”
It could be a girl Crystel’s age that will pull me back to the horror of being raped. A toddler sitting on my lap, dozing, her limbs a rag doll. Trusting. Safe. No worries. What would she have to worry about? She’s 2 years old. At 4, adorned in colorful scarves, beads, and unmatched socks. A Jasmine Princess at 5. Loving Johnny Depp at 8. Being the first to jump in the pool, the first to ride her bike, the first…
“I’m writing stories,” I say in my defense.
I’m studying people. Their familial relationships. Body language. Emotional state. Piercings. Tattoos. Eye contact.
That morning I studied a photo of a 10-year-old Wisconsin girl. She had long brown hair, parted in the middle, smiling eyes, smooth face. She looked happy.
I pictured the 14-year-old who raped and killed her. How much bigger he would have been than her. His height, weight, and strength. My stomach tightened.
I was her.
The young girl with a smooth face. Smiling.
I was no match for a 14-year-old.
My four older siblings just kept getting older. And I would always be the younger.
The running track already set. An oval that I would run round and round.
Never getting away.
I asked for help when I was 9. I was afraid. They were bigger. I needed help.
None was forthcoming. I became that 10-year-old. Only I didn’t die.
It lives within me. The assaults. The rapes.
The watching of others.