“Danny,” I started. I hated the way his name sounded coming out of my mouth. Like something familiar. But he wasn’t familiar. Not anymore. Slumped over, straddling the picnic table bench catercorner to me, long scraggly hair and no eye contact. I recognized him, but I didn’t know him. He had aged to look like exactly what he had always been. For the last two days, I had swayed between wanting to vomit and scream to feeling like my brain was going to explode. But now, as I said his name, I didn’t feel any of those things. I felt ready.
My Someone sat beside me, an incredible contrast with his collared shirt and straight back, kind face and composed breathing. It was strange to have my dark past sit across from my illuminated present– a wonder of me sealed between as both my 15-year-old self and my 32-year-old self. My breathing smoothed and I looked at my list I had prepared for this moment. I was grateful to Bryan and Danielle, two of my favorite friends, for encouraging me in the days before to write it down. I started with number one.
“You are a predator,” I said. I wavered for a minute, wondering if what I had just said was true. I glanced through the rest of the list, took a deep breath, and kept going.
I’ll kill him, I’ll kill him, I’ll kill him dead. I’ll do it.
This is my recurring thought on returning home. Every time I return home. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t sign up for years of recoiling and shivering each time the hills roll me back down to Pennsylvania. We were two weeks away from going back to the town where I had been a child, and where this asshole had forced me to grow up. And I was tired. I was tired of being scared to run into him. I was tired of wondering what I would say. I was tired of feeling ashamed, slinking around as if I had done anything wrong.
We were in Ohio, out in the woods. Something was happening. I was making a plan. I was writing frantically. I was erupting from 12 years of silence. From 4 long years of abuse. My journal pages felt alive
No more of this. I’m on the offense. What will I ask him? What will I ask him? What will I ask him?
2. Are you sorry?
3. What god did you serve then?
4. What does your god look like now?
5. How do you reconcile this?
And then I’ll kill him.
No, I won’t.
But I wonder what will be enough? Would it be enough?
Maybe if I return his favors. Maybe if–
1. I molest him for 4 formative years of his life?
2. I rape him?
3. I leave bruises on his arms?
4. I choke him til he passes out on the floor?
5. I crack his head open and he has to have staples to clamp it shut?
6. I offer to whore him out to my best friends?
7. I isolate him from everyone he loves?
It would be more efficient to just kill him. I am the age he was when I left him. Before the year he hung on a cross at 33. Then resurrected with a wife and kids. All made new. For him. Jesus Fucking Christ. He’ll have to do better this time if he wants to resurrect from this.
I need a plan.
I need a plan or I’ll kill him.
I exhaled. I looked at the page. Oh, shit. I had to face this guy again.
Last April, I learned new words. The first one was “molestation.” The second one was “rape.” I don’t mean that I didn’t understand what they meant. I mean that I learned that these words applied to me.
I started by writing them down. When I saw them, they made my chest feel like it was going to crack open. I practiced looking at them for a week. Then, I tried using them out loud to my Someone. It took days– literal days. And it took months following to say them without crying and coming short of breath.
I pushed forward. I spent time applying those words to other situations. Then I looked at those situations and practiced saying, “And that happened to me, too.”
Simultaneously, I spent as much time separating those words from other words. I separated “rape” and “molestation” away from “love” and “god” and “complicated.”
It was an important practice. The training was intense. But I would recommend it to anyone. Damn, if I didn’t get strong.
“I’m going to track down Danny,” I said to my Someone. I had been agitated all morning, shuffling through my journal, gnawing on the thought. I didn’t brace myself for his response.
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay,” I repeated.
“What are you going to say?”
I thought of journal entry. My brain split open, scene after scene gushing through the cracks that I had sealed for 12 years.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Okay,” my Someone said. “I’m with you.”
And then, we let the weight of the decision pile on us.
We were going to need reinforcement.
The timeline seems simple from there. For the next week, I talked it through during the day with my two friends and my Someone, each making themselves undeniably available, letting me rant and sometimes ranting with me. We processed. I talked more. No one told me I was being dangerous or stupid or dredging up the past unnecessarily.
In the evenings, my Someone and I took to the internet, searching Dan’s name and old addresses, sifting through articles and bad bands he was part of to find a working email address and phone number.
I’m coming into town next week. I think it’s about time to meet. I want to face this part of my past, and what happened. It’s been 15 years. I would like to meet in Ewing Park, during the day. My partner will be with me– I have no intention of meeting you alone. But I think, after everything you did, you owe me at least this. And probably an apology.
If I don’t hear from you in the next 24 hours, I”ll try your phone number or email your band.
I guess time’s up.
I heard nothing. I turned to my friends during the day again, waiting. Time’s up, we said as a mantra. I emailed his band. Nothing.
And then, I found it– a working phone number. I called early. I left a message. I waited. I went back to my work.
I was alone when I got the call back. I panicked. I shook. I swallowed my fear and picked up the phone.
He began with a plea– he has kids, now. He needs to find them a home if he’s going to jail. He needs time. I cut him off.
“What do you think this is?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“All I’ve asked is for a meeting,” I said.
This is what is strange about confronting an abuser. The voice is familiar, and what is from a long time ago suddenly doesn’t feel like any time has passed. Old patterns pick up where they were left, because nothing was ever resolved. And that is the moment where Dan began to tell me that he would love to meet. That he loved me and I broke his heart when I left. That he always loved me. That he still loved me. I have to know that he didn’t try and hurt me.
“You know me– you know I would never hurt you on purpose.”
My head was swimming. My skin was curdling. I pushed myself up out of his words. I came up for air–
“I don’t know that,” I said, “and you can save this for next week.”
I hung up. I ran. I found my Someone and poured out what I was told.
“No,” said my Someone, “that’s not love. He doesn’t have the right to tell you that.”
I stopped shaking. It was true. He doesn’t have the right to tell me anything.
The logistics worked out over text in the next couple of days. Dan pushed boundaries and deadlines. I pushed back. I wasn’t 15 anymore. And I’ve been doing yoga, asshole. You can’t push me around, anymore.
Monday night. Ewing Park. 5:30PM.
And then the real work began. I began writing down what I had stifled for 12 years. I began to construct in real life what had come out sideways in broken relationships, angry rock songs, and obsessive tendencies. I breathed deeply and stopped blaming myself for the night terrors and the post traumatic stress reactions I had to movies. I had envisioned our meeting for years in a whirlwind of violence and untethered rage. I was shocked to find that a meeting time and pen & paper were more satisfying.
Then, I waited until Monday. We played shows. I saw friends. I saw a funny movie. I learned to co-exist with the fear and nausea that swirled through my body. This was nothing compared to what I’d already endured.
I wasn’t tricking myself into believing that this meeting would be the triumphant end. I didn’t think it would satiate my need for revenge. I didn’t even believe it would put it down for a nap. But I was compelled. It’s the only way I can explain it. I needed to act in a way that was unafraid and without shame, even if I felt terrified and stupid. The day of, I received texts of encouragement from the small tribe I’d created. I couldn’t believe it.
“Everyone is Team Mallory,” my Someone said, “Seeing all these people who love you is just so… cool.”
He teared up. My chest felt full of something other than fear. The night before I had asked if it would be okay if I chose not to meet Dan after all. I wasn’t considering backing out. I was considering what this meant. My Someone assured me that it wouldn’t matter. The battle had already been won.
But it hadn’t. I had to go.
“Being Team Mallory is just being Team Don’t Rape People,” I said, “You’d think more people would want to join.”
My Someone laughed. I laughed. This was insane.
We got to the meeting place 40 minutes early. I picked out the picnic table and sat down, pressing my new dress with my palms and sitting with a straight back. And then we waited.
This is right. You matter. You deserve to take up your space. You deserve to speak the truth no matter the sorry state of that man, Danielle wrote.
15 year old Mallory is thanking you, Bryan wrote.
I thought of 15-year-old Mallory. I pictured myself unlocking her bedroom door, her waiting on the other side. My phone rang.
“We’re here,” Dan said.
“Shelter 7,” I said.
He walked slowly toward us, accompanied with a mutual friend from all that time ago. The blood rushed to my head. They sat. This was happening. Right now.
My 15-year-old self stood up inside of me. She walked out of her room. I opened my journal. She looked down and began to read with me.
“You are a predator.”
This was going to be easy, after all.
“You molested me for four years. I was under age for most of it. It started when I was 15 years old. You raped me. More than once. Then you denied it because you thought that would send you to jail.”
“Do you understand me?”