The Sound of Silence, Part 2

Last week, she had to make a very difficult decision. Should she contact the woman whose husband hurt her, all those years ago, and tell her the truth about what happened, or should she leave it alone?

Last week, I had to make a very difficult decision. Should I contact the woman whose husband hurt me, all those years ago, and tell her the truth about what happened, or should I leave it alone, having written about the incident thereby exorcising it from my subconscious?

By virtue of the fact that we still share friends, and she may hear the story through the grapevine*, I decided to reach out with the truth. At the same time that I sent the story in to the RVANews editors, I sent her a note letting her know I had written it.

“Should I be worried? I should, shouldn’t I?”

“No. I don’t know. Here’s the link.”

I was on tenterhooks as I awaited her response. After all, I had just told someone I had shared secrets with for almost 15 years that there was one big secret I had been keeping from her.

But there was more. I realized, only after a bad night’s sleep, that I had reopened the wound. Necessary, I thought, as it had healed wrong the first time, sealing shame and guilt under layers of scar tissue. Like re-breaking a broken limb that sets wrong, the pain was unavoidable but that didn’t make it any less acute. When I closed my eyes, no matter how exhausted, my mind would only replay that night. The things he did to me, the things I didn’t do in response. The next day, I was an emotional zombie; all at once, feeling nothing but, somehow, feeling everything, a hundredfold. I was numb. I was raw. I was not myself.

I texted friends, panicked. All I could say was “I’m not OK.” It was like my brain wouldn’t turn off. I spent the day at work, being berated by my manager for being out of it. I was, but how could I possibly tell him why? I nodded as he lectured me, wondering how I got to his office. I didn’t remember even driving to work, never mind having spent half of the day there. Could he not see that I was this person who had been physically taken advantage of? It had to be obvious. I had to have a mark of “victim” somewhere on me. I didn’t, I suppose. I imagine that I probably looked the same as I did, every day. Still, right now, as I type this, that doesn’t seem possible.

I spent the whole day waiting for a response to my note. Had she read it? Did she know, now, the facts about that night? About her own (now ex, by three years) husband? About the downfall of our friendship?

I went home that evening and went straight to bed. I was checked on by my teenagers, periodically, and asked if I was alright. I explained that I couldn’t explain (we’ve talked about it, very honestly, since then) and went back to sleep. Each time, I relived that night. Finally, I woke about ten o’clock that evening, and decided to never sleep again. The memories were too much.

About an hour later, I received a response. It was short and to the wicked sharp point. The woman in question informed me that she had called her ex-husband and he denied my story. She also said that she didn’t “need this right now” and signed off with “have a good life.”

I was devastated. I had never once considered that when the truth came out it would be questioned. I mean, she was there that night leading up to the event in question, she knew I was weird the next day, she knew we were never friends again. It seemed like this would be the missing piece to that puzzle.

I cried more than I have over anything, even the actual assault. This felt so big, this denial of my pain. Someone had salted my freshly reopened wound. I had scary thoughts. I felt like I couldn’t go on.

Then a friend, working to calm my hysteria, mentioned how heartened she had been by the responses to my story on RVANews. I opened my computer and read. There were people here acknowledging my pain, rather than denying it. I read the stories they shared, and the encouragement. They too had been through this thing, or someone they love had, or they just wanted to say they were sorry that I had. I then realized (yes, yes, I have a Blackberry and last week was terrible to be one of those people so I had to log into social networking websites and hunt down my messages) that I had Twitter DMs, emails, and Facebook messages of love waiting for me, too. All of these people advocating for me, believing my story. My heart lightened.

The thing is, nothing feels like I thought it would, after getting this terrible secret off my chest. Many times I write about something, and it is magically better. Maybe not healed, but on it’s way. This is not that. This is going to take more than storytelling (which I still, with my whole heart, believe in a powerful force) to fix this thing. I’ve decided to seek counseling and look forward to sleeping well again at some point in the future. I’m out of the blackest black, and even this murky grey feels good. Yep, I’m not OK, but I can see OK from here.

* She is disguised to everyone but herself, by the way. If someone had decided to tell her it would’ve been as idle gossip because they wouldn’t even know that they were talking about her.

— ∮∮∮ —

Please know that I read all of your Twitter, Facebook, and email messages. If I didn’t respond, it’s not because I don’t appreciate it, it is because getting through this thing is taking every bit of me. If you reached out to me, thank you. It means the world.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. I hope things brighten for you even more as time goes on. It took you a long time to look outside of your denial for what happened, and now it’s your former friend’s turn to work her way through her own denial. It’s a shame that she had to ask her ex, and a shame that he had to lie. It makes me wonder how they treated each other during their marriage and how many blind eyes they had to turn. The crazy effed up games we all play to ourselves and others at some point. Throwing mass quantities of positive thoughts your way.

  2. Aldous Snow on said:

    Move on.

  3. I’m sorry she didn’t give you the support that a real friend should have. I think deep down inside she knows & just can’t face the truth. She doesn’t really matter though, especially if she was that quick to write you off. Moving forward with your life is what matters and it seems like you’re on the right track.

    You may have been a victim in the past, but you don’t have to continue being one. You’ll get passed this & be stronger because of it. I’m glad you’re looking at life optimistically :) *hugs*

  4. Julie on said:

    Maybe his memories are not clear of that night, which in a way might be a blessing…at least one of you won’t be reliving it. It is very, very obvious that you aren’t lying, and probably the main reason your “friend” won’t face this is that, if she lets herself feel anything about it, she’ll feel truly horrible. I don’t think she is brave enough. Maybe one day she will be. I’m just thinking, all these years you’ve been asking yourself if you should have handled it the way you did…if you shouldn’t have made more of a fuss, a fight, a noise, if you should have at least told her before now. And by her response, she just confirmed that what you did was the only realistic thing you could do…and that in her world, it would have been better if you’d kept your mouth shut forever. What a cowardly, selfish, awful way for anyone to treat another person.

    Lady, I’ve never met you but I read your stuff and you have shared a lot. You have been through hell and hardship that would kill a lesser soul. You are beautiful, witty, brave and smart. You are a Mom, and you have Mom Powers. You are a bright spirit in a dull world. No one…NO ONE…has the right to make you feel like you don’t deserve to heal, or like you should bear your pain silently and alone. If there is one thing you take from your messages, let it be this: there is a world full of people who are eager to be better friends to you than this cowardly woman. Best wishes.

  5. Becca on said:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re very brave, and that gives me courage.

  6. Sound of TRUTH on said:

    No longer a victim. Not a victim, a survivor. Safe Place, Safe Harbor, and YWCA all have expert counselors that deal specifically with sexual assault survivors. Services are free. Everyone out there who needs help- even just a few calls to the hotline, some over the phone counseling conversations, group, or private therapy- all available for free and can help with the healing. Across metro Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover- so no matter where you are, it’s free and accessible (especially over the phone). Please google the organization in your area and make the call. They can help heal these sorts of things completely, the right way, without denial, shame, embarassment, blame, or judgement.

  7. How amazing of you to share these stories! Hopefully it will encourage us, all of the other victims of similar offenses, to do the same one day.
    At first I was surprised your friend wouldn’t immediately see the light, but she might not be able to immediately be open to the idea that her husband (even if he’s her ex now) did such terrible things to you. Because they were a unit, she may want to believe him, to believe that you are lying, rather than opening up her own can of worms. Hopefully she too will come to see that the fault is his alone.
    Stay strong!

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