Morning light

The light slowly creeped across the cool floor. Starting with just the very edges and ever so gradually lighting the sink, tub and toilet. They seemed so benign and harmless. Each in their own way symbols of a home. But there was nothing benign in the endless minutes that ticked off in silence. There was danger there in the darkness. Each creak of the ancient floorboards settling. Every scurry of little feet moving in the walls. My heart leapt at every sound, regardless of how faint. Was it him? had he stirred? was that a footstep? It was so very cold in those predawn hours. I curled myself on the only cloth I could find, an old thin bathmat. I made myself as small as I could. Praying I’d stop bleeding. Folding in on myself both physically and mentally. I was at the very edge of endurance in those hours. The pain I felt paled in comparison to the terror.

It had moved well beyond fear in those first startled moments when I realized something was wrong. I heard him long before he had made it to the bed. I had been asleep, dreaming. The house, an 1800’s farm house, was quite loud with its wide pine floors, and thin plaster lathe walls. It was easy to be awakened by the stairs when they groaned under footfalls. But it wasn’t the stairs that woke me that night. It was the door squeaking on its hinges. In that instant, I awakened in confusion. where am I? what time is it? who is there? As we were just passing thru, there was nothing familiar about this place. It smelled and sounded, and looked foreign to my eyes still laden with sleep. The footfalls were heavy across the boards. I knew it was my brother, but still my heart thumped heavily in my chest. Why is he here? what is he doing? I stilled myself as the bed creaked, the old springs announcing his arrival clear as a fire alarm. instinctively, I hugged myself and turned away, hoping that this night would just return to the innocent sleep I had been in not long before. I can just pretend this isn’t happening. He isn’t going to hurt me. God help me. I could smell the sweet slightly rancid smell of alcohol and sweat. It descended and washed over me as he drew in closer. His hand clasped my shoulder. My heart jackhammered away in my chest so hard I could feel it in my temples. I pulled away. His grasp grew harder, I could not hold my back to him. In that moment, when my back was flat on the old mattress, I knew what was coming. I may have been just a kid, but I wasn’t stupid.  I had seen enough scenes in movies to know once you were on your back that was it. The springs creaked again in argument as he made his way onto me. I remember the pitch of those springs, the very sound they made. It is etched clear in my mind. Clumsily his hands found their way into my shirt. My small pale breasts visible as my shirt was pulled up, nipples cold and hard under his finger tips. I heard a voice, it grew more urgent and strained. I realized it was me, talking to myself, trying to tell myself it was all going to be okay. it’s fine. he won’t hurt you, he’s your brother, he will come to his senses, he will realize i’m not his girlfriend. it’ll be okay. But it didn’t work out that way. He kept calling me by his girlfriend’s name. Over and over. It did not matter what I said, or how vigorous my argument. He was insistent and driven. Heavily intoxicated and beyond senseless he continued his approach. I lay quite still. My pleading had gotten me nowhere. I was departing that room and all the ugliness that was beginning in it. I had made myself small and as transparent as a pane of glass. There was nothing left of me there as his fingers yanked at my white underwear. I felt the elastic slide past my thighs, but my mind refused to register the shock. My body was nearly numb. There was just a strange hum in my ears as the room slid away from me. I watched in horror as he lowered his large slim frame down over me. I am so small, just a tiny thing. so small, so very small. The pain registered somewhere deep within me, and the tears rolled down my cheeks. In that farmhouse bedroom, with only the pale moon as witness he lay me open. The bed creaked and the mattress sighed. the sheets swished and the sweat dripped. stop. stop. stop. stop. stop. My mind continued with that mantra, clinging desperately to the hope it would be over soon. There wasn’t much more I could take. I was fighting so hard to disappear, but the flash of pain dragged me back into the present. I lost sense of time and place. My mind wandered into and out of rooms I had never seen before. Strange doorways appeared in my mind’s eye, each slammed shut as he rocked deeper. There was nothing left. I closed my eyes tight against the reality, wishing to be free of that room and the bed and his weight that pinned me to it. I found myself staring out the old window panes at the hint of the moon I could see. I traced its lines and the light it created in the deep grey black sky. My breathe caught hard in my chest and I came back to the present. Panic was pulling at me. He had collapsed on me and I could not breath. I struggled, grasping the twisted wet sheets by the handful. Trying to get a purchase to pull myself free. I was terrified of moving him, but my need for oxygen drove me. In my panic I scrambled free of him. I froze again, sobbing and panting. My heart raced and I saw starbursts of light in the back of my eyes. The room tilted hard. It all slid away. I came awake with a violent start. where am I ? what happened? what is going on? dear god. oh no. how can this have happened. As I lay still my mind began inspecting me, starting with the tips of my toes. Accounting for every part, every sensation. There was no longer a numbness. There was red hot ripples of pain coursing thru me. It felt as though my body had been pulled apart, my center shredded in pieces. I knew I had to escape, to get free of that bed and that room. He lay breathing shallowly in sleepy breaths beside me. I could make out the door in the silvery moon light. Inch by inch I slid myself toward the footboard. Any change in his breathing would freeze me in anxious minutes to watching. I would then again move by the inch. It took me a long time to make my way to the foot of the bed. I faced the old pine floorboards. They spread out in front of me. I knew they creaked, they all did. I was so petrified of making even a single sound. I could barely breathe. I swung me feet over the bed. My toes stretched toward the cold wood. I felt my way forward in the faint moonlight. I can make it. it is just a few more feet. one inch at a time. don’t make a sound. don’t wake him up. he’ll hurt you again. don’t make a noise. don’t make a sound. It seemed forever I stood shivering in the darkness. The pain and fear surrounding my every footfall. He stirred and rolled over. Without even thinking I drew into a tight crouch, making myself small and low to the floor. I prayed in that moment, as I have never in my life. I wanted to get free and leave that horrid room pungent with the smell of alcohol, sweat and sex. It was oppressive and I knew I was drowning. I had to get up. I waited minutes and strained to hear his breathing become deep and regular. I started slowly again. Each step equally painful and terrifying. The pine boards shifting beneath my feet. I was almost there. A long low creak started beneath me. Frozen again. My heart beating so hard I could not even make out if he had heard it. A cold sweat trickled down my back. My crumpled white underwear clinched in my fist. I was one step away. The door was there. But I knew the hinges would squeak. My hand stretched out, ghostly white and trembling. The door knob just within my grasp, but I was immobile with fear. I knew the door might wake him. that door was the only way out. I had to make a choice. Either I stayed in that room with him, or I pulled that door open. It stalled me there for many minutes. It seemed an eternity over what should have been an easy decision. My mind was clouded and indecisive. In my stillness I felt a warm sensation slide along my inner thigh. reflexively I held my wadded underwear to my leg. In the dim light I saw the blood. I knew I could not stand there bleeding on the floor. I stepped forward and grasped the knob. Slowly I opened the door into the dark hallway. It gave only a slight whine. I was in the hall. The effort of just getting from the bedroom left me in a heap. I rested there in the hall, holding myself to catch any blood before it got to the floor. I had to get to the bathroom. I was so exhausted. It took me a long time, but I made my way downstairs and thru the kitchen to my place on the bathmat. I didn’t know what else to do. I just found myself curled up staring at the small window praying for the sun to rise. It was the longest night of my life. I have never revisited that night completely. this is the only documentation of the events. I cannot tell you where I was prior to his coming into that room, or what we did earlier that day. I have no recollection of the next morning and the following days. they don’t seem to exist in my mind. I have left that night far behind me, though it creeps back on cool nights when the moon shines silvery in the windows, or in the minutes before dawn when light draws in from the edges of the sky. My rape is always just a breath away in those moments.

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