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"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Martin Luther King Jr.

I'm not sure I want to tell you this. Not sure at all. I'm afraid that you'll say I should have known better. Or you'll say it wasn't really all that bad. You'll say I deserved the whole rotten thing, and everything that led up to it. And the aftermath. Dismal little twerp, you'll say.

What do you know? You weren't there.

It started on a Friday, near the beginning of the school year. We were all standing in line, waiting to be led into the school, and I was talking to the new kid. His name was Andrew, I think, and he was the only other kid in the fourth grade who played the clarinet. He had fabulous hair, all thick and wavy.

I had my clarinet with me, and it was heavy. I shifted the case from hand to hand as we stood there kvetching about our lives. I don't remember what his problem with his family was. Maybe he was just homesick (he was the new kid, remember). Anyway, we decided to run away from home.

I don't remember ever speaking to him again after that day. I certainly did not meet him in the schoolyard the next day according to our plan. I don't think I really expected him to be there anyway.

The next day was sunny, glorious. Indian summer. The leaves were just starting to turn, mostly yellows. I don't remember if Andrew and I had set a time to meet. I don't remember what, if anything, I told my mother before I left the house. She was probably asleep. She was very ill, and she slept a lot. Dad was out of the country again.

What I remember is that I wore my favorite clothes: the hideous rainbow patchwork jeans; the shirt of many pockets and three colors; the red hooded sweatshirt. In my pockets, I had: a small flashlight (silver and red, very cool), my Girl Scout pocket knife (green plastic handle, very dull), and all my money in a plastic sandwich bag. It probably amounted to less than two dollars.

I like to imagine that if I had gotten to the school and Andrew hadn't been there, I would have continued into the center of town and used my money to buy as much as ice cream as possible. And then I would have gone back home and maybe gotten yelled at for being late for what passed for dinner.

But that's not what happened.

I brushed my hair. Which I never did, which I hated to do. Which my mother and I regularly had fights about, breaking hairbrushes when one or the other of us would throw them across the room in frustration. But that day I brushed my hair. I wanted to look good for my big adventure, and I remember being pleased with the results.

And then I left the house, feeling like someone in a shampoo commerical. I probably only got a mile or so away before the guy on the bicycle came gliding up behind me (tictictictictictic - it was a ten-speed) and then dismounted to walk beside me.

He was tall (wasn't everyone?) and gangly and very blond. Even his eyelashes were blond. He asked me if I had ever seen a ... something.

I didn't understand what he had said, so I said no. He asked me if I wanted to, and I said yes. We headed towards the woods at the edge of what I remember as a vacant lot, and I imagined something wonderful like a nest of baby rabbits.

I'll spare you the details. Even if I thought you wanted to know, my hands are shaking and I can barely type. I'll just say that his tongue and his penis reminded me of slugs and that I still don't like people with blond eyelashes. At some point it became too much, and I screamed. He panicked, and told me to close my eyes and count to fifty. I listened to the rustling of leaves as he fled. When I couldn't hear him anymore, I fled too.

My therapist recently asked me how I felt afterwards. I told her it was like the time I stuck my finger in a light socket. I had to go lie down for a while.

It wasn't until years later that I understood what he had asked me: "Have you ever seen a boy's cock?" It was nine years before I told anyone what had happened. It took even longer to forgive myself for not understanding.

Last year I asked my husband to come with me, to walk past the place where it happened. I couldn't find a vacant lot. Maybe it happened in someone's front yard. Or maybe some of those houses weren't there twenty-five years ago. Either way, you can't tell me it didn't happen. If you try, I'll kick you in the nuts.

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