Shining The Light
Well over 40 years have passed and I'm haunted, yet again, by a shame I thought I'd left behind,
and by a remorse I know shouldn't be mine to bear.
Why is it that I can't fully forgive myself because of what YOU did, yet I already managed to forgive you long ago?
Or so I thought anyway.
I was 15 and you were nearly twice my age,
a teacher and basketball coach,
in a position of authority and trust over me and so many.
Why did you pick me to be your victim?
Did I reek of daddy issues?
Did I look innocent and pure?
Did I scream of wholesomeness?
Did I look like a conquest?
You made me think I was something special,
After all, why would this good looking, Italian man -
a respected teacher and coach -
choose ME to be his assistant?
I must be extraordinary, right?
I believed you. I WAS special!
I trusted you!
Then without even understanding how it happened,
you gradually exploited my trust into something sexual, and though I somehow knew it wasn't right, you convinced me that our secret made me even more exceptional,
and my world became an insidious battle between perceptions of elitism, and overwhelming feelings of remorse,
a remorse that, unbeknownst to me at the time, was to become the foundation upon which every future decision in my life would be based.
Even though some part of me knew it was wrong then,
I was powerless to stop you from making it happen,
over and over.
I didn't know how.
and I shouldn't have had to.
I was still a child!
When later I wanted out, you wouldn’t let me.
My attempts to change the dance were met with anger, then more manipulation.
I didn’t know how to reconcile feeling like the cream of the crop with feeling like the scum of the earth,
with wanting your attention, but wishing you’d make everything the way it should be.
Then, suddenly, you discarded me for another with more innocence.
Was I suddenly less than the “special” I had been?
Had I become used or damaged goods?
At least I was free,
Free to see myself as naïve and stupid for having somehow allowed myself to fall into your trap
(but, wait, I didn't ‘allow’ it, did I?),
free to grapple with a shame that was going to haunt me for life,
free to feel guilty that what happened to me was likely now happening to her,
and left to avert the suspicious and judgmental looks of those in the know.
Why didn't anyone ever question the door to the coach's office that was locked all the time?
How were you allowed to get away with what you did unscathed,
and go on to perpetuate your reputation’s myth and retain your power to abuse,
while I spent years learning how to hide my wounds of lost innocence,
fighting feelings of inadequacy,
caressing the heart of that young girl who needed to feel seem, who screamed to be special
and found out she was,
only to discover she wasn't,
only to go on to realize she might never feel she was because of what you did to her,
what you made her do, and by some means of perverse master manipulation, convinced her she was also responsible for.
In my mind, the door to that place in time is locked,
the key hidden in a place no longer accessible,
though still audible to me and I’m sure to your other victims,
because our keys still rattle like skeletons in our closets of shame.
My heart screams yet again,
not for the redo that will make it not be -for I know nothing can change that -
but for the justice that proves your guilt and frees your victims from their own buried self-loathing,
hidden in the dungeons YOU created out of your own egotism, perversion, and sense of pathetic powerlessness manifesting as power and manipulation.
Sometimes I can't help but wonder what I might have become, or who I might now be, had this not happened to me -
if my self-esteem had not been twisted,
then forced to be wrung out,
and, ultimately, left in a perpetual state of wrinkled-ness for me to struggle to smooth out for the remainder of my life.
I want to believe this shaped me into something greater than what happened,
something greater than a story of abuse filled with adult characters who knew it was happening, but who opted to put politics and self-image and self-preservation and avoidance of a scandal above the needs of a young teenager who was disposable.
But in the end, I am the story, AND also greater than the story,
because I am a survivor,
and survivors are the warriors who slowly rise above their circumstances to go on and change the world with their courage.
This is my story.
I am a survivor.
I am shining light where there once was darkness.
His name is Sam.
©Christine Wendt Colyer
March 7, 2019