**** That Happens

When I was 12, I fell in love.  I fell deeply, blissfully, frighteningly, absoutely in love.  When I say "absolutely", I mean it: my whole being was consumed by this love.  I loved as only a child can love; with total self-abandon, total disregard for parameters, total devotion.

The object of this love was a man.  He was three times my age and deeply flawed; both qualities whose significance did not escape me.  The first time he touched me I knew I was headed way out beyond my depth... but I learned to float; I wanted to see where it took me.

The relationship lasted for two years.  In that time he taught me a lot about sex and love and acceptance.  I knew the relationship wasn't going to last forever and he never pretended it would.  My love for him was laid bare and he lapped it up, amazed and horrified.  He loathed himself for what he was doing to me, despite my constant reassurances.  He knew he was a monster in a way that I could never see.

It never, in my wildest dreams, occured to me that I would betray him.  Then one day, it happened.  I was away from home for 8 weeks, living in a dorm with girls my own age.  I only lasted two before I cracked.  I was listening to a conversation they were having and it sounded so naieve and something in me thought, this isn't right.  So I told my friends, a group of 5.

A secret is no longer a secret when one person knows.  Especially this type of secret... this secret that brings the words "child abuse!" immediately to adult lips.  Adults were alerted, he was confronted, the police were notified, I was called upon (tricked into, but that's another story) to make a statement, he was charged, he was jailed.  Four years with a miniumum non-parole period of 18 months.

There was an opportunity to talk to him one last time, before the police were notified.  I was in the care of another adult who found it odd that I wanted to (and didn't believe me anyway).  He agreed to let me use the phone, but insisted he be in the room at the time, as the whole thing was sure to become a messy legal issue.  The phone conversation went something like this.


HIM:      Hello.

A:          I just want to say that I'm sorry.

H:          Sorry for what?

A:          Sorry for this.  For talking.

H:          You've ruined me now.  You know that?  You've ruined me.

A:          I'm sorry.  I love you.

H:          I better go.

It was a long time ago and those words are not exact, but they're essentially true to the memory.  They broke my heart.  It also convinced the idiot with me in the room that I was definitely lying... in his adult male wisdom he said it made no sense that I didn't demand, like a jilted lover, to know why he was denying it.

To keep the story moving... he went to jail and served 18 months.  I went a little bit nuts for several reasons, this among them.  Time passed.

When I was 18, I knew I had to get in touch with him.  I had to try to make things right.  I tracked him down via the only person on earth who would've put me in touch with him without contacting my parents.  I phoned him and we arranged to meet in a park.

I played it safe, my housemate knew where to come looking if I wasn't home in an hour.  The park was just a little way from my house but he didn't know that.  As I was taking these precautions it felt so strange, I had NEVER been afraid of this man until everyone else in my life started referring to him as a paedophile.  On one level I felt I was doing him a great disloyalty, but on another I felt compelled by all of the opinions that had been shoved down my throat in the last three years.

I met him at the park.  He was wearing overalls, as he'd come during his lunch break and worked as a mechanic.  He was thin and hadn't shaved in quite a while.  He seemed so much less than what he had been.  I was filled with sadness when I looked at him.  I wondered if the man I loved was still anywhere inside.

He smiled at me.  It was awkward but encouraging.  We sat down at a picnic table.  Engaged in a bit of chitchat.  He asked about what I was studying at uni and how I was going.  Also asked about my family.  It felt so strange to just be talking to him as if we were two people who hadn't damaged each other beyond repair.  He knew I'd come for a reason and was just trying to help me relax before I got to it.  I was shaking.

Then he asked me why I'd asked to meet him and I repeated my words from four years before: "I'm sorry.  I'm sorry I talked.  I'm really sorry.  And I want to know if you're angry with me."

"That?  Are you still worried about that?  It's OK [with conviction].  It's just **** that happens.  I forgive you.  I was never angry with you."

There is no language for the effect of those words upon my bruised and battered heart.

We talked a little longer.  He was worried about me; about the scars on my arms.  He wanted to know I'd be safe when I went home.  He asked if anyone else would be there and I said no but my housemate knew to check up on me at 3 o'clock.  He offered to come home with me but it was clear from his awkwardness that he realised the irony in this offer.  Neither of us really thought it was a good idea.  I convinced him I'd be ok.  He told me I could call, any time of the day or night.  He gave me his home phone number without asking for mine.  I hugged him and walked away, leaving him sitting at the table.


That's the end of the story, but I need to add this: if you feel the inclination to tell me that I never needed forgiveness, please, resist it.  I know that he was responsible for the damage he did to me, just as I know that I was responsible for what I did to him.  I still believe that most of the reason it took me so long to heal was that nobody let me take that responsibility.  Not one single person in my life acknowledged it, until he did, when I was 18.  They couldn't see past the term "child".  My 12 year old self was ******** of her dignity and her autonomy; her intelligence, her capacity to process information and make decisions, her loving heart, her profound understanding of the human heart in general.  At 12 she already had an affinity with broken people, they'd talk to her in the street, the winos and the homeless, and she always looked into their eyes as she responded.  This is who she was, and I am proud of her, and because I am proud of her I will let her take that responsibility; I will acknowledge that she had the strength to bear it.  So don't, please, assume you know me better than I know myself, just because you know the legal definition of "child".

He granted me ownership of my actions.  He returned to me the pieces of myself which the adult world had taken away.  Yes, I was still in pieces, but I owned them now and I could work on putting them back together.  I have no idea where he is now and I haven't contacted him since, but for that, I will always love him.

adjyo adjyo
31-35, F
6 Responses Feb 14, 2009

Thank you. It took a long time for me to get here and I needed this experience with him before I could.

You are a remarkable soul. Your wisdom and the self love you've given your inner child is beautiful. I'm honored to learn from you the beauty you have inside.

I'm a teacher of English to speakers of other languages... have lived in China, Indonesia and Korea.

The traveling sounds interesting. What kind of things have you done?

Thank you for your kind words and your open mind. I understand that not everyone will see it the way I do. That's their call... all I ask is that they don't try to change MY perception.<br />
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You ask how the experience has shaped my life... it's a difficult question to answer. None of us can really imagine being anything other than what we are, or having any history other than the one we remember. In my case it's further complicated by a neurological condition that had a profound impact on my life while going undiagnosed. It's difficult to know what lead to what.<br />
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However, I do know that I felt different, that I would never fit in. I also felt very alone. Those two feelings enabled me to travel fairly extensively and gain experience living and working in other countries... they were positive, in the end.<br />
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My relationship with him also further opened my mind to the understanding that "right" and "wrong" are not always so easily defined. I am highly capable of withholding judgement. That ability has enabled me to form remarkable friendships with broken people, people who've been able to broaden my experience in ways I never would've found on my own.<br />
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Thanks again for your heartfelt response.

What an amazing story, Adjyo. I am almost speechless. Almost :)<br />
Of course I have the typical outrage for what he did to you. But we are complex beings, even at the age of 12. And capable of many emotions. It must have been so confusing to go from really loving someone, to being told you should feel hatred. For as wrong as the relationship was, it was very real to you. I will say that I was on the edge of my seat, as you told of going to meet him! But you got what you needed, for yourself. I completely understand that this had nothing to do with you forgiving him. You got the forgiveness you needed that allowed you to begin healing. Closure.<br />
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Thank you for sharing such a difficult story. I'm sure it won't come as a shock to you, there will people who may not understand. Some of their comments might not even be very nice. But then it's not their experience, now is it??<br />
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It's been about 10 years since your meeting with the man. How is your life now? In what ways do you think this experience shaped where you are today?