TRIGGER WARNING: EXPLICIT AND BRUTAL PERSONAL STUFF.
I'm reading Elena Gorokhova's beautiful memoir A Mountain of Crumbs and realizing that even by Soviet standards my childhood was outright bizarre, chaotic, and violent. But maybe it wasn't. Maybe there were tons of children like me who grew up abused in every variety of ways and they simply don't talk about it. Especially women. Maybe it is my duty to talk about it, to open up people's eyes on the atrocities hidden in the closets and swept under rags. Maybe one day I will set my teeth to it and write a memoir.
I say maybe because every time I go back into memories, I uncover some new pain and all I want to do is to flee and forget. I know what you're thinking. It's therapy. The more I uncover, the freer I will be. And yet...and yet...the last time I had a profound memory was when I had my last panic attack, and I so don't want them to return. I know they probably won't, I'm stronger now and much too healthy to be splintered and shattered by my past, but the fear is such an evasive asshole, it creeps up on you and cripples you when you least expect it.
I've gone through collective horrors everyone has gone through in Soviet Union, like having your teeth drilled without anesthesia and yelled at if you cried (at the tender elementary-school age), though for many it's till a luxury to have any medical help at all. I've had my share of hunger when there was nothing to eat in the house, only of course it doesn't compare to those who have been through war, so I might as well shut up about it. I've endured the lies and the bureaucracy and the institutional abuse just like everyone else. But then I endured more at home.
I fled my filthy apartment at every opportunity I could, hanging out in the streets with boys, chasing cats and whatnot, until I absolutely had to return home, where there were fights, real physical fights in the midst of which it was unwise to show up, beating of all styles, from the spoon on the forehead to the bunched nettles on the naked ass (forget the belt, nettles sting like a bitch), to occurrences of sexual abuse that was so odd and perverted and came from such unthinkable sources that I nearly lost my mind, only my mind was very clever. My mind carefully devised a hiding strategy to outwit those who hurt me by ejecting me out of my body. As a result everything I remember is blurry. The only thing I can rely on is my body, and my body bucks and sweats and panics any time I try to get close to remember the particular details of my father hurting me and trying to explain it. A man who read to me Russian poetry aloud was the same man who stuck his fingers between my buttocks for fun, laughing at my ashamed face and telling me I couldn't take a joke. These instances I remember clearly.
This is as far as my clarity goes.
This is the reason why I'm reluctant to write a memoir. I have these nebulae of sensations and images of his abuse that were worse than fingers up my ass, but what exactly it was, what specifically he did, I can only guess. Was it just fingers? Was it his dick too? Something else he shoved in my tender places? In my darkest moments I tried to stick a wine bottle in my vagina, gripped by a memory of something huge tearing me apart. In my lightest I was horrified by the possibility of it, falling on the convenience of denial. I want to ask him to tell me what he did, just to stop this madness, but of course he never will. Probably not even on his deathbed. Hence my hesitation to write a memoir, which is a plague of most survivors. We block out the nastiest shit for two reasons:
- To survive (it's bloody hard being a smiling kid if you constantly think about being raped).
- Because we're told we are liars.
The second one is the worst of them all. I tried telling adults, only to be told that I'm a liar, I'm imagining things, I have a prostitute's gene (I'm not kidding), and so on. I grew up not trusting myself, constantly doubting myself, the result of which you see in this hesitation. I'm still groping in the dark and I imagine I will take my groping to the grave. Because it's easier to deny than to accept. Easier and less painful.
So I'm torn. I don't know. I'm afraid of the things I will uncover. For example, my parents got divorced when I was four, and my father would come and pick my up for a day or a weekend quite often. To believe my mother, every couple weeks or a month. Only I know her memory must be distorted too, so I really don't know for sure. When I asked my father about this—before I remembered that it was he who abused me, when I had an inkling and was investigating—he would present me with a blank wall. "I don't remember," he would say. My mother—same thing.
Here is the catch. He picked me up like his for about 6 years or so, until I moved in with him at the age of 11 and we left for Germany.
I DON'T REMEMBER A SINGLE TIME.
It's as if my brain had purged any memory of him, cleanly erased him from every slice of my life. My therapist told me that by all indications of my fucked up childhood I should've turned out crazy. It's a miracle I didn't, he said. It's thanks to my mind so carefully blanking it out that I didn't go insane. I came close, and you can see it in my books. Most of them have the main character doubt her sanity.
Talk about nature's clever preservation techniques.
The worst part of this is, along with the bad stuff I hardly remember good things that happened, and there were plenty. It's the smorgasbord of pleasantries mixed with cruelties and served on the same platter that confused me so. It makes it easy for me to read books like Misery (Annie told Paul she loves him and chopped off this foot; my father would tell me he loved me after he was done hurting me) and any other horror books. I think, "This is horror? Pfft. Give me a break."
What do you guys think? Will you support me if I decide to write a memoir? Because once I start, I'll dive into dark times for at least 6 months if not more. It's won't be pretty and I don't know how much I'll be able to entertain you and hold your hand while my own core will be falling apart.
Anyway, I can't do it now. Too many books crowd my head as it is (I will post my novel schedule in the next blog post for you). One day, maybe. One day.
Thank you for enduring this little bit of my disturbing history. I love you.