When I was in my early 40’s my older brother Bill came to visit me in Austin. We went to lunch with several of my women friends. Somehow over the course of the meal we got to talk about losing your virginity. It was a sweet memory for me, as I recalled a passionate escapade with my high school sweetheart. It was then much to my shock that Bill piped up that in fact he had been my first encounter when we were kids.
My immediate response was that he was full of shit. And then he relayed the story of luring me into a neighbor’s shed. A place we were forbidden to go. He went into a full accounting that ended with him throwing me out and slamming the shed door in my face. It was that one small detail about the door that sparked my memory and made me realize that in fact Bill was telling the truth.
You see, I do remember standing in front of that faded red door, feeling feelings I did not recognize. Often, I saw images of that door in my dreams. While I have no memory of what happened inside, I clearly remembered standing in front of that door with its red paint weathered and chipped. The hinges painted over with the same smear of red, rusted metal peeking through. It had happened to me. And since that was the only part I could remember I had to believe his story.
It seems for decades I had buried that part of me — buried that memory. Never told my mother or a teacher or a friend. Never told anyone I became involved with up to that point. I pushed it so deep inside I believed that it never happened. Even as a volunteer at the Austin Rape Crisis Center, I never thought of myself in terms of being a survivor. Yet there was this revelation in the middle of a Chinese restaurant with friends all around me — all of us shocked not only that it had happened, but at the casual, boastful way he told of my being raped.
Memories of events are hard to pin down. People often have different recollections of the same event. That doesn’t make one right and the other wrong. It can only be one’s own truth. This is why I’m so grateful to women who come forward with their truth, with their memories. I’m so sorry they had to go through these events, but am so grateful that they are able to put it into words and emotions — grateful that they have the courage to give voice to their memories of pain.