There are certain moments, even from our young tender years of life, which we have learned to push away from the capsule of memory. We have been taught to ignore and whisk away the remembrance of trauma, believing its consequences will somehow disintegrate. But, is this the right thing? Are we to forget moments, whether painful or poignant, that shape the person we are today? A quote engraved in my memory, from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings states: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you." So, for my story – I shall start with The Closet.
I was 4 years old and I had to be, at least, at my tenth foster care home. There was a girl. She had dark brown skin. She looked to be twice my age. I remembered The Closet precisely. And the belt – it was a pink belt with horizontal edges. I'd stand in the closet, neither curious nor afraid. Or maybe I was afraid, though. She would make me bend down. My back would arch as my fingers touched my toes. I felt like I was at the doctor’s office – “Can you touch your fingers, sweetie?” I closed my eyes before I felt the lash. The crack of the belt against my skin. Her threatening words “don’t make a sound.” Another hit. Another clash against my pure skin. Did I cry? I don’t know. Afterward, this girl – who I have no name nor vital description, molested me. A decade later, I have surprisingly kept the memory under the surface – telling no one nor even myself. But now I remember everything. The size of the closet. The color of the belt. Every touch and every advance. Every lash. And her words “Don’t you dare tell anyone.”
And I didn’t. I didn’t utter a word of this experience until 10 years later.
“Let’s not tell anyone.” Sound familiar? It ran along the lines of something a predator once told me. But I chose to ignore (or simply ‘forget’) that. There was a boy. I liked this boy and his name was Joshua. He was very attractive. Black curly hair. Chocolate brown eyes. Half-black. Half-Spanish. Yeah, he was good-looking. But he wasn’t a good person – not at that time, anyway. Not by a long shot.
He had a girlfriend, Selena; therefore “let’s not tell anyone” was the attitude toward our ‘relationship.’ Which I might admit – there was none. Anyways, I remember sitting down one day for a game of Uno with him and his buddies.
“So, I heard you and Selena broke up?” one of them said.
“No,” Joshua said before glancing at me. “Not yet.”
“Why would you date that girl, anyway?” another said.
“Girl?” the first one snickered. “That’s not a girl. That’s a troll.”
And the four of them broke into fits of laughter – including Joshua. I froze with the ‘Add Four” card in my hand, horrified. I know I’m supposed to hate the girlfriend or whatever, but I couldn’t believe Joshua wouldn’t stick up for her, and even worse – insult her. So, I came up with an inference: He had no respect for women.
The next tragic mistake he made? In the middle of class. He chose to sit by me and he grinned. He placed his hand on my thigh. I gaped at him, then darted my eyes toward the teacher. His fingers crawled up my thigh – as if asking, asking permission to -.
“No, I hissed.” I moved my desk away, not before seeing his shocked expression.
“What?” he said.
My second inference: He was a pervert.
The worst mistake he made? After I dumped him. I walked in the Chemistry lab, past the back row where he sat, and grabbed my textbook.
“Bro, isn’t that your girlfriend?” I heard someone say.
“No,” Joshua scoffed. “What makes you think that? She’s ugly.”
Ugly. She’s ugly. I stormed out of the classroom as laughter exploded from my peers. Cold blood ran through my veins. I clenched my fists as a boiling pot of anger formed into my chest. That bastard, I sobbed as hot salty tears trickled down my chin. My third inference? He's was a hypocrite. He had no respect for females, he made unwanted advances, and he was cruel. And I tried to forget – but that was my big mistake.
The judge was beautiful. She wore a long black coat which fell to her feet and swayed while she walked. I liked her immediately. Even before she declared me the legal child of Sandra and Will. Even before she let me slam the pew. I liked that judge. As I came up to choose a stuffed animal, I looked at her. “Because I’m adopted,” I said carefully. “Does this mean my brothers and I never get to see our mother again?” I liked her because she didn’t jive me. She didn’t say what everyone else said “Of course, sweetie” or “Baby, I don’t know.” They did know.
“Yes,” she said. “Of course, you’ll see your mother every day. She just adopted you.”
I opened my mouth to protest - to tell her that’s not my mother. But I stopped. Ever since the adoption, I tried to love my parents and to fit in with the new family. I tried to forget 6 years of foster care was caused by drug-addicted parents. I tried to forget foster care got me out abused and molested. I tried to forget that boy deeply wounded me. But, you know what? I can’t forget and I won’t forget.
There is a raging fire in all of us. A story, longing to escape, that needs to be told. I have let out my fire, but instead of withering – it has erupted in a series of powerful flames. Each flame is a memory, embedding a permanent lesson or obstacle I have overcome. The more I remember - the more I strive for triumph. One day I hope to meet my biological mother. I'll be in a cap and a gown, and I'll have a diploma in my hands. When I turn 18, I'll able to request to meet her, and that's when I'll have graduated. Until then, I thank those genius words from Maya Angelou's I know Why the Caged Bird Sings: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you." And Maya - there is no greater triumph than releasing it.