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A mind of its own
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“To this day, I still feel I should have gone to the police,” old words spilled out and a gnawing recrimination resurfaced. It went something like this: If Mami would have told me then that she’d lived through a traumatizing proxy rape, I wouldn’t have felt so alone and carried shame for all these years.
“You couldn’t, and I’m glad you didn’t,” Mami replied to my what if. “There was something else, Gaby, you told me that the next morning you had coffee with him. No judge would have believed you if you had coffee with him afterwards,” Mami’s words stung with the recollection of my temporary insanity.
“But Mami,” my offended voice cranking up in volume, “I was unconscious.”
“Unconscious, in what sense?”
“I couldn’t recall what happened to me the night before.”
“Yes, I couldn’t remember what had just taken place. I had an immediate block, like what you had with Eva, it was sudden, as if nothing happened, as if it didn’t exist.”
“To protect oneself, one blocks it,” her words carried understanding.

That night in Tel-Aviv, I’d wanted a stutz, in Hebrew, a casual one-night of sex. But I woke up on the tile floor of the toilet room, wet. I had pee all over, and dried blood in my anus. My throat was closed. My thoughts had vanished. I had to be at the army base. I felt dizzy. I took a shower. I lit a cigarette. Put my military uniform on. All these actions were done. I stepped towards the turntable, the tip of my fingers knowing the rough edges of what I was looking for – Mozart’s Requiem. I pulled the LP out of the sleeve, and gently onto the turntable. I lowered the needle. I offered him coffee. He asked me for a ride. I drove us in my white mini-cooper and dropped him off at Tel-Aviv’s center. He said “bye,” opened the door and got out. I mumbled. I didn’t look. I don’t remember his face or name. I drove to Yaffo’s military base and followed the day’s agenda. That evening, I had previously scheduled a horseback-riding lesson. On the way there, my eyelids were heavy, and I was falling asleep. I detoured to my mother’s place. I went straight to lay on her bed. “Pushili, what happened,” she asked. What did happen? I was numb and dumb. “I don’t feel well, I need to sleep,” is all I said that first night. I went under the covers frozen with fever.

I slept straight for two weeks. Took a medical leave from the military. I didn’t disclose the “incident”. Flashbacks began to infiltrate my days and nights. I volunteered some details, and Mami called my therapist. They discussed my “situation” deciding what was best for me. Let’s deal with this in therapy, and not report to the police. I had invited him in; I was under the influence of drugs; I was to blame. I knew it. I’ve always known it. For years, I didn’t even dare to ask what ifs questions. I carried the shame. I buried myself inside a story that only spoke of me as the co-conspirator of my own violent rape. I didn’t want to remember. And Mami and I formed an alliance of silence.

But my shame became a dangerous thing. Those events had pried me open as an earthquake. There was a before and an after. Fault lines that had existed were inactive until that night. A deep tear ripped through me believing I would never be able to bring the mountains, rivers, and ridges back together. The damage was done. The vast crater formed, and the earth would never become smooth again. I moved across the world, oceans away, far away from anyone who knew me, from a life that felt soiled. That I soiled. I moved first to New York, and then, to Los Angeles. I spun in my own orbit for years, thinking that I could turn my back to the past, and forget. But also, that I could start anew, that I had what it took to reconfigure a life, to cultivate my inner voice. That evening, as we waited for a dinner that would begin with “meggy leves soup” (Hungarian sour cherry soup) and end, several courses later, with lemon-pie and coffee to smooth down the heavy fats, I craved to bring the ripped earth closer together, to understand my story, and hers. Perhaps by seeing the resemblance in our experiences we could both heal?


I come undone, Gabriela. Beautifully told.

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