Sunday, May 23, 2010

Take my hand: Skeletons in her cupboard

Continued from
Take my hand: Waylaid

Seema told me a story today that I dont know if its her own or really that of an unnamed friend. The girl was just 12 or 13 at the time. She spent her summer holiday afternoons, mostly playing hide and seek with the other kids in the locality. There was an old man. He would join these kids in their game. Often he would sit with the kid who was to be the seeker, making sure he or she does not look where the other playmates dispersed to hide. It started innocently like that. The hands that held those restless eyes shut, strayed. For the girl, it was enough to get a hint on which way her playmates had gone so she could find them fast and be wowed for her skills. One thing led to the other. How far did it go? The girl doesn't remember too well. She remembers having seen the man naked. But was there actual penetration? She does not remember. At the time, at the back of her mind, she had realized what was happening was sort of wrong. But how wrong? What did it mean? To her, it was a strange mix of feelings.. there was some awakening to a purely physical pleasure and also the pleasure of having a naughty secret to keep.. and there was also the fear that she hadn't spoken out first when it happened.. she does not remember any pain... until later the whole memory of it was painful.. unendurable. It'd continued until school started back and then it stopped. Perhaps the man had grown tired.. or fearful of the child's ability to keep the secret.. we wont know why it stopped. It did.

The story emerged while we were waiting for a free HIV screening test that was being run in our locality. I was shocked. I tried to say that AIDS could be some dirty needle sometime somewhere! It does not have to be this, although the virus does lie dormat for years. No matter what, this story did not have to come out now after all these years, if it was indeed her, as I faintly suspected. People say these things should be said in the beginning. But how could she share this shame with someone in the beginning? And then after she'd known him some? Could she risk the budding warmth of a lovely romance? Could she risk breaking hearts? Could she risk the censure, the judgement, the rejection? It is easy to tell oneself that you never needed to know. That the girl who's shameful secret it was her burden to carry was a wholly different person. For God's sake, she was 12 or 13 at the time!