*Content trigger warning: sexual assualt
Writing by Lily McMillan-Merahi // Photograph by Stefania Papagni
I realise now that you never deserved that title.
That father figure plus forbidden intimacy you thought you owned the rights to. You acted as if you were entitled to my whole world. You learned how to unlock it. Through your words. Through your charm. And I was only eleven, of course I would believe anything you said. You were my first intimate partner at the age of twelve. That is not okay.
I was so scared to talk to any boys and once I did I was then too afraid to touch them. They called me frigid; I wish those boys knew why I couldn’t hold any steady “teen” relationship that came my way. But I couldn’t tell them and you weren’t there to explain.
Should I be worried for my future self? What if I can’t love? Why did you do this? Did I bring it upon myself? I was only thirteen and I didn’t really understand the extent of the mental damage that had befallen me.
By the age of fourteen it started coming back. First I remembered the night you told me it was good to masturbate and that I should do it often, preferable when you were near. Then came flooding in the time you made me watch porn with you while you stroked my leg and then more and more. Until I remembered you grabbing my thigh that one night when things went too far and it all got a little too much so I shut it all out by the age of fifteen.
I still cannot believe you ruined things for me. I still cannot believe I was so naive. I still can’t believe it happened. Sometimes when I dream about you I ask you why and you just smile. I want to see you again, I want to tell you, show you, how much pain you have caused. I blamed myself for so long; hell, sometimes I still do wonder if it was my fault. But this is the way it is now, and I have to live with it. Not you.
For four years I felt like you were always watching me. It was so hard to get naked for a shower, be in my room by myself, kiss willing boys behind closed doors. You were always watching me. I always saw you, you never left. I guess I now understand why you were still there, a burned imprint in my mental mess. This is something I have to deal with for the rest of my life. The rest of my life.
I still haven’t told my mum. Or my Aunty—she unknowingly delivered me into your arms, but it’s not her fault; I’d never blame her. I don’t think either of them would believe me if I tried to tell them now. “If it’s so serious why didn’t you tell us earlier?” “I really don’t think he is that sort of a man.” “He has a wife!”
The first time I gave myself fully and wholly to another, I thought of you. I watched him climb on top of me, but I felt you. His lips kissed mine, but I heard your breath. You have robbed me of something that is so special, so intimate. To think that’s okay? To think that you had that right? I want to hate you for it. Yet I can’t.
I know you won’t read this. But that’s okay. And it’s weird for me now because when I think of you, hate is not the emotion that follows. You brainwashed me into thinking you were my lover and that you would always take care of me and would always be there. In the sixth grade I wrote letters to you, I told all my friends about you. I thought it was okay to see you in my room at night. I remember saying goodnight to you before I went to sleep. I fucking adored you. I fucking loved you.
So I don’t hate you; as much as I want to, I can’t. And if I was to see you again I honestly don’t think I’d even say word. And to see your wife—there’s no way she didn’t know. But I would still smile at her and tell her how everything is going well back home, and that I miss you both. Because you’re a destroyer. I have to make peace with that.