You will never know the wounds you are capable of carrying, until you have to. The era comes back to haunt you. The monster that he was.
And then you will think of all the kind men who surrounded you then.
As they prepare you for the anesthesia you whisper, to God, let me die.
Let me go now.
And then you sink.
Everything is gone.
They wake you up.
They wake you up as if you have made some kind of mistake and girls are so disposable anyway.
The pain lives in a vault, in a chamber of your heart, that you learn to bury deep.
You won’t be alone.
They are shaking you.
“Wake up,” they say.
They keep shaking you and shaking you and shaking you.
You wake up.
It wasn’t your time.
It wasn’t time for God to take you. Not yet.
You were only 22.
Now you realize perhaps God himself put you through this.
He keeps driving up, after.
He keeps driving up.
A girl lies next to you in the little room they make you walk to.
There are two beds. So you can recuperate.
She weeps, softly.
There is a list on the table, with hundreds of names on it.
And the names are lined through.
And the names have names to come, after the two of you.
They run them through here like cattle, you think to yourself.
That he never loved you is the hardest lesson you will ever learn.
Your mother, who had always told you, “Come to me with anything,” is going to be no help. She simply tells you her French friend Selima had to have 14 of them, because of the Nazis.
Jim offers to marry you.
In the cold silence of your room, full of beige, full of books, with the money he had thrown down on the table, to pay for it, you stepped into the bathroom, while he slept and photographed yourself in your white Mexican wedding dress, with his Leica.
You had grasped at straws.
There was no way to call your father.
Your uncle was gone.
Your grandfather was tending to your grandmother, who had had a stroke after her son died, suddenly.
“Stand on your own two feet,” he said.
It’s that Christmas, it’s that day, when you know you have no choice.
There will be millions of girls that day, across the country.
Like the girl lying right next to you.
You didn’t die.
Maybe because you had to write a book, that would come many years later, so that no other girl would have to face this kind of thing, ever again.
I drove down to Los Angeles to meet the French sperm who was my father. He had hired detectives to find me at Santa Barbara High School. When I was 16. He said, or his current wife said through the door, “His therapist feels that you need to meet him, now.”
I stood in terror behind the door of our place on Carillo Hill, that day.
I thought maybe my real father, not the man I called Daddy, who was my father, to me anyway. (Since Mother made it so I could never call him) and I actually was that naive, to think that he might be able to give me some direction. I was two weeks late on my period. Student Health at UCSB arranged for me to take a urine test.
I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way.
I was the girl who had no father.
Not like my mother’s father.
I was also a girl that my mother had no time for.
She made me into her best friend.
So I never even had a chance at being a daughter.
She told my best friend, “The men are going to come for Adrienne.”
My best friend told me that years later, going through her second divorce.
He lived north of Wilshire.
I found him.
I made an appointment to arrive, the last trip I ever took down to Santa Monica in my Audi. I was just a girl of 22, needing help.
There was no man to turn to.
Years later, reading the poem I wrote in Edgar Bower’s class, it’s what I wrote after.
I handed it to him, and he laughed it off. That acid dropping, clown. He laughed at my writing, some stupid little college girl who was getting D’s and F’s Winter Quarter at UCSB. The girl who he came up to rape and keep on raping, time after time, day after day, with that poisoned cock he had, covered in vitiligo. The cock that only knew how to rape, not love. He was like a battering ram, with it. Once he said, “I want to see my cock come out of your throat.”
To this day I remember his favorite position.
I never let another man put me in that position ever again, when I had sex.
The girls at work, the younger ones were having babies, and I made a quilt for Bonnie in Classified, for her baby.
Mine was gone, and I sewed the quilt for hers.
I’ll never forget how happy she was to see it. It was polka dots with an eyelet edge, and I tied it instead of quilting with many colors of embroidery thread.
Rosie had taken me aside.
I told her I needed to take three days off and I was crying.
I loved Rosie.
I also loved her funny boyfriend too.
She told me, she had to have one too.
I don’t know how I survived.
There has been some purpose for me to have survived.
Perhaps it is to write it down.
Never let a man kill your heart and soul.
The clinic was near Cottage Hospital.
Jim, offered to marry me.
Years later when we saw each other again, we discussed our lives.
I said, “What if we had married?”
I thanked him for the offer he had made me. His chivalry.
He will forever be in my mind as that.
Not all males are chivalrous.
I think males know other males very well, just as we know other women very well.
It’s in our genes,
I didn’t love Jim.
I was in love with the photographer.
I couldn’t have slept with Jim.
I couldn’t have asked Jim to take something on, that he wasn’t prepared to do.
He was still the cherubic blond baby of his mother’s.
I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way. The street where there is supposed to be true love.
I was the girl who believed everything men said to me.
He had said he wanted to plant his seed inside me.
He had lied.
“I don’t want you spoiling Christmas for your grandparents,” Mother said.
As far as she was concerned I had taken care of it.
On her deathbed, under the spell of morphine, I said, “You never saw yourself as a grandmother did you?”
She said “No.”
My mother was of the generation that had Andy Warhol.
That Christmas in 1981 my little brother and I were to take the train to Cambria, so our family could have Christmas. You will never know how strong you have to be for your family, until it is needed. You will also never understand why you had to put on a happy face as if nothing bad had happened.
As the train rumbled up the coast, I couldn’t say anything to my brother about what I had just gone through. He was too young. To this day, I wish I had had an older brother. This is what the men at work would become for me. Like Big Brothers. That is what Alan was to me.
We think of storks as the things that come with babies like miracles wrapped in swaddling clothes. There are myths we live out. There are also fairytales.
I was the girl on Red Rose Way who walked under Storke’s bells.
Up in his tower, I sat the books that held the millions of words.
They were bound books, every newspaper that had ever run.
I climbed the stairs all the time to see them.
The panic attacks began in my mother’s car, as we drove home to Santa Barbara after that Christmas. A bee flew into her car, and at the time, I was afraid of bees, as I had been stung once, as a very young child. Suddenly I could not breathe. My hands curled into little blue claws as there was no oxygen, coming in. I wasn’t breathing.
He put me through that.
And he still kept driving up.
He kept on sending postcards as if he were making a piece of Performance Art, like Chris Burden.
That’s what he was doing.
He had no plans to give me up and I couldn’t breathe anymore.
There was nothing left.
He had killed my heart.
Or so I thought.
Perhaps, my heart did not die, for it is the strongest organ that I have.
It is always with my heart that I have traveled this world.
I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way, and I was the girl who wore her heart on her sleeve.
I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way who thought she had met her second Prince Charming. The first one had not been.
I was the 22 year old they gave Xanax to. Harold was on it too.
Harold, the best boss in the world.
I walked between the Pacesetters, under his watch.
They were spitting out film.
They were spitting out thousands of letters, whole alphabets put together out of the people who were busily typing upstairs on the Third Floor, they had come down the pneumatic tubes, and been retyped and marked up in the Composing Room.
I was becoming a Journeyman Printer.
“Harold, I can trim the type.”
“No, you job is to bring the type to the hooks.”
“But I can do more than one thing, Harold.”
“No, you are doing your job.”
And so I had gone from being the girl that came from Fashion, through Classified Accounting, into a Switchboard Operator, to a Proofreader, and finally I was on my way to the Floor.
That’s how important all of us were.
That’s how hard we worked to make everything true and perfect, at the newspaper.
It had won the Pulitzer.
It had belonged to T. M. Storke.
Copyright 2021 Newspaperpeople by Adrienne Wilson – Nanowrimo 2021 – all rights reserved