Monday, July 13, 2015

IN FIVE SENTENCES...

I'm not surprised that many people are defending comedian Bill Cosby against allegations of rape.  He is an icon; wealthy, famous and has been a role model for Black middle-class aspirants for decades. Even before he himself began to chastise poor and working class Black folk for such immoralities as having children out of wedlock, low educational attainment and perceived laziness as evidenced by under and unemployment, he was a symbol of what the Black Man was capable of attaining through education, clean living and focusing on family.  So, it must be a bitter pill for many people who have seen so many Black heroes fall to real or imagined conspiracies orchestrated by our government or the media - think O.J., Michael Jackson, Charles Rangel, Martin Luther King, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan.  No one knows what really happened between Cosby and all of his accusers except themselves, but, it is not so difficult for me to believe that a man with that kind of power and prestige can get away with almost anything. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

PENANCE

Since I was 21 when I "lost" my virginity, I have had sex with 14 men.  That comes out to about 1.7 men per year over the past 25 years. In those 25 years, there have been several years when I was not sexually active, and this comforts my sense of morality, as does the fact that I remember the names of all but one of those men.  Its as though I can point to these facts and soothe myself into believing that I'm not a slut or a wicked woman because the number of sexual partners seems low, to me, anyway. 

But it was my first sexual encounter. The one that I don't include on that list. The one I don't consider a rite of passage.   The one I don't want to remember.  The one that makes me cry after I have enjoyed sex with a man. The one that brings me back to a time and space I no longer inhabit. The one that does not make me smile wistfully. Its that one, the one that makes me feel like a slut, a piece of shit, a dirty, evil, wicked person. Its that one, the 15th man who first touched me sexually who clouded sex for me forever - the act  of it, the idea of sex, my sexuality and my sense of myself as a sexual being.

It happened on Bryant Avenue. His name was Manuel.  He was probably in his 50's and I was 9 or 10 years old.  He was the common-law husband of my babysitter, Lola, in the tragic, sad place that was the South Bronx of the impoverished 1970s, where I grew up. Lola was efficient, cold, sarcastic, unloving and she was my sitter from the time I was 2 years old until I was 12 when I was finally allowed to go to home alone.  Manuel was a respectable man, my mother and father believed, and being with  him alone was as safe, to them,  as being with Lola herself.

I don't quite remember how it started.  I remember scenes...

...stripping in the kitchen as I danced for him while there were guests in the living room.  He at the dining table in the foyer making sure no one came by...

...behind the door of the bedroom on my knees sucking his penis....

...his fingers touching my vagina then sticking them in, his nails hurting me...

...watching me masturbate on the bedroom floor while he made sure Lola maintained a comfortable, questionable ignorance....

I remember feeling good, feeling loved, feeling attended to, like I was special and was somehow entitled to special privileges that never materialized.   Manuel and I had a bond, I thought.  A secret life that made me feel unique instead of fat and ugly and isolated, the way I really felt inside, and often still do.

I have a memory of a bedroom in the first building where I went to be cared for by Lola, upstairs from our old apartment on Beck Street.  I have an overwhelming feeling that something happened in that bedroom too, but I don't want to impose guesses upon facts.  I know the other scenes happened because I remember them happening.  

I know when these events occurred because it was around the same time I received the sacrament of Penance.  I sat in Saint Athanasius Church on Tiffany Street as the priest reminded us, "You should for your first confession think of something you have done that was wrong, offensive to God."  I feared confessing this thing, this - what could I call it?  An encounter, event, rendezvous?  Anything other than what it was - abuse! I remember telling myself as I sat on the pew, I have done something so bad, so horrendous that I can't confess it.   Just the idea that I even needed to confess - I knew that I was the sinner, I was the guilty one, I just knew God would never forgive me.  

Sometimes I wish the abuse had happened in that other bedroom on Beck Street when I was two or three years old, so that today I would not remember.  But, as people say, it is what it is.  But I do remember.  

And, I'm still doing penance for this memory that has cursed me to forever recreate a sensation in order to gain mastery over it.   A mastery that most likely I won't ever attain.