Vani Vinay becomes the voice for a family member who went through trauma of child abuse. In the piece, Vani paraphrases her relative who wonders if she will ever find closure.
I often wonder, what it’s like to live a life without having to regret the choices I did not make. Or, without having to co-exist in self-doubt or low self-esteem and to constantly search for closure.
I tell myself, every now and then, that I need closure. But, rarely have I tried to seek it. The very thought gives me jitters. Perhaps, it’s the fear… Fear of rejection, of insecurity, of losing someone precious.
I’m answerable to the little six-year-old who lost her confidence that day. I have to apologize to the child who failed to defend herself that afternoon. I have to be compassionate and empathetic to the girl who went to bed that night with her pillow soaked in tears.
I understand it’s high time. I have to let go. But reality speaks differently.
I don’t feel empathetic, compassionate, or feel the need to apologize to the girl who’s buried deep in my thoughts, not even the slightest bit. All I have left is anger, outrage, and resentment.
After all, how can some random ‘three minutes’ shatter a precious life and haunt someone for over three decades? How can I let this happen to someone? Rather, how could I let this happen to me?
It was a beautiful, sunny day. Summer was at its peak.
Sitting by the windowsill, I remember having fun with my funny little cousins, occasionally looking out the window in awe and admiration. The little moments, silly jokes, and the tiny giggles, are still very fresh in my mind.
Together, we gazed at the different flocks of birds, adorning the clear blue sky, spreading their wings all around. We also gaped at the butterflies, flaunting their intricate, colorful wings, as we took turns, watching them dance, leap, and bounce with our little innocent eyes.
It was quite a sight!
We were making memories as we strengthened our bond. We were also eager and excited about the forthcoming family wedding that had brought us all together to enjoy, relish and rejoice the festivities and celebrations.
But, to me, it was a wedding that changed my perspective of life. Certainly, one of its kind.
Going down memory lane, I recall all the minute details. A memory so fresh, it has made a permanent nest in my mind.
The hallway entrance was decorated with garlands of dazzling flowers in red, yellow, orange and white, meticulously arranged in an exquisite pattern. I recall being intrigued by people diligently wrapping presents and running last-minute errands.
I even recollect the soft jingling sound of my tiny silver anklets as I galloped up and down the corridor, playing tag with my cousins. Everything was arranged in a manner so precise and accurate that it seemed just like a scene from the perfect fairytale wedding.
Slowly, the atmosphere, the setting, and the rhythm began to shift. Guests started arriving one after another. Some were family, some were friends, some known and some unknown to us. Soon, there was an aura of absolute joy and we were overwhelmed with cheer, bliss, and happiness all around us.
We didn’t really know all the guests. But, rarely did it matter to us. We were just kids and planned to have as much fun as possible.
People became busy with all the meetings, greeting, patting and hugging. Very soon, it became a ritual. Some even went to the extent of ruffling our hair and pinching our cheeks.
And, ouch, I still remember how much it hurt.
We came up with a strategy to flee the scene and save ourselves the pain and embarrassment. The idea was to excuse ourselves from all the wedding ado and go to someplace less noisy and less eventful.
Soon, we agreed to meet on the rooftop terrace. The decision didn’t take too long or require extensive research. It was brisk and saved us all a debate, a conflict, and an argument.
Not long after, we became a team once again. A team of little kids who executed their strategy successfully and thus managed to come up with an escape plan to avoid all the ruckus and commotion. We secretly sat on the rooftop terrace hiding from our family and friends, engrossed in our funny little stories and occasional whispers.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, we saw a stranger walking towards us from a distance. He was a faraway relative none of us had ever met. He wore a red shirt, blue jeans, the brightest smile and carried with him the silliest jokes. He even cracked the funniest anecdotes and soon became our new best friend.
We sang some of the nuttiest songs and played some bizarre games. He taught us some magic tricks and even called some funny names. Soon enough, he cast a magic spell on all of us. And, then he stole our hearts one after another.
Finally, after all the giggles and laughter, we sat down, clenching our aching tummies. He gave us all a tight hug and made us feel safe and precious.
Let’s play another silly game, he whispered with enthusiasm. He told us the rules and taught us all the tricky moves. But, only one person at a time, he made himself crystal clear.
We started to fight and argue thinking who’s going first. Me… Me… Me… Screamed each one of us. Let me choose, he declared, making me the first.
It’s a tickle game and the person who tickles the gentlest and laughs the loudest wins the prize, he exclaimed. Then, he took my hand and slowly ran through his sensitive body parts. He asked me to be gentle and soft, and as delicate as a flower. I giggled and chuckled as he pretended to cackle. It sure felt like an achievement in making someone laugh.
Nice and slow, he slid my hand under his pants and began to moan. His expressions changed and it made me feel weird. I immediately sensed something wasn’t right. It felt strange and uncomfortable. I ran as fast as I could, not knowing what to do or say.
I clearly remember I didn’t want to play. Neither did I want to eat nor sleep. All I wanted was to be with my mom, hug her tightly and feel her warmth. But she was nowhere to be found.
That evening, something about me, seemed different. Something about me had changed. The three minutes of tickle play had taken my innocence away.
I hated that stranger, his funny jokes, his silly anecdotes, and his nutty games. But, more so, I hated myself even more.
Feeling scared and lonely, I wept through the night as I waited for my mom in despair. Then, I saw her in the morning hugging me in bed, and tears rolled down my cheeks as I gasped for some air. Let’s get ready my beautiful princess, said, my mom. But the wedding didn’t seem like a fairy tale kind after all.
Later that day, as the wedding vows were being exchanged, I put up a happy face and wore a glittery pink dress with sequined sleeves and fluffy frills, until once again, our eyes met. He gave me his friendly look and a squeamish smile as he cheered with the crowd and praised the wedlock.
How could he, I wondered and asked myself a zillionth time!
I tried my best to express my fear and talk to someone about the horrific experience. But, the six-year-old in me couldn’t gather the courage nor bear the confidence.
Three decades later, my cousins still talk, laugh and giggle about the funny wedding moments and how we made our way to the terrace. And, I always smile back at them, secretly hiding my silent tears.
Will this feeling of shame and insecurity ever go away? Will I ever be able to lead a normal life again?
Perhaps not. I’m suffering each day as I continue to wait even after three long decades.
But, perhaps, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Vani Vinay, a Chicago based marketing strategist, story-teller and a crazy-in-the-head mom finds inspiration in funny little kids, their innocent talk and their vivid imagination. She believes that “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see” – a quote that has inspired her to create dramatic stories about all the silly things kids do. She strongly believes and follows her slogan – ‘A creative mind is a writer’s workshop’, often scribbling down her thoughts and finding joy wherever possible.