After seeing the documentary, "Allen Vs Farrow" on Prime, I was struck anew by an exceptionally weird phenomenon of sexual abuse - that is, that the abused child is pulled away from what I like to call "real activities," innocent activities, playing ball, swimming, running, reading, laughing, etc, to have sex with an adult. It's one of the creepier aspects of sexual abuse and it stays with the child forever. The victim doesn't have a strong feeling for real activities, the child thinks she should be having sex. In Holy Days, Gloria comments on her admiration of "real people doing real things." Here is an excerpt from Holy Days, the chapter called "Gods and Goddesses."
GODS AND GODDESSES
When the boys and girls came down the street on summer evenings, after sunning all day at the Beach, the boys’ pastel shirts stood out against the buttery tan of their necks, the girls’ athletic knees strode surely and strong, their hair a shade lighter than when they’d awakened in the morning, tinted with sun and surf; they laughed cruelly and gaily at each other. My heart leapt to see them, luminous and gilded; my heart sank to be excluded from them. I watched them from afar, from the confines of my porch and my fatness, my ignorance of smart manners, my terrible shyness and fear of anything graceful, anything glowing as they were, a rank of young gods and goddesses straight from their mother’s dinner tables on their way to a Little League baseball game.
Preston and Ha were already at the ballpark. Calling him Ha out loud in front of people was forbidden to me, but I called him that secretly when I was alone. Ha and Preston were in prep school now. They strode past wearing real baseball uniforms that shone beautifully in the setting sun, grey and sparkling white, with blue and white socks that shaped their firm legs like colonial pantaloons and stockings. I snuck down after they’d passed my house: the crack of their bats, their shouts, the way the girls sucked on straws stuck in real Cokes. There at the baseball park I studied them: the murmurs of players and the scraping of their cleats in the dugout, and if I stood on top of the dugout, I could feel through the soles of my sneakers, the vibrations of real people doing real things.
I meant to write about Rick Likus and his friends, the group of boys and girls Rick went with, but my own classmates strolled down Hichborn Street instead. Rick’s group was very much like them, except for age, of course, and religion. The popular kids in my class were Jewish. Rick’s friends had no religion; they were wild.
If the boys and girls I knew were gods and goddesses, Rick and his gang were satyrs, centaurs and nymphs. They ran around the streets and islands, in and out of the houses and cars, their little goat hooves and bare nymph feet flying as fast as the pandemonium they left behind.
Frankie Carter, tall and blonde, quiet, always watching. Jerry Finley, skinny, with long, curly red hair that shined copper in the sun; he delivered our Revere Journal. On the days he collected, I answered the door if I didn’t have a pimple. “He’s here to collect,” Ma said, like a song, “He’s here to collect.” I was in love with Jerry Finley for years because he was so skinny and his red hair shone like golden metal when he slapped on our steps that rolled up Journal Ma devoured. She clicked her tongue over the stories and obituaries, repeating Revere names, “Leach, tsk, tsk,” “Roposo, tsk, tsk.” She made me sick every week. The sound of everyday Revere names made me sick, though the sound of magical Revere names, Frankie Carter, Jerry Finley, Rick Likus, Ha and Preston, resonated over Ma’s and Daddy’s, Jakey’s and my tongues, ringing bells of familiarity, inspiring adoration sometimes strangely mixed with contempt or fear.
Other boys whom I didn’t know were in Rick’s gang, their faces and bodies merged with the group as vague dirty brown jackets and dungarees, dirty brown hair and faces. The girls were tough as tree bark; they had harsh voices like crows cawing that cut across the street, laughter like sin. They wore ruffles on their bathing suits even though they didn’t need ruffles to flesh out their figures. Their long, bronzed legs shone out of cut off dungarees; they had stiff, sun-bleached hair that whipped their faces like dirty mops.
I didn’t dare look at the girls too closely. I didn’t know their names. I was afraid to look at them except sideways. If they’d caught me, they would’ve beaten me. I could hear them calling Annie Likus, “Hi, Rick’s mother!” Everything was Rick’s. They didn’t call Annette or Linda by name, the girls sang out across the street, “Hi, Rick’s sister!” from where they dangled their wondrous legs over the side of Rick’s little Triumph.
Rick’s gang played hockey for the High School. They were a fierce team, eager to fight, proudly limping, sneering with scarred eyes and broken teeth and lips torn up and pasted back together a little lop-sided.
Even amongst demi-gods, one god stood out. He didn’t need to be the strongest or the handsomest. He didn’t need to be the King.
I saw him on a summer morning when the pear tree shone green in the bright sun bearing heavily its load of tough, fat pears, while Daddy was mowing the lawn, sending the sweet smell of green into the air, while I sat on our porch steps reading a book, I looked up and he was walking down the street, as it turned out, to Rick’s house.
Our eyes met across the street. He didn’t know who I was, or wasn’t, so he reacted normally, kindly, as he would every time he saw me as long as we were alone with the street between us. A soft boy, gentle, he had light brown hair and brown eyes, a round face, a kind smile. He hung on the outer fringes of Rick’s little gang; he was the soft one, the sweet one, softer and sweeter than any of the girls. They called him Tweetie.
I looked up from my book, across the street into those gentle eyes.
“Hi,” he said, softly.
“Hi,” I returned, unsure that he could be so kind.
I was in love.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when he opened Rick’s door and went in.
Who was he? I ran in and asked Jakey.
“What do you want to know for?”
“Who is he? How come he went into Rick’s house?”
And Jakey told me all he knew. The boy’s name was Richie Silva. I couldn’t believe his first name was the same as Rick’s. He lived - I’ll tell you where he lived, where I snuck down in the middle of the night to stand in front of his house. It was a dear little forgotten road, half-paved as though the city had run out of tar right there, so the wild roses and lilacs, the morning glories and lilies, the skunks and stray dogs and cats took over. The scrub trees and bushes, black green where I stood under the street light, smelling the fierce odor of skunk, praying I wouldn’t be sprayed; Ma would kill me. I sniffed, trying to filter out of the smell of skunk and diesel fuel, always present on the air, to find the perfume of roses and the salty scent of the sea flying straight up the hill to my nose. This little street would be so dear to me, just kitty corner from the park where Helen Krauss had squatted and shat on the way home because she couldn’t hold it any more.
One night Richie came home with his friends; he stood on the curb, he laughed, “Ya, right!” into the car. He laughed, “Ya, right!” into the car. I could repeat that forever, strong as it is with memory, love and terror. “Ya, right!” He laughed with his friends. He didn’t see me. I wish I’d run up to him. I wish I’d run up and kissed him. At least once.
I saw another movie late at night. The night is filled with things. If I went down and turned on the television, in the middle of the night, I would see a thing I knew I wasn’t supposed to see: a true thing, a secret thing, hidden under the black screen of TV Land. Just turn it on, that’s all, just turn it on. There. A girl. She was on a bed in the dark. I could see nothing but her face, her hair, her shoulders. I knew she was on a bed because under her head were the black and white stripes of an old bare mattress. But, something was going on. The door of the room kept opening, throwing a weird light over her; she’d squint into the light at the boy coming in. Sometimes, she laughed. Her dark hair was spread out on the black and white stripes, flung out about her laughing face. But, then, if she didn’t like the boy whose turn it was, she made a grimace at him and his head blocked out her face for a moment; she reappeared over his shoulder and she looked angry. Several boys went into the room for her, but it was the last one she loved. Her face lit up with joy when he entered and came toward her. She held out her arms to him and in her mind, she whispered, her silent face rapturous over his thrusting shoulder, “You’re the only one, my love. You’re the only one.”
When I thought of Richie Silva and I thought of him every day and night, I thought of him that way. I knew I was the girl on the bed and the boys were all coming to me, one by one, Rick, Jerry, Frankie, the Nazi, Daddy, but when Richie Silva entered the room, he was the only one.
It was strange, eerie. A few years later, when I met the beautiful Junie, out of the blue, she said, “I’m gonna call you Tweetie!”
©Patricia Goodwin, 2015
Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her latest novel is Low Flying, about two women suffering psychologically abusive marriages who find and nurture each other. Her newest poetry books are Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants of Olde Humphrey Farme, illustrated by the author, and Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse.
Within this blog, Patricia writes often about non-fiction subjects that inspire or disturb her, hopefully informing and inspiring people to be happy, healthy and free.