This was a long, convoluted dream, and I don’t remember all the parts, which might be a mercy, given the subject matter.
I have mixed feelings about writing about this: (1) it was a nightmare, that (2) partially relived a real trauma that happened to me, and (3) preliminary ideas about what it might symbolize are … pretty grim. But if I don’t write about it: (a) I preclude discovering the insight it offers; and (b) I know from long experience, I’ll have it again, and again, possibly in different forms, until my unconscious finds some way to make me understand. Gods help me.
My time on this visit is running out: I’m leaving in the next day or two. So I’m ecstatic when I wake up, and JM wanders into my room, apparently wanting my company. No one else is around.
Suddenly, he climbs into bed with me, and starts kissing me. I’m self-conscious about having morning breath and keep waiting for him to pull away, but he doesn’t. (I’m already tense because of this.)
He puts his fingers inside me. I am visualizing his fingers entering my shrimp-colored [bright pinkish-orange] uterus, or trying to, but my flesh is bunching up every which way trying to keep him out. Only gradually do I realize I’m actually feeling physical pain from his fingers. I shift my body a few times, trying to get things to feel better, but it doesn’t help. Reluctantly, I say, “please stop it — you’re hurting me.”
I expect him to stop doing that, and do something we’ll both enjoy, but instead, he stops, gets up, and walks away, stone-faced.
I scramble out of bed, and follow him. As usual when I’m confused about his erratic behavior, I tell myself, “This is a misunderstanding; we can clear this up if I just explain (more).” So I talk, at him. I say, “All you have to do is tell me you care about me, that I’m important to you. Then treat me nicely.”
He keeps walking, away. He never looks in my direction, but he doesn’t tell me to get lost, nor does he try to actually elude me. So I keep following, talking.
I tell him, “I’m kind and gentle by nature, and just want to feel good, but people in my family are mean, so I’ve learned how to be mean back, only in self-defense. But I don’t like doing it! I can keep people at bay with words, but I’d rather draw them closer.”
As I wind down, I look to him for a response. He’s . . . ignoring me. It’s not clear to me if he’s heard a word I said.
But it’s my last full day with him! I don’t know what to do, how to behave.
JM’s mother comes home. I’m trying to avoid JM, but I’m hyperaware of him. I’m devastated, but still hoping he’ll show remorse, so that (I’ll feel) our relationship can be salvaged. He does not show remorse, though. Or even interest.
Later, I’m entering a loud, raucous party. Jack, one of my cousins from my father’s side of the family, hails me, and I look up, but only see swirling lights, feel overwhelmed by cacophonous sounds. I look back down, negotiating tricky steps. He sends Rita, his sister, after me. I assure her I didn’t see her brother, was not trying to snub him. She peers into my eyes, says my contact lenses are deteriorating. I check them out in a mirror, and they are indeed falling apart. (As uaual) I don’t seem to have a spare pair, a case, my glasses, or even artificial tears with me.
Somehow I find myself confessing to Rita what had happened with JM. She says, “that was rape”, which I hadn’t been thinking myself at all. She wants to trap JM into confessing before a select audience, then a bunch of the guys will beat him up.
I don’t really care what she does or does not do. I’m in shock, apathetic.
I just want him to say he loves me and cares about me. I just want him to behave like I matter to him. I wonder, for the first time, “has he been acting [pretending] all along?” I’m heartsick.
Later still, I’m thinking over the sequence of events: JM stopped when I said what he was doing was hurting me; lost interest in me when I didn’t allow him to keep hurting me. Therefore, doesn’t that suggest that his enjoyment came from hurting me. He wasn’t attracted to me as a person, he didn’t find me an appealing person — I was just an interchangeable person to hurt.
In waking/real life, I did not have a romantic or consensual sexual relationship with JM, but he did rape me, quite similarly to what I recounted here. No kissing ever happened.
As far as I can recall, this is the first dream, in 30 years, that apparently relives what it felt like. I don’t even consciously recall what it felt like (praise the gods) because I completely dissociated. He had this glint in his eye that I already recognized as meaning, “Go ahead and struggle, or scream. I’ll be more than happy to really hurt you, or even kill you, because ‘you made me do it’. Go ahead.”
So, for the first time in my life, I . . . consciously . . . ‘went away in my head’. And I don’t remember anything much until hours later.
I’m guessing, given the visualization (of my uterus, contracting to keep him out) during the dream that my body remembers all too well, even 30 years later. I don’t know if that part actually happened, but it might have. I’ve had all sorts of issues with my pelvic floor muscles ever since.
My rape did happen 2 days before I returned to Illinois, where my parents lived.
By that time, I was no longer trying to salvage our relationship. But I had been trying for months and months before I realized that he was actually trying to kill me. That the person I thought I knew, that I loved, was not the person I was living with. That maybe I should’ve stopped confiding in him long since.
That if I had a hope of surviving this ordeal, I had to treat him like my worst enemy. But not openly, because that could get me killed. Or worse.
I really have 2 cousins, a brother and a sister, named Jack and Rita. They don’t know JM. The only party they might have all been at would be a wedding in my nuclear family. My brother D’s is likeliest. JM did attend D’s wedding. He didn’t threaten me, but he didn’t have to. At the rehearsal dinner, my mother went and sat at JM’s table, to show me who mattered to her. Apparently everyone at that table had a great time; I sat cowering in fear at a tiny table with just Spouse, until my brother-in-law, my sister, and my other brother came over to sit with us. I had a terrible time, not aided at all by my sister telling me I was ‘being stupid’.
A few months earlier, my mother had done everything she could think of to get JM invited to my wedding, even though I said ‘absolutely not’ 27 different ways. Finally, I just made it a tiny wedding, with no cousins at all (except for the one girl cousin I’d asked to be my bridesmaid, but she turned me down). I wasn’t happy, but thwarting my mother did mean my rapist-torturer-would-be-murderer wasn’t there.
I really hate my mother.
No one in my family who has heard any of this has ever said anything supportive to me. (Threats to kill JM just made me fear for his safety. Oh, the irony.) Generally, they’ve pretended I didn’t say anything. Or they’ve acted like I ‘got raped’ without someone else involved. And of course, ‘getting raped’ was my own fault, because I’m a liar and slut and crazy and stupid and nobody likes me. (Which I’m sure they don’t know but, except for the ‘slut’ part, are all things JM also said to me. He also said I was ugly. Anyway.)
Hey, I’m stinky-sweating. I never do that anymore. Dammit.
So, this has been a stupendous trip down memory lane. What I think brought it on is not hearing about my father’s recent health issues, but thinking about . . . P., my former therapist. Dammit.
I didn’t erect boundaries between us when I should have. I didn’t openly refuse to talk about Thing, I just resisted. And I knew as I was doing it that I feared some kind of Nuclear Option on her part. At the time, I thought I was conflating her with my mother, who I usually resisted or went around, rather than openly defying. My mother did indeed have Nuclear Options that destroyed everything in their path.
But if this situation felt, to my body, more like getting raped and tortured, physically . . . that’s an entirely different level of squick. Ugh ugh ugh.
Here’s more irony. I woke up, realized I’d had this dream, wrote it down. Then thought, “why didn’t I have this when I was still seeing P? Then we could have talked about it, worked through it. Oh, right, instead we spent 10 sessions talking about Thing. Dammit.”
Spontaneous spasms in my pelvic floor muscles erupted — something that’s never happened before. And realized, “oh shit, I think this dream is about P. Fuck.”
Before bed last night, I was reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Creativity, about a bunch of scientists, writers, artists, businesspeople, etc., who led very creative lives. Somehow these people have gotten to spend their lives just writing, or discovering radioactive assays, or casting bronze statues. That’s their art.
Me? apparently my art is dealing with the fallout of realizing that people that I loved not only didn’t love me back, but enjoyed hurting me. Yay. I think I’d rather make mugs. Or happy little paintings.
Last night I was also struggling with (my usual) issue about how nothing I’ve done seems to have had any impact on the world. No one will remember me for anything. A bunch of the people in the book wanted to be remembered for their families, their own children and grandchildren. Most, though, for their fabulously important work. Relationships with colleagues, students, mentors, partners. Prizes and awards they’d won. Well I don’t have any of that. I’m “an anonymous ant” [from one of my poems] after all.
Maybe I need to burn my entire old life down to the ground. Not even think about starting over anytime soon. Just, find every last tendril of shit that’s been oppressing me, making me feel worthless and stupid, and rip it out by the roots.
Despite everything, I’m still here. And I’m still creating my own life.
Others won battles, key battles, too many to count, but I won the war.