Slightly Broken: Establishing Blame

It’s not my fault you know. I have to keep reminding myself of that. I’m used to taking responsibility for my actions. I believe that I am a (more or less) rational agent. I forget that this wasn’t always the case. As children, and even as teenagers we have virtually no freedom; no ability to choose. We pretend that we did – “oh, I wish I was a child again” “school was the best time of my life”. If those are your genuine thoughts then you’re really not making the most of adulthood.
In addition to lack of genuine choice we’re also (mostly) insulated from both our good and bad intentions and what few independent actions we achieve – our parents, school, society insulate us by and large from their effects. And those choices we thought we made for ourselves – within the tight confines of being a dependant in full time education who has the friends they met and was hated by least on the first day of school in the class we were deposited based on our previous school’s report and assessment of how we behaved in another tightly restricted environment… well, I imagine you can see where I’m going with this. Despite that I persist in extending my current freedoms (which are somewhat illusory, though vastly more genuine than as a teenager) backwards in time – to justify my actions and inactions as if I were who I now am.
It’s absurd. I am no more who I was 20 years ago than you are. I don’t just mean biologically – every single cell in my body is a different cell now of course. Me inside – I can barely scratch at who I was, why I acted as I did (I’m fond of the diagnosis that as an adolescent we are literally insane). Yet my thoughts persist, fractured, distorted, distended through time and change.
It feels, or seems very important to me that I can assert that being abused was in some sense my fault – that I had the freedom to choose – to leave – to say no – to tell my family – to run – that I chose, genuinely chose to stay – to allow – to permit – to condone – to assent – to participate – to want it.
It’s a lie. What my mind is trying to do is rewrite my history – if I can convince myself that I chose to be abused, to enter consensually into a sexual relationship with an adult, then I can take solace in the notion that my intentions were good – to be loved, to have a relationship, and the consequences – well, if they were not as I’d hoped, well… shit happens. We do things with good intentions every day that turn out horribly (and vice versa).
Thing is, that’s like forgiveness (another monstrous, morally reprehensible lie): the easy way out. By blaming myself I focus my pain back onto myself. I’m here, I can be punished. Ric – that fucking child molesting cunt – is not. How much easier to take the blame onto myself where I can do something with it (beat myself up)? Well fuck you pal.
What I am struggling to grasp (and my weak mind is making it slippery, so I can fall into the easy goal of self-blame) is that this was orchestrated. I was groomed. Identified as vulnerable, conditioned, exploited, abused. The choices that I wish I had – at best, at fucking terrifying best – were the least worst choices I could make to survive. Acts of omission, easier, safer to commit. Jesus fuck.
That’s scary – to accept that I was pushed to the point where being fondled by a grown man in his bed when I was 15 was actually balanced out by having had a nice evening watching Silence of the Lambs and drinking cider. Are you fucking kidding me? Does that sound like someone making a valid choice? Does it fuck.
I’ve been agonising over why it was that I actually went to Amsterdam to see the man who had abused me. It seems incomprehensible to me now. Right now, I’d either get on the plane and buy a knife from the first supermarket I found or simply tell him to go fuck himself. As if either of those were options at 16. Amsterdam is possibly the coolest place in the world to go to when you’re 16 with an adult friend who will take you to bars and coffee shops. There’s that, there’s having been friends for years, not having previously disclosed to family what had been happening (“well, why don’t you want to go?)”, and the sheer pitiful desperate hope that maybe, just maybe it will just be fun and we’ll be just friends like I always tried to believe we were. The choice that I keep thinking I made is a myth.
Still more, once we were there: 16 year old kid, in a foreign country, staying in the flat of an adult man who has your passport, pre-mobile phones and internet. Sound planned much? Yeah, and that’s some of what I’m forcing myself to realise and accept. So the choices I made once I was there: already conditioned not to complain, not to run away; trapped; disinhibited (alcohol and weed in the fabulous bars of that glorious city); in a horrible net of trust and fear. You tell me: how many choices were real after that? I realised tonight in counselling, and I don’t think I’ve quite articulated it like this before (though I think that I’ve thought it) – if I had said no; if I hadn’t (as I even now perceive it) given in, there’s a very real chance that I would never have come home.
I did what I had to do to survive – I did all I could do at the time. The conditions were not set by me; they were imposed on me in a clever, manipulative, intentional way. And to think that what has been mind-fucking me recently is that I’m trying to fathom the man, trying to reconcile the good parts that I recall with the monster. What a joke. I’m still being groomed. That’s how effective this behaviour is.
In part I realised tonight that what I’d forgotten was hate. Maybe I’d passed beyond it – the stage where it’s just exhausting to be so angry and full of loathing, and maybe that loathing was too closely associated with myself, so my mind had separated us. The memory of Ric has become detached from the things he did, the things that torment me and crush me inside. Perversely he has attached to the good memories. Hence my confusion about the man or the monster. Even inside my fucking mind he’s attached himself to the good parts.
Well that’s not on. That’s not right. That’s not fair. We’ll not be having that.
To be fair, writing this immediately after counselling has helped. I’m enraged now. Now I’m associating correctly again. Its going to take some work, but I’m going to re-learn why I hate this man.

Twinned With Evil – part 2

This is the second part of a story – read Part 1 first (if you want).

I am relieved to find the old apartment building still standing in the light. The street lights flicker and strobe as I walk towards it and I will them to remain lit. They do. My hand hardly shakes at all as I fit the key into the lock. The shadows rush out past me; I feel their passing against my skin. They flee to join the night and the bleakness that infests it.

The flat is dark and empty. But still mine. Not much more than a round table and a bed. It is clean and the cupboards not as pitifully bare as I left them, so my boss must have had it maintained; he always feared I would need to return. Night falls heavily outside, the darkness reaching up to pull the blanket over itself. I draw the curtains to keep it out.

Dreams torment my sleep. Being here brings all my memories of the last time back in a flood. It is one of those awful dreams where I dream of waking and am still asleep. It takes me back to the last time I was here: before I banished myself my role was to adjudicate in the election. I wake in the narrow wooden bed and the light is plowing through the air above me, painting ghosts and nightmare figures on the scarred wallpaper. Breakfast is a nauseating lurch across the flat and back, puppeteered by the dream. My mind seems intent on replaying the details I have cast aside; the ashen taste of cereal, the sourness of milk. My clothes do not fit properly.

The door slams behind me, beating an echo into the air which travels before me. The distance between the flat and the office goes by in long stutters of treacle slowness and flashing speed. The city had not gone bad then, but it was surely on the way. Even by daylight the streets were subdued, the people reclusive. Just a month earlier the last music hall had burned to the ground and the football stadium had closed. We no longer wanted to associate with others. Quiet bars, and oddly, the libraries had even had a resurgence of interest. The shadow of imminent violence hangs over everything.

I pass the staring faces that watch me as I walk down the roads to the office. They had relocated the government offices underground after the murder sprees started. Bloody, awful affairs that ended hundreds of lives. Shop workers, wives, teachers, electricians. There seemed to be no pattern until we looked at where they lived or worked. “Frequency of contact” was the official conclusion, and it held true for all the later events. It was as if we’d hit the maximum number of people we could see and still care about and yet society just kept pushing more in our faces. There was that, and something more.

I was recruited when I survived the Beynemouth Slaughter. That was when I discovered the kind of threat I, and those like me are. We can talk about good and evil, light and dark and get all philosophical about what makes a woman good or evil, we can euphemise as much as we like. It doesn’t change the facts, only hides that some of us revel in the violence and in the darkness. Our existence made it worse – people already hated being near each other but we thrived on it, instigated it. If we’d known we were doing it, if I’d known that was what I was doing… well. I didn’t, and in our ignorance we hit a critical mass of hate and fear in the City, and made it real.

Evil became a presence, and people succumbed to it. The community purges which followed as religious and political leaders, as well as the damaged people already waiting for an opportunity, incited further fear, spreading the darkness and ensuring that blood was spilled. I could feel it, almost smell the hatred in the air. I’d never really felt alive before. I attended a rally where I found myself shouting and shaking my fists. The darkness moved with me, like streamers from my fingertips and I cast it over the crowd with my words.

The Beynemouth Slaughter that followed tore a hole in our world, a place for the bleak consuming hate to live and fester like a gash in our City. The agency was formed shortly afterward and I was one of its first agents. Cedric knew what I was, had picked me out of the photographs of the riots and turmoil. I was scared and repentant. I’d relished the sensations that surrounded me as men bludgeoned each other to death, loved watching the dark blossoming from the mob. But I saw that it lingered, saw it become part of the city. I watched it grow, felt it grow and stretch, distort and gnaw at everything. Despite my lust for it I realised that it was destructive. I’m not a bad person, just an evil one. That’s what my boss helped me to understand.

Part 3 coming soon…