Slightly Broken: Letters from the past

I am a hoarder. I keep everything. Even the birthday cards and letters from someone who abused me. I know, right? It strikes me as odd sometimes too. I choose to see it as a form of prescience. Not the psychic kind; that’s just delusional bullshit. (Warning, I have set myself to some pretty serious drinking this evening.) When I was 16-17 I wrote in depth about how I felt, and about my dreams. I’ve babbled at length about the failings of memory, and I know that this is why I wrote the things I did as a child. They are my closest connection to how I really felt at the time; I don’t trust my recall – it’s too bound up with how I’ve felt subsequently and is demonstrably unreliable. That’s the human condition folks.
So I kept the letters which Ric sent me between going to Amsterdam and my visiting him (the oft-referred to Time Of Doom; having typed this I realise it has the same acronym as Time Of Death. Telling? Or just an unfortunate accident of coincidence? Such things as emotional suffering are made of…) I wrote at the time because I was unable to contain my horror – words were my only escape. There are some sections that make me proud, and ashamed of later weakness:
“…the other option (from killing Ric) is, of course, suicide – nonviable I’m afraid, I’m not prepared to die so that Ric can do this to someone else”
Isn’t that glorious? I’m so pleased with the sixteen year old me. I already had the “fuck you” attitude.
A few months after Ric chose to take up his previous grooming attempts and escalate them to a new level in Amsterdam and totally destroyed my psyche I wrote to him. In part this was self-defence. There was every likelihood of his returning t England and that I’d have to see him. There’s a powerful sense of shame and fear in my diary that I honestly find somewhat difficult to associate with now, but it motivated me to write:
I think it’s charmingly ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in style… I attached to it the (to me) heart breaking blow by blow account of what happened in Amsterdam. This was me, aged sixteen and recently abused, fighting back. I cannot imagine how I achieved this. Now, my past self seems impossible. I can’t imagine managing to do this. It wasn’t me?
What is, to me, even more incredible is that I don’t just have this letter – the motherfucker actually wrote back. I expressly requested no contact… what does that tell you? This is a letter I’ve kept sealed inside a writing book inside a locked box whose key I routinely lost for more than a decade. I am only providing excerpts right now, but I will post the whole thing because… well – that’s the whole point no?
So – to be super clear before we get into this: I wrote a short letter with the explicit request that I never hear from Ric again, with a copy of the most heart rending soul-destroying narrative of what I have tried for the last 17 years to escape. He replied. Now y’all might be inclined to read such a letter with a sensitive and generous disposition. That’s naive. It’s how I read it at sixteen – exactly how it was intended to be read. Keep that in mind, and keep your head.
Step one. He breaches what I requested. Sure, that seems reasonable – has to put his point across; a letter invites a response surely… Let me flip your context. As a teen that seemed okay, sure – I’ve said some stuff – he deserves a response. It’s a vicious opening gambit – it goes from being about me (the victim) to him (the perpetrator) in two sentences. Just keep that in mind. He continues:
Sounds reasonable no? Thing is, it’s a complete lie. He came over that summer. I was horrified. His very presence made me scar myself. It’s very different reading the letter now. Back then I was still blaming myself and ridden with guilt. Now… well, now I know more about grooming and paedophilia. The protests and dodging don’t ring true. That said, I still experience brutal cognitive dissonance about “Ric as my best friend” and “Ric as a paedophile”.
The next part is all about how he’s having to re-discover and destroy himself in light of the revelation I’ve offered – that teenage boys don’t actually welcome having their genitalia pumped by a middle-aged man. And y’know, I’m just not going to give that credence. I don’t have to – this is about me, and the letter that cunt wrote is about him. If you imagine this to be unfair (as I sometimes do) then you are wrong, and need to spend some time wondering why you are siding with an adult against a child. It’s a problem I too face, so I understand. But just recognise that.
As an abused person, a survivor if you will, I like the sentence:
“Your writings brought home to me the wrongfulness of my actions towards you – I totally accept responsibility for them. The clarity and hard hitting nature of the text left me in no doubt that my actions were unwanted and have caused you a great deal of worry and stress”
That’s nice. “Worry and stress”. Right. Sounds good yeah? Almost, almost like an apology. It does, it really does and briefly lifts my heart. It’s followed by this:
…which just rips away any pretence at giving a flying fuck. It’s actually amazing. Take a step back. Look at this as you would a piece of prose and analyse it according to A Level principles. This is almost the definition of passive aggressive. “I’m sorry but it’s all your fault. If I’d only known that you shouldn’t try to touch the penises of teenagers I’d have stopped – why didn’t you say anything? Why are you blaming me? I thought we were friends. Friends jerk each other off, no?” Yeah, fuck you. As a kid, this destroyed me. Now, well – I’ve been to work; I know what passive aggressive is. “I cannot accept it all…” well, y’see – that’s the crucial bit ain’t it? Accepting that other people have feelings, and that my experience is equivalent to or of worth in comparison to his. The next part is priceless:
So… I’m wrong? Unfair? Okay. I forgot – it’s all about you. I’ve constantly struggled with the dissonance of Ric as my best friend – someone who gave me such lovely ideas vs. a man intent on abuse, cynically planning and manipulating me into a position where I could no longer resist – in fact with the aim that I would consent and shield him (fuck, keep reading). It literally gives me a headache trying to reconcile the two. This letter helps. Ironically.
What do you see here? (I imagine that my current rage is palpable.) Massive cognitive dissonance on Ric’s part. Allow me to summarise, “You seem to be upset. I like your Dad and step-mum. So – don’t say anything, it will be terrible if you do.” Yeah  – for you, motherfucker. It nailed my fears at the time: guilt and shame are so easy to pick apart. I was worried that if I said anything I’d ruin a whole chain of friendships. Now of course,  I sensibly say “so what?”, but then I was young and saw only part of the picture. This letter is clever. It is deceptive. It blames me while pretending apology and asserts that I should keep my mouth shut. You have no idea how angry I am. That’s a threat – at the time it worked because I misunderstood – I thought that I and my friend would be in trouble. What it really means is that he’d be locked up, or killed by my Dad (godluvya). I haven’t read this letter in seventeen years. I do recall Miss L denouncing it as exploitative lies at the time. That kept me alive. Ever did Miss L keep me together as a teenager, though I do regret the force with which I transferred my need for positive emotions to her. She deserved better than obsession; devotion would have been sufficient.
There’s not much left:
Even now I struggle to make sense of this. “Sorry, can we still be friends?” Many, many times I’ve struggled to grasp what kind of fucked up sociopath can do this, but this end to the letter actually makes sense. My abuser, Ric, is so broken, so beyond the normal that he can abuse me, shallowly apologise and genuinely believe that we can just be friends. These people are monsters. I don’t need to understand how he can think like that; I have been troubled by that – how could someone think that way, and it’s fucked me in the head; he is broken – it’s the kind of person he is. That doesn’t require sympathy or empathy. That’s for other people, people who haven’t been hurt.
I say “fuck ’em.”

For fun, and because it fits with the cognitive dissonance that so regularly shakes my mind world:


One thought on “Slightly Broken: Letters from the past

  1. Pingback: Slightly Broken – Back This: Rewind To Fast-Forward by Sasha Joseph Neulinger | Captain Pigheart ~ Swashbuckling Pirate Stories

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