When it comes to aesthetic preference, I naturally gravitate to smooth rounded edges over sharp acute corners. A circle over a square any day. Continuity of line over the abruptness of departure. Consistency of temperament over erratic and unpredictable behaviour. Was my reaction so different from what anyone else's would have been, given what was presented to me? Probably not, but my formative years being the dysfunctional playground that they were, provided the mould, the construct, the constrictions and the environment, for the unfolding of what was to follow. The unique and unusual ways about me; how I developed and learnt to survive; my family of origin was blind to. They would never acknowledge the simple facts; would never inquire; and to this day have not demonstrated care, insight or understanding.
This is one of many camps with them- they usually alternated between Rosebud and Rye. I’d probably been going alone with them since I was about seven or eight - from about the time I was young enough to still be compliant and old enough to be of some use. The weather at this time of year yields and intense heat with temperatures increasing late January, soaring through February and into March. The sand is scorching and the water is a delightful salty relief. At this stage, they have two children, my two year old nephew SL, a quiet boy with bright red curly hair and clear blue eyes and my dark haired niece JP, who is still a baby.
The campsite is directly across the road from the local strip of shops. This busy coastal road meanders down the peninsula from Frankston and runs all the way to Sorrento and then Portsea at the very southeast tip of Port Phillip Bay. A lesser memory from this camping trip was SL, for some reason unattended, toddling onto the busy main road between parked cars and being at great risk of being hit. Swept up in his childish state of exploration and oblivious to the danger, he ignores all requests to return and continues out into the middle of the road. Despite my immaturity, I do everything within my power to cajole him back to safety whilst his mother stands nearby struck dumb. Why some adult didn’t just walk out and grab him, I don’t know, but nonetheless, through some miracle, he returns safe and unharmed.
This tumult subsides into apparent normality and the afternoon rolls on into evening. Dinner is cooked and eaten, showers are had and the campsite settles down for the night. A gentle lapping of the waves has lulled me to sleep on my camp stretcher. There are three stretchers in this square tent. If you can imagine looking in from the front flap of the tent toward the back wall, my sister’s bed is on the left wall with her feet near the front, my bed is across the back wall with my head near my sister and my feet towards the right wall and my brother-in-law’s bed is on the right wall with his head toward the back wall and his feet toward the front. SL's cot occupies the middle space between the beds and JP is in her pram. We are squared off around the walls and for some curious and unknown reason, I am sandwiched in the middle between SED and DJD when one would naturally expect husband and wife to sleep next to each other.
Apart from the infrequent animal noises and the occasional passing car, the camp is deathly silent. It is sometime after midnight, heading towards the early hours of the morning. We have been asleep for sometime, the air is very warm and close - I sleep in my cotton nightie and we all sleep with minimal covers.
From a deep deep sleep I am suddenly awake, heart racing and bewildered.
My confused mind scrambles to adjust in the darkness. There is a strange sensation between my legs. I am aware of a menacing presence and a shuddering quick breath. I can hear my sleeping sister’s quiet breathing; my head is right near hers. There is no sound from the children. I feel stricken and separate from my body as I lie frozen, unable to move. There is something heavy leaning across my legs. I realise it is an arm whose fingers are moving and feeling around my vagina, prying and intrusive. I am trapped and terrified. My mind is struggling to make sense. I want to scream, I can't move, no sound comes out. I am pinned by an arm and the weight of a foreign body. I recoil in horror as I become aware that the fingers belong to my brother-in-law DJD. Struck silent, I attempt to will the perpetrator away. I protect the sleeping children and embody the trauma. All innocence is subsumed by the darkness, my being is slowly quashed. And what of a sleeping sister whose depressive cruelty can surface erratic and unpredictable any time under just ordinary circumstances? A sister whom I must not upset, whom I somehow know, is complicit by way of neglect and denial. Surely, but surely she can't be that blind.....
I am twelve going on thirteen years old and am irrevocably altered. My life trajectory veers sharply off its original path. In the midst of many other influences in my young world, this event creates a legacy of disorientation, confusion and personal chaos. It serves to compound and perpetuate pre-existing family dysfunction and it alters my existence such that it ensures a difficult and tumultuous path ahead.
© Copyright 2010 Ajanta ~ All Words & Images