“Experience is the best teacher, but the tuition is high.” – a Norwegian proverb.
I recently received a request from a close friend to accommodate a few elders in my house who were in town due to a grave family emergency. I knew about the emergency. It was genuine. And yet I made up a lame excuse for not being able to accommodate them. For two days after that, I did not respond to her calls and messages. I was appalled by my own lowliness. But then through the murk of guilt and confusion dawned the light of realization – it was my deep rooted fear of elderly male relatives. The monster had returned from deep down!
When I was about 9 or 10, one of my close Uncle had attempted to molest me on a few occasions. Now whether it was his cowardice or my instinct that something wasn’t right, that foiled his attempts. Or maybe I was just lucky – considering that it took me a couple of years to even realize that those odd approaches were actually attempts to molest!
I remember running and clinging to my brother whenever this person would try to corner me. I used to tell my brother I had seen a ghost. And from the look on my face, I’m sure anyone would have believed me too! I remember refusing, avoiding all possibilities that might bring me in close contact with my “ghost” – and this included the customary hug when meeting or parting – an act otherwise so common, so non-sexual and so much out of familial love. During his visit to our home, every sound of footsteps approaching my bedroom upstairs used to make me break into a sweat. While using the bath, my eyes would keep a constant vigil for telltale shadows at the vents and at the crack between the bathroom door and the floor. These points in my life were very frustrating and used to leave me feeling confused (with thoughts like why me? Am I doing something to cause this?) and violated. In short, it was ugly.
I desperately needed to talk to somebody, but I could not think of sitting face to face with anybody on this subject. So, I wrote this long letter to my older brother instead. Even as I wrote I felt the burden leaving me. It was like burying a monster somewhere deep. I grew older and moved on – or so I thought. But it had never left me.
Today I look at my son, his friends, his classmates – these children are so full of innocence, uninhibited joy and laughter, energy and playfulness, curiosity and depth. And yet I know, from experience, that there could be someone out there who can take it all away in one act of immorality. It makes me shudder…
Hey now, all you children
Leave your lights on, you better leave your lights on
Because there’s a monster, living under my bed
Whispering in my ear
There’s an angel, with a hand on my head
She say’s I’ve got nothing to fear.
– From the song “Put Your Lights On” – Santana / Everlast