He is dead, but I still remember what happened.

5 November 2017

When someone dies, do the memories you have of them die with them? Does the effect they had on your life slowly pass away after they have been buried? Do the secrets between the two of you finally stop being a burden on your life?
So far it seems they are not quite, not at all, and maybe if you try hard enough.

I woke up a few weeks ago wondering if maybe I'd remembered the whole thing wrong. He didn't invite me under a blanket. I wasn't about 4 or 5. He didn't actually put his finger into my vagina. I didn't giggle. He didn't ask me if I liked it. He didn't do it again. My uncle wasn't in the room.
I didn't mention in passing to my parents, while they were dressing me, that my cousin had told me "that is for adults" while I indicated my private parts. That didn't happen, My parents didn't tell me not to go into my cousin's room again.
I'm remembering it wrong.
He didn't actually touch me there. Because that would be like ... rape. Right? And I would know if I had been raped. Right?

 A woman hiding her face.
No matter how I try to forget it happened, I just can't. Because what he did that afternoon (it happened - how could I make up such an elaborate, enduring, damaging memory?) changed me forever. It introduced me to masturbation at an age where I was too young to understand anything about sex or the nuances of my own sexuality.



That led to what has been a lifetime of me exploring my own limits, using my own hands to try and see what it was about the previous time I did it that felt so nice. Chasing some sort of ultimate ending (which over the years has complexified to "running after an orgasm"). In early years, I remember a night when I was in bed with my teddy bear, and I lay on my stomach, and put my free hand into my underwear. I got carried away, and the next thing I remember is my mom coming into my room to see what all the noise was about. Apparently, I was moving the bed too much and it was pushing the headboard up against the wall, making a noise. My mother told me "I don't want you experimenting with sex"(are those the exact words she used...?) and took my teddy bear away before she went back to her room.

I didn't stop. I just made sure my bed and headboard stayed as close to the wall as possible so that there would be no noise.

At that stage, my cousin had probably forgotten all about what he did - and I didn't exactly keep it in front of mind either. But I still recall it from time to time. I couldn't completely forget because this thing I sometimes did at night became more complicated when I learned what it was called, and I learned that I should be ashamed that I do it. A book told me that people were scared they would grow hair on their hands, and that had me paranoid. I was waking up in the middle of the night after I did it to make sure I washed my hands with soap - so they would stop smelling like the inside of my vagina, and I would feel less guilty.

The bible told me "if your right hand causes you to sin, chop it off." The words "onanism" and "blindness" loomed over me each night. I was scared and confused, but I didn't stop. Because while I was masturbating (and writing that even now makes me feel dirty) it felt good. The guilt and shame came afterwards. The books talked about that too. But apparently, once you realise that you're just being reasonably curious and harmlessly learning your way around your own body, which is totally healthy, you should feel better.
I'm not quite there.

When I was younger, sexual intercourse was not something I discussed with my parents, and the channel was flipped whenever people on TV even kissed, so my grasp of sex and its pros and cons wasn't getting much better.

The internet became an interest of mine in high school, when I began wanting a little more than my imagination to get aroused. That opened up a whole world of confusion, guilt and curiosity. I read erotic stories and imagined that what was happening to the protagonist was happening to me. I read about what an orgasm actually was. I saw some pictures of genitals. It was so bad because I felt like  I could never allow my family or friends to know that I was interested in sex in this way. More guilt, shame and secrecy.
It even started to feel like if I let anyone too close, they would see my secret, and leave me. Now I was isolating myself on that basis, too. To an extent, I still am.

In university, my friend said "we don't do that - only guys need it" with an incredulous tone and this expression on her face which I remember as being halfway between amusement and disgust. So what I was doing was "only for guys." I didn't need it. So only guys get horny and touch themselves, because they can't control themselves. Great. Now my sexuality is out of control, and I haven't even shown it to/shared it with anyone.

In university I also had free, uncapped internet and a lot of late nights. In the afternoons, I was a naive virgin who avoided boys and sex on principle. At night, I imagined myself as a "freak".
Last year, I discovered a Tumblr site with pictures of hot girls and boys. That's when I discovered that seeing hot girls turned me on. This year, I started looking at full-blown porn sites. It feels good in the moment. I still feel guilty afterwards. Because now I'm thinking "this world is not real - at all. And I'm getting lost in it. So how will I relate to someone in the real world?"

When the same friend who told me that "girls don't do that" told me that she had had sex for the first time, it was weird for me, because she was so excited about this first guy - even telling me about his "stamina" - and I was caught up in thinking "wow, so sex is real - here's my friend as proof... I wonder how it actually works..." Then I felt disgusted with myself for thinking that.

Not knowing how to approach that reality is why I once blurted out "we're not talking about your sex life" as a comment on something my friend had said while she was on the phone to her mom, who didn't know her daughter was having sex. I don't know what the etiquette of sexually active people is, because I just play one in my fantasies.


So no, the effect a person had on you doesn't slowly pass away, even as the memories get fuzzy. But I hope writing it out of my system will lift the burden. Because I do want a real relationship, and I don't want to always be held back by guilt, confusion and insecurity.

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