When I was a kid, sun showers captivated me. I splashed in puddles and danced in the soft drizzle. Popsicle sticks floating in streams of water along a gutter enchanted me. Simple times. I was happy. During my teen years, I took long walks in the pouring rain because that’s what a destroyed girl will do to douse the pain that goes deeper than her ability to express. Raindrops mingled with my tears to make them feel the same. Now, stuck in an electric wheelchair, I couldn’t do either.
I hid in the bathroom and sobbed in the shower. Whenever I fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion from continual pain, a recurring nightmare assaulted me—I am running, breathless, up and down winding roads through my childhood hometown, some paved, others ribbons of dirt; tracts of carbon-copy homes and would-be homes of skeletal frames. Reflections of my face are ghost-like, my eyes pop, I am petrified. I cannot find my old house. The beloved creek that I dipped my feet in as a girl is now a raging river, overflowing, pursuing me, about to drown me. I see my mother’s face. “Mommy, help me!” She turns her back. Shane flails his whip, only steps behind me. I try to outrun him but trip over my own feet. He seizes my arm. . . . Then I woke up, ice cold, dripping in sweat, body raging with pain.
I didn’t want to look in the mirror. Whoever it was looking back at me was not someone I wanted to see.
I played the game of going to church, pasted a smile on my face, and raised my hands to heaven as the choir sang. At home, I did my best to hide my demons from Carlito and Cathe. I failed miserably. Years later, Carlito revealed to me that he lived in constant dread of losing me.
I jumped at the slightest disturbance—a door opening, a key turning in a lock, sudden noises.
I tried to muster my disintegrating faith in God. But it was pieces of a puzzle I could never put together that were now falling all over the floor.
Suicidal thoughts besieged me as I wrestled to resist and hang on to my sanity.
I longed to move my feet to the rhythm of my favorite songs again.
My soul was slowly dying.
Guilt, a prosecuting attorney, accused me of everything that had happened in my life. I submitted and blamed myself for everything, convinced this was my punishment—past, present, and future—for “allowing” Shane to sell my body. I forgot that I had no choice in the matter.
Wasn’t a girl freed from sex trafficking supposed to get better?
I didn’t know.
I didn’t even know how to talk about it.