Break from the norm
For Female Survivors, Male Survivors
I went to see Norman a while back. It'd been a long time coming - a long time brooding about the 'when' and 'why'. You see, I'd moved from the neighbourhood - perhaps 25 years before - but he still has a profound affect on me, effects that I'm still learning about.
And it saddens me to realise that the way my parents used the fear and threat of physical violence ( all too often carried out ), to control us kids, was responsible - at least in part - for making it possible for Norman to do what he did to me - over and over and over again.
I remember one occasion, when I'd stayed away from Norman's house for several months that he even dared to come into our back yard looking for me. I recall my horror of looking down out of my bedroom window to see Mum and Norman exchange words as he left. The up-shot of that was me being interrogated about how he knew me - where I lived etc. and then of all four of us kids being promised that we'd be "Thrashed to within an inch of our lives" if we were ever caught at Norman's.
It was just as I had remembered it; the pale blue painted rendering and the cream coloured windows. Though, now it had a faded glory look about it - flaking paint, mouldy in patches here and there that Norman would never have permitted back when I knew him.
I walked past the house twice - I don't know why. I knew what I was doing. I was in control. This time I would have strength and vigour on my side - If I had wanted to - oh how I could have reversed the roles.
I was not looking to confront or shame, seek any apology or signs of remorse.
I was looking for confirmation of my firm and half forgotten memories. - No! not forgotten, that is one of the many lies and misnomers that I am having to deal with. Many memories were buried, their very existence denied by lack of ceremony, in unmarked paupers' graves - but I knew they were there - it was only me they have haunted down through the years. That open, yawning ground baying for blood, for vengeance, for retribution for another child's innocence robbed.
I approached the steps up from the side-walk and noticed the real wood - cedar - Venetian blinds. The cotton tapes had sun-rotted in places and some of the louvres sloped at a rakish angle. As a child these blinds - always darkening the room - spoke of mystery, affluence and decadence. I remember rubbing the cedar between thumb and forefinger to release some of the pungent aroma before being shouted at to get away from the window (why?). It was a special room - a rare room, a sort of Sunday-only-parlour. I had to be "especially good" to be allowed in to see its treasures: The framed giant moths and iridescent butterflies Norman claimed to have netted in the jungles of Borneo and the Amazon; The two chests of wide, shallow drawers, one of eggs - all in clutches, with English and Latin, in italics, names and where and when collected. The other chest was full of butterflies - 'But why so many duplicates?' "They're all different, Boy, all different." But so are snowflakes. But I was mesmerised and would let anything - any thing - happen just so I'd be afforded the special favour of looking at his egg collection.
I turned the brass button of the mechanical door bell. It, too, sounded sort of flat, off key and old - as I expected Norman to be. Would he remember me, or deny anything happened? I knew this would be the ultimate insult - along with claiming that I enjoyed it, after all, you came back for more didn't you! But it was something for which I had prepared myself. After all, I wasn't there for him. I was there for me. Not to offer forgiveness - I remain to be convinced that it is within the human psyche to ever be able to truly forgive until complete healing and restoration takes place - an oxymoron if ever there was one.
Would he do as he had done nearly 30 years before? Deny me entry via the front door? Sending me, instead, round the back lane and in the back gate. I didn't understand then. I knew I didn't like it - I had the choice of the shorter route that took me past my grandparents' house or a much longer one with less chance of being spotted. It was all so furtive. He'd come out into the street at the front and shout after me, telling me to go away. How different when we were alone!
I turned the bell button again. He might use a walker now and be slow on his feet. I checked the street - no curtains twitching today. The street had shrunk so much since the 12 year old me had left it. And so many more cars parked up, too. I left an excessive amount of time - giving him every chance to get to the door.
Who would inherit when he went? What were my chances of being included in the will - after all, look how I've been affected by what he did to me? For the first time it occurred to me "How many others?" Did he get his comeuppance at all - from anyone?
Still, curious more than annoyed or deflated, I descended the steps and went next door. A few moments later I found myself asking the neighbour what had happened to the old boy next door. Slightly suspicious, I was told Norman had died 18 months before.
A response I hadn't anticipated - I'm not sure why. Maybe because I was expecting more: Maybe closure: Maybe recompense: Maybe even gratitude that I'd never told.
Above all - I wanted him to know that I now know that what he did to me was wrong. I didn't know it then: then it was my fault. The fact that I liked the attention he gave me - that my parents never could. My mother frequently told folk I was a perfect child. What 10 year old boys go and have a bath first time they are told and go through a thorough wash routine that is guaranteed to pass any inspection? Answer: The ones who don't want to have to explain to his mother how he got those beard scratches on his lower abdomen and down his back.
Norman had never owned his house - the leasehold was soon to expire and it would revert back to the Freeholder. Norman had relatives living near Southampton, not sure who or where. Did they know about Norman and boys - well at least one anyway? Did the neighbour know? I never did explain how I knew Norman those years before. Why spoil someone else's memories? Sure maybe I could have found out more - but for what? More pain for questionable gain.
So, I've been left to my nightmares, my isolation and loneliness, and my sense of lack of justice - sure, I know that God never sleeps. If I'd ever have told my grandad he'd have assured me that there is a special - extra hot - place in hell for people like Norman.