Posted by vwoolf on September 10, 2004, at 14:22:25
There was a dream she often had when she was about five, which would wake her in breathless terror at night, a scary, sweaty, heart-stopping dream which would stay with her for days, clinging to her back like a monkey-shaped rucksack, peering over her shoulder, giving a little monkey-shaped wriggle and giggle every now and then, especially when she went to the park or at night when Daddy came home.
The children often used to play in the park, full of big trees and secret places and a big beautiful smooth pond covered with dark green lotus leaves and their rich, scented, yellow flowers. But the pond was treacherous, deep with unknown currents swirling beneath the smooth smiling surface which reflected the hazy tropical sun and flame trees all around.
Mummy had warned her: “Don’t go near the water, you might slip and the current will pull you down!”
“What was a Current?” she wondered. And then suddenly she knew. It was a giant octopus with long tentacles that would grab her and jerking pull her down, down, into the deep darkness where there was no air, no breath, no life, just a cold watery grave, with her hair and eyes and mouth and throat and stomach all awash. She wished the Current would hurry and let her drown soon, let her curl up and not be, not exist any more.
The park was no longer a place of joy to her. When she went there with her brothers she would lie on the smooth lawn at some distance from the pond and watch it. She was sure that if she watched carefully enough, sooner or later she would see the Current, catch a flash of a tentacle. Then her mother would believe her, instead of telling her to stop being a Booby.
“Booby, booby!” shouted the other children.
From time to time the water would ripple as if something was moving in the depths. But then it would pass and the sun would shine again.
There was another pond.
The bed, warm and big and comforting. Daddy inviting her in to snuggle and chat on a Sunday morning. Everyone else at Sunday school – why wasn’t she at Sunday school? And why doesn’t Daddy wear pajamas? He always walks around with the grey hair on his chest bristling and his “thing” dangling obscenely below his fat belly, from his bedroom through hers to go to the bathroom. An endless trickle flows and flows. And then back. And now cuddled in bed with him, with the morning sun shining through the curtains, dappling light onto the surface of the bed. A strong smell of beer and naked male flesh. He takes her hand and runs it through the grizzled hair on his chest as he tells her about the war, behind the lines. She wonders what the lines are. Washing lines? He tells her about the heat in the desert, when his testicles stuck to his leg. Testicles? Tentacles? And he takes her hand down, so that she can feel where they got stuck. There! And there! And then he puts her hand on his tentacle (is this a Current? – it feels like a tentacle but he calls it his “thing”) and jerks it up and down.
“Do you like this, sweetheart?”
How can she say no. She wants to run away to a safe distance where she can just watch for the ripples and maybe tell Mummy if she sees it again.
His hand strays into her pajamas. “Why don’t you take them off. It’s much nicer without them.”
She takes them off.
His hand slides down between her thighs. Touching her in those funny places. Pressing, fluttering, smoothing.
“Suck it for me, Sweetheart.”
And his hands pushing and pulling her down under the blankets, into the dark, and the tentacle has caught her and is pulling her down, and she can’t breathe and she feels as if she is drowning. She is awash with slimy fluid, her hair, and eyes and mouth and throat and stomach. There is a sick retching feeling at the top of her tummy. Oh Daddy. Please help me. Why have you forsaken me? Let me drown. Let me disappear. Take this away.
And suddenly it‘s over, and everyone is home and the Sunday falls back into its usual pattern of Sunday roast with roast potatoes and bullet peas to balance on the back of your fork, and then a long ramble in the bush with Mummy and the boys. She holds Mummy’s hand all the way, walking just one step behind her. “Mummy’s
Little Shadow”, as they call her.