My Uncle and the Monk

Okay, so here it is.
Story time.
While this isn't the first time I have shared this,
It has been hard convincing myself to sit down and write.
Perhaps because saving something in print gives it a binding quality.
Or perhaps because I am afraid someone,
May recognise me, or himself, or a place.
Perhaps because someone will read it all wrong,
And I won’t be there to help them understand it the way I want it to be understood.

I hate putting myself in positions of vulnerability,
Even though, I know this kind of space is meant to be safe.
I have felt that way in the past and let go.
I have trusted those who I am expected to trust.
First, my uncle: the funny one.
Later, a monk.
And now, I can’t help but feel perhaps I’m better off not trusting anyone.
Why allow yourself to be a potential fool?

Others have been through a lot,
Which at times makes me feel silly for considering my story worth sharing.
I often feel like I don’t have the right to feel as affected as I do.
I wasn't that violated.
There was no violence.
No hands under clothing.
Just hands in places they shouldn’t have been.
On one breast.
Then the other.
Moist breathing near my ear.
Arms locking me in,
In a way that would have appeared to be a lover’s gesture of affection to a stranger walking by.
And then hands moving everywhere.
There was no resistance on my part.
How could there be?
I couldn't feel myself.
I couldn't find my hands.
I just kept waiting for the elevator to come to life.
I did not grieve when my uncle passed away last year.
The first thought that crossed my mind was that he couldn't hurt anyone anymore.
I had not been the first thing, you see.
He had attacked a maid who used to work for the family,
And there were other women.
Apparently, he had a reputation.
A reputation that my family had conveniently hidden from me.
One of those open secrets that everybody knows,
But no one talks about.
Well, I didn’t know,
And perhaps if I had,
I wouldn't have froze that afternoon in the elevator.

It took years before I stopped distancing myself from male friends.
For me to feel comfortable enough to hug my male relatives again,
Even my father.
It took years for me to stop freezing up every time anyone hugged me from behind.

And when I was eventually able to trust again,
I was betrayed again…
By a middle-aged monk named Butros.
How do you question a monk who says,
“Come here, my girl. Come sit on my lap.”
How do you differentiate between a fatherly and unfatherly kiss on the forehead?
When the kisses move to other parts of your face?
When the mouth opens up?
When hands slip down from the shoulders?
When half smiles are accompanied by closed eyes?
When arms lock you in and hold you down as you attempt to leave?
I don’t know.

I don’t hate either of them anymore.
But I still hate myself for trusting them.
For allowing them to fool me.

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