She couldn’t help but remember some ugly childhood memories that she thought she had already forgotten. She’s 37 now and it must have been 33 years ago when the incidents took place. All of a sudden, she recalled everything vividly like they just happened yesterday. Surprisingly, the two scenarios involved a certain man called Occa, one of their neighbors at their old house in Manila.
The memories shook her so hard that she just started crying. Wrath enveloped her, wishing the man and his sons dead. “Why men like him had to live and were even allowed to have a family of their own is beyond me!” she thought indignantly. Being a Christian, she knew that she’s not in the position to question God’s purposes and it’s wrong to wish for someone to die, but she did it anyway. If cancer was only up to stage 4, she hoped that they would all die of cancer in stage 10 or so.
She realized that she has never openly talked about one of the incidents–the more gruesome one–to anyone, even to her closest friends, relatives, or husband. She simply couldn’t bring herself to talk about it openly. Nevertheless, things suddenly became crystal clear to her. She realized why she’s overprotective of her daughters, why she does not easily trust male kids and adults around her children, why she’s probably not friendly with their male neighbors, why she commends her children for being assertive, especially around individuals who are rather rude and insensitive regardless of age, why she would love her children to learn and be adept at martial arts, and so on.
“Did I ever blame my parents and my big brothers for not being there to protect me? Did I ever hate my mother for allowing me to play with those boys, trusting that they would act innocent, loving, and childlike around me? Did I ever hate myself for being afraid and defenseless? I don’t know. Maybe. But if yes, was that part of the reason I cried so hard when I met a 10-year old girl who was kidnapped and raped numerous times by a jeepney driver? Was that why rape stories haunt me so much, both in my waking hours and in my sleep that I finally stopped watching the news on TV?” Her string of seemingly endless questions finally ended, exhausting her more.
No, she did not get raped. But she got so close to being raped by a brood of four or five boys, who were just a little older than her, most of them taller, heavier, or both than herself. Worse, their father allowed things to happen in his presence, even as he saw her teary-eyed, resisting and pushing away his sons’ prying hands beneath her dress, trying to remove her underwear, touching her all over as they grinned like jackals. In her small voice, she begged them to stop and let her go home.
In her young mind, she acknowledged that she couldn’t just get out of the house because they had ferocious dogs guarding the door. Ironically, she also needed them to guide and protect her, at least from another form of beast. She didn’t bother to shout, both fearing the worst and thinking it would be futile, since most of the windows were closed and her mother must be inside the house, three buildings away.
Finally, as if hearing her thoughts, her mother called and they reluctantly let her go. She ran to her and hugged her tight as soon as she saw her. She has never been more grateful to see her in all her life, and she basked in the afternoon sunlight. Her mother must have sensed that something was wrong; she asked if everything was alright. Trying hard not to cry, she didn’t speak but simply shook her head from side to side, forcing a smile and skipping beside her so she wouldn’t see the truth in her eyes.
In her mind, she could see Occa looking more sinister than ever. She was afraid that he would hurt her and her mother, especially that they were often left alone in the house. (Or rather, she was often left alone in the house.) She realized now that her reaction then was not common to other girls her age, who would have probably bawled to get the help and attention they needed when they felt they were in danger. Why she was different, she couldn’t tell and it was like a puzzle that she tried to solve while growing up, still trying to solve now that she is already a mom and has little girls of her own.
She thought it would be fun to have new friends, male friends. She only had one female friend to play with and a walking doll. She was always left at home, alone with toys and books, while her big brothers and sister went to school and her parents worked all day. She tried to recall how she got there in the first place.
Those boys’ house had always looked mysterious to her and she was curious what’s inside. Her mother wasn’t exactly friendly with those kids’ parents, but that day, she seemed to have a change of heart and allowed her to go with her new playmates, who also seldom went out to play. They were aware of each other, but never got the chance to meet and play until that day.
It was all her fault, she remembered, and chastised herself. She insisted to come up to their house and continue to play with them. They seemed nice, after all. To her surprise, her mother easily relented. Now she wished it didn’t happen. She wished she had been content with the only friend she got and the games they played. There was nothing mysterious about the place, after all. It seemed dark outside because darkness lurked inside, not only in the physical abode, but also in the hearts of the people living there. She realized that now.
She remembered seeing the boys’ mother as she entered the house, but she did not seem to see her at all. Or perhaps, she simply chose to ignore her. How a woman could have done so and even raised a nasty brood of vipers for sons is totally incomprehensible to her. She wondered if she’s still alive.
“I doubt if she ever found joy or peace in her lifetime, in the company of his monstrous husband, who took away my first puppy and allowed his sons to try and take away my innocence, too. I bet he raped her and she had no choice but to agree to be his wife, then he kept her locked up!” That was the only time she saw her. She never even heard her voice, she recalled.
Suddenly, she just hated them to the core of her being and wished them death in the slowest, most painful way. They, along with all the child molesters, rapists, and pedophiles as well as their family and friends and the authorities who do nothing to keep them from hurting and violating other people. She hates them all.
Now she understands the deeper reason she’s always praying to God to never allow any such men to come near her daughters. Like a mama bear protecting her cubs, there’s no question in her mind that she’s capable of hurting, even killing, anyone that would get near and try to harm her precious cubs.
Once more, she had to remind herself that she’s a child of God and vengeance is His.