Nikki and I often played make-believe behind her house. She lived on the edge of some wetlands at the bottom of the Old Smoke Road hill. We had been Jane Goodall in the Tanzanian jungle, wild horses and acrobats traveling with Ray Bradbury's Illustrated Man, sometimes all in one day. In the marsh one could not simply walk a straight line, but rather had to zigzag from grass-tuft to grass-tuft, traversing the tiny islands. We were in this stretch of woods one autumn afternoon when Nikki was reminded of a local news story. Had she overheard what her parents had watched, or did she sit with them during the broadcast? The latter situation would not surprise me. Nikki was curious, informed and therefore wise beyond her years, and even with such knowledge she was graceful. It seemed to me she knew how to digest the adult world early on.
Nikki enlightened me, nonchalantly. “A girl was raped in the woods in Connecticut.” We had been pretending we were pioneers exploring unknown territory, searching for a place to settle. “What does that mean, raped?”, my voice was light and high pitched. Nikki replied, “When a boy makes a girl have sex, but she doesn’t want to.” Heat hit my face in a rush of blood and I asked, “What does that mean, sex?”. “You don’t know?” she chirped, “How babies are made. A boy puts his dinky into a girls twinky.” We were still little girls after all.
The make believe world fell away. I witnessed a slow motion shock wave hit parallel panes of stained glass. Each place in the small wooded area was shattered. Each space behind a tree which had once held potential for magic, now held potential for fear. This new knowledge of sex and rape related to my own body but was also intertwined with Nikki and our location. I was in shock due to deception. How could this place just a few minutes earlier have epitomized security? So much so that that it was a security unaware of itself.
My blood rose to the skin’s surface. I moved out of my body, out of the present, into the future, and worry, and fear. And while I was there, the explorer’s tools, my curiosity and my muscles were kidnapped. When I shrunk back into myself there was a pressure, an awareness of my skin, and I knew I would never take up space like I had before, when limbs and wits swung carefree and confidently in the world.