Call Me:

On the 4th of July, 1989, I was raped by my uncle and his friend at our family home while my parents were in another city. I was thirteen years old. My uncle called me into his study, where he sat smoking cigarettes with his tall friend, somebody I will call Mr. G. They stood next to each other, next to the book shelves where my grandfather used to keep his collections of Farsi literature. Though large chunks of the incident have slipped from my mind, I recall the books, their spines assorted unevenly along the length of each shelf. Dull books made duller still by the settling smoke. It was a very hot day and they offered me chilled Pepsi in a glass bottle. I gulped much of it down, and listened in to their conversation about somebody’s new car. I must have fainted soon after. The rest of the memories are unclear, too vague, like bits of a broken dream. When I regained consciousness fully, it was about 2 am and I was in my bed. Mr. G stood over me with a glass of water, and told me I’d fainted because of the heat. I was in pain. I had high fever for the next two days, and when my parents returned they were told the same thing. That the heat had been too much for me. It was repeated so often, that I began to believe it myself. It was not until a few weeks later, that I began to make sense of things, though I was far too naïve to actually know what had happened. Still, there was the pain, the ache, the strange fear washing over me every time I entered the study. The taste of stale Pepsi was almost always in my mouth. Instinctively, I began to see that something very bad had happened to me. My body, it seemed, remembered the things my mind had forgotten, and I would leave the room in a panic, with my skin chilled and damp in the heat. I would wake up in the middle of the night, trying to understand the faraway flashes of what happened on that hot afternoon. Mr. G’s face would often flash before me, his wiry moustache and the black freckles on either side of his nose.

Years later, I understood. I never ran into Mr. G again. God knows what has become of him. But I saw my uncle get married to a beautiful, decent woman, have children, give out eidi every year, teach his wife how to drive in our driveway. I saw him at my birthdays, at family dinners, sitting next to my father, sometimes their knees touching as they sat side by side on the small two-seater sofa in my parents’ living room. I was present when he handed us a box of luddoos to celebrate the birth of his first son. I was the only one at home when he came by and as he handed me the box expressing his delight, I remembered. He smiled and patted me on the head and I stood there, unable to move, unable to breathe. When I read about terrible incidents of rape and child molestation in the news these days, I always remember the room where I was raped. It was such a safe place, so private, so quiet and dignified. I had spent so many days there before that terrible afternoon, with my uncle, with a man I grew up trusting and laughing with. It makes me think, now that I have children of my own, about how safe they really are. And I know that they are not. There are monsters around us, dressed as ordinary men, and we must beware, as parents and caretakers. We must not trust anybody with our children beyond a point. Perhaps this will sound paranoid to some people, but I have caught a glimpse of just how twisted the world can be. I was just a child, and I was so ashamed that I’ve been silent for 25 years. Well, no more.