*Editor’s note: This story discusses sexual assault.
The “spring is in the air” giddiness that infects everyone this time of year is sadly a trigger for me.
I am taken to a dark place that belies the warmer weather and budding new growth.
It was one of those bluebird sky, warm gentle breeze kind of mornings that held the promise of a perfect spring day. It happened over 45 years ago and I can still picture every detail.
I wore a cotton sundress in my favorite color at the time, a bright fuchsia, with little shoulder straps and a flowy skirt that matched my carefree mood.
My husband was stationed with the Air Force in Germany and I and my young daughter were living with my mom in Southeast Texas. I worked a part time job—Sunday’s only—at a small apartment complex as the front office receptionist.
My ride to work dropped me off at the little cafe across from the complex. I grabbed a danish and a cup of coffee and practically skipped across the street to my office. I smiled at others who passed me. Everyone seemed to be out celebrating the coming of warmer weather and the freedom to be outside to enjoy it.
I settled in at my desk, grateful for the large bay windows overlooking the courtyard, which allowed me to continue enjoying the sunshine and the newly bloomed daffodils.
It was an absolutely perfect day.
Until it wasn’t.
He walked in the front door.
He might have been a little older than me. It was hard to tell. He was dressed in neatly pressed jeans and a plaid, long sleeve shirt that seemed a little more wintery than the day required. He wore sunglasses that he did not remove as the door closed behind him.
He smiled pleasantly as he explained his visit. New to town and having just started a brand new job, he wondered if we had an available apartment he could look at.
I smiled back and told him he was in luck, that we did have one that had just come up and was ready to lease.
I grabbed the keys, placed the “be right back” sign on the front door, and pointed the way.
We chatted pleasantly as we walked down the sidewalk. He was excited about his new job and a new beginning and hoped this apartment would be his new home. I shared some restaurants and other attractions that were nearby in hopes he would find the neighborhood appealing.
I will spare you most of the details of what occurred once we entered the empty apartment, except to say I could still hear the birds singing their cheerful songs as I slipped into the darkest day of my life.
When the police arrived and details were shared with them, they told me I was a lucky young lady. If it was the same man they thought it might be, he had not spared his other victims.
I remember asking him to please not kill me because I had a beautiful baby girl at home who needed me because her dad was away in the service.
I am not sure if it was my baby girl or my military husband that pierced through his anger and kept him from his final act of violence toward me, but whatever the reason was, and although I was grateful for my life, I did not feel lucky.
That day changed me in ways that, over 40 years later, I am just beginning to understand.
I have come to realize that without ever being aware of it, I have lived the rest of my life in fight or flight mode.
I have been completely unable to form any kind of emotional bond with the men that have passed through my life.
I am unable to trust on any level that could result in true intimacy.
I am sure that although there were other circumstances as well, the failures of my two marriages can be attributed to that day and the psychological scars that hid just below the surface.
As I sit here, trying to tell my story, the urge to throw my device across the room, close the curtains, and crawl under the covers is overwhelming.
But I know I have to bring it into the light.
I have to take these life-shattering memories by the hand and walk them out into this beautiful spring day that is so much like that fateful day so many years ago.
I have to lift my face toward the warm sunlight and show those memories that a lot of good has happened since that day.
My young daughter grew into a strong, successful woman, who I couldn’t be prouder of.
I have had a full life of good friends and travel and adventure and now grandkids to spoil and cherish.
And I have my words. Magic words that will heal me if I share them with others. And my words give me hope.
There is still time to learn to trust others and, mostly, to trust myself.
And I trust that these words will touch your heart and lead you and your buried memories into the sunlight and toward your own healing journey.
Maybe I am a little lucky after all.