Joe

MC Easton

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder. Why him?

Why do we gather, like moths, around the flame of one life and overlook the garden of lights all around us? Why, when I was sure I wanted to die, did I write to Joe?

One afternoon, slumped against my mattress, my legs tucked against the carpet, I was reading Villette by Charlotte Brontë, a novel about a woman who isn’t sure she believes in happiness but cannot bring herself to commit suicide.

“Certainly, at some hour, though perhaps not your hour, the waiting waters will stir; in some shape, though not perhaps the shape you dreamed, which your heart loved, and for which it bled, the healing herald will descend.”

I read the passage over and over, thinking only of him.

Of Joe.

I thought of Joe M. so hard that finally, I started writing. I wrote him an email…

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When Death Seems Best

MC Easton

After losing god, my community, and my reputation, I now also faced the prospect of losing my family. To leave the Mormon church is not a small thing. Many of us who leave, leave with nothing. Not our friends. Not our family.

I simply was not ready for this final loss.

You might think that walking away from an abusive family is easy. It sure is sensible. But they were all the family I had, and I loved them. I had hope for us. But I also could not go on pretending I was still Mormon, pretending that I still believed. The tension between the truth and the risk of all that might happen if I told it was unbearable.

Caught between two impossible choices, something unsurprising happened. I developed severe depression, and I became suicidal.

I did try to tell my friends about my father’s abuse, about the loss…

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The End of Faith

MC Easton

Faith, the people who have it will tell you, can get you through anything. And that is so. But the loss of it can take from you everything you have left.

I’d had a complicated relationship with God since I was 12. Ever since I invoked Mormon norms of fatherly conduct and my father beat me for it, I had held God accountable for the miseries—big and small—that crossed my path. Foul weather on the day of a picnic. The debilitating cramps of my menstrual period. The weakness of my joints. The temper of my father. It had felt, at times, that it wasn’t my father taking revenge upon me—but God. Punishing me for the audacity of wanting happiness.

But then there were times when I felt miraculously clear-headed in the face of my father’s cruelty, times when I spoke of charity and justice before congregations—and I knew God was…

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Diana

MC Easton

When I entered therapy at age 32, I learned the first task for the trauma survivor is to establish a sense of safety. Healing cannot begin until an inner sanctuary is established, one where gradually the survivor begins to distinguish between past and present, between safety and danger.

“When was a time you felt safe?” My therapist asked.

I stared at her blankly. A time? I couldn’t think of a whole period. Moments, sure. There had been a moment in a guest room at a university. A hotel room on Whidbey Island when I was 20. All of them had been moments when I was alone.

“How about this,” she tried again. “There must have been a person. Someone with whom you felt safe.”

I flipped through the Rolodex of memory, searching for a face back in the darkness, someone who had been a source of comfort. Someone whose soul…

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Another Aftermath

MC Easton

Joe isn’t done with me yet. He and Laura have been best friends for years, and they decide it will be good for me to talk with him on the phone regularly. I don’t know what his girlfriend thinks about this, but she apparently doesn’t get a vote. Neither do I. My stomach clenches every time a boy’s voice on the line says, “Hey! It’s Joe.”

It never occurs to me to tell Laura what he did because it never occurs to me that she will believe me or, if she does, that she will see it as a problem. I imagine what she would say. So what? He was just having fun.

They are big into fun, these two. They think I should be having more fun. They tell me that of course the calls with Joe are fun, so my phone rings for weeks, maybe a month or…

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The Third Assault

MC Easton

All children are curious about sex. But teenagers are downright thirsty for it. I’m 16, and I may be Mormon, with big glasses and ankle-length skirts and hair down to my waist. But I’m no different. At church, in my Young Women’s class, a teacher asks, “And why should we wait to have sex until we are married?”

One of my classmates, a confident and intelligent young woman named Rosene, raises her hand. She wants to be a physical therapist and is going away to college in two years. She always seems to know just what to say. The teacher calls on her. She answers, “Because that way, if our husband is really bad it, we’ll never know because we’ll have nothing else to compare it to.”

This seems like a really, really bad idea. What if you both strip off all your clothes, and he has a huge cyst…

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An Abuse of Power

MC Easton

I haven’t told you this yet, but when I was six and my parents were shopping around for lessons, it was a tossup between ballet or karate. I mean, I’d watched The Karate Kid, and I was hooked. I wanted my own training montage of kicks against a blood-red sunset. Yes, please.

I asked my father to go with me to check out a dojo, and he refused. You’ll see people bleed, he told me. You won’t like it.

Please.I just want to look.

No.

So, it was ballet.

But when I am 16, my father has put ballet behind me. I dream of it on the nights when I don’t dream of Kitty, who died last year. In my dreams, I walk into a studio and grip the barre and know I have come home. In my dreams, there is always a way back.

Waking up hurts…

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