Through the boxes

Feb 3, 2020

I had a strange thing happen when I was very young, when I was about … I wasn’t even 10. This was in Jackson Heights and they were ripping up all of the old places where we had these fantastic yards to play in. And so they were deciding they didn’t need that any longer, and so … But all the boxes were coming in, because there were the first refrigerators for the entire block in Jackson Heights. Suddenly, they were all delivered on the same day. And so, as you can imagine, it was heaven for the children, because there’s all these boxes and you’re climbing around and climbing around. And as usual, I was not used to thinking about time. And so I was … My sense is I was five. It was in that area. My mother always let me out, because I always came home. But I was in these tunnels that the kids had actually just done the way … What kind of creature would do that? Anyhow, there were tunnels, through the boxes.

And I must have stayed too long, so it was just me in there, and then this boy who was much older than me. He was, I think, 12, and I was about five, five-ish. So what happened was nothing, in a sense. We just were climbing through these little hallways we’d made and we didn’t realize how dark it was getting. And anyhow, this young man was looking around, just was looking. I think he was curious of what a young girl looked like. I didn’t have any sense of fear in terms of that, but I knew that it wasn’t the right thing to do, and I didn’t know what to do about it, so I shut up. And he just looked at me from afar. It wasn’t anything that was terrible or … Although, it was frightening. And then when I came back, I started feeling guilty, because I thought, “I have to tell Mommy about this, because I’m not supposed to do these things.” And it was just, I felt like I was betraying somebody by doing it. And actually I was, because this was a kid who was just very naive, and wanted to look at somebody, but I shouldn’t have been there.

He asked me if he could touch me. Yes. And of course, that put me into terror. And I kind of overreacted. As I said, nothing even got done. It was about … It was beginning to do. And for years, I felt guilty about it, because I felt I betrayed him, because he hadn’t done anything really wrong. And then when I went to … I went to my mother afterward and confessed the whole … and of course, when you confess to your mother these kinds of things, they want everything, including the things that never even happened. They’re like a … My mother was hysterical and it infected us. Because he lived in the apartment above us.

He was 12. So he was much older. And you know what? There was a knowing in me that there was a wrongness done, because of me not being able to be … able to say, “No Mommy, this didn’t … ” But the thing is, I have to say, this just upset me all my life, so I don’t know why it was … because it just was a sense of guilt that I had done something I should not have done, but why would I … but it was tough for me. I don’t know how to … And I did talk to my mother, and my mother went up and told Mrs. Wiseman about what happened, and she wouldn’t let me play with him, and my mother wouldn’t let me play with him. So that’s how they just did it. But it was a sense of that I had done something wrong, when in fact, if you look at the facts, nothing was done wrong.

It wasn’t my fault. But it wasn’t his fault either. I guess that’s what I’m saying, that he asked me something politely. He wanted to look at my underpants. And that, of course, puts you into high terror. But my memory is very strong that he had no intention of doing anything that we would call, quote, “bad.” And so that … It made me realize how when you’re not clear about things, and when you’re in with people who, especially my mother, who would always get hysterical, that was her first reaction on any situation. It made me realize how I had done something that made him be a bit ostracized, and that I for years thought about that, because it somehow did bother my conscience. And I was glad I had that conscience. I was glad that I … maybe I was being myself, overly sensitive. But I’m glad, because if that had happened to any of my kids later on, I would have been very upset. So that’s it.

Yeah, I had the instinct to protect myself, I did. Well, my mother was really a nutcase, and that kind of that, and she was always saying I was going to get killed by this and that and the other thing. So, in part, it was her hyperawareness.

This was years ago. Years ago. It would never have happened, even 10 years later, because by then, the culture had changed in that way. In certain ways, ironically, just making people all feel too guilty about everything.