On this trip in the snow storm – which included a night dressed in the wrong clothes I’d brought from the city, moving by moonlight, 30 degrees below freezing, a foot of loose snow everywhere – through all those old scenes – the staid, formal summer houses where I and some kids I knew back then seemed the only inhabitants who could develop other lives – houses which seemed not quite right even back there in childhood when I did not even have words for what I feared, what seemed so possible, could happen in them.
On this trip now in what would be called middle age, a mission – save Lauryn! – this trip I was careful that no one in the family – not her mother, my aunt, to whom I did not speak and not anyone up here tied to family – making sure none of them know I am back here – back in this place –
Lauryn could be forty now. She was just as lithe and pretty as ever – still to all appearances an early twenty-something heart-breaker – and I knew how this had infuriated the family – my grandmother saying as if she cared when Lauryn was in her teens that she couldn’t see how anyone could be attracted to someone with that long straight hair that Lauryn seems to think is so wonderful – her mother saying years later, as if reporting something horrible, “She just looks the way she’s always looked. It makes me so mad. Her mother, my Aunt Alice, to whom it was becoming clear I had been too close in that dark past – her mother whom I recently learned had been in stiff, sexual competition with my grandmother Nana, this grand dame who ran a house where no one mentioned love much less sex – Nana and my Aunt Alice there in the past competing for men who would be friends of my grandfather.
Here in the upstairs sports bar in this mill town a few miles and also light years away from the old summer houses – pool tables here and guys at the bar doing shots with chasers – Lauryn drank a lot, the drinks kept coming to our table now as she told me how it had been – beaten and molested form the age of 8 till 16 when her brother Lenny was killed – beaten and fucked from the moment she was large enough for the probing to become penetration –
Early this year, she said, she had been back visiting in Littleton at her mother's house along with her older brother Lawrence and his wife.They had all been watching a made-for-TV movie that turned out to be about a girl horribly molested by family, and Lauryn,as she told me now, "Just completely lost it. I started screaming. They were amazed." The story had gone around in the family - even I had heard it, though I had so little conscious contact with family - but the tellers implied that it was something that had happened only once, her brother Lenny molesting her just once, which to other members of the family made the story hard to hear but, it seemed, easy to dismiss. Lenny, after all, had been dead for more than twenty years.Lenny, after all, had, like, Lauryn, been adopted.
Telling me about the years of being beaten - "The marks were there on my back" - beaten and raped - telling it in the unlikely Clam Box’s unlikely upstairs sports bar – drinking faster and faster – getting younger and younger – and I knew there must be some very clear psychological explanation – that was also my explanation – for why now my favorite cousin would be getting more and more seductive. The looks. The conspiratorial giggles. The smiles and the laughs and the unconscious touch. Which I had to admit was still appealing, the way she was now, though not the least bit tempting. The fact that she was adopted – which some of them seemed to think meant she was not really family – still did not make the possibility seem any less like incest. Like in the deep past after a night we kissed – that was all but it was enough so that we, Lauryn my ally and I – the only ones, it seemed, who had lives beyond family – we both pretended we could not remember it.