Sweat pours from my body as I shoot up in bed, my tired mind still struggling to separate the images of the dream from reality. As I become aware of my surroundings, I realize that this damned cotton sheet is wrapped tightly around my body, and I move so quickly to untangle myself that I end up on the floor.
My mind is drawn back to the dream like a child drawn to the offered candy of a stranger. I see the images in my mind, playing out like a sick movie. Not for the first time I wonder what I ever did to deserve this, but I guess simply being born was enough.
Unable to stop myself, my mind journeys back, farther than the fragmented memories of a dream, back to the events that sparked them.
The thing I remember most is the feel of the sheets. I used to focus my mind on the feel of the sheets against my back, hoping against hope that if I focused enough of myself on the sheets, I wouldn't feel what he was doing to me. It never worked.
I don't remember the pain of it, but I do remember that pain of betrayal. I was seven, I knew what he was supposed to be. I knew what he was supposed to do, what he was supposed to think.
I remember going to church every Sunday with Mom and Zakk and thinking, 'How can he stand up there and tell us how to live when he does to me what he does?' Every Friday and Saturday night, when Mom went to some guy's house, and she dropped me and Zakk off next door I wonder if she knew what she was sentencing me to.
For a while, when I was seven, I thought that maybe he did it because he loved me. Every time, afterwards, he gently tucked the top sheet around my body. Without my nightgown on, I memorized the feel of the cotton against my front, as well trapped in his web. Trapped in his fabric. Trapped in him.
Then, of course, I realized that it wasn't love. No one could love someone and deliberately hurt them like he did me. Then I thought that maybe I did something to make him do that to me. I lived like that for years, even after we moved away. I think that's why I never told anyone.
I had never been more grateful to move then I was the month after I turned ten. We moved, and I never saw him again. I don't know what I would do if I did. Thing is, I may have never seen him again, but he never left my life, either. For more than ten years I lived with him, I slept with him every night, with the feel of cotton sheets around me.
I remember when I finally could afford my own apartment. It was a trashy little hole-in-the-wall bachelor pad. I had a mattress, and the first thing I bought, even before towels or dishes or anything, was satin sheets. For the first time I didn't have to sleep in terror. Until tonight.
Tonight, through a twist of fate I had to relive everything he did to me. I don't know why I kept these sheets, or even where I got them. All I know is that they have literally made me sick.
I stare at the sheets, another set dirty, and I know that I won't be going in to work later this morning. I set about cleaning the mess, and put these sheets in the hamper with my others, change my nightgown, then go to the linen closet and pull out the flannel sheets. I'll overheat, and be sick in the morning, but at least I won't be raped again in my dreams.
I can live through anything but that.
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