• Variations on the Word Touch •
Once in grade 3 you tried to fake your own death thinking
Your mother might stop sending
You to your swimming lessons,
Where the instructor's hands supporting your belly slid up
Towards your still absent breasts. .
When a stranger's palm rub against your adolescent thighs,
You think perhaps the bus is too crowded. .
You stop going to parties after
That one time someone slipped a drug into your drink
And the next morning you woke up shivering –
Equally from cold as from shame –
In an alien bed.
And after the second date when with your high school sweetheart
Your best friend says, "Tell me everything!"
You tell her everything except
How his powerful grip against your waist
Inadvertently carried you to the summer of your fourteenth birthday,
When you woke up a little after midnight
To find yourself pinned under the weight of your uncle;
His rude fingers fondling your body.
For twenty long years you wrap your memories of touch
In a cloth reeking of fear.
Yours – when you heard a lawyer in a theatre ask the victim, "But did you enjoy it?"
Your family's – when they cruelly camouflaged abuse in forgetfulness.
Your neighbour's – who killed themselves on account of somebody else's savagery. .
An entire bedspread of fear
Hemmed at the sides with threads of silence.
As you replace the unfeeling blade by the bed slide
You think, this too is a variation on the word Touch.
Too often, too many children are sexually abused, harassed, molested; at home, or outside, in India and in rest of the world.
A few thoughts – sex abuse is not gendered; molestation should not be something that brings shame the victim; and to suppress an abuse is to perpetuate the crime.