TAINTED SUNLIGHT, Sandra Rodriguez

He was tall- Strong. His hair was brown- Wavy and messy. His eyes were green- The kind of eyes that spoke to you without his lips saying a single word. His smile was blinding- Intoxicating. His shoulders were broad- Inviting. I fell in love with him the summer before I started high school. He was two years older than me, a friend of a friend’s. We met by chance, but became friends quickly. It was so easy falling for him, not that I ever intended to. He was sweet and kind- Funny. We spent hours on the phone. Countless summer days were spent by the pool, just talking. But friends was all we were, good friends, but friends none the less. I knew, even then, that I couldn’t tell him how I felt. At the time I was content just having him in my life, even if just as a friend.

I can’t lie and say it didn’t hurt to be just friends. I felt a stab in my heart every time he told me about the new girl he liked. It hurt to have him so close and yet so unattainable. Still, I decided having him in my life as a friend was better than not having him at all.
Being the good friends that we were, I was not surprised when he called me one rainy spring afternoon my sophomore year. “You have to come see my tree house,” he said, “I can’t believe you’ve never seen it.” I was always excited to hang out with him, and this time was no different. I was overjoyed, bouncing off the walls like a child on a sugar high. I know it sounds silly, a fifteen year old girl ecstatic over a tree house, but this wasn’t just any tree house- it was his tree house.

I tried to sound nonchalant as I mumbled, “Sure,” into the phone before rushing out the door and running to his house a block away. Once there, I rang the doorbell and tried to still my heart as I waited for him to open the door.

“That was quick,” he commented as he opened the door with a smile. He grabbed my hand to pull me inside. “Come on,” he said laughing. I couldn’t help but smile too. I remember wondering then, does he know?

He let my hand go when we reached the tree house. It was a tiny thing. To be honest, it didn’t even look that sturdy. There was a tiny ladder leading up to a small square hole in the floor of the tree house.

“I know it isn’t much,” he began, but I cut him off before he could say anymore.

“It’s awesome,” I was smiling like a fool, so happy to be standing at the foot of a tree house with the boy I loved. Not many girls were this lucky.

“Let’s go up,” he suggested. I should have said no. I should have gone home and finished my homework. I should have taken a second look at that tiny shack of a tree house and decided not to go up. I should have kindly smiled and said no. But I was young, I was in love, and I was naïve.

“Okay,” I said grabbing onto the ratty ladder to make my way up. Inside the tree house was small. The two of us hardly fit inside together. The only way we managed to fit was lying side by side, one side of his body touching one side of my mine. There was a small hole in the roof. I could see the clouds passing by through it.

“What do you think that cloud is shaped like?” He asked, taking a hold of my hand and casually playing with my fingers. My heart must have skipped a beat, maybe even a few. Again I thought- does he know? He must know.

“I don’t know,” I said nervously. I couldn’t focus on the shape of a cloud, not when he was holding my hand. No boy had ever held my hand before. No boy had ever laid this close to me. No boy had ever invited me to see his tree house. There were many firsts that day.

“I think it looks like a heart,” he replied, squeezing my hand. I giggled then, not because something was funny but because here I was lying next to the boy I loved with my hand in his looking at clouds and discerning shapes. He turned his head to mine and whispered, “You’re beautiful.”  His breath tickled my ear so I giggled again and looked at him.  It was then that he kissed me.  It was everything I thought my first kiss would be. Sweet, cute, romantic- Innocent.  He smiled as he pulled away.  I smiled too, from ear to ear.  Then he kissed me again, with more passion and vigor. His hand moved to the back of my head.

I was happy, but through my elated state I felt it- something was wrong. There was a tiny warning sign somewhere in the back of my head, at least I like to think there was. Something felt wrong. I put my hand up to his chest and pushed a little. “Maybe we should slow down,” I said softly, but there was something different in his eyes. Something wrong. He smiled, but it wasn’t the warm inviting smile from two minutes ago, the smile I had grown to love. It was cold, “Maybe we shouldn’t” was his reply.

I opened my mouth to protest but his mouth covered mine before I could utter a single syllable. His hand was still on the back of my head and he wrapped it in my hair. I couldn’t pull away from him. I tried to push him off, but he pushed my hand away. He was stronger than me. Before I could stop it he was on top of me.

“No.” It was the first word that came to my head and the only word I could fit in between his feverish kisses. “No, no, no,” I repeated with increasing volume.
“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered, but it sounded dirty- tainted.

He was touching me, his hands were everywhere. “No.” I was yelling now and my body started to catch up. I kicked. I threw punches. I was screaming now. He covered my mouth. “Be quiet. Isn’t this what you wanted?” he said. He was angry.  “No, no, no,” I said again, but I couldn’t lower my voice. I couldn’t stop yelling.

He didn’t like that, so he hit me- Hard. My head hit the wood. I felt him pull my pants down. He was trying to touch me and fumble with his pants. I tried one more time to fight, to kick, to harm, to escape his grasp, to scream, but it was useless. He hit me again, a fist to the side of the head.

I stopped fighting. I stopped kicking. I stopped screaming. I stopped breathing. I lay like a corpse with tears in my eyes looking through the small hole in the roof of the tree house.

There are some things you never forget. Some things don’t fade with time. Things like the smell of wood and sweat, mingling together. Or the feel of someone’s uninvited breath on your neck. Or even the sound of a spring time rain falling around you and squeaky wood. You don’t forget the way time slowed to a crawl. Or the thumping of one body against another. And certainly not the sun creeping in through tiny cracks and a small hole in the roof of a tree house to blind you. Images and sensations I could never erase, no matter how hard I tried.

When he finished, he sat up. Smiling. I still couldn’t move. He kissed my forehead. “That was fun, let’s do it again sometime.” He had to have noticed the tears rolling down my cheeks, my lack of movement, or even the slowness of my breath. It was hard to ignore, but he said nothing. He pulled his pants up and made his way down the ladder, “I’ll be right back,” he yelled.  I was sore aching and bloody. I wanted to crawl up into a ball and die right there in that tiny stupid tree house, but I didn’t. I found enough strength to pull my pants back up and get out of that tree house- fast. I didn’t know where he had gone, but I didn’t want to be there when he got back. Walking back through the house to leave was not an option, so I left through the side door, like a cheap whore.

When I got home I went straight to the bathroom to shower. I scrubbed every inch of body, every patch of skin he touched. I scrubbed until I was red, and still I felt dirty. I cried until there were no tears left to cry. Afterwards I went to my bed and just lay there, thinking.

I thought about going to the police. I could have told them what he did. He would deny it, of course, and say I had made it up. I couldn’t show them the pounding in my head from when he hit me, but I could show them the bruises he left on my arms and legs while he held me down. It would be a big scandal. But then I thought some more about it. I would have to tell more than one person. I would have to explain why I went into the tree house to begin with. I would have to tell a group of strangers that the boy I loved had ignored my tears and cries and done what he wanted with my body. And if it ever went to trial, it would be his word against mine. I would say yes and he would say no. I had just washed away any possible evidence in the shower. People would have to decide who was lying and who was telling the truth. I would have to tell more strangers what happened. What it would all boil down to was one simple thing- who had the more convincing story? And what if that wasn’t me? What if they believed him?

So I decided, that day while lying in bed, void of all emotion, that I would not tell anyone. I would not tell a room full of strangers, I would not tell friends, I would not tell relatives, I would not tell. And I never did. I never went to the police, or a friend, or a relative. I never told anyone.

Now, some seventy years later, I still have not told anyone about that day. Not my parents, not my husband, not a close friend, no one. I alone bare my secret. The only time I came close to telling someone was when my husband proposed to me, but I never went through with it. The truth is, by the time he proposed, I had buried the memory and the regrets. The regrets had taken with them the midnight crying fits and the fear of tree houses. I was no longer visibly damaged.

My husband’s recent death, however, has awakened in me a need to tell someone. I still can’t talk to anyone about it, not that I really have anyone to talk to. Justice is not what I seek. I long ago gave up the hope that somehow, someway, justice would be served to me. No, I merely want to unburden by myself before my eventual passing. I want to die, alone in my bed, knowing that someone out there knows that sweet boys can turn into monsters in an instant. I think that will give me peace of mind, if nothing else.

Before I go, I will say this. There is one thing that still strikes fear in my heart. One thing that still steals my breath and leaves me cold. I could never escape the memory completely; time doesn’t help with that. The glint of sunlight in my eye blinding me momentarily never fails to quicken my heartbeat and bring tears to my eyes. It is the one thing that brings to life the memory of that rainy spring day. That momentary blindness makes me feel so… helpless. Most people find happiness in sunlight, but I find it is a constant reminder that some monsters steal innocence in a tiny tree house in the middle of the day.

Natalie

11 comments on “TAINTED SUNLIGHT, Sandra Rodriguez

  1. Maria Angelica Yuney says:

    Maria Salgado
    Yuney Solorzano
    Angelica Mendoza

    This was a group assignment in REA0017.
    Write 1 paragraph (at least 15 sentences) reaction to the piece, Describe what the piece made you feel, think, and connect to what would you say to Natalie?

    Dear Natalie:

    I am sorry for what happened to you. I know the situation was horrible. I can’t imagine how it would
    have been all those years without expressing those bad memories. My advice would have been
    that you probably would have felt closure a long time ago if you would have written this letter before. It could have helped to go speak to teenage girls about your experience how “some monsters steal innocence in a tiny tree house in the middle of the day.” Many girls are naive as you were at that age. Although the pain is horrible maybe this happened to help in similar situation. A few years ago I felt almost the same pain. The boy I was completely in love with took advantage of me too. I thought that he was sweet and would never have the courage to hurt a girl like that. I know the pain and how hard it is to talk to others about it. Though justice my not be served, I still help my friends with my experience to never go through the same pain. If I would have never told my story, maybe my other friends would have experienced the horrible pain that I once held like you. We appreciate that you told your story. It is never too late to let out those bad memories. I hope you are at ease now that you have let out your secret.

  2. carlos, irma, and erika says:

    As a group activity for professor Sendin’s class we had to discuss how we felt, connected, and what we would say to Natalie in regards of her untold story for so long. Here is our input.

    Dear friend,
    We are sorry for the way your innocence was taken from you. We wish you would have told us sooner. We always had two ears that didn’t hear enough of you, and two shoulders ready to absorb any of your tears. We are sure karma had a way of raping his pleasures in life. He persuaded you into believing that he was nothing but a friend yet he turned into a monster, he lured you in with his warmth although his touch was cold, and locked you in with his smile as his smirk took your smile away. His debt to you will be paid. In honor to you we will speak for you, we will find him and others; we will support the programs where women of all ages will not be afraid to seek justice. We really wish the steps of the tree house would have broken that day and the fall would have made you go home. Natalie we celebrate how forward you took your life, and how you were able to love again. Time does heal all wounds; unfortunately we don’t have enough time for some wounds to heal.

    Sincerely,
    Carlos, Irma, and Erika

    • URBANA v5 says:

      To Carlos, Irma and Erika:

      I like the approach about supporting “the programs where women of all ages will not be afraid of justice;” it’s powerful and says alot – that Natalie was more afraid of the authorities and how people would treat her than the monster himself. Interesting.

      • Reynaldo Meza says:

        Dear friend: lo siento mucho por tan dolorosa experiencia que has tenido y quisiera que busques ayuda profesional. Absorvistes esta horrenda experiencia y hoy dia ya estas dando los primeros pasos para aliviar tu alma y cuerpo. Muchas victimas piensan que ellas han tenido parte de la culpa por haber ido a un lugar indebido; pero ese monstro era tu amigo y tu amor platonico. Tuvistes miedo de decirles a otras personas lo que te paso, tuvistes miedo de llevarlo a la corte; por temer que fuera su voz contra la tuya. Tu amastes a esta fiera que no quiso oir tu “NO!” Tu has seguido con tu vida llevando acuestas tanto dolor y sufrimiento; aunque te hayas casado y seguido con tu vida, esto en alguna forma ha sido una barrera en tu felicidad. Que Dios te bendiga y proteja siempre y te de fuerzas para seguir adelante. Tienes un gran espiritu fuerte y puro por que esta mala experiencia no dejo que te hayas formado un hogar.

        Reynaldo Meza

  3. Veronica Alvarez says:

    After we read the piece you have written, we would like to tell you something.
    From Veronica, Bernice and Carmen:
    Dear Natalie:
    The piece you wrote made us go through some of the same emotions you went through that day because of the way you described the events leading to what happened. As you explained, the boy you were in love with at the beginning we remember our youth because when people are young they only see virtues in the person they love. Some people are only interested in physical appearance. But, often remember a pretty appearance does not necessarily mean that the person is beautiful inside. Everyone has different healing time and ways to deal with situations. You did not deal with yours until you wrote the story. It is always good to talk to people or write your feelings down because at some point you start finally fault in it. I would like to let you know that your story was painful but positive for yourself and others. People will read this and know they are not alone and understand everybody go through things and not to give up. We wonder how you lived all your life with that secret and if you were happy en your married life.
    Thanks and remember that is only our opinion.
    sincerely,
    Veronica, Bernice and Carmen.

  4. milena gras says:

    Dear Nathali
    Before we begin, we Adner Diaz, Milena Gras, and Mariarhenee Arias are part of a reading class at
    Miami Dade College Interamerican Campus with Professor Emily Sendin. We have read your story in class and are moved and completely taken aback. By writing this letter we want to express how sorry we are for what occurred to you. How can your innocence have gotten taken away in a way that you can never get back? Neither you nor anybody else deserves to be hurt and abused in such a way. The thought of occurring to us makes us feel bothered and disappointed. How can someone be so hurtful and not come to realize how bad they can hurt someone else’s feelings. Experiencing this unfortunate event has made you into a strong person. You have become strong enough to put your story out there for others to know that they are not alone. There are many people that this occurs to on the daily. Some people like yourself learn to cope with it and live your life in a way that you have accepted it. Some people cannot bear with this kind of pain and do the unthinkable to not have to anymore. We can’t even imagine what the healing process for something like this may be like, but you are looked upon for being able to express that unfortunate event in your life and tell it to lots of people. Every 2 minutes someone is sexually assaulted, those 2 minutes can change but most likely hurt someone for the rest of their lives. Thank you for sharing and moving us by your story.

    Sincerely,

    Adner Diaz, Milena Gras, and
    Mariarhenee Arias

  5. Scarlett Luna & Reinier Travieso says:

    This was an assignment that our Rea0017 teacher asked us to complete in class. We had to write a one paragraph reaction to the piece. Describe what the piece made you feel, think, and conncect to and what would we had said to Natalie.

    Sometimes dreams can turn into nightmares; they can be what you’re not expecting .I can imagine what you went through that day. It must have been a horrible feeling. When we read your piece, we felt sad, disgusted, and angry. How can your loving caring friend turn into this horrible monster and hurt you like that? As human beings we experience many things in life. Every action in life brings consequences and they can be either good or bad and leave us marked for the rest of our lives. We think you should’ve taken action and gone to somebody about it. Yes, we understand they you thought that they weren’t going to believe you but they would’ve taken action. We think that you would’ve prevented another incident like this from happening to another girl if you would’ve spoken up. Maybe he did it to someone else and got away with it because he got away with it with you. Regardless of the decision you made, we respect your feeling because you were the only one that felt the pain in the tree house. Many of us experience good and bad things in life, and we all decide what action to take. Unfortunately you had a bad experience and kept it a secret.

  6. Scarlett Luna & Reinier Travieso says:

    This was a group assignment in REA0017.
    Write 1 paragraph (at least 15 sentences) reaction to the piece, Describe what the piece made you feel, think, and connect to what would you say to Natalie?

    Sometimes dreams can turn into nightmares; they can be what you’re not expecting .I can imagine what you went through that day. It must have been a horrible feeling. When we read your piece, we felt sad, disgusted, and angry. How can your loving caring friend turn into this horrible monster and hurt you like that? As human beings we experience many things in life. Every action in life brings consequences and they can be either good or bad and leave us marked for the rest of our lives. We think you should’ve taken action and gone to somebody about it. Yes, we understand they you thought that they weren’t going to believe you but they would’ve taken action. We think that you would’ve prevented another incident like this from happening to another girl if you would’ve spoken up. Maybe he did it to someone else and got away with it because he got away with it with you. Regardless of the decision you made, we respect your feeling because you were the only one that felt the pain in the tree house. Many of us experience good and bad things in life, and we all decide what action to take. Unfortunately you had a bad experience and kept it a secret.

  7. javier perez says:

    This was an assignment that our Rea0017 teacher asked us to do. We had to write a one paragraph reaction to the piece. Describing what the piece made you feel, think, and conncect to and what would we had said to Natalie.

    Natalie:
    We don’t know what being raped must feel like. Hearing and visualizing the moment is difficult. Worst of all holding all this in without speaking is horrific. Honestly writing as men it’s a learning experience unlike no other with those vivid, graphic moments. On how such a nice guy can turn evil, promptly. Also as men we share the opposite sides of the tragedy. Still we have no sympathy for that man. However, being human, we can relate to both the physical and mental abuse. There is no way for us to actually imagine what you lived with. Its amazing reading that sanity was kept in your life; and you evolved into a wife. Although all this pain and suffering, we respect that you were able to overcome that tragedy. We appreciate your courage in sharing the story.

    Respectfully; Javier Perez, Miguel Miranda, Edward Dion

  8. natalie says:

    Dear, Natalie

    I am so sorry for the pain he caused you. I

    understand your feelings. I know that sometimes it’s

    hard to express such awful memories. There are

    such monsters That steal innocence and I still havn’t

    understood what runs through their minds. They gain

    your trust and spit it back at your face. Something

    similar happened to me. The difference is that it was

    a family member. It started when I was nine years

    old and ended when I was 15. I kept quiet and never

    told anyone. I blamed myself for years. It was not

    until I turned eighteen that I understood it wasn’t my

    fault and that I had to do something about it, but it

    was too late to tell the authorities, so I took out relief

    with my parents. I now know that if I would have

    spoken out earlier, all those years of abuse would

    have ended. To all those being abused by someone,

    don’t let fear interfere with the truth. Don’t be scared

    to speak out. Let’s stop rape/abuse before it’s too late.

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