|Rebecca Nestor pulls us gently through dreams and reality, childhood and adulthood. As she comes to terms with a momentous move away from where she grew up and where she suffered abuse as a child, childhood sexual violence evolves into adult healing and strength. With gentleness lent to the bruises within nature–and the bruises within herself–Nestor emerges with forgiveness and validation onto a path forward.|
by Rebecca Nestor
I had killed it with a boulder, a quick and hopefully painless death but, not without gore. I remember the blood splattering the cement and rocks under the stairs and the smell of copper and shit filling my nostrils. The next reaction was immediate as I doubled over emptying the contents of my stomach on the crimson splattered rocks. I had told myself that it would starve to death without my mercy killing, a slow and agonizing way to die. I also know that mercy wasn’t what drove me but instead that a small morbid part of my eight-year-old brain was curious mixed with something else I couldn’t identify, and curiosity killed… well, the bird with a broken wing in this case.
Eighteen years later…
On my last day in Oregon I watched the setting sun cast oblong orange patches on the walls. These were interrupted by the long finger-like shadows of swaying branches in the summer breeze outside. I thought of all the things I was leaving behind. This time tomorrow I would be three thousand miles away from my friends, my family, and him. Maybe then I could finally breathe, maybe then I could stop watching my back. The thought of being free was so unreal that I found myself listening intently in the silence for the voices of doctors and loved ones, sure that I must be having some sort of vivid coma dream. I only heard the murmur of car engines and the soft clack of tires hitting the potholes on the road outside the cracked window. I am not sure when I finally fell asleep, but it was long after all the shadows melted together shrouding the room in the satin curtain of nightfall. I dreamt of Cape Arago…
I stood on a cliff overlooking the icy Oregon ocean. Enormous waves battered jagged rocks below, splashing freezing water thirty feet into the sky and leaving a fine mist of salty sea water hanging in the air. Gulls circled the dull grey horizon squawking a piercing warning cry. I knew I must jump, but I did not know why. With a great sense of trepidation, I leaped but instead of being swallowed by the waves below I soared above the ocean. I flew until the sea grew calm and the fog parted to reveal the sunset. The sun was wounded, surrounded by bruises of purple and red. How brave she is to rise every morning as if it will not happen again and again. Then I dove beneath the water and it was dark and warm. I felt safe and didn’t want to leave, but my instincts told me it was time to go. I swarm to the surface, birthed by the vast ocean into a bright new world.
It was still dark outside when I woke from my dream. Moonlight poured in through the blinds. The branches outside still swayed quietly in the wind and I could hear the soft chirping of a few lonely crickets I lay there in the stillness for a while. My mind whirled in anticipation of the journey ahead. Moving away from my childhood abuser was bringing forth emotions I would have to face head on. Thinking of the trauma felt strange sometimes like it was something separate from myself, something I experienced in a past life. Other times, however, I could still feel his hands on me and the red-hot shame would come creeping back. On those days I would jump at every sound and flinch at every movement. Years later in therapy I learned that this is called Complex PTSD. A few years after that I remorsefully brought up the incident with the bird in order to explain that maybe everything was my fault, maybe I was the one who was sick after all? The therapist patiently explained that it was a terrible deed done for the need to feel in control again. Children who go through ongoing trauma sometimes turn to less than appealing way to regain a modicum of control. Even still, it took me a long time to accept that I was not a monster, just a child who, not knowing how to express the emotional turmoil beneath the surface, had done a monstrous thing and had never done anything of the sort again.
I now recalled my dream of the sunset. Always believing that dreams hold the key to our subconscious, I was not so dense as to not see the parallel between myself and the wounded sun. Every morning the sun rises with the solitary goal of bringing light into the world regardless of her circumstances. I wondered if she, in all her ancient wisdom, knew the bravery it takes to perform such a selfless act. Perhaps then the dream was an omen, one that granted me the selfassurance that I could harness some of that solar power in myself with this move.
Rebecca Nestor Double majored in Psychology and Creative writing at Southwestern Oregon Community College. She has a passion for creating stories that are deeply personal, yet entirely relatable. Her work has appeared in Levitate, Red Weather, and Rue Scribe.