159 – Cynthia

For years it was a shameful secret I could not remember. Back in the recesses of my memories it lingered. Waiting to be set free. My nightmare started when I was 5 years old, a priest came to live in my poor, dying of bone cancer maternal grandmother’s house. She resided in Spanish Harlem this was the mid 60’s. All I knew his name to be was Padre, meaning Father in English. He took an active interest in me. I appreciated the attention. My mother was gone from morning to night and sometimes days. My grandmother a good woman who prayed the rosary daily, was dying of bone cancer and in her own world of prayers, pain and caring for me and my infant brother. That was quite physically difficult for a dying woman to do. But she did it with much love and tenderness. Padre taught me to read and write. But during one of these sessions, he began to wander with his hands places he should not have gone. I saw a mask people wore, his was a mask of goodness, but he did good but just as much harm. I was immediately offered to go to 3rd grade in Hunter Elementary School. When the teacher wrote to my mother saying she had to speak with her. My mother immediately beat me that entire weekend. On Monday morning when my mother found it was to congratulate and promote me from 1st grade to 3rd. Also to switch me from PS108 in Manhattan to Hunter Elementary, she refused. Saying she was not going to waste no time waiting for a bus. At this time she was married to a man who had the same exact name as my father. He was a truck driver who drove me every morning in his truck to Manhattan so I could attend school. Padre was gone by that time but not the abuse he did. My mother sent me to summer in Jersey where (I found out as an adult my mother knew he was a pedophile) my Aunt and Uncle both now deceased watched me so my mother could work. My grandmother had it hard enough with her bone cancer pain to watch me full time during the summer months when school was out.

You could not believe my anger and shock when I found out from my mother that my Uncle Pete (Pedro) had chased after her and her cousin Stella as kids too! I could not comprehend why she would do that to me? She also refused to tell me Padre’s real name, saying what difference did it make he was an old man now? Also she didn’t care when my step-father’s touching my butt made me uncomfortable. He molested me one time and threatened me to not tell. I told him I could be trusted not to tell, cause he seemed rather menacing , I was really afraid he was going to hurt me to silence me from telling my mother back when I was 8 yrs old. I said I never told on the priest, I won’t tell. He became appalled that Padre had molested me and never bothered me again, as far as I can remember. I know his presence made me very uncomfortable and his smile seemed to me like he was leering. My mother got rid of me when I turned 14 yrs old and I had to live on the streets where I became further victimized. I still have not fully recovered. I was gang raped by my first boyfriend who was Persian, when I stopped dating him. I had forgotten about Padre at that time. Once I stood up for myself and said I didn’t want to date him or speak to him, he kidnapped me, threw me in the back of his friend’s brown two door car they called him Duck. That was in the 70’s and my mother again refused to press charges when the desk sergeant called her. At that time minors were not allowed to press charges, she told the Sergeant of the 47th Precinct that my boyfriend must have beat the shit out of me for refusing to give him sex. She produced a PINS warrant and had me placed temporarily in Spofford Youth Division in the Bronx. I was intermingling with juveniles accused of heinous crimes, but I was glad to not be at home with her. My father had tried to murder my mother who was then pregnant with my younger sibling. My father was kicking and punching her in her very protruding stomach. Yelling he was going to give her an abortion. I have no support system, not then or now. I live a celibate existence fearful of what I may discover if I get too close to a significant other for what I have seen was far from that happy gathering depicted on Norman Rockwell’s beloved American scenes. I could continue but I would be writing forever.

My name is Cynthia and the few remaining family members would be angry for me telling. But I must if it helps shield someone else and ends this cycle of sickness, secrecy and abuse.