Sometimes it's easier to pretend that nothing happened then face the consequences. Victims of abuse often say that they pretended to be asleep in hopes that the abuser would stop. Unfortunately, that doesn't usually work.
We had a family friend who had fallen on hard times who was living in a camper on our property. He seemed like a good enough guy and got along with everyone. I don't remember a lot about why he was there. He had very thick glasses and I remember thinking that his eyes were beautiful. I didn't even know about contacts back then but felt sad that no one could see how pretty his eyes were. I remember that he seemed to care about me. He was nice to me when my family wasn't. I wonder now if he somehow knew that I was already being abused by someone and figured I was an easy target.
Florida summers are hot. I remember a day when I was tired so I was lying on the floor, dozing in the heat in front of the television. I felt a hand touching me. I remember peeking out of one eye, being very still, pretending I was still asleep. I saw it was him. I feigned sleep, but my mind was screaming. I moved slightly and he jumped away. I yawned and stretched, opening my eyes. He'd moved completely across the room by then. I acted like that I didn't know what happened. I was very good at pretending by then.
He found me alone a few more times, each time getting a little bolder. The last time he touched me, I woke up to his body on mine. I was fully clothed, but he had lowered his pants and was sliding himself outside of my clothes. I think I was around 7 or 8 years old.
I found him in his camper and told him that I was going to tell. There were glow-in-the-dark posters on the walls, the kind that light up when you turn on a black light. I was staring at one when I said it, because I couldn't look at him. After I said what I did, I started to leave. He began crying and told me that if I told that he was going to kill himself. I looked at him and those beautiful eyes were full of tears. I saw that he had a gun. I could tell by looking at his face that he was completely ready to die. I could see the hatred that he had for himself so very clearly in his eyes.
I didn't tell.
I never knew what happened to him after that. I have lost a lot of memories from my childhood. I honestly can't remember if he was around much longer or where he went. I remember his first name and his beautiful eyes. I remember that he truly was sorry.
My mom asked me later if he'd ever tried anything with me. I told her no. I knew if I said the truth that he would die, either by his own hand or hers.
Sometimes, pretending to be asleep is the only defense that you have when you are small. And sometimes? You do it to protect the ones that you care about and the thought of facing the consequences is too terrifying.