My cousin, otherwise known as Clarice Bean, hasn't spoken to me since April. It's hard not to read into this considering what happened over that Easter weekend. It's hard to write about these events without being cryptic because the truth feels too painful to be the truth, the facts too hard to swallow and the reality impossible to talk about.
Here are the things I know for sure: we were down by the beach because it was sunny and a swim before breakfast is a tradition in our family. It was 6 months since my grandma passed away and I had travelled up to visit her grave since I hadn't been able to attend the funeral.
My cousin and her girlfriend were splashing and laughing in the water while I sat with my grandpa, a towel wrapped around us and my bathers dripping with saltwater. He put his arm around me and we sat together for a while. Then he moved his hand to my breast and left it there a while. He kissed me neck and stroked my hair. I frooze. I didn't know what to do...was I overreading this situation? Maybe he was just being friendly and didn't realise where his hand was? What shoud I do?
Then my grandpa turned and smiled before saying, “we used to do this together when you were a kid, cuddle in bed together, don't you remember?”. Not much made sense after that. I picked up my towel and walked away. I told my cousin's girlfriend what had happened and she agreed that it was “fucked” but it was probably best not to tell anyone, better not to ruin the holiday.
Back up at the house, I busied myself making tea and toast, when my grandpa approached and told me, stepping up close and whispering, that it was better not to tell anyone about what happened at the beach. He was only joking. He didn't mean to upset me.
A few days later, after spending much time feeling disgusted, sexualised and vulnerable, we drove home. My grandpa told my uncle a distorted version of what had happened...something about how he'd made a joke about jumping on the bed together and I'd taken it the wrong way. My uncle ordered me to apologise. I refused.
My grandpa came up to me, calling me by his special nickname for me...Princess. This nickname had recently taken on a more sinister meaning as his words echoed around in my head: we used to do this together when you were little, in bed, do you remember?. He told me that I'd hurt his feelings and I'd been ignoring him all weekend. He said that I needed to forgive him and he'd meant it as a joke.
Afterwards, I was dropped back home. Clarice Bean didn't speak to me after that. She briefly emailed in June and then again a few days ago. She didn't wish me a happy birthday or acknowledge my hospital anniversary (something she'd usually remember).
Now my family feels fractured and divided. It's the battle between the girl who mental illness who overthinks or exaggerates and the frail old man whose just lost his wife of 50 years. Guess who wins? Sorry no prizes.
And then, there's the fallout of all this...more lost relationships, more trauma to work through, more people to touch me while I sleep. Sometimes things happen to me but they feel like a cruel joke, too sick, too twisted, to be real.
I will forever miss Peter...the first person to actively acknowledge and engage with the trauma surrounding my sexual assault last year in hospital. The way he allowed men to be safe and my body non-sexualised. The way he asked permission to hug me and did not assume things felt comfortable or safe. I will forever miss the idea that I could email him, meet up with him for vegan friendly smoothies or a long walk in the parklands.
And I miss my best friend who would have known all of the above, and probably more. Yet that's the whole point of opting out, isn't it? No more vicarious trauma. No more pain.