I’m thirteen,
dreaming in bottle green box pleats, rolled at the waist,
to display my knees and a hint of sleek, wicked thigh,
a sly pretence at womanhood, and 1968’s fashion statement
for rebellious school-time teens.
I’ve dabbled in suggestive games played with eyes and shy, but sneaky smiles,
but these days I look askance at boys who would try to dance
a horizontal jig with me.

I’m thirteen,
dreaming in bottle green box pleats,
in lessons two and three on Tuesday.
While our biology teacher speaks of sexual reproduction in plants,
I shrink and blush, thinking of
kind of
the thing that men and women do.
The act that my parents must have undertaken at least five times, as that’s how many children they had, and I’m sure my mum only did it because she wanted us, but I’m not so certain about my dad, as men have needs which I don’t want to think about; I don’t want to, but I can’t help it. There are pictures in my head and I want to dispel them; my poor mum, having to do that; my poor mum, and I know I will never be able to do that – that- that thing again. I didn’t want to the last time, but I was held down, and he was stronger than me. Nobody had been stronger than me before, but I didn’t have the strength to fight and there was so much blood I could smell it like iron up my nose and someone was screaming crying for mum and the sounds came from my mouth and it hurt and I was scared and I struggled but he was gripping my arms against my sides and my mouth his tongue his tongue I didn’t bite it I was too frightened at what he’d do what he was doing and everything was wet even before I felt the gush and then it stopped but somewhere inside me it never stopped it never stopped and a few days later I was told about the blood in the back of the car and somebody laughed not knowing it was mine and weaving through all the pain I felt shame that my violation my disgusting secret had somehow become a dirty joke and on top of knowing that I must be to blameI must be to blame I couldn’t tell anyone because of the oh-so-hilarious seepage on the leather car seat I couldn’t let them know it was me they were laughing about me who had been ravaged unravelled my petals screwed up screwed up screwed sinking away with my mind and why do I speak in metaphors when the word is something harsh which rhymes with:

tape, tape that adheres to my secret places, filthy tape from which there is no escape,

ape, ape that takes what he wants, then ambles away, sated,

grape, grapes which you pluck from the vine and bite and chew spitting out the pips spitting wet dribbling things it plays out in my head taking me back taking me back where I hear a baby crying mummee mummee and the baby is me being born into hell.

The bell rings.
We troop out, an unruly crew speckled with the better kids;
the studious boys with shiny shoes,
the plain and pretty budding little ladies, pigtails swinging
and no rolled-up bulk beneath their waist,
too well-behaved to be raped by a neighbour,
too cool to mistake him for a friend.

In English I make a mental list
of things that wouldn’t melt in their sensible mouths,
and when coughs and shuffles ruffle the silent air
I practice sighing my mantra so quietly
that none but me can hear.
My top teeth touch and and release my lower lip,
followed by a curl of the tongue, a breathing aah,
another tongue-trick, this time hitting my palate,
rolling a little, and releasing
a final, subtle, “key” sound.

I am thirteen,
dreaming in bottle green box pleats.
I should be reading,
but each word brings me back to you and my dilemma.
It’s not that you won’t understand,
more that it’s embarrassing to have to explain.
Maybe I’ll wait until I’m sixteen
and we’re engaged and making wedding plans.

You’ll understand, I know you will.

I’ll say I can’t do the thing that other couples do between the sheets, the thing that squeezes suffering children through bruised tubes; the thing they call normal. Some say it’s fun. I know that’s not true, unless you’re a man, forcing his way in, invading you. I knew that before he made me do it. I knew the moment I heard the dirty words whispered in the schoolyard.

You’ll understand I can’t do it, I know you will.

You’re above such base desires and you’re one of the only two people I told about what he did to me, although I never described the searing pain the bruising the limp that I had to cover up for shame or the sting or the itch that doesn’t go away and maybe nobody told you how funny it was that there was blood on the grubby upholstery the grubby upholstery that had been flattened by so many arses before my bare skin got crushed against its greasy surface.

You’ll understand that we can’t have children. I know you will. You don’t have those base desires, and even if you do, you will crush them because you love me so much.

I am thirteen,
dreaming in bottle green box pleats,
and I love you so much that it hurts to be anywhere but by your side.
I don’t understand, as I refuse to believe the world
is the way they say it is.

I am thirteen,
and though you are the best thing I can see,
a romance which will play out endlessly in my memory
and you will forever be the beginning
and the meaning of love for me,
I am dreaming a fantasy.

©Jane Paterson Basil

11 thoughts on “Thirteen

  1. Wow – that is such powerful story telling through a thirteen year old’s world view and experience. I’m so glad it is ancient history, a part of your tapestry, an *important* part that has been left behind, but is nevertheless integral to who you are xxxx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I can put myself right back there in an instant – the difference is that it doesn’t hurt now, so it doesn’t matter any more – and yes, it’s part of who I am. Maybe there was a reason I needed to learn about the various shapes of pain 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

        1. Yes; chosen – on a higher level. I mustn’t forget that. I’m not sure I’ve entirely learnt my lessons though – only this afternoon I was with a friend who was laughing (with me) at my gullibility, and listing recent examples of my naivity. She’s right, of course, but these days it eventually brings hilarity, rather than tears. My friend said, “You come here, ranting, and I just look at you and think, well, what did you expect?” 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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