Enough by Kristin MacKenzie

When I was ten years old, my parents divorced and I and my siblings spent the next year living with my grandparents on the farm with our cousins. All five of us slept in a newly built addition on an unheated second floor, three bedrooms and a long, drafty attic where my eldest cousin slept in a space of her own; the boys had one room and my sister and I shared another. The third room was reserved for my uncle who visited frequently. The main house below was the old, original structure: kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom and furnace room with a covered porch connected to it where the woodpile was kept. Broken windowpanes let the wind in and bark covered the floor around the carefully stacked firewood, but the furnace room door was strong and thick and the warmth of the big black stove kept the cold away. The hallway outside the furnace room and the bathroom that opened up off of it were the warmest places in the house, but dark, and I, at ten, was still afraid of the dark. When Christmas came, my mother brought her new boyfriend to stay for the holiday, making their bed in the living room on the fold-up sofa. He was in construction and had wide rough hands and barrel-chest, a beard and balding head. Before dinner dishes were washed and bedtime stories were read, I’d felt his hands more than once, resting on my shoulders and sliding down my back, heavy and insistent. I went to bed feeling sick and uneasy and woke in the middle of the night, needing the bathroom and dreading the dark. Go by yourself,” my sister hissed from under the covers on her side of the room when I woke her, asking for help. She turned back over, falling to sleep again immediately but the pressure on my bladder wouldn’t allow me to do the same. I know I counted the wooden stairs under my feet as I made my way in the dark, thirteen steps and the last one onto the carpeted floor and into the narrow passage through the kitchen. There was no nightlight to mark the way to the bathroom, and no sounds from the rest of the house. I know the dark there was warm, but I don’t remember that. I remember hands from behind. I remember the feeling of wind and the broken quality of light through the windowpanes of the covered porch. But that’s all. I woke up with my pink Sleeping Beauty pajamas, buttons up the back, fastened wrong, gapping, and a pain between my legs. When I saw my mother’s boyfriend standing next to the table, watching me, my legs started to shake and my stomach wanted to empty out, even though there was nothing in it yet. By the next day, when I went to the bathroom it felt like fire coming out, more pain that made little sense to me. I tried to explain to my mother, to my grandma, but there wasn’t anything I could explain. Just dark and cold and hands I didn’t see coming and pain that was beginning to feel shameful the more I tried to explain and to ask my own questions. There still aren’t any answers. When the same thing happened five years later with another boyfriend over another holiday weekend, more darkness and pain and confusion, I stopped explaining and left home, moving across the state to live with my cousins again in a home where no boyfriends visited. I don’t know what to call my experiences and likely won’t ever fully understand why my mind has them locked up where I can’t reach them but I’ve found a peace with what I can’t know about those nights. I know who I am and how to find warmth and safety and the kind of love that doesn’t press down on me or fragment my memories. And for now, this is enough.