It’s been awhile

It’s been awhile since I talked about myself on here. I know some of you don’t like it when I do, but some of you do, and the others can skip this entry if they like.

I’m up for jury duty this week. They’re selecting a jury for a criminal trial and I’m in the pool; selection starts tomorrow. This will be the first time I’ve ever been considered for jury duty. Until it’s over for me, I’m staying at my mom’s, which cuts my courthouse commute time to 20 minutes, down from like 50 minutes if I was with Michael. I’m writing this on my cell phone. While I’m at my mom’s there is of course no Orville and therefore there will be no Charley Project updates, alas.

Michael has a new job that he likes so far. He’s working long hours but making more money. We hope to be able to return to Poland, perhaps as soon as next summer, or maybe the summer after that.

I was rereading some of my old blog entries and the comments, from the time when I was raped. It’s striking to me how many if not most people would rather never speak to someone again than apologize to them.

The very first person to accuse me of making up the story of my attack was someone whom I thought of as a friend. We’d emailed each other many times and she was a regular blog commenter. Just two or three days after I blogged about the rape she wrote me to say she knew I was lying. I was extremely upset. I offered to show her a copy of the police report (weeks before I made the same offer to any interested parties on my blog). In fact I was unwilling to wait for a copy of the report to be mailed to me and paid something like $60 to take a taxi across town to pick one up on-site before I left Virginia. She refused to look at it. Then she accused me openly on my blog, telling me she respected my Charley Project work but I should be ashamed of myself for making up the story.

In the eight years since, there’s a good chance this woman has come to realize that I wasn’t lying. I think the strongest evidence in my favor is the article I found about Rollo’s arrest for raping another woman four months after me, a crime that corresponded to my own in almost every particular: he was homeless, he was black and a foreign national, met her on the bus (dunno if it was the same bus as me but it stopped at the same park-and-ride), offered to walk with her through that same patch of woods, and jumped her just like he’d jumped me. All of this was reported in the article about his arrest, months after I shared the details about my own victimization on my blog.

The only real difference between the two attacks was the choice of victim. I was a stranger. But in the October attack, he was stupid enough to go after someone he knew slightly, and so he was identified immediately and arrested. Thank goodness.

Yet my former friend — and for that matter all of my other accusers — never apologized for misjudging me and asked for forgiveness. It’s kind of sad because I had liked being friends with her. I don’t know why a person would decide it’s better to just avoid me for the rest of our lives than admit they made a mistake.

Although I think about Rollo every day still, the attack doesn’t usually affect me emotionally anymore. Sometimes it does — seeing the movie The Accused (an excellent film btw, I highly recommend it) had me sobbing and hyperventilating — but only rarely. I used to have intense violent fantasies about what I wanted to do to Rollo. Now I’m no longer even angry with him; in fact I basically don’t feel any more emotion towards him than I would towards a rapist whom I read about in the news, who had nothing to do with me. Is that forgiveness? I don’t know.

It used to be that every June, for pretty much the entire month, my head would be filled with blood-soaked thoughts, those aforementioned violent fantasies. It bothered me intensely. But those thoughts are no more. This past June 16, the eighth anniversary of the rape, I nearly forgot entirely. It wasn’t until like 8:30 p.m. that I had a sudden moment: “Hey, today’s the anniversary. I was with him right now, this very moment, eight years ago. Huh.” Then I just went back to what I was doing.

For me, that’s recovery.

In other news: the article they interviewed me for in June is still stuck in editorial limbo. Nothing to do but wait. I am sure the two reporters are just as anxious as I am for it to come out, cause I think they’re freelancers and won’t get paid till then.

I’m glad they interviewed me in June and not July. By July I had gained 15 pounds very quickly, for no. hecking. reason. The shirt I wore on the day I was filmed no longer fits; in fact half or more of my wardrobe no longer fits. I can’t figure out what happened; I’m neither eating more nor exercising less than before. Most of it is in my stomach and Michael’s dad momentarily suspected I was pregnant. (I know I am not.) I’m not fat, I’m not overweight or even close, but now I weigh more than I ever have in my life.

There’s another reason I’m glad the interview happened in June: in late July, two tiny scratches, one on my cheek and one on my chin, got infected with horrendous results. This was even after I had put Betadine on them — the very first time Betadine has failed me!

The chin scratch turned into a crater an inch across, weeping pus, and the cheek one became a rock-hard abscess the size of an egg. Like an idiot I broke open the abscess myself to try to drain it, and at first nothing came out at all, but a few hours later yellowish goop started leaking out of the hole I made and the non-abscessed part of my cheek turned bright pink and started swelling up really bad.

I called my doctor’s office and explained the situation and the receptionist was like, “She can see you August 9.” Which was like twelve or thirteen days out.

“Um, this is a really bad infection,” I said. “I can’t wait that long. I really need to see her sooner.”

“Well, do you want the August 9 appointment or not?”

“No.”

I called a dermatologist and, by some miracle, got a next-morning appointment. I think there must have been a cancellation or something. He looked at my face, winced, had the nurse take samples from both wounds with Q-tips and diagnosed a probable staph infection.

I walked away with antibiotic pills, an antibiotic gel, and advice to not mess with breaks in the skin anymore, particularly if they’re infected. Oh, and a bill for $70. My insurance doesn’t cover dermatologist visits.

Fortunately everything healed up just fine and without even any scars, but for like a week and a half I didn’t want to go out cause I looked so gross. Thank goodness for modern medicine — in another era, or in part of the world, the infection might have eaten my face away.

Speaking of my skin, I’m trying a new cream for my melasma now. It’s called Meladerm. You apply it twice a day, preferably in conjunction with an exfoliating lotion and a strong sunscreen. Meladerm is cheap ($50; many melasma treatments cost hundreds) and very highly rated. It is supposed to start making a difference within weeks, with full results within a few months.

It also comes with a money-back guarantee if you don’t see any difference within 30 days of purchase, but I can’t take advantage of that. I bought the Meladerm just before the nightmare skin infection, see, and I couldn’t start to use it till the sores had fully healed. I started the treatment I think 13 days ago. It makes my face feel a little numb right after I put it on but that’s the only side effect.

Thank goodness for modern medicine. Without those antibiotics that infection might have eaten my face away or something. Or at least left highly visible scarring.

Can’t think of much else to say here. I’m reading a book called The Day Will Pass Away: The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard: 1935-1936. The introduction says it’s a very important historical document, as there’s basically nothing else like it that has survived. We don’t even know how this diary survived; the author, one Ivan Chistyakov, was killed while serving in the Red Army in 1941, after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, and the only info we have on his life comes from the diary itself. It was anonymously donated to a Moscow historical archive in the eighties.

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Taking it all back

So it looks like I’ll be going to Nashville, Tennessee for around about a week, leaving tomorrow evening. This is not 100% set in stone but I’m pretty sure I’m going. It’s kind of an impromptu thing that I just thought up this morning.

Michael is going to Nashville with some friends for a gaming convention. He had told me this before but I totally forgot, and he brought it up again last night. I remembered that my friend Jeff — this friend — now lived in Tennessee, in one of those -ville towns. I couldn’t remember if it was Nashville or Knoxville or maybe Jacksonville, but I thought: if it is Nashville I would love to visit him again. So I texted him. It is indeed Nashville and he would love to see me again too.

For me, it’s not just about seeing Jeff, although that’s enticing enough. I’ve known him since I was thirteen or fourteen years old. We’re like brother and sister. But it’s also about taking back what was mine. For years I have wanted to go on a vacation and have a good time with no incidents, no complications. The last time I tried that, in 2009, we all know what happened. I feel like Rollo stole my vacation and that by visiting Jeff again and doing the whole tourist thing, even in another city, it would be like taking it back.

Now it’s a matter of finding someone to take care of the cats, and making sure there will be room for me in Michael’s friend’s car.

It’s June again

I had thought that what happened no longer bothered me. I had thought to let this anniversary tomorrow pass entirely unmarked. For the first couple of years, during the month of June my thoughts were consumed with violent images and the whole month I felt kind of sick. Then it stopped happening, and then last year Rollo was deported to Sudan, and I thought: ah, it’s over now.

But it never really is. People, some of them, were like, “Wow, Meaghan just picked herself up and carried on like nothing had ever happened.” But that’s simply not the case. I have suffered as much as anyone else in my situation would have. I didn’t write about it all here. In fact, those who know me only through my blog actually know very little. Words typed on a screen can never fully represent a person’s life and their personality.

Last week, on Thursday, Michael bought a few movies and told me to pick one to watch. They were all pretty much the same to me, action films starring famous actors. I picked one pretty much at random, doesn’t matter which one it was. Anyway, there’s a scene where a motorcycle gang ran a car off the road and attacked its occupants, a young man and his girlfriend. It showed them dragging the man and the girl out of the car, then the next scene showed the girl after the gang left. She was tied to what was left of the car, nearly naked, and had to be rescued by the police.

The fact that what happened was only implied was worse, in a way, than if it had been shown. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie has a very violent, graphic rape scene and I got through it unscathed. But this time my imagination filled in the blanks, and suddenly I realized it was June, and began thinking about what had happened to me, and what had happened to the girl in the film, and became upset. Long story short was that I wound up unable to finish the movie, hiding in the bedroom, crying, all the while feeling guilty for having ruined the evening. And it was the first thing I thought of when I woke up the next day.

I passed all of Friday in a gloom. Although I got a $200 gift card in the mail (a gift from a friend, or payment for services I’d rendered him, depending on how you look at it) and the Journal Gazette photographer came by to take my photo for the article they ran, none of it much mattered to me. In fact it was Sunday before I felt like myself again.

It’s never over, really.

Got a call from ICE

Just now I got a phone call from some guy working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He had good news and bad news: namely that Rollo’s deportation hearing was yesterday and they’ve decided to send him back to Sudan ASAP. Like, within a few days. (And he laughed at my “catapult” joke.) Bad news that I wasn’t able to participate in the process, but good news that Rollo will no longer be a problem for this country. I’m okay with that. And I told the man, more than once, that I REALLY appreciated him giving me a call to inform me of this.

It seems like every time I think this is all over, something else happens. But maybe the story is over at last.

This is just to say

I thought awhile about whether I should post this, and concluded, why not?

I found out that Rollo is out of prison but not free. He’s locked up in maximum security immigration detention and actually may be worse off there than he was in prison, since his prison was medium security. I had to get some help from one of you, and make a lot of phone calls to various officials, to find out this information. Finally I found a guy who knew whom I was talking about before I even told him Rollo’s name. I could positively feel the man’s visceral disgust when he spoke about this particular detainee.

He’ll have a deportation hearing, of course, just a formality since you know they’re going to send him back to Sudan anyway (preferably by catapult), but I’d like to find out the details of that so I can maybe write a letter to the judge and have it entered into the official record what Rollo did to me. Might be cathartic.

Finding out the information I need — date, judge etc. — has turned out to be harder than I thought. Everybody wants Rollo’s A-number (short for alien number). And the A-number is kind of classified; no one is supposed to know it except the government and Rollo himself and anyone whom he chooses to tell. And obviously he’s not going to tell me.

(It annoys me that he’s still here. And it annoys me that he actually came to this country legally; he got some kind of visa. For a person from Sudan to get a visa to the United States must be akin to winning the lottery. And look what he did with it. They could have given that precious visa to someone else who would have worked hard and become a good American and not gone around raping people. But that’s a rant for another time, I suppose.)

Five years

It’s been five years since the attack happened and I don’t have much to report. I’m actually very pleased by how little it’s been on my mind lately. It used to be that every June I would become immersed in it all over again, having very bad thoughts, with what happened playing over and over in my head like a video on continuous loop.

Last year at about this time I was actually reading a book called Payback: The Case for Revenge. Now, I didn’t go looking for that book — I randomly spotted it on the library’s “new books” display — but I wonder whether I would have checked it out if I didn’t have the attack on my mind. The author argued that the desire for revenge was a quite natural thing, and revenge served a necessary place in society, and much of the time when we talk about things like “justice” we’re often just using the word as a substitute for “revenge.”

I certainly didn’t get any justice. Nor did I expect to, honestly. As I said before, it’s not a matter of winning. It’s a matter of deciding how much you’re willing to lose.

It affects me in strange, unexpected ways. Several months ago I had to stop watching a very good TV show for the sole reason that one of the main characters was named Rollo and I couldn’t stand to hear that name over and over; it made me feel very nervous. (“Rollo” isn’t even my rapist’s actual name. It’s the name I gave him. His real name, Mohamed, causes no reaction whatsoever from me.) This is the kind of thing that causes my therapist to maintain that, yes, I have post-traumatic stress disorder. Mild PTSD, but still PTSD.

I’m not sure when he gets out. It may be in October, but it’s also possible he’s been released already. He was sentenced to five years for raping the victim he attacked after me. That was in October 2009 — on my birthday, actually — and a few days later turned himself in to the police after a warrant was issued for his arrest. The state of Virginia has truth in sentencing laws requiring a person serve at least 85% of their sentence, and often 90% or more, before they get released. If Rollo serves 100% of his sentence, and he got credit for time served while awaiting trial, then he will get out in October. But it’s just possible he’s out already. I don’t know. I may never know.

After his release they’re supposed to hand him over to ICE. ICE is supposed to deport him back to Sudan, his home country. I feel sorry for Sudanese women because I’m quite sure he’s never going to quit, but I’d rather have him half a world away than otherwise.

About Charley…and about food…and about other things…

Working on tomorrow’s updates, today. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. Sometimes I forget how much I truly love working on this site.

It reminds me a bit of one of my favorite foods, hard-boiled eggs. Though they’re cheap and very quick and simple to make, I don’t usually remember to add them to my list of favorite foods. I hadn’t had any in like a year until two or three days ago when suddenly I got the worst craving. I went out and got a dozen and boiled them and wound up eating ten in one day. Lunch: four eggs. Dinner: four eggs. Midnight snack: two eggs. The only reason I didn’t eat the entire carton is cause I shared them with Michael’s dad. Several of the eggs I ate right out of the pot–the best way–and they were so hot they burned my tongue and it felt funny for the rest of the day. Eating those fresh, hot, steaming eggs was just ecstasy that’s kind of what working on Charley feels like now.

(On a quasi-semi-related note: the anniversary of the attack was two weeks ago. I deliberately wrote and said nothing about it on that day because I decided to stop marking it, but it was very much on my mind. But very few things are ever so bad that nothing good comes of them. I can think of several good things that came out of the attack, and boiled eggs are one of them. In the immediate aftermath I was so stressed that I basically stopped eating. I lost TWELVE pounds in a month, and I really didn’t have it to lose. That was ten percent of my body weight at the time. My arms looked like sticks, my shoulders like doorknobs. My family doctor told me quite firmly that I MUST start eating again because I’d already lost too much weight.

So I started forcing myself to eat at least two meals a day, and they had to be good, nutritious foods, like beef and barley soup and such things. And I tried hard-boiled eggs for the first time, knowing they were good for you, and discovered how much I loved them. Sometimes I’d take several to work for lunch, each one inside a sock to stop it breaking. By the end of the summer I looked like my normal slender-but-not-skeletal self again. The eggs really helped. So did Campbell’s Chunky Chicken and Dumplings Soup, another food I discovered I really liked and will eat cold right out of the can because I’m totally uncivilized. This is actually a big deal, the eggs and soup, because I have sensory issues related to taste and there are VERY few foods I can eat without discomfort and even fewer I actually enjoy eating.

Other good things that came from the attack, more significant than food: I found out who my real friends were, I gained trust in the competence and compassion of my psychiatrist who handled my post-traumatic stress reaction so appropriately, and I realized anew how much my boyfriend and parents loved and cared for me. And I learned how strong I was, how I could survive something that shattered many people. I was knocked off my feet, yes, flat on my back, but I managed to get back up and keep going. You can’t get over something like that, but you can pick it up and carry it with you.)