Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

The Incest Diary

Anonymous

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

One of the therapists I lied to was a beautiful woman whose father had studied with Freud. I liked her until we got closer to the incest. When I was in college, I went to see her on Thursday afternoons. We circled around my family and I lied about my relationship with my father. One day she told me that she was concerned about me being at risk for self-harm. She wanted me to see a psychiatrist she worked with who would give me medication. I walked out of her office and never saw her again. She left me several voice mails over the following weeks wanting to know if I was all right. I never called her back.

* * *

In the fairy tales about father-daughter incest—“The Girl Without Hands,” “Thousand Furs,” the original “Cinderella,” “Donkey Skin,” and the stories of Saint Dymphna, patron saint of incest survivors—the daughters are all as you would expect them to be: horrified by their fathers’ sexual advances. They do everything in their power to escape. But I didn’t. A child can’t escape. And later, when I could, it was too late. My father controlled my mind, my body, my desire. I wanted him. I went home. I went back for more.

* * *

The last time I had sex with my father was at the beach house on the island when I was twenty-one. I spent a week there with my father and my brother, who had just turned nineteen. The three of us hadn’t spent a week together in many years; I hadn’t spent much time with my father since I left home at seventeen. I hadn’t been to the family beach house for several years. The gray shingled house with many porches and white shutters next to the water. With the American flag on the old pole near the white front gate.

That week with my father and brother, I wore a blue bikini top. The bottoms were bright red. My father wanted me. I felt his eyes on my shoulders and neck, on my legs, my breasts, and my hips. I held my body differently when I knew he was looking. I wanted to be sexy. I walked differently when I knew he was watching me from behind. Watching me as I walked back and forth from the house to the shore. Watching me take off the white shirt I wore over my bathing suit when I sat to read before I swam. I wanted him, too. I wasn’t a child anymore. I wasn’t even a teenager. I was a grown-up. My body was a woman’s body.

We played bridge with some of the neighbors in the house just up the road. They told me stories about myself as a little girl playing on the beach—how much I loved the big waves—and stories about my grandparents, around the time when they bought the house in the 1960s. We played pinochle with my brother. We drank gin and tonics on the east porch.

I spent my childhood summers in that house, and as a little girl I slept in that same upstairs bedroom. Many of my few happy childhood memories are from that place.

The first two nights I couldn’t stop masturbating, thinking about my father being so close. At the other end of the house, alone, sleeping in the bed with the walnut headboard. I couldn’t help it. I wanted and I didn’t want him to come in and fuck me. On the third night he did.

I remember my father opening the old, heavy door to my bedroom. I wanted my father to open the door. I wanted him to come in. I wanted to hear him come in to the bedroom with the yellow-and-blue bedspread and the bookcases built into the walls holding my grandfather’s complete Sir Walter Scott. Into the room with the curtains patterned with red sailboats on white fabric and the bird’s-eye-maple-framed mirror and the closet with yellow raincoats and army-green galoshes and the large wool flannel shirts hanging on wooden hangers inside. The closet with a plaid umbrella and spare flip-flops.

My father pulled off the bedspread and saw my twenty-one-year-old body. I was naked and I was wet. I wanted his big hard cock deep inside me. I was very wet. I wanted him inside me all the way up. I had never felt sexier. My body was pure sex. My father had made himself a sexual object for me, too. I objectified him as I objectified myself for him. I had an orgasm bigger than any single one I had in my subsequent twelve-year marriage. We didn’t say anything. Not one word. Then he got out of my bed, went out of the room and down the hall and back into his bed. Not one word ever about that night.

* * *

He fucked me and he made me come. We never kissed. We didn’t kiss that night, and we didn’t kiss when I was a teenager, and we didn’t kiss when I was eleven or ten or nine or eight or seven or six or five or four or three.

He never put his tongue inside my mouth.

* * *

That week on the island, I told Katherine Huntington, a family friend and neighbor, the truth about my father having sex with me. I told her what happened when I was a young child. I did not dare tell her about the night that had just passed—but I did confide in her about my childhood. I wasn’t the only one who thought she was a remarkable woman. She was the opposite of my mother—she was extraordinarily capable, warm, independent. People adored her. I looked up to her and wanted to grow up to be like her. When I was little, she made me feel special. She would ask my opinion on things and squat down to listen to me. When I was a teenager, she told me that I was clever and courageous.

I always thought she was beautiful, strong, and brave. She loved to sail by herself. She could read, write, and speak Mandarin. She and her second husband spent a year driving across Africa. She was a volunteer firefighter in the little beach community. The only time she didn’t wear heels was when she drove the fire truck. She would cook dinner by herself for dozens of people and her house was always full of guests. She had a greenhouse behind the main house where she grew gardenias and plumerias. Once, she found a baby bobcat by her greenhouse door. She gave it a bowl of milk and hoped it would reunite with its mother. But another neighbor told her that he had seen a dead bobcat in the road down by the market. Katherine took in the baby bobcat and gave it all the maternal love she had given her children. She gave it lamb for supper, with a dish of whipped cream afterward.

My grandparents had been close friends of her parents. I was close to two of her children and a niece and a nephew. I felt happy being around her family. I wished she would take me in.

The week that I was at the beach with my father and brother, Katherine and her husband asked me over for dinner. I asked Katherine if we could speak in private. She said of course, and took me upstairs to her bedroom. We sat on her enormous white bed with its dozens of soft linen-cased pillows. I held one of the pillows close to my chest while I told her that my father had raped me when I was a little girl. I told her that I felt like I was going crazy and I didn’t know what to do. She leaned over to me and I thought she was going to embrace me, but she put her hand over my mouth. “Get over it,” she said. “Don’t talk about it. Forget it, and get over it.” She then told me that she had been molested when she was a child. She said her parents knew and didn’t do anything about it. “But these are things to forget and get over,” she said. She told me to go home to my father and not to talk about it anymore. She was never the same with me again. She wasn’t friendly anymore and she avoided me the rest of that trip.

* * *

One afternoon, a year or so after that week on the island, I confronted my father about our incestuous relationship. He and my brother had been playing tennis. We left my brother and went for a walk in the suburban neighborhood where my father lived. My father told me that I had seduced him when I was a little girl. I reminded him that I was just a toddler when it began. He replied that I was such a smart, precocious child, so curious about everything, and I wanted him to touch me; I had asked him to feel how soft it was. He was so lonely in those days because my mother was sick, in the worst of her depression, and he said that she was cold and cruel to him. All she was interested in was steeplechasing and horses; she never asked him questions about his life, his interests. She belittled him—the job he had, the clothes he wore. She wanted more money, she wanted him to make her happy, and he was working so hard and never made enough money. He told me that, during those years, he was so tired and I was his shining light of joy. He said he was sorry. He clenched his jaw and opened his eyes wide while he looked down at the pavement where we walked and repeated that he was sorry.

A day after that conversation, he told me again that he was sorry for all he’d done. He cried and said he was sorry for getting what he needed from my mother from me instead. A day after that, he called and asked me to come and talk to him. He said that if I was going to persist in my allegations about him having raped me, then I was no longer his daughter. He told me that I was dead to him. I can only assume that he’d spoken with a lawyer, and that this is why he started using the word allegations, and why he no longer admitted to our incest, but denied it. He told our family about my allegations. My grandfather tried to have me committed to a mental hospital, but there were no grounds. My aunt called me in the early hours of my birthday morning to tell me that she was on my father’s side. That was when my brother dropped out of college. My brother had always played violin, he was a serious violinist, but he stopped playing. He locked himself in his bedroom for days at a time. He cried and said that he didn’t know whom to believe. One night he told me that he had considered suicide because of what had happened to our family.

My father told his friends, too. One of my father’s friends called and asked me to coffee. He told me that he was there for me, that he understood my pain. He cried and told me about being molested when he was a boy. We went from drinking coffee to drinking wine. He told me about his pain, his silence, how it fucked him up.

A month after I confronted him, my father quit his job and he traveled. I didn’t hear from him for months, until he sent me a card from Australia. On the front of the card was a baby rabbit in a field of wildflowers. Inside he’d written: Get well soon.

* * *

I felt completely responsible for my brother’s breakdown. I couldn’t stand it; from week to week he seemed more depressed and anxious. I was afraid he would kill himself. So I told him not to worry, that it didn’t happen. I told him it must have been someone else who raped me. My brother started to get better. He and I have never spoken about it since.

When our father came back, I took him out to dinner at a place I liked and we ate a beet and arugula salad for an appetizer. I told my father that someone else must have raped me, and from then on I wasn’t going to talk about the past. I told him that it didn’t matter anymore. My father didn’t say anything. Then he asked me if I would like to go see a movie in a couple of weeks. I said sure, even though I didn’t want to, but I felt relieved that the family was getting back to normal.


The world is full of work to do

A little rest and then

The world is full of work to do

Sing hushabye loo, low loo, low lan

Hushabye loo, low loo

This is the song my mother sang me to sleep. Then later my father would come into my room. Sometimes he would penetrate me, sometimes he would masturbate onto my body. He said he couldn’t help it. He told me it was my fault. It must have been my fault. He said that he couldn’t help it because I was so beautiful and it felt so good. He said he was a sick man. A weak victim of his desire. And I, too, felt desire; I felt my wildness. Sometimes I rubbed myself on his hairy thigh. I did it because it felt good.

* * *

Strawberry was my father’s favorite kind of jam. One morning when I was five or six, he put strawberry jam on his penis and asked me to lick it off. I remember the sweet and the slime of the fruit combining with the sweet and the slime of the man.

* * *

I abused my dolls. Ken didn’t have a penis, so my Barbie got fucked by my brother’s dinosaurs. The horns of the pentaceratops went up and down hard on her plastic crotch. I cut off her hair. I dyed it green and red with food coloring. I beheaded her by pulling off her head. I hated her. She embarrassed me; she was disgusting.

* * *

I had a book about how babies are made. There were anatomical drawings of a man and a woman. I remember wondering why they didn’t also have a drawing of a little girl when they explained how the penis goes into the vagina.

* * *

Sometimes fucking me made my father very happy. And sometimes it made him very angry. When I remember the day in the bathtub, I can only see it either from above, watching the two of us, or from my father’s perspective. I see the terrified girl. She’s moving in the bathwater to get away from him. But there is nowhere to go. The tub is so slippery it is hard to move, and the water sloshes about when she does. He is furious and he is lunging down at her while she cries and sloshes around in the bathwater. The water is full of blood. She is in a bath of blood. Her own blood. He did it again to her, went up into her too far, fucked her too hard and made her bleed. It made him angry. I will kill you if you tell anyone. I will kill you I will kill you I will kill you.

* * *

My mother had art books in the bookcase in the living room. I spent a lot of time looking through them. In Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, Marat was killed in the bath. I was almost killed in the bath but I wasn’t. I could look at his murdered body in the bath and still be alive.

* * *

For my eighteenth birthday, my mother sent me nine drawings in a manila envelope. They were copies of self-portraits she had done when she was pregnant with me—one for each month. Included with the drawings was a copy of a journal entry from my father dated two days after I was born. The copy was on pink paper and the entry was three paragraphs long. He wrote about the cold, the spring, the way the moon hung the night I was born. My father wrote about being so happy to have a child. The entry ends, Some day this kid’s gonna fuck.

* * *

My father wanted to fuck me, and sometimes he wanted to kill me. Sometimes it was both. I don’t know how many times he cut me with a knife. Sometimes he was threatening to kill me with it, other times he cut inside my pussy. Was he trying to circumcise me? Maybe he was trying to cut my pleasure out, to remove his pleasure.

* * *

When I was two and a half years old, my brother was born. It was a complicated birth. My mother was never quite the same after, my father said. She also suffered what might have been postpartum depression, but was never diagnosed. She stopped producing milk after only a few months of breastfeeding my baby brother, probably because she barely ate. She preferred to be alone, or, when she felt well enough, with her horses. We didn’t make her happy. She cried a lot, and her sadness was bottomless. Sometimes she was vicious to us, sometimes she was sweet. I only remember her happy around her horses or when preparing for Christmas.

* * *

My father looked at me with hunger. He looked at my mother with disdain. He thought I was born for him. And I thought my brother was born for me. Who did my mother belong to and who was born for her? No one. Except her horses. She laughed once telling a friend that she dreamed of horses almost every night, but never dreamed about us. The love of her life was steeplechasing. She boarded her horses, Hookah and Stradivarius—one a beautiful buckskin and the other a chestnut—at her friend’s small horse farm.

* * *

I can see the image of my father with the knife over my head, and I don’t feel frightened. Numb, but not scared. But when I remember the sounds—his footsteps coming up the hall leading to my room, the sound of the door opening, his breathing, the sheering sound of the metal blade being pulled from the sheath—then I freeze and go outside my body. It was a buck knife, the same one he used on camping trips. He used it to sharpen a willow branch to pierce marshmallows and roast them. He used it to sever cord for tying the tent down in a windstorm. My father pulled the knife out and had that dead, cold look in his eyes and his jaw was clenched. But then he realized that I was awake, watching him holding the knife over me. He turned away, the knife shaking in his hand, and he left my room holding the sheath in one hand and the shaking knife in the other. The other day I read a story about a woman who killed her two young daughters while they slept. She doesn’t remember doing it. Now she wants to know if her daughters are all right. I wonder about my father. Would he remember if he had cut me up with the buck knife? Maybe not. Maybe he would have wondered afterward if I was all right.

* * *

My mother didn’t like camping. She hated being at the cabin in Maine. I remember my father making dinner on the woodstove. She didn’t like dinner cooked on a woodstove. She didn’t like being away from her horses. My father loved using kerosene lamps when it got dark, and my mother hated them and missed a house full of electric lights. She was afraid, too, that we would forget to blow one of the lamps out and that the cabin would burn down.

My father went to gather wood for the fire. Then he got down on his knees and laid the fire in the belly of the big cast-iron stove. He lit it with a match he struck on the side of the stove. I liked to watch the newspaper catch the flame and get devoured. He blew on the fire. He shut the stove door as it began to rage. I listened to the low roar of the fire. He put on a pot of water to boil.

In the cabin were beautiful colored-glass cups. They shone like jewels. Deep, rich colors. Teal, turquoise, golden ocher, royal blue, purple, scarlet, fuchsia, silver gray. I loved drinking water out of those colored cups with question-mark-shaped handles. They were kept in the same wooden hutch as a drawer that held spices in little jars sealed with shaved-down corks. I liked to open that drawer, pull out the tiny corks, and smell the spices.

I remember the red-stripe ticking on the mattress in the bed where I slept. My father took off my pants and my underwear. I remember being facedown, biting the button on the mattress while my father put something inside me. I felt him rub his penis between my butt cheeks. I ran my tongue along the button I was biting. I remember the taste of the mattress. Smoky canvas. The smell of the mattress. Old fabric, firewood smoke, musty smell.

* * *

A mouse who lives in a warm nest where it is well fed will venture out and then, when frightened, rapidly return to its home. A mouse who has an uncomfortable nest—where it experiences pain and lack of food—when out of its nest in a place with warmth and food, and then suddenly frightened, will also return home, just like the other mouse. Experiments with other animals proved the same—when an animal is scared, it goes home, no matter how terrifying home is.

* * *

I climbed on a stool and opened the medicine cabinet over the bathroom sink and took out a bottle of my mother’s Nivea lotion. I unscrewed the top and left it inside the cabinet. I liked the smell because it was the smell of my mother. I sought comfort from her in her scent since I didn’t have it from her directly. I carried around the lotion bottle and smelled it while I sucked my thumb. Smell and suck, smell and suck. Smell the sweet perfume, suck my soothing thumb. I made my thumb turn white and withered with all the sucking. I sucked it all the time until my dentist, who called me Princess, told me I would get buck teeth if I kept it up. He told me he would be proud of me for quitting, and I wanted my dentist to be proud of me. But I like to have things in my mouth.

* * *

When I was very little, I couldn’t sleep because of my nightmares and I peed in my bed every night. A few times at the grocery market, I walked up to a stranger who looked nice and asked if they would take me home with them. I was difficult at my school. I hit the boys. I drew coiled cobras in beds and girls being impaled by large buildings. When we went on a family trip to Boston and New York, I had strong pains in my body, because every time I looked at the big tall buildings I felt that they were about to fuck me. I wondered if I was pregnant all through first, second, and third grades. I obsessively masturbated. I had open sores on my hands from washing them over and over until they bled.

But to my mother, I was the other woman. She often told me that she wished I hadn’t been born.

* * *

For discipline, my father tied me to a chair. Sometimes he put the chair in the closet. Over time, I learned not to scream. I learned that eventually my father would come and let me out.

* * *

I remember looking at a painting in a book of a woman wearing a white dress hanging off of a bed. An evil, ugly monster was sitting on her belly. It scared me and excited me to look at her. It also excited me to look at the painting, in my mother’s book of the Louvre, of the two women, topless, where one is pinching the other’s nipple. I looked at the saints with eyes plucked out, bodies pierced by arrows, Saint Bartholomew skinned. I looked at the pictures of the Sabines being abducted. And Judith slaying Holofernes. I looked and looked and ran my finger over that bleeding, murdered man.

Years later, when I saw Botero’s paintings of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, blindfolded and restrained, it excited me. Botero paints all the prisoners as very fat. They are easier to look at fat. I like to be gagged and restrained. It makes me think of the time my father tied me up in the closet and face-fucked me until he came in my mouth and I vomited up the semen. I’m thinking of me as a very fat five-year-old girl and my father as a fat Botero man, naked but for his hat.

* * *

My mother blamed me for everything that wasn’t right in our house. She even blamed me for my father’s hair going completely white before he was thirty years old. She called me whore, bitch, fucking bitch, and little shit. My least favorite was being called little shit. Maybe I was a whore and a bitch and a fucking bitch. But I wasn’t a little shit.

I remember my mother telling me many times that life is about two things—sex and the fear of death.

* * *

My father is my secret. That he raped me is my secret. But the secret under the secret is that sometimes I liked it. Sometimes I wanted it, and sometimes I seduced him and made him fuck me. I have seen therapists and psychiatrists and psychologists and analysts, and I told them about missing my grandparents. I talked about missing my three friends who died. I talked about my mother slapping me hard across the face and then crumpling into a pile on the floor, weeping, telling me she was terrible, such a terrible mother. And I would comfort her and tell her not to worry, it didn’t hurt very much and I was fine. I did tell a few of them that my father molested me. And if they wanted to talk further about it, I stopped the conversation. I never told any of them the whole truth about me and my father.

* * *

Today I read in a book about torture that the more a captive is raped, the more likely she is to experience pleasure. Pleasure as a means of survival. The more she is raped. The more pleasure. Does this mean I have felt the most pleasure in the world? My body is pure rapture. Writing this arouses me. I think about my father and I get wet. I think about my father and I feel him in my pussy.

Pleasure as a means to survive. My father is my sexual pleasure. I’m tied up and he’s hand-feeding me his semen. Hand-feeding me what he just jacked off into his palm. This great pleasure of ours is bursting in light. I feel God in my heart getting bigger. I’m swallowing his sperm while I’m bound to the chair, and I have rays of light shooting out of my head and face.

* * *

I get warm, soft buzzing feelings when I think about that. Being locked in the closet tied up, waiting for him, waiting for my father to rescue me after he hurt me. He rescued me. I was so relieved. So happy when the closet door opened and he untied me, undoing the knots holding me to the chair. He let me out, he let me run. I ran out into the sunshine.

How could I not love the man who set me free?


Copyright © 2017 by the author