He got my number off of a list in the library.
The school used our home phone digits as our ID’s back then, and someone had left the list out.
I was in the third grade. All of nine. I wore my hair in a pony with a bow most days, and I used my pink plastic speckled glasses for reading. Keds were my go-to kicks. My neon slap-bracelet with the black hollow stars on it was my favorite, and my lunch box was a legit mold of a Mickey Mouse head. (Though I always bought on burrito day.) The metal twisty slide outside was my recess joy of choice. I looked forward to my dance lessons on Thursday nights, and I loved learning how to write a proper story that year.
All very third grade of me, yes?
But then one day, the red light was flashing.
It was the signal on our home answering machine telling us that we had a new message to listen to.
It was from him. The first of many. A classmate of mine.
The first message was innocent enough. He was telling me how much he loved me. My heart fell to my stomach when I realized who it was and what he was saying. I didn’t like it. Didn’t want it. And I felt shamed, even though I had done nothing to warrant his affections. There wasn’t anything truly alarming in that first message though, so my parents helped me laugh it off and move on.
But then he called again. And again. And again.
The messages became vulgar. He would ramble on and on about what he wanted to do to me. He talked about my body. He talked about things I didn’t understand. And as I type this, I can still feel the angst in the depths of my gut that these messages would elicit.
My parents jumped right on it, of course. The boy lived with his grandmother and older brother, the latter of which taught him about these crude and tawdry types of things. I don’t know what my parents had to do to get this to cease, but it eventually did. Thank God the grandmother got the seriousness of the situation too, and cooperated. He left my school, and then came back, but wasn’t allowed to interact with me at all. The saga ended there.
But the impact didn’t.
From then on, every time I saw the red light flashing on the answering machine, my insides felt anxious. When it wasn’t flashing, I felt deep relief. Even still, when someone leaves me a message, I feel a tinge of fear fly through my torso. Enneagram 4’s and introverts tend to feel funny about phones anyhow, but this made me a little extra.
What’s odd is that this type of thing had been, and would continue to be, a systematic attack on my heart and mind. Suckers and hoverers roamed in and out of my life for well over a decade. Odd, lurker, won’t-leave-me-alone type people. Even though I wasn’t a magnetic or inviting child, it happened anyway. Nothing exceedingly abrasive ever became of these though and I’m glad for it.
What’s good also…
…is that God has been gracious to show me some of the “whys”. He has peeled back the curtain as I’ve brought the memories to Him, and He has helped me to see some of the depravity and twistedness that several of those individuals endured in life. There is no excuse for certain behaviors, but knowing preceding and surrounding circumstances can be a helpful arrow.
God has also given me keen tools to navigate people now. A clear discernment, consistent checks, an awareness of my own vices, and His kind, peaceful, faithful presence in my life.
I’m thankful for healing and redemption and grace that abounds.
Why did I weave these words today? I haven’t been able to spill here in a while, and this is what bubbled up. I’m shrugging my shoulders, but trusting that these thoughts will conjure up feelings of hope somehow, and understanding.
If nothing else, they oiled my writing engines and for that I’m always grateful! Thanks for being here for it.
Blessings and healings and hope to you all, friends.