I know every inch of the place.
Well, I have always known it like the back of my hand. Now, I know it better, better than the back of my hand.
I know it like I know my mind.
It terrifies, attracts and humbles me all at once.
I know the wooden door at the entrance.
The only part of the arena that didn’t look rundown because it opens into the main house. Four light brown frames and a bronze handle.
The paint still shining. Perhaps it had received a fresh coat of varnish of late.
I remembered it as the place I looked for the moment I entered that house. My good sense telling me it wasn’t just going to disappear, but the relief upon seeing it each time, still there, defied all sense.
I remember it now as the moment of truth and conflict. The time when my mind screamed, “Flee! You don’t know what the fuck you’re getting yourself into.”
But my feet remained firmly planted in place; obeying only his gesture to descend into the darkness.
I know there are exactly thirteen stairs coming down from the door. Uneven in width.
I slipped on the seventh on the way down when I decided the only way to avoid sleep would be to run up and down the stairs to get some exercise.
I hurt my back. Only a little because the once-sharp stone edges of the stairs been rubbed off due to wear over the years.
He found me on the bottom stair; refusing to look back at him as I held my breath even though I could hear him, clear as day, coming down the stairs.
That bottom step where I have sat and smoked pot a multitude of times is now forever etched in my head as the place where the hair on my neck all stood up.
I know that bed. It’s not a bed really.
Just an old foam mattress from when my little sisters and I would play cards down there. I know the bed now as an instrument of mockery.
I never got to sleep on it.
No, I spent my nights on the floor, sleeping atop a thick bedcover that neither kept the cold from seeping into my naked back nor provided any kind of support.
I remember that bed now as the object responsible for all my aches. It was right there in front of me, no one could have stopped me from just lying on it for a few minutes to remember what comfort feels like but I didn’t. He camps deep inside my head.
I know the storage room in the back.
The white metal door rusted beyond all belief; the paint chipped off in most places and the blue lines that once decorated it reduced to mere aberrations in its now perfectly desecrated self.
The tiny room.
The roof still leaning like it always did. The walls; cracked and faded. As if the whole structure could collapse at any moment.
I remembered hiding in there with my sister; eating the pecans that were stored in the giant blue plastic containers. Our jaws sore from cracking the nuts open.
The room still smelled of pecans then, a few still lying strewn about at the bottom of those neglected containers that no one needed any more.
I remember it now as a chamber of suffocation and solitary confinement. A place where the only thoughts on my mind were of Florida prisons and building collapses.
I know the book shelf.
The books are all gone, of course. But I can always see them, as if I could ever forget the volumes upon volumes of psychology and economics textbooks that always left me with more questions than answers when I indulged myself.
It became my place of solace. I would sit under the shelf hoping it doesn’t fall on my head and kill me. I could still smell the books; the scent transporting me to a time when I had not a care in the world. A time when if I wanted to get up in the middle of reading The Rise and Fall of the third Reich and get myself a cup of coffee, all I had to do was turn the door knob.
Even though that was no place to hide, it’s in plain sight the moment you enter through the door, it was there I decided to hide. He could rape me all he wanted in that corner, he still couldn’t touch me.
Or so I believed. Had to believe.
I know my grandfather’s old study desk.
I remembered it as the place where we’d sit and he’d teach me about the Indian Education System, RAW, the Naxalites and atheists while the rest of our family bathed in the winter sunshine.
The wood was now merely a mass of splinters. It was softer too and fluffy. I’m sure there was some water damage.
I remember it now as the symbol of my paranoia. The object that transported me to an archaic period in time where I was convinced that my death certificate would read:
Cause of Death: Splinter
I know the bathroom.
Small, white tiles, no sink. Two taps and old-school plumbing. One golden faucet for the fresh, cold water and one silver faucet that was attached to the water heater that had only been installed because my grandmother was certain I would trip and break my neck carrying hot water down the stairs.
No one ever understood why I liked bathing in there.
The heater was long gone, my grandparents must have taken in with them when they moved out.
As if in cahoots with my captor.
Now that bathroom is a reminder of the privileges I enjoy in life, and the guilt I ought to feel for being so indifferent to my entitlement.
Sanitation. Water. Warmth. Comfort. Freedom.
I know the place, as I said.
I know every inch of it more intimately than I have known the bodies of myriad lovers.
Congratulate me now, for I have successfully converted my sanctuary into a minefield of nightmares.
(And isn’t that what every little girl grows up dreaming of?)