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Table of Contents

About the Author

Copyright Page

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NOW

1

I’ve learned some things.

Like that dirt comes in a variety of shades: tan, amber, silver, blue … Like that when you claw at it long enough, you’ll see these colors and wonder how you never noticed how striking dirt can be, with its pearly flecks of granite and residual bits of mica.

I’ve learned that the ruddier shades (the reds and the oranges) can conjure up memories of childhood pottery classes—Mommy and me making pinch pots and coil vases—but that the brain only allows such memories for an instant before zapping them away, reminding you where you are.

When you’re surrounded by dirt, when it forms the walls around you and the floor beneath your feet, you’ll feel the individual granules pushing through your skin, making everything itch, and you’ll taste mouthfuls of it, not knowing how it got there: on your tongue, at the back of your throat, and between your teeth.

You’ll be so hungry, so depleted of energy, having spent so much time underground. You’ll chew the inside of your cheek and search your mouth for food—a lingering popcorn kernel casing or a grain of rice stuck in the crevices of your gums—before curling up into a ball and noticing for the first time how hard dirt can be, like a marble slab, making every bone ache.

You’ll smell the dirt too. The scent is different from soil, not nearly as sweet or earthy. Dirt is arid, depleted of moisture, and so it smells like death—a sour, rotten stench.

You’ll think a lot about death, racking your brain, trying to remember facts from bio class. How long can one go without water? What happens to the body upon complete dehydration? Is it one of the worst ways to die?

You’ll replay the details from the night you got here—over and over again—tormented as to how it happened and what you could’ve done differently.

Taken another path home?

Called a cab?

Not returned the spare house key to the planter outside?

Because being here is your fault, after all—your stupidity, the result of not following everything you’d learned about safety and defense.

Screaming is a defense, and you’ll do a lot of that. You’ll also punch the walls, as if you could ever break them down.

Exhausted, you’ll find yourself in a fetal position, sucking your thumbs, hoping doing so will produce a mouthful of saliva, the way it did when you were little, all over your pillow. But instead the roof of your mouth will bleed from reaching too far and scraping too hard. Surprisingly, the taste will come as a welcome distraction. You’ll tell yourself: There’s iron in this blood, and fat in the oil in your hair, as if iron and fat could ever save anyone from a lack of food and water.

Water.

You’ll crave it like you’ve never craved anything, the way lions crave meat, picturing gallon jugs and fresh trout streams. Meanwhile, your mouth will be dry like a desert, like the dirt inside a barren well. And your tongue will feel foreign—too big for your mouth, too swollen to get enough air.

You’ll pray for rain to come. And when it finally does, you’ll try to catch it in your hands and collect as much as you can before splashing it into your sandpaper mouth, not caring that it’s littered with dirt, because you will be too—so damned dirty.

I’ve felt dirt in my eyes—the scratch, the burn, the constant blur—so perpetual I’d almost forgotten what it was like to see clearly. And I know how it feels inside the ears—so deep you can practically hear it: the sound of dirt.

The crackle of madness.

I’ve learned about madness too.

Hospital beds.

And doctors’ meds.

And “Be a good girl.”

“Don’t feel so much.”

“She’s feeling too little.”

“I’m not really sure how well she’s feeling today.”

I’ve learned to “feel” whatever the people with the name badges say I’m supposed to, because that’s what’s “sane.”

I’m not insane, but I’ve been diagnosed with some of Insanity’s cellmates—Delusional, Depressed, Defiant, and Paranoid—and lost people I thought were my friends.

Thank god for Jane. Saint Jane is what I call her, because she’s the one who created the Jane Anonymous website, a place where victims of crime-related trauma can chat with one another and share their experiences.

I discovered the site about a month ago, at the library where I work. The words VICTIMS UNITED screamed at me from a bathroom wall poster:

VICTIMS UNITED

Looking for a safe space to share your honest truth,

without judgment,

regardless of how unpopular that truth might be?

Come chat with us.

We’re here for you.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

www.JaneAnonymous.com

#JaneAnonymous #VictimToVictor #OnlyTheHonestSurvive

I logged on that very night and have been chatting ever since. The people on the site “listen” without judgment and offer advice and consolation. The site also provides a journaling feature because “Jane Anonymous,” the site’s creator, firmly believes in writing about one’s trauma as a therapeutic means of processing it. Members can write, save, customize, and tag entries, then choose to leave them open (for others to read) or locked up (for privacy).

In her memoir, “Jane” documents her time in captivity and the months after she got out. I’m going to do the same, starting with this entry—not that I need a website to journal, but it’s kind of nice knowing there’s a whole community of survivors journaling along with me. I’ve read so many of their stories. Now it’s time I wrote mine.

THEN

2

I knew better.

Because my parents had trained me

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