I have a recurring dream which comes and goes in life and haunts me for ages when it's with me. I don't know why it comes or what triggers it. I don't know why it goes away again either.
Before it goes it's not just a night dream, it's a day dream too and it takes over all my thoughts. When it reaches its most intense stage I spend most of the day with it swimming round my head and it acts as a veil through which all other things are seen and experienced, tainting everything. I think that's why it has to go again, because it threatens to envelop me completely. It's never solved or resolved when it goes. It just dissolves away and I always know it will be back. It lingers in the shadows, a demon at my back.
Perhaps if I resolve the issues here and work out what it really means the demon will be exorcised? Here goes...
THE START OF THE DREAM:
I'm in a pub having a drink with my friends. One of my friends comes back to the table and says "A guy at the bar says he knows you". I look around embarassed to see who's heard that, because there will always be that question flashing in their heads about who this mystery person is and how I might know him. It could be someone I know completely innocently, or it could be someone I don't wish them to learn about, but anyone who's heard it is interested and awaits my response. I can't see him at the bar, he's obscured.
I ask my friend what sort of bloke he is, what does he look like? What did he say? How does he say he knows me? I am shocked by her answer. "His name is P*** and he says he can't remember your name, but that you know him from back home". This makes me catch my breath as the possibility of it being the one man I don't ever want to see again starts to occur to me, but it's the next thing she says which confirms it and knocks the ground right from under me, "I didn't like the look of him, he's scabby and he has mad staring eyes".
Now I start to panic inside, my stomach falling to the floor whilst simultaneously trying to force itself up through my throat, but I maintain as expressionless a face as I can whilst I try to work out what expression I should wear. The next few moments could make all the difference to my present life, could shatter the existence which I have built, and I have to play it perfectly.
This puts an incredible strain on me before I've even seen him - I try to work out how all the possible scenarios could play out and what I could do now to prevent them from turning nasty.
The fact that he still has the "mad eyes" and he's clearly not cleaned himself up indicates to me that he's the same person as he was 14 years ago and I am completely clueless as to how he will react to me or how I should react to him. But what I do know is that I've got to keep my friends out of trouble at all costs. I don't want them bound up inside this along with me, I'd rather deal with it myself and not carry that guilt around too.
The bloke in question, standing at the bar, is the guy who raped me 14 years ago. I've spent many years thinking I'd never see him again as the possibility got more and more remote. I've moved towns, I don't hang around with that groups of "friends" anymore, I never left a forwarding address with any of them. I cut them off cold. Since then I've been rid of him physically, although he's never been far away from me because he's lived vividly in my dreams.
But the unthinkable has happened: the event I'd always feared. Here he is in the flesh and acting like I would want to know him, that he's an old flame or friend, and that I would want to talk to him.
Maybe he doesn't think he did anything wrong?
So many questions flash through my head that I can't settle on one to start processing it. Like a fruit machine they are whirling round and round. I need to know what he thinks, what version of the truth he's been building his life around and what he remembers. What does he think he did? Has he spent all these years thinking that I was really there in the situation with him through my own choice? Did he hope to meet me again some day to rekindle that night? Does he think we are just notches on each other's bedposts, or does he know he took what he wanted by force, but couldn't care less? Or maybe he does know what he did wrong and wants to apologise?
I've tried to convince myself that my version of the truth is what I should believe, but it doesn't ever quite seem enough. This is the biggest story of my life, in which the facts and the feelings and intentions behind them are so important. Yet I only know half the story, at best.
So maybe he'll make me think I was wrong, that I'm over-reacting. That's the most obvious way for him to play it, isn't it? But the real fear I suppose is that they'll believe him too, that he'll downplay it with my friends and I'll be made out to be some neurotic liar. What if I tell them the truth, MY truth, and they choose to believe him? Suddenly my present life and my healthy and safe environment seems like it's made of painfully thin glass and could shatter with whatever move I choose to make next.
So should I ignore him? acknowledge him in a friendly manner or a hostile manner? pretend he's got the wrong person, what? What? I am completely lost. Surrounded by my friends I am utterly alone. I cannot involve them because I know what is at stake. I don't want them to be victims too. All I know is that if he's still the same guy, anything I do or anyone else does could end up in violence. He will defend himself if I accuse him of rape. The fact that he thought that violently taking what he wanted all those years ago was his right, that it was normal, makes me realise that knocking any one of my friends to the floor who tries to intervene if he turns nasty will be normal to him too.
I knew him from the time that I worked in a rough town centre pub in a North East town, where violence was a regular occurence, so I'm sure he won't think twice about being violent to protect himself.
I'm stuck. I have to make a decision, but I don't know what.
At this point whether awake or asleep I struggle to breath (both in the dream and in reality). If I'm asleep I'll stop breathing completely sometimes. This always wakes me up in the end, breathless and confused between dreams and reality.
WHERE IT GETS COMPLICATED:
When I return to the dream it's exactly where I left it. It's like no other dream in that respect. It's like a video which has been paused and every detail will remain the same. On my return all the different options are playing at once now though, whirring round my head, interchanging, but I know them so well that I know which thread they belong to.
So the next part plays out in many different ways and I flick between them, not able to decide which is most likely and which is most desirable, because ultimately this is all conjecture anyway, being a dream. I have complete control, but still I seem unable to take it.
In one option I'll talk to him casually and make out it was a pretty average night many years ago and tell him that I'm married now so I'm not really interested. This goes well and he acknowledges me on the way out of the pub when he leaves. Or another time he comes over to drink with me like we're buddies and he'll try to talk me into seeing him again, taking his number, wanting a repeat performance. Somehow I talk him out of it in the end, or one of my friends rescues me from what they think is just the normal kind of bothersome bloke on the pull. These are all the good options, the least harmful options because they throw him off the scent and they leave me physically in tact, even though I whither in a corner when I'm finally out of his presence. Only then do I tell my friends who he really was because I can't help being upset and panicky now he's gone. They can't quite believe that he was there and I was so calm, but they seem to believe me.
These options don't happen very often though.
In another version he asks me if I've seen his girlfriend who's left him and taken the kid and I say I haven't seen her for ten years. Sometimes this is enough; other times he harasses me, insistent that I must know more than I'm telling. Sometimes he takes my word in the end, other times he gets violent. In one version he ends up holding me by the throat up against the bar (or against a wall, or he's rushed into the ladies toilets after me and has me holed up in a cubicle) until someone manages to rescue me. Well I usually get rescued, but in one horrible version, which thankfully doesn't strike very often, he ends up stabbing me in the ribs.
Even at this point, in a public place with him obviously being violent, I still just want it all to stop and I don't defend myself. I just let him do what he wants and try to calm him down or avoid the blows. I want to run away, but I can't in case someone else gets involved. I would rather he hurt me than anyone else. I end up screaming at my friends to leave him alone, which just makes me look like I feel something for him and want to protect him. I don't though. I just don't want them getting into trouble for attacking him. This would make him an unwelcome part of our lives, beyond this night. I'd rather just take the pain and not let him know any personal details about me by pursuing him through the courts or by someone defending me ending up being pursued through the courts by him.
In another version I decide not to go to speak to him and when he comes over and says he knows me I act as if he's mistaken, I make up a new name, say I've lived somewhere else, I've never heard of the town he's sure I'm from. Sometimes I convince him, other times he insists to various degrees that I know him. Sometimes he gives up and my resolve pays off, maybe he does doubt himself, or maybe he just thinks it's too hard work? Other times he drags me from my seat and outside under the pretext of wanting to talk to me privately. Sometimes I end up punching him to the floor, sometimes he punches me, one time I ran away and rang my friends when I'd lost him. That's if he doesn't catch up with me, which sometimes ends up with me battering him, angry like a wild banshee, or other times I return to my friends later bloody and upset, unable to tell them what had happened, unable to face the reality of the fact that he'd caught me and attacked me again.
Another time he tells me he's just come out of prison, sometimes this is for murdering his girlfriend or at least beating her up, other times it's because someone else has succesfully brought a rape claim against him. I struggle with the emotions this conjures up whilst also struggling to work out how to react to him and preserve myself against this man who is clearly more violent than I ever had any idea he was at the time when he was my aggressor.
More recently (ever since my first post here) it has been changing subtly since I've come to accept that my truth is legitimate. Every so often a new option appears which is more brave on my part. Last week I dreamt that I ignored him and he came over to the table and he said very publicly "Don't you remember me?" and I say No and then he says "So you don't remember people you sleep with?" which is clearly designed for him to get control of the situation and make it difficult for me to get the truth across to my friends. It's a controlling move, but I recognise it as such and I'm very proud of my reply:"Yes P*** of course I recognised you, I just didn't want to talk to you or acknowledge you. Yes, I remember fondly all the people who I've chosen to sleep with, however you gave me no choice all those years ago so I don't count you as one of those people."
How liberating this version is!! I wouldn't mind if that version was the one which stayed, although as yet I don't know what he did next...
WHAT I THINK IT ALL MEANS:
My first post on this blog showed the uncertainty I've had all these years that mine was a clear case of rape. I felt unsure that I'd done enough to make it clear to him that I did not consent. Or at least I worried that other people would doubt me. The option of him turning up, although frightening, seems to me to be a way of getting resolution. A way of forcing myself to face it all and decide on one definitive version.
The fact that it's new friends and work friends I think means that I want to reconcile the newest version of myself with the secret parts of myself that I'm always too wary to show. To free myself, the individual self, with people who didn't know me then so have no way of doubting my truth.
The fact that it is in a public place with people I trust is telling of the fact that I need support for my assertions and I need reliable witnesses. I don't want them to protect me, I want them to see him as a clear aggressor too. I want to lose my doubts by knowing that there are witnesses. This is also why it's important that he seems the same person and why the aggressive options are so prevalent. I dream of it being made plain to me that he was wrong, that he overstepped the mark. I need simplicity.
I need to know what an outside observer would have made of him because I don't believe my own version.
Deep down I've always known that my truth was right, as far as I was concerned I didn't consent to sex with him. But I've often excused his actions by reasoning that maybe he didn't realise it or that he didn't hear me or he didn't think it was a possibility that I'd say no, because of the fact that he thought I was going to say yes, that it was expected.
If other people observe the dynamic between us then I can understand whether he is aggressive and whether it was intentional on his part, whether he seems like the sort of bloke who wouldn't care about consent - capable of rape.
I think I've lived with the fear of him having another chance to impose his truth on to the situation. To keep having control over me beyond the one night. I need some resolution, a chance to lay all this to rest. Secretly I want to see him again just so that I can fill in the gaps of my story and close the book, regardless of what the conclusion will be. More than that though I want to meet him in a safe environment where I can get the control back.
These two desires are never going to happen though, so I'm stuck going round this endless loop until I find a way to accept my truth and lay it all to rest for good.
2 weeks ago