For You, The Stars
Chapter Seven: Installment 4
It got worse.
Over the next few days I encouraged Cecilia to talk to me more about the abuse she had suffered as a child. It was obvious she blamed herself and that her self-esteem was lower than I had realized, although I guess in retrospect the warning signs were there: her use of her sexuality for seduction but her take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward sex itself, and of course the big problem that brought it all to light.
It turns out that this cousin of hers, the bastard, had continued taking advantage of her for several years. Eventually teaching her how to give him blowjobs. It made my flesh crawl, the thought of using a little girl like that, and worse yet a member of his own family.
For a long time she thought it was only happening to her, first that there was something special about her that was earning her all this close attention from the guy, and later that there was something particularly wrong about her that was making it all happen.
Then one day, she told me, she was swimming in her family’s pool and listening to her two older sisters, Bella and Laurie talking about their cousin. From the conversation, it was obvious that he had groomed them both at younger ages for his abusive attention until they had made him stop or he had lost interest in them.
“At least it never happened to Cecilia,” said Laurie.
That’s when she told them.
I was preoccupied with this revalation. It was like a nightmare, a glimpse into a family horror I couldn’t fully fathom. I thought my only family life was fucked up in its own way. There was a reason I was living 3000 miles away. I didn’t have to face my alcoholic father with his alternating rages and pathetic cries for sympathy. But at least in my family the siblings looked out for each other, and my cousins seemed pretty decent too, not that I saw them much growing up.
I called Paulie in LA to talk about it. I don’t know why. Maybe because he had gone out with Bella in college and maybe had heard the story before. Maybe I thought he could give me a clue about what to do, how to help. I was surprised that he didn’t see it all as such a big deal.
“Daniel,” he said. “You have no idea how common this is. It’s in almost every family.”
“But it’s so messed up,” I said. “I can’t accept that it’s normal.”
“I didn’t say normal,” he said. “But it is everywhere.”
“Well,” I said. “It’s had a devastating effect on Cecilia. For one thing,” and her I lowered my voice, because I was calling long distance from the repro room at work, “she can’t come because of it.”
“Dude, that does suck,” said Paulie.
“Yeah, so there’s this creepy third person, like a phantom, visiting us in bed and making her not enjoy sex. It makes me want to track him down.”
“Has Cecilia every talked to a psychiatrist?”
“No, I don’t think so. She went to a counselor at that fancy prep school for fucked up kids she got kicked out of, but I don’t think she talked about the abuse with him.”
“Well, therapy could help.”
“True…. So did Bella ever mention these incidents to you?”
“No, she never did.”
I called Bella too, in New York. She told me that she didn’t like to dwell on this. She was all about getting over it and forgetting it and not staying stuck in the past. That sounded like denial to me, but who was I to judge someone else’s coping mechanism?
I told her that Cecilia wasn’t having as easy a time getting over it and that I thought her whole family needed to deal with it together, but she said that would just make things worse.
“When Cecilia first told us it was happening to her too we went to everybody. We talked to mom and dad and we talked to our uncle and aunt. They made Bobby get psychological help even though he at first denied anything had happened and later he said that it was always totally mutual, which is not true.
“Our grandmother got rid of all of her pictures of him when she found out. To this day she won’t talk to him or about him.”
“So he hasn’t apologized or even admitted responsibility?”
“Wow,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to see him at a family reunion. I wouldn’t want him near my kids, if I had kids.”
“Yeah,” she said. “He wouldn’t be welcome at my house if I had daughters.”
My anger didn’t subside. If anything, the complacency of Cecilia’s family made me more angry. Couldn’t anyone see how badly she had been hurt? I talked to her about making trying to get everyone in her family, her sisters and parents, into some kind of group family counseling thing, but she said that everyone would give her a hard time for stirring up the past. In some ways they were an old-fashioned Catholic family and the guilt was unbearable.
I told Cecilia she could talk about it if she wanted to or she could not talk about it. It was up to her. I’d be there for her no matter what. Which was true up to a point.