I should have seen that coming a long time ago. I should have been ready to answer my daughter. But there I was, looking down into those little brown eyes, staring at the frown on her pretty little forehead, and I was lost. But not for a few seconds, like I typically was when she surprised me with her other kiddie questions. I was looking through her, into the background of trees behind her, into an abyss, that silent place in time that doesn't exist.
I wasn't trying to figure out how to answer her, I was trying to figure out why she asked me that question. Why did she say the word - rape? Where did she hear that?
Did she know what it meant? And the worst question that tore through my mind that instant -- did she really know who I was; and what had happened to me when I was a child? I wanted to hide, but I couldn't. I had to be brave.
I tried so hard to stay there, with her, while she stared up at me, and I felt myself leaving the earth instead. I wanted to stay with her so much, to answer her question, like a Daddy should. A strong dad...a smart dad...a wise dad. The daddy she was used to.
But I was failing. I knew I was going to that place, that bad place -- where I go involuntarily when I get triggered. Where I go when I have those nightmares, those intrusive thoughts; that place that's dark and creepy, that place where I die so many times.
She began to disappear, my little girl, and fade into the background, and I was unable to see or hear her anymore; the curtain of trauma had isolated us both, and I was alone somewhere that I'll never take her to see.
I was back in the dark room with the priest, when I was a young puppet, and the echoes of pain were bouncing off the walls, and Jesus had fallen from his cross. The shiny cross around the priest's neck glistened in the dark, while the monster took my soul with him to hell. I heard a sound in the distance, and I groped in the dark room to reach toward it, but the monster wouldn't let me go. My daughter was crying for her daddy to come back, the sound was faint, but I knew she was out there somewhere in the dark clouds; it was just too difficult to see.
I realized I had been gone for hours, or was it just seconds? And my daughter was tugging at my shirt.
She woke me from the stupor, "Daddy, why do priests rape little kids?"
My eyes may have been wide open the whole time, I really don't know, but I looked toward her as if she were going to fade away again.
I screamed loudly at her in a rage:
" Because they're sick f*cking monsters with no conscience, and they don't believe in their phony God, who does nothing to save the kids they destroy, and they don't care about how much pain they cause, and I hope they all burn in hell!"
My little girl looked up at me with concern and said, "Daddy, why are you so quiet, you never answered my question?"
I realized then, that I really hadn't answered her, that I had imagined that I screamed; and I was fortunate enough to have left her when I visited that place in hell, and she would never know.
" Hug daddy, and I want you to know I love you", I said. "We'll talk about this later, when daddy is ready".
I took her little hand in mine, and I walked slowly through the garden with her.