“I wish he was dead!” I cry out to no one in particular, two police officers standing before me, my husband by my side, and beyond him, through the window, the Irish countryside, blanketed by a cold, grey sky.
The gardaí have come to tell us the man they’d arrested that morning has been released. He’d reached the six-hour legal limit and could no longer be held without a confession or incontrovertible evidence.
The devil, the monster, the murderess within me, the one I would have sworn didn’t exist, rises to the surface for the first time.
This can’t be real! I hate him! I wish a Dexter-like character would show up and slice him apart. Or we could just do it . . .
We could just do it . . .
The night before, my husband and I had stepped out of the inky dark and into the rented cottage, crossing the threshold demarcating “before” and “after.”
“How did it go?” I ask my mom, having left our two kids under her care while we walked down the long dirt road to the pub to sip whiskey and revel in the start of a new adventure.
Visibly flustered, “Not good. I don’t know. Not good,“ she says.
I follow her into her bedroom and she explains.
I’m stunned as I leave the room and climb the spiral staircase to my five-year-old daughter’s bedroom. She confirms what happened, what he, a member of our traveling party, did, how he sexually assaulted her.
Catching my husband at the top of the stairs on my way back down, I beg him, “Promise me you won’t go to prison.”
“What are you talking about?” he says, bewildered.
“Promise me you won’t go to prison,” I say again.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says with growing impatience. “Tell me what you mean!”
Terrified of what he may do if he knows what has happened I spring down the stairs.
“Get the fuck out!” I yell as he gathers his carry-on bag and stumbles to the door.
Splintered by shock, I sit down at the table unsure of what to do. Then I rise, put on my jacket and hat, walk outside, climb over a fence, and knock on the neighbor’s door.
“Something bad happened and I need to use your phone,” I say, my tone frantic, yet my mind clear in the way that such an emotional blow will both throw you off course and illuminate each next step.
The moment the gardaí tell us he’s been released I’m no longer naïve to the fact that she is there—here—the villain, the one who could sit on death row, especially in defense of her child. I imagine the situations, many far worse than ours, in which other mothers have caught glimpses of her, too.
Suffering and seething I limp on—through conversations and interviews with law enforcement, sleepless nights, relationship blow-ups, and visions of extermination.
Until, a month or so after returning home, a voice wise, benevolent, and revealing the best of me and representing the transcendent in all of us, emerges:
She’s OK – my daughter. She knows she was listened to and believed—loved, really.
We’re OK. Our family is not broken after all.
I’m OK. Just breathe.
Breathe out the disappointment and resentment.
Breathe in compassion for him. Even the worst among us is doing the best he can.
Breathe out the anger and assassination fantasies.
Breathe in acceptance of what is. Not because it’s right, but because it’s ours.
Let go of forgiveness as an act bestowed upon another.
Embrace forgiveness as a gift to oneself, the granting of inner peace.
I choose to see our shared humanity, mine and his. Each of us is saint and sinner after all, and there but for the grace granted to me in my life, go I.
I choose to be impeccable with my thoughts so as not to fall down the well of despair and destruction again. To focus on what I want—for him to heal—not on what I don’t want—for him to live.
I choose to not be a victim, to instead be conscious in my life. Being treated unjustly doesn’t mean we must live in powerlessness or reactivity or as a side effect of our situation.
I choose to look for the opportunities, to redirect my life in the face of devastation and grow as a member of the human community. We, as it turns out, can make meaning of any circumstance.
Most of all, I choose to forgive. Each day. Not because I condone his actions, but because I deserve to feel peaceful. I deserve to be free. I deserve to live well.
Besides, living well is the best revenge.
About the Author
Ashley Kim is a Certified Professional Coach helping moms who feel stuck, trapped, or rage-y find inner freedom and take advantage of each trip around the sun. You can find her at www.ashleykim.me and on Facebook.