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B o o k s t o r e

The book title jumped out at me. I was reading book reviews in a local women's magazine and read that particular review with interest. It was the first time that I had seen - or heard - of such a book.

The story of an incest survivor.

At the time, I was in my early or mid twenties and it wasn't often that I would come across such books but then, admittedly, I never really researched that particular subject as I did with books on ballet and drama. Or any other subject that was of great interest to me. The topic of incest was taboo, after all, and something I didn't want anyone else to know about. So it was best to leave it alone. And just because I never mentioned it didn't mean it never happened.

The title of the book was, "Cry Hard and Swim: The Story of an Incest Survivor" by a woman author, Jacqueline Spring. And if the book was reviewed in a local magazine, that meant that it was available in a major bookstore. I think the store itself was mentioned in the magazine.

I made a telephone call to that bookstore and was told that the book wasn't in stock yet. But I could place a reservation for it. I didn't want to miss out on reading the book so I left my name and phone number. I tried to make it sound as if I merely had a passing interest in reading it, having come across the review in the magazine.

Some time later, the call came in that the book had arrived. I went to the bookstore and spoke to the sales assistant who had contacted me. She seemed like an outgoing young woman and started to tell me about the book, what it was about and how sad it was. Inwardly, I was a bit alarmed that she had read the book and was talking to me about it. I tried to look nonchalant, that yes, it was sad, but interesting, and how terrible that these things happened. I didn't want her to make the connection and she never let on if she did. And, for a moment, I wondered if she herself had personally experienced it. Somehow, it didn't appear that way but of course I never knew. Her openness also surprised me as I had never really conversed with a sales assistant in any bookstore. They were usually there to help me with my queries or assist me in finding a book. That short, but pleasant, exchange seems to have stood out in my memory.

That particular experience also opened my eyes. She wasn't just a sales assistant working in a bookstore. She was also a person who happened to be an employee in a bookstore. Silly, perhaps? No, not really, not at the time. Perhaps I was just too sheltered. But her willingness to share did make me see beyond what was in front of me. It wasn't a mind-shattering experience but a veil, somewhere, was lifted.

Buying the book seemed like a big step at the time. And an important step. I couldn't very well bury my head in the sand and make a wish that some kind stranger would purchase the book for me. If I could, I probably would have.

Once I had made my purchase, I couldn't show the book to anyone else, friend or family member. No one. It was kept hidden in my bedroom and I couldn't read it in front of anyone or accidentally leave it lying around. Even the book itself had to be a secret. Reading it was a private experience.

The book is still with me and it is still hidden away. And I know I started to write this with the intention of wanting to share a few excerpts from the book but that sales assistant comes to mind now. It is her openness that I see before me. Why is that? I think it's because I couldn't be open about it then. And I still can't be completely open about it now.

The book, like my own experiences, still stays hidden. There are scores of books on the subject, I realise that. I read bits and pieces, here and there, but nothing else really interests me. That was the only book on childhood sexual abuse that I've ever really read, that I've ever bothered to read. Maybe it came at a time when I was supposed to read such a book.

Many years ago, someone else had written her own story about being an incest survivor. And a young woman who worked at the bookstore had casually talked about it for a few moments. When I remember one, I have to remember the other.

Odd how things work sometimes.



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