In the 20 years from when I finished college until March of 2012, when my father died, I didn’t write a word about him. In fact, I hardly wrote anything at all. He took up too much space, held so many words hostage in my brain, I didn’t have enough letters left to squeeze in around the edges of him. He was an infection spread through my whole life, though I hadn’t seen or spoken to him for years.
Even after his death, it took another year for me to write anything about his abuse. Based on the ways I’ve tried to live my life, I don’t often think of myself as a coward, but here’s what’s true: I spent decades terrified to tell my story–forty-two years of mute terror.