I had to go into town yesterday and, being as it was such a lovely day, I didn’t want to take the car. I got off the dart at Connelly and walked though the station with the rest of the crowd until I was out in the Aungier Street sunshine. Then I walked around by Bus Aras and up to the junction where Gardiner Street meets the back of the Custom House. I was standing there alongside several other people, all of us waiting to cross the road, when I glanced over my shoulder at the buildings behind me. That’s when it arrived – the memory I’d really rather not have.
When I was fifteen and only a short time on the game I was taken back to a hotel room in one of those buildings and used sexually by an Asian man. I remember how insistent he was that he would not use a condom, and how insistent he was about everything else. I remember the bullying nature of the encounter, how his hands seemed to be everywhere at the same time and how he continually shoved his fingers into my vagina and anus although I repeatedly asked him to stop. He was a thirty-something man. I was less than half his age.
I was so innocent and so unused to what I was doing that I’d forgotten to ask him for the money first, and of course after he came he maintained he hadn’t got it. He told me to wait for him in MacDonalds on Grafton Street at two o’clock the next day, where he would pay me.
So there are two memories here, meshed into one, and for me somehow the second is more pitiable than the first. It is the image of my fifteen-year-old self waiting in MacDonalds for a man to show up so that I could buy myself a burger meal. Needless to say, I never got to eat a burger meal that day.
Every time I have turned that corner I have looked up at those buildings, but it was only yesterday that I was able to face the full reality of what caused me to turn and look. Up to now I had always snapped my neck away, pushed away the memory, refused to be submerged beneath the pain and the shame of being used like that, being made into nothing like that; and I had certainly not allowed my mind to wander back to sitting in Macdonalds on Grafton Street, feeling like the world’s emptiest, loneliest fool.
I was able to do that yesterday. I was able to let my mind go there; to remember being a hungry young girl who felt like a fool. I think I could do that because I know now that I was not a fool. I was just a young naive homeless teenager, with nobody to love her, and who it had never dawned on to love herself.
There are residues of the past. In a city as small as Dublin, they are everywhere you go. Yesterday I let the past settle into me in a way I’ve never done before. Maybe it’s because now I know the day would come when that girl would get a book deal, and have something to say about the past.