By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
And so it seemed beyond belief that on a day I sat in a library before a computer that might lead me to Blaine, my brain had deleted the record.
That night, I willed myself to dream his last name. My half-formed sense of things was that the name was Scandinavian. Or was it Irish?
I searched my apartment for mementos, but half my belongings lay unpacked from a recent move. I ripped open cardboard boxes. I found tax returns, cookbooks, oven mitts, three cans of garbanzo beans.
Phillips? I asked myself. Peterson?
My obsessive burst of caring, I realized, rivaled the obsessive lack of caring that had gone before. Since the night of the rape, I'd mostly ignored it, downplayed it, focused on it only long enough to feel a flash of fury and regret.
So why did Blaine matter now? The search, I knew, might just be an avoidance of some present-day issue -- loneliness, the end of a long relationship, doubts about the future -- but I didn't think so. Was I trying to accomplish something by labeling one person in my life as the root of all evil? War, illness, imprisonment, torture, the death of a child: I knew there were some events that could cripple absolutely. But I'd never considered nonconsensual sex on a river trip to be one of them.
And yet I had a weakness for the theory that untying a psychic knot can free the soul. It sounded so simple. Confront the detritus of the past -- it probably helps to have a shrink like Judd Hirsch in Ordinary People or Barbra Streisand in The Prince of Tides -- and the whole world begins to glow.
Insight, awareness, confrontation, renunciation: More classically, those themes throughout history have informed the narrative of redemption and rebirth. From early Greece to the era of Freud and Jung, men and women -- first through religion, much later through psychology -- have sought paths to ease suffering, to gain grace.
We have sought a place in the afterlife through revenge and blood feuds. We seek it through rituals, in which shamans stage ceremonial deaths for the suffering, allowing people to be reborn.
To address the past, I'd been told all my life, was to be allowed to reinvent the present. Central to healing was cleaning the wound; central to cleaning the wound was purity. Baptism. Water. New life.
And what I was doing, I believed, was rooted in a clarity that came with age. I finally could see how young 16-year-olds really are; I no longer felt so foggy and filled with blame. This was my last year, pre-40: I was cleaning house. And a part of me was dreaming, as I did when I was 16, that finding Blaine would make me new.
"Blaine Richardson," I said aloud. After three days of blankness, my memory released the prisoner, for no apparent reason, as I drove to work.
I turned around and headed back to the library. The phone disk chair was empty. I punched in "Blaine Richardson."
"Hailey, Idaho," the computer spat back.
I typed "Blaine Richardson" three more times, just for the pleasure of watching the cursor flash to his name, address, and phone number, which I wrote down twice. The elation was overwhelming. I felt as if my hands swelled with it. I wanted to run to a pay phone and call him; I wanted to tell my best friends, my sister, my estranged boyfriend, the librarian. But the find seemed too weird and precious to discuss right away. I wanted to hoard it. I now knew the whereabouts of a man I'd told people I would hurt if I ever tracked him down. I felt gleeful.
When I got home that night I immediately called Blaine's number, just to hear his voice, ready to hang up if he answered. Maybe he'd be gone -- out camping, or deflowering young virgins.
"Hi," a man said. I couldn't tell if it was him. "We're not home, but please leave a message," the tape said. So he was married. Or living with someone. I wondered what his wife would think, if she knew what her husband had done. I dialed again, listened, hung up. It had to be him.
Outside my living room, light fog nuzzled the Cannery, and I imagined women pulling in practiced strokes near the piers. The core of my exhilaration, at first a glow so hot its source was a blur, was now revealed to me as thistle-shaped; a large, febrile heart under a welter of thorns.
Blaine wouldn't remember me. I was probably one of scores of women he'd had on the river. Even if he did remember me, he would never admit to rape. He probably wouldn't even care what I said.
I thought about that for a moment, and then I couldn't think about it any more.
By Day 6, all of us on the river had gotten pretty cozy. Bo, a practicing Buddhist, had offered most of the women back rubs, but was cleaving hard to Jane, the single woman from Boston. Ron, at 28 the oldest boatman, had convinced most of us to skinny-dip by Day 3. He wore a blue bandanna pulled low to mid-forehead: His blue eyes stung, they were so pretty. A married woman named Julie favored his company most.