This was written shortly after one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life. I am finding I am just now able to post them and talk about it. Let’s drag this shit out into the light. It doesn’t get to own me anymore.
“Safe. Protected from or not exposed to danger or risk. Not likely to be harmed or lost.” That’s what the dictionary says anyway. For me, it seems like a more relative word. Open for discussion and always open to change. Things that were once safe, suddenly, in the blink of an eye (or the flashing of police lights), change and become unsafe, unprotected from and exposed to danger and risk.
My safe place here in my current hometown was, in one night, turned into something completely foreign to me. The details don’t matter too terribly much for this part of the story. I know there are some of you who would disagree and say the details matter very much indeed. But for the sake of time, since I have no idea how long I will be able to sit here and write this, and for the sake of my sanity, I will leave the majority of the details out for now.
For as long as I can remember the places that seem so safe for me have been near large bodies of water. Now, I was born and raised in Texas and have never seen the Pacific or Atlantic. So, for me, good ol’ central Texas lakes have had to suffice. And, honestly, they have done more than that.
In my childhood hometown, it was the dam. I would go there when I was a little girl and lay out on limestone rocks with my grandfather. We would lay back, watch the clouds, and with one arm protecting our eyes from the hot Texas sun, we would fly kites until the day was done. When I was older I would drive out to the dam and sit for hours. I would sit there on that 50 foot high piece of fortified concrete and stare at the beauty and nature on one side and notice the city skyline in my rearview mirror. All the possibilities before me, and everything I once knew resting uncomfortably in sight behind.
When I first moved to Dallas I was afraid that I wouldn’t have a place to call my own. I moved into an apartment surrounded by cement streets and way too many strip malls. One afternoon of exploring led my car to the edge of a pond right off one of the busiest streets in town. Man-made, of course, but there were ducks and fish and it was beautiful. It was safe. It was the place I ran to gather my thoughts or emotions. It was the place I went to “cool down” after arguments with roommates. It was the place I would find myself after just buying new music. It was almost as if I wanted to hear it first in a place that would mean something in the future. “Yea, I remember where I was the first time I heard that song…”
After a series of other moves I would find a spot, usually under a tree, near water. It always happened that way. So when I moved to the suburbs just north of Dallas I was not surprised to find that I was quickly drawn three minutes north of my house to a boat dock nestled in a small cove on the lake. This was it. I had found it. It was beautiful and quiet and alive and safe.
One night, after a series of somewhat poorly communicated events, I retreated to the lake. It was night. I parked my car and quickly put on music that somehow resonated deep in my soul. Somehow, all the words that could not be said out loud came streaming through my speakers. The weight in my soul began to seem not so heavy. I felt that my breathing had resumed and I was in fact singing along. The spotlight and flashing blue and red lights stopped my breath again. My safe place had been violated. I was thrust from that safe place into a place of anger and confusion and hurt. That was one month and nine days ago. The place that I visited at least three times a week hasn’t seen my face since that night. Until tonight.
For some, probably insane, reason I thought that tonight was the night I needed to go back. With my seatbelt fastened, just the right music playing, and my “TAKE BACK THE LAKE” attitude, I drove the three minutes north. With a knot in my stomach and shake in my fingers, I flipped the turn signal. Left. I was turning left into the parking spaces that sit directly in front of the water and the docked boats. “Put it in park, Alison.” I had to remind myself because for some reason this driving thing was no longer second nature. My second nature was telling me to get out of there. “Run. This isn’t safe. You are not safe here.”
I did run.
But not right away.
I was able to “take back the lake” for exactly 12 minutes.
I want my safe place back…for MORE than 12 minutes.
I want to feel safe again.
Part of me thinks maybe I shouldn’t have gone there tonight. After all, it just served as a trigger for all those memories and fear and hurt. Maybe I was foolish to think it was a good idea. But you know what? Maybe I was saying, “no more. you don’t get to win this one.”
Maybe I was just beginning to fight for me.