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  • When it makes you feel uncomfortable, when it's scary to write it down, then that is your signal to keep going.

    Here's a story I have never told anyone in fifty years on the planet.

    At the age of nine, I lived in a big old house in Marietta, Pennsylvania. My mother had found this house after dreaming about it. She used to dream of houses and then go find them. There were five children in the family and she was looking for a place large enough to house all of our dreams and fears. Or large enough to carve out a little space of her own. What I remember is the three flights of steps from the street to the porch. We used to ride our big wheels down those steps - bump bump bump bump bump bump -then a landing -to be repeated two more times before hitting the sidewalk.

    We lived next door to a nice family. I became friends with the girl next door, Katie, even though she was three years older. One summer day, just before nightfall, all the kids in the neighborhood were playing the game hide and seek. I was "IT". The house I lived in then had a back staircase that led up to a carriage house my mother used for an office. The office was closed by then - my mother was already in the kitchen fixing us dinner in the main part of the house. That was back in the days when you could stay out as long as you wanted -as long as you stayed within range of your mother's voice. As the sun began to disappear behind the trees, I swung open the door to the office and I found Michael.

    Michael was fifteen. He was my friend Katie's older brother. He wasn't in our game but I had found his hiding place. I had found out why he was hiding as well. Michael, who seemed like a grown-up to my then nine year old little girl self, had his pants around his ankles. He had an erection. We were both startled. I just froze. I had never seen a man naked before. Breaking the silence, Michael spoke to me. "Touch it," he said.

    I should have run then. I should have told my parents. Instead, I reached out my hand and touched him. Then I ran.

    Although Michael knew better and so should have I, from my perspective now, I realize he wasn't the bogey man or even a pervert. He was just a boy himself. This event from my childhood was a secret and now it is a story because you have encouraged me to write real stories.

    Postscript: This story went private for several hours while I thought about it. I was always going to write it - I believe that it could be a strong coming of age type story - but always as a fictional work with fictional characters. After all these years, one would think that I had gotten beyond it, but emotions have no age limits. I have a sense of shame that accompanies this event. When you are embarrassed, eventually, after time passes, you can laugh about it. When you are humiliated or ashamed, this is not the case. Revisiting the incident often causes you to feel the same way you did when the event originally occurred. I am a grown woman now - but my emotions this afternoon rocketed back to the ones I had felt as a nine year old girl who did a bad thing.

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