Know any rape victims? Of course you do. Me, too. I almost married one when we were young and beautiful.
Call her Vanessa. She closely resembled Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett, born with supermodel grace. Vanessa could don a burlap sack and make it look stylish. We met in college and soon learned that we were a matched pair from follytix to Beethoven.
Vanessa was so brilliantly cool that she named her horse after one of the nine muses of Greek mythology. I even got to ride Melpomene one fine day. Little did I know then the dark irony of gentle ‘Pom’s name.
Melpomene was the muse of tragedy in the liberal and fine arts, the metaphysical source of inspiration to poets, dramatists and authors. I guess I resemble that remark. I’ve been quoting her vassal Vanessa in this column for years.
Lilting Vanessa’s older brother had been killed in Vietnam not long before I met her. The family, of course, was devastated.
“I saw my father become an old man in one day,” she told me. Her parents remain among the finest people I’ve ever met. I wanted them for in-laws.
If you look back at the milestones of your life, Vanessa was one of mine. Her dad once advised that I look into public relations, something that had never occurred to me. Later, I started knocking on Las Vegas advertising agency doors and was soon writing for three of them. Without that idea, you might not be reading this.
Vanessa’s brother bore a close resemblance to actor Steve McQueen. After “The Sand Pebbles” was released in 1966, starring McQueen and Candice Bergin, Vanessa said she wanted to get up the courage to see it if I’d go with her. We never did.
The theme from the Robert Wise film became a hit for British singer Matt Monroe, “We Were Lovers.” The past tense provided another dark portent.
One day as we drove to Fresno State in my tricked-out ‘63 Buick Riviera, out of nowhere she blurted that her brother “tried to rape me when I was a little girl. I had strong legs from being on the swim team and kicked him away. I didn’t remember that until now.”
She never mentioned it again. She flew to Las Vegas in 1969 to say goodbye. I never got a good reason. It hurt. Still does. I only saw her once more when my brother returned from ‘Nam later that year. We never met again.
As old widowers are wont to do, a few years ago I punched her name into a web browser and up came Dr. Vanessa’s obituary. She never escaped Fresno and died relatively young of cancer in that polluted valley. I had found the address of her professional office several years earlier and was tempted to write a note. Never did. When the Vietnam Wall website was launched, I almost left a condolence for the family because there were none at her brother’s page. Never did.
Her obituary left me cold. Her older brother was totally written out of it. It termed her the second child of her parents and that she had healed a lot of people. Did the psychologist ever heal herself? Apparently not.
The minds of children are like the pristine high desert. There are places not far from here where you can find 19th Century covered wagon tracks. The scars just do not heal. Vanessa had been traumatized at least twice. She discovered the body of drowning victim when she was a child, then came the brother she erased. I hope otherwise, but I’m not sure she ever had a successful relationship. Her mom informed me of a short marriage and divorce back in 1970s.
Did her brother do more than try to rape her? I’ll never know. I do know the wagon tracks abided forever.
Which is why I believe the testimony of another psychologist, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, about Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Vanessa never recovered from her childhood traumas. Fast forward to another lady of my acquaintance many decades later. She had been sexually abused by her own father during childhood. Unlike Vanessa, who would fall into days of dark depression, this lady lashed out when triggered at random times. She was once estranged from her family for years after falling into a flaming rage at Thanksgiving.
Her family figured that grandma was just getting addle-pated. They never knew what her father did. The scars never healed. I give you Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
If you don’t think you know any rape victims, think again.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 50-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail <email@example.com>. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.