In my Dark Corner
On a starry
Thursday evening, September 15, 2011, my best friend and I enjoyed a pleasant
dinner in the heart of Paris. The outdoor eating area of the small restaurant
overlooked the Seine River and the window view provided a magnificent
reflection of the Eiffel Tower. The famed icon, not more than a block away, was
ablaze with thousands of white lights. Sightseers by the hundreds stood with
their heads turned upward, gazing at the towering structure. Why not be
enamored by the City of Light?
Le Clos des
Gourmets, an expensive restaurant by American standards, had been recommended
by our concierge and with a sweep of charm and wit, guaranteed we would feel
the very heartbeat of Paris as we dined amongst residents of the area. Trust
not being an issue, we let him make the reservation and discovered it to be too
loud and cramped for fine dining. The entrées were not perfect but, the
blend of international wide-eyed tourists and expressive, cheerful people made
the experience worth all the grandiose build up.
We were stimulated
by more than just the ambience. Our spirits were heightened because we had
achieved our goal. Two empty-nester girlfriends together in the most enchanting
city in Europe.
friend for more than fifteen years, looked more beautiful than ever. My glow,
Id humbly admit, would have netted me a close second. We were happy then
as we sipped a glass of expensive Bordeaux and talked about our selfish
adventure and how much wed gain by exploring France without our husbands.
No compromise over which museum to skip, no groans about too much art.
Delicious red winefreedom, selfish indulgence, more promise than ever
On the return
home, our husbands would welcome us with wide arms and then delight vicariously
in this whimsical venture.
collided with reality and all too soon Leslie and I clung to each other by a
thin thread of hope. Events led to altered dreams. Souls shattered, but yet not
broken. Death imminent.
I, alone, slipped
into utter darkness, an abyss so profoundly unreal the struggle to maintain
sanity lingers five years later. I shudder frequently. My laughter is often
cruel and tears fall unexpectedly.
unwarranted scars rest beneath sinew, but not far from her heart. Her dignity
is intact. She has become an idol, the image of strength, even though we are
more distant than ever. The terrible event that kept us captive to the whims of
violent men fractured our friendship in a manner that inhibits general
conversation. It was no laughing matter. Not one to chat about over Sunday
We do, however,
continue to work together. To diligently derail, if not to forget, the long
period of seclusion that defied all sense of humanity. This work effort comes
from the need to avoid the extreme emotions that ride sidesaddle with memories
of that dire time when we were lost to the world. Images have faded, like chalk
dusted off a blackboard, but jagged lines and shadows linger.
After a long,
isolated period in an exclusive mental facility in southern Michigan, Im
well enough to unleash in writing those first few weeks of a once in a lifetime
adventure that altered the essence of my well-being. Intended as a purge, like
an antiseptic rinse, the ultimate goal of my story is to flush out the
flashbacks, those that lull in an unconscious mist, and reduce them to
serves as an attempt to close the margins of serious wounds.
The fact is, on
the journey back to the U.S., where freedom reigned, I turned those distasteful
dreams into a slow simmer of self-abuse. They grew into grueling nightmares.
Hot and destructive on the surface, I buried them deep and let them burn into
the images I had of my family: husband, daughter, son. The people I had once
loved were rebuked by my charred soul.
the story, is meant to wash away the total disdain I wrapped myself in. The
plan is for the dirty memories to dissolve, dissipate, like sewer water
swirling down a drain.
comes in an unlikely fashion. Long after the event but as vivid as a
threatening purple sky. Sick beyond imagination, I scribbled the causative
events on note paper then hid them in a drawer so no one would know the secrets
I bore. On better days, I wrote in a frenzy, hour after hour. Scanned what I
wrote and then crumbled the sheets of paper in my hands. The floor of my room
was often cluttered with endless amounts of wrinkled pages. The abduction had
taken me beyond lucid consciousness, unable to understand why I made certain
medication and endless hours of darkness, when days and nights of terror were
intermingled and at full throttle, I closed my eyes to a world that could be
and slept in a coma-like state of nothingness. In purposeful solitude and
self-hatred in high gear, I retreated in a place where tireless sentinels,
mental health aides, nurses and one special doctor, stood on constant watch.
After my release
from the hospital, those weeks of captivity are still vivid but I manage their
significance and finally acknowledge the cause of my mental illness. The sordid
tastes from those days linger but cant cut through my soul any longer.
So I start with
the hard part, even though its been written after my release. Pages
written in the dark days will evolve to fill in loopholes. Leslie looks over my
shoulder and assures me this tell-all is wise and just. Then she and I intend
to part, walk away from the subtle, lingering debris and embrace new lives.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
eyes bulged over her red swollen cheeks. Gray tape, wrapped tightly, cut into
her flesh and created a cartoon-like image of hyper-wide eyes. Gone were the
round sharp orbits and her gaze was hauntingly translucent. Taped again and
again, the strips dug into her cheeks and inflammation flared like a balloon
ready to burst. Her lifeless body looked pale, ghostly. Terror hid itself deep
within, beyond the taut lines of her bound body and disheveled hair, behind the
bruises and raw abrasions. The effect was more than surreal. The aroma of
undignified horror permeated the air. Odors that sprang from unimaginable fears
hoovered around us. Our senses, our nostrils full of circumstances beyond our
control. Utter shame mixed with incredulity. Two desperate women imprisoned on
My pulsing heart
had finally settled to a normal rate. The lub-dub less thunderous. However,
other manifestations of the attack lingered. Visual and sensory reminders came
at me, darts with sharpened points. Fractionated streaks of lightening,
highlighting the degradation, raced across my brain like a meteorite storm.
Urine spilled over my thighs. Yet, I welcomed the minor relief as a full
bladder no longer irritated tender nerve endings. The least of my concern was
to sit in my own stench even though an acidic burn on fragile tissue
couldnt easily be dismissed.
captors, in black twill pants and black long sleeved shirts had duct-taped my
arms and legs to a chair not long after the initial introduction to the reality
of our kidnapping. Pain riveted through bones and muscles now, nerves fired on
auto pilot as a result of the prolonged contracted angle of my extremities. I
sighed through my nose, instinctively to gain a reprieve, and then exhaled. I
gazed in Leslies direction and saw a slight movement of my friends
back. Then her arm. Just ever so slight, more like a fine tremor. It could only
be an anatomical reflex, an oxygen release in her chest. And yet?.
in far worse shape than I, had been subjected to a horrendous beating.
Please, please let her be alive. I hoped, prayed, that Leslie had taken
a shallow breath by her own will. If there were one, there would be another.
But I wouldnt encourage her, could not utter a sound. Fear of another
attack prevented communication. If she were still alive, she wouldnt
endure another assault.
Her gray linen
slacks had been pulled away to expose her body. Blue lace panties, cut away by
a knife, were stuffed in her mouth. One pant leg remained attached to the
waistband that dangled at her side. Blood, not only caked in her hair, ran down
in streaks across the side of her face and trailed over the remnants of her
underwear and the gray tape.
At the beginning
of the ordeal, when they lead us to the room where we would remain for several
weeks, Leslies arms were drawn and taped at her back. Then inside the
dank, musty area one of the abductors drew a large knife from his belt, cut and
unleashed her arms and cut away at her clothes. They pushed me into a chair and
duct taped me to it, positioned so I could witness the first attack on my
I closed my eyes.
A fist jolted my cheek and my head rocked back.
open! The man shouted and pushed my chin up, grabbed a handful of hair
and held my head straight. There would be no mistake as to who wielded power
here; who would control every aspect of our existence. The message all too
I would watch
every blow, every thrust and every degrading insult or be beaten to death.
An hour or more
later, with tape over her mouth and cheeks, I could barely recognize Leslie.
One visible eyelid, a dark line smudged above a bloated cheek. I muttered
another prayer for her to wake up. If she rolled toward me, I could assess the
damage. Could determine if her fate had been sealed by this long encounter.
Know if the struggle on foreign soil would be mine alone. If we made eye
contact, I would cope better. Selfishly, I needed her. But my gut said the
beating had been too much to endure.
I gazed at her
fractured face and wondered if mine showed the same horror. Did these eyes
project the same fear? Was that why my stomach wrenched, choked my lungs, made
my heart feel like it had ruptured? Had my blue eyes turned black or red? Were
they empty shells, blinded by angry men who took turns to induce a physical
punishment no woman should ever endure?
Hayes, 43 years, mother of two, wife of the successful, straight forward,
unbending Warren Hayes? Was I still a Midwest suburbanite, who thrived in
prosperous America, who went on a carefree vacation to prove she was free to do
as she pleased? And then I asked why we were being defiled. How could this
happen to two women who had no intention of doing harm. Why?
A silent, howling
rage exploded from the stranger taped to the chair.