Box of Rain

On September 23, 2013 by Helena

At 16, I was ready to leave high school behind and follow the Grateful Dead. Without a plan, without a dollar. Just because. Some of my older friends had already begun their travels. Their postcards came: Maui, Texas, Alaska. Their letters were the kind of poetry that tantalized my adventuring spirit and made me itch for my own journey.

But at 17, the news came that Jerry Garcia’s heart had given out. And at 17, my adventuring spirit was blackened by abduction and assault. The world was no longer a place for adventure. It was a place where strangers carried knives. It was a place to be avoided.

This world was only safe when it was small. And so I discovered my solution: I began trimming away the edges of life, until I was left in a single room with a locked door. Even smaller: a bed in this locked room, hidden under the covers.

The journey atrophied inside of me. When I listened to the Dead, it made me cry. It made me think of the things I’d wanted to do and hadn’t. So I stopped listening to them. Then I didn’t listen to music at all. I didn’t read stories. I didn’t make art, or poetry, or show anyone my beautiful colors again. Because there was no way to tell—maybe it was the colors that had drawn him to me. Maybe it was my adventuring spirit that had merited punishment. Something about me had done it, there had to be a reason.

Because, how could something so terrible happen without a reason? How could that be possible?

I erased myself, my colors and lines, as I whittled down my world. I was a tiny gray island by the time the cold case was reopened in 2010.

Three years of recovery. My world expands and my colors come through the static more clearly some days than others. It’s true that, sometimes, things contract and go black. But on the good days, I feel like a rainbow that you can see from anywhere in the world.

This happened because people listened. They told me it wasn’t my fault. They told me to keep talking, to make noise with them—we stood together and they surrounded me with light.

It’s been exactly 17 years since I was abducted at 17. Seventeen years since Jerry died and I put my dreams away. Every day now is a day in the next chapter of the story. Every mile charted is part of the new world.

Every part of myself recovered is an inspiration to keep digging. Turning up colorful stones and weathered bones. I share them with you, hoping that one might seem familiar enough to keep you digging, too.


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