As her rage dispersed mildly, Alexandra hit the play button on her tape player to soothe herself with the cries of someone with pain like hers. She grabbed the cordless phone and called her social worker’s office in an unusual wave of rationality. After pressing ‘0’ for an emergency, the operator informed Alexandra that her social worker was out of town, but at the sound of Alexandra’s sobs and pleads that her father was going insane, the operator paged another social worker.
Alexandra shook violently as she waited for the call back. The thought of where her father was never even crossed her mind. Alexandra cried and shook in a state of angry, sad confusion. She didn’t even wash her mouth or face.
The phone rang. Alexandra said, “Hello,” her voice wobbling and unstable. The social worker was on the other end; Alexandra recounted the horrible events for her.
Alexandra heard a door slam. Fear filled every inch of her. She heard her mother and sister enter the house. Her mother tried to come into the room, but Alexandra used all of her might to keep the door shut, screaming, “Go away.”
The confused social worker begged over the phone to be told what was happening.
Finally Alexandra’s mother pushed her way into the room and took the phone in distress at seeing her daughter’s tear-stained face coated with a shiny slime. Her mother fearfully talked to the social worker, as Alexandra cried loudly on the floor.
Fifteen minutes later, Alexandra went to the Oktoberfest, her face clean, but she was unable to escape the vulgar stench of perfumed soap in her hair, enveloping her face, or the memory of what had just happened.
With the support of her friends, Alexandra managed to get through the day, after telling them the story. She spent the night at Rachel’s and didn’t return home until late the following day.
Alexandra’s father didn’t seem to believe he had done anything wrong. Even at the inevitable meetings with the social workers that followed, he acted as though it had never happened. When he’d be nice during the next few days, Alesandra would even feel guilty for hating him, but then she’d see the twisted, mangled bar of orange soap, still sitting in a dish in the bathroom. and she’d remember.
The social workers seemed to disniss the incident when Alexandra’s father promised never to touch her again- a promise he couldn’t keep.
Late one night, Alexandra realized that she could fight her father, and she would fight, she would stand up to him and never give in. She’d never let him believe believe he was right, but no matter how hard she fought, things would never change. With a promise to be true to herself, and rebel against her father, regardless of the costs. Alexandra closed her eyes and cried herself to sleep.
I found the story while cleaning some bookshelves. I always remembered having written it. I remembered discussing it with Mrs. Constine in her office after she read it, and reading it out loud to my parents at my therapist’s direction. Despite the fact that I remembered the whole thing having happened, I am surprised by the tone and by the details I unselfconsciously chose to write down nineteen years ago. I remembered the day I described in the story, the basic plot of the events, but I am started to discover the specifics of what I had forgotten. I am startled to recognize the memory, condensed and foreshortened by its movement further and further into my past, and crystallized into a nugget of an event, and also to experience it now expanded and somewhat reconstituted by attention.
Something changed in me during that event with the orange soap, or maybe when I wrote the story about it and cast it into the world. It was as if I found a line to hold onto, which I lost my grip on again later. I have searchingly chased it since, glimpsing it ahead of me, out of and back into sight again, reaching for and following it around through a maze. I once short circuited my psyche trying to understand my father and make sense of what any conclusions about him would mean for me. Now I want to tell the story instead.