Consider the Sex Offender

I don’t think of it as I’m driving my 12-year-old to her first sleep-away camp, two and a half hours north of our home in Michigan. It comes to me that night as I’m falling asleep, in the dreamy limbo just before sleep, in the enchanted hour of exhaustion effortlessly turning to panic, in the sweet spot reserved for self-sabotage. Drip by cortisol drip, I involuntarily recall a story I heard on NPR. A group of boys rape a 12-year-old girl. In an abandoned hunting cabin in the woods. At a summer camp. In Michigan’s wild Upper Peninsula. This is how I remember it. I haven’t read Roxanne Gay’s new book, Hunger, but popular media likes to rehash the book’s triggering narrative of her rape. The boy who led her to the cabin was her boyfriend or at least she liked him like a boyfriend; the others were an ambush. This violence marks the end of her illusions of safety and strength. It marks the beginning of her “false self,” a personality presented as gift to the world, the one who can love and be loved when the real self is hiding in the back of a basement freezer. I remember Gay told no one. I remember her trauma not a moment before because I was waiting until there was nothing I could do, no way to retract leaving my daughter in the opening shot of that story.