Memoir Relationships Sexuality

Somebody That I Used To Know

Warning: This post contain content that may trigger survivors of abuse. If this is an issue for you, you might want to skip today’s post.

They have been playing this song on the radio a lot.

And it’s bringing things up for me.

See, there is this man who is trapped in the fabric of my limbs’ history.

For better or worse, we got tangled up many summers ago, and even though I set him free, he returns in memories.

When I think back to the best night of a most perfect summer, I remember fluffy white towels and hot showers and blueberries bought fresh from a crooked fruit stand.

Stevie Nicks sang for us, husky and low.

He was the leader and I wanted to follow.

And it was good.

When we said goodbye that August, I leaned against a brown Chevette. The leaves were still green when he put his hands on either side of my head and squeezed. He took a red lollypop out of his mouth and when we kissed, our teeth scraped together.

I should have known then. Because lollypops are too sweet. They are filled with artificial flavors and colors and objects in the mirror appear closer than they are.

One year later, he used his body like a weapon and blew me apart.

So I think of him each August.

I can’t help it.

These days, we have no real connection.

But I wonder if his wife knows about what he did. His children?

I wonder what they might think about the man in the expensive suit, if they knew he once gutted a girl like a fish.

How well do we know our partners? And would we really want to know their darkest secrets?

What music brings you back to dark places? 

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63 thoughts on “Somebody That I Used To Know

  1. After so many years a person who has been violated never forgets! This continues to happen to innocent young girls. I wish this awful behavior could be eradicated. When someone say NO! Obey! Pronto.

  2. My ex husband was verbally abusive and would yank me around by the arm or pick me up and throw me on the bed or something, and punch holes in doors right next to me. Never used to think it was abuse because ya’ know I thought, well he never punched me. Wrong, you don’t put your hands on anyone. I’m sorry that happened to you. And I know the feeling, you want everyone to know what they did. But you also have to find peace within and let go. You can’t forget, unfortunately it’s engrained in every muscle.

    1. I have forgiven, but it is different from forgetting. I’m sure you understand that, right. Like I don’t walk around daily thinking about this stuff.

      But then it is August.

      And I remember.

      It was one bad night.


      Look at how one moment can change so much.

      1. I understand completely. My abuse didn’t happen daily, it was a few very distinct events. I have forgiven too and almost forgotten but like you said, you don’t ever. For me something triggers the memory, a smell, a sound, a sight, a feeling, and for you… August. 🙁

  3. I can only echo Hippie’s comment.

    While not anywhere near as dire a circumstance, when ever I hear REM’s “It’s the end of the world”, I am taken back to a time almost 13 years and 9 months ago when I learned that my then girlfriend was pregnant. I was dead sure that my life was over, that I was going to end up as just another statistic. I was sure my kid was going to be on welfare, food stamps, a ward of the state like so many of my friends. With a ton of help from family and friends we made it through, and looking back I wouldn’t want anything to have changed. In a few short weeks my (not so) little girl will become a teenager. I am terrified. I am excited. I am scared for her. Knowing that she’s a good kid, with a better head on her shoulders than 90% of the 13 year olds out there helps quite a bit.

    1. Hi Eric! I remember you wrote something of this before. I’m so glad that your “trigger” song has a happy ending. I’m sooooo very glad that what you thought was a disaster ending in a blessing.

      Thank you so much for reminding me that just because something starts out in a dark place doesn’t mean that it always has to stay dark.

      I’m trying to hard to stop remembering this date. August is punctuated with so much goodness for me: birthdays, anniversaries, so much love.

      If only I could stop this weird tic.

    1. Kim.


      I know you know this dark place.

      I am thinking of you and your sister.

      I think of you and your sister a lot in August, actually. That is not a lie. Ever since I met you, I’ve thought about you and her. And him.

      And while I offered forgiveness, and I meant it. I believe you.

      *in a whisper*

      I believe your words, and there is more I could write on that subject.

      Because this person breaks people.

      He did and he does.

    1. Thank you for including me in your featured posts. I am stunned. Those other writers.. Thoughtsy, whom I follow… who is an amazing writer.

      And Mulberry Whine. Heartbreakingly beautiful and, heart-wrenching.

      This is so bare bones, it hardly compares.

      But thank you.

  4. I hope there comes an August that is just thirty days of happy. No pain.

    I had a Thing I carried around for about twenty years. One day I just decided it was time to let it go. I had cried oceans of tears, forgiven all the others involved, and only had myself left. One day, for no reason in particular, I just decided it was time. I had cried enough. I had felt guilty long enough. And I let it go.

    The key for me was forgiving myself. I held it like a penance, like the payment for my sins. Holding it never allowed me to realize the fullness of my life. Only the part that was broken.

    Now, I’m no psycho-analyst, but just in case some part of you still feels responsible, feels guilty, you need to let it go. And let August just be another month for happiness.

    1. Lish:

      I know we met for one stinkin’ day in real life, but sheesh. You sure know how to make a girl cry.

      I think you are right; there is some part of me that mourns something.

      I’m not sure if it is that I feel guilt or just that it was the loss of something that (at one time) seemed like it could have been something.

      I am so grateful for my life today. I am.

      And if I knew how to really let it go, I would.

      It’s like a tic or something. It’s the way I am with dates. Like I remember old phone numbers and zip codes. It’s just lodged in there.

      I’m going to hope for an August filled with 30 days of happy.

      That would be awesome. 😉

  5. I am blessed to never have been a victim in that way. I am amazed you are able to forgive and it only shows how remarkable you are as a person.

    There is a horrible part of me that feels “eye for an eye” for abusers. Me? Not so forgiving.

    I’m sorry you have the memory, as no one should have to carry such a thing.

    1. It’s strange, the triggers.

      August is a wonky month for me.

      But I have a hard time with red lollipops. And brown Chevettes. And a certain cabin at the end of a long dusty road.

      Truth is, we had different expectations about how a night was going to go.

      About how a relationship was going to proceed.

      Truth is, he was stronger and I wasn’t loud enough.

      That was 27 years ago.

      All is forgiven.

      We were children.

      Both of us.

      And yet.

      I carry him with me.

      Each August I unpack my bag and he is a little smaller.

  6. It’s odd that you posted this today. I woke up remembering a horrible moment in my own past today. My experience was not like yours. I’m so sorry that that happened to you. With most relationships, scars are left that always come back at inopportune times to haunt us and ask what if.

    I can only wish you continued forgiveness. I know you won’t forget. I’d be worried if you did. But the forgiveness (for yourself as much as for him) is the only thing to help and heal.

    You also reminded me it was just last September a close friend of mine shared with me she was raped while in the Marines years earlier. I remember the moment like yesterday. We were apple picking, and a mutual friend of theirs had called her to let her know the guy had died. She was angry that he called her to tell her this, even though that guy didn’t know what had happened.

    She has moved on and now is in a wonderful committed relationship. But through her, I better understand what you’re feeling. With everything else you’ve got going on, Renee, I hope these feelings pass quickly and let you move forward. *hugs*

    1. Each August as I unpack my bag, he is a little smaller.

      I am so sorry for your friend. I imagine the military does not offer much to women who complain about these types of offenses. As for you, Miss Jess Witkins, I hope you are okay. I hope your horrible moment feels a little smaller by the time you read this belated response. You KNOW you can always email me or send me a private Tweet. Lots of people have been doing that today.

  7. Glad whatever trauma you went through didn’t keep you from being able to find and marry the love of your life. I hate that a woman as sweet as you had to go through anything like this.

  8. I didn’t experience anything this dark. But I will say the thought of my daughter enduring such horror weighs on me.

    Knowing your child has suffered is probably the only thing worse than suffering yourself.

    I hope you take some small measure of comfort in raising a wonderful, respectful, kind, smart young man…

    He will treat women the way you should have been treated.

    Not that this for a moment takes away what you experience each August. But knowing you are a part of breaking this cycle? Of speaking out and giving a voice to the pain? Of helping others express theirs?

    Well. It’s something. It is.

    1. Julie.

      I will eventually have to talk to my son about these things. Because I’m sure no one ever talked to this person about this stuff. Otherwise a 22 year old would never have been with a 17 year old, right?

      I have to teach my son a lot about brains and bodies and how sometimes what feels right and good to one person is absolutely wrong and awful to another. And he needs to be mindful so he can discern between the two.

      I wonder what this man can say to his children about this stuff. I wonder if he is honest enough with himself to be honest with them. I wonder how he parents. Truly.

  9. It sickens me when I think of my sisters, my mother, my daughter, and other women like you living in a world where there are guys who are just animals. Don’t know how else to describe it. I can’t even watch tv shows or movies where women are being abused by men. I physically and mentally can’t deal that there are people who do that.

    I’ve feared how I might respond if I ever saw something like that.

    I had a guy who worked for me, in the early 80’s, who was bragging about how he broke his wife’s thumb. I called him into my office and threw him up against the wall. No kidding. I was that upset.

    I’m just glad you have time behind you, and hope the hurt gets less and less.

    1. Hi MJ:

      Thanks for your words. Funny, we were both writing about music. It’s hard for me to call him a monster. He didn’t read my cues, no. But that summer before he was gentle and tender. It was bizarre to feel the change.

      I should not have gone with him. That part is on me.


      He shouldn’t have asked.

      He was 22. And I was 17.

      It’s a big difference in age and expectations. He was out of college, and I hadn’t even started yet.

  10. Yesterday was my day, I never forget. You would think after 44 years I would at least forget the day but I don’t. I can still feel the wooden floor on my shoulders and can still hear the laughter, the taunting laughter as my virginity was ripped from me by school boys. I still remember the feel of their hands on my ankle and wrists, still remember them trying to kiss me and wondering why.

    My fury has never abated. Truthfully, with maturity I think it has changed to something colder and more focused. Their actions on that day were so life-changing, everything that came after all the repercussions of that single act of violence against an 11 year old child defined so many years of my life. I still know all their names, I know what happened to most of them because we lived in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools. I don’t wonder about anything other than if they were ever sorry.

    I hope you know in your heart, nothing done to you in violence is in anyway your fault. Ever.

    This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing a painful time.

    1. Oh Valentine, this chilled me as much, if not more than Renee’s own post. Something like that should never happen to a child, should never happen to anyone, really. But to take away that innocent and brutalize you like that . . . I have suddenly become extremely angry and want to hurt those boys, who are now men. It is beyond criminal. Were they ever punished, criminally or othewise? Nothing could take back what you lost, but I just hope that somehow they were savagely punished in some way.

      I am so sorry, and hope you have healed as much as you can. You are so strong to have survived that. Those boys were animals.


        I can only send you here for the story. Broken Chains is a series, but this is one of the stories in that series, the story of my rape.

        We all heal differently. We become different people because of what is done to us and how we are nurtured or not through our hurt. We scream our fury or bow our necks. I did both at different times in my life. Now some days I scream my fury and others I just smile and say to the world I am not defined by anything other than my choice to be better than my abusers.

        1. Valentine: My computer exploded on Friday, so it has taken me some time to respond, and I apologize. I hardly know what to say, but I thank you for your candor and honest response.

          I cannot imagine what you experienced. I cannot imagine how you continued to go to school and had to share classes with these children. You are one helluva survivor.

          I would be survived if your anger ever abated. My mouth dropped open as I read your words. These children were …children! I am amazed by your strength, but also horrified by how many of us have had to endure these kinds of violations.

          I read that line: “I hope you know in your heart, nothing done to you in violence is in anyway your fault ever.” I read it over and over. I believe it in my head, but I’m not sure in my heart. Perhaps that’s why I’m stuck, eh?

          Coming to read your post now.

  11. Hi Renee,

    First I have to say that I’m sorry for your pain. I know that posts like this one can be difficult to write, but you’ve done a great job here.

    Now to answer your question, I think, no, we wouldn’t want to know our partner’s darkest secrets. They are dark for a reason and they belong to the past.

    1. I think you are right. But I would like to be a fly on this man’s wall when he talks to is son about how to treat women. Or when he talks to his daughter about how she should expect to be treated by men. I wonder if he even realizes how he wrecked me. How easy it is to damage a person.

  12. Glad that you seem to be in control of this awful memory.

    As for your final question – it’s a hard one – not sure of my answer. Sure, I can love someone just the way they are, warts and all – but… I’ll have to go away and think about this one.

  13. Holy sweet God, Renee. This is wrenching and breathtaking, in the same moment.

    For me, memories of that moment – when the safety of my world and who I was could forevermore be slotted into Before and After – is not bound up with music. It’s a certain scent – it’s body and sweat, fear and shame, all wrapped up.

    I hate it. But I love you, for this dark poetry.

    1. So you have the music trigger.

      I have that, too.


      I couldn’t write about it here because I felt *some people* might be able to figure out who I was talking about. And I got scared. So, for now, I’ll just say Stevie Nicks. But there are other songs. And sometimes when I hear them on the radio, I KNOW he is thinking of me. Is that crazy?

  14. You were brave to write this post and I hope it was somehow freeing for you. It was beautifully written and evocative. I am sorry that you have kept this with you as a horrible scar to your memory and psyche. I have had a couple friends who have experienced a similar thing. I know from their own words how it effected them, but have never felt the same. I was just preparing a post for Monday about letting go of past pain, but I’m not sure that this would be something I could ever let go of. I am glad that it diminishes each year for you, and hopefully it will eventually fade away to a very tiny awful memory. You are a stong and fabulous person, despite and maybe partly because of this awful experience. I wish you continued healing. HUGS.

  15. As you mentioned in a comment, it was one evening … and yet, more than that. This post is short (if one counts only the words), but is long in meaning and impact. Thank you.

    1. Hi Amy:

      It is amazing how the act was the one night, but it served to undo an entire year of trust. I still can hardly wrap my brain about it. But I remember both nights in sharp juxtaposition to each other. The colors and textures of the memories are even different. White and apricot and turquoise and soft vs. black and grey and fists.

      Thank you for your words.

  16. Thanks for always being so honest with us, Renee. I thought this was beautiful, though it pains me to think of what you went through. And yes, a single moment really can leave a permanent imprint.

    There are definitely songs that churn up sad memories for me – though usually on the unrequited love front. The songs that were meaningful to me then still have a powerful effect. (David Gray, for one.)

    1. Strangely, I don’t know David Gray. No relation to Christian Grey of the Fifty Shades variety, I presume.

      I shall have to Google. Is there a particular tune I should be looking for. You know, the one that will make me weep?

      1. I’m listening to him right now! I guess he’s Christian Grey if Christian Grey never met Ana and sunk into a deep depression and started writing songs to deal with his ‘ish’ instead. 😉 You might recognize his two most popular songs from about 10-12 years ago, “Babylon” and “This Year’s Love” – those are the two that churn up the most memories for me.

  17. Ooooh, I like the feel of this post. The baby is crying and I should be getting so I’m not going to answer the question. BUT, this is all feels like a good mood and good material for fiction.

    They really have been playing that song. Oy!!

  18. I will try to write elsewhere what I’d rather say here — which would take up too much combox — but my thoughts and prayers are with you (and others who’ve commented..), and maybe I’ll always remember you (all) every August, now. I would at least like to say here that maybe a horrendous shock to our system is the very means of our having looked in a different direction, hence, finding the better love who would offer us his or her whole life– not mostly take ours.

    1. Thanks Carol. I have been fortunate to have found a loving man, but I would be lying if I said that this incident didn’t change everything ever after. So many people have emailed me privately with their own stories, I feel strangely less alone.

  19. Renée,

    Damn… This was a powerful post. You are so strong. As a man who has NEVER abused or taken advantage of a woman, physically, emotionally, psychologically, or in any other way, I have to say that this topic always puts me in a rage. There is never an excuse. Ever.

    Abuse is repugnant, ugly, vicious, and is a coward’s tool to deal with his weakness. From the bottom of my heart, I feel sorrow and an outsider’s anguish for all of you women that have endured such a thing…

    1. Thanks Z.

      And it is nice to meet you. I understand when perfectly good men get furious about this topic. What you have to know is that there are so many of us. I have some follow up coming to this post because I have never received soooo many private emails in response to a post before. Posts from fellow bloggers who didn’t want to share their stories publicly, but wanted to share.


      I know I don’t know you.

      But if you have children — sons or daughters, or both. You have to teach them about this stuff. About how to respect each other. Girls need to know they MUST report these things, even though it seems terrifying at the time. And boys need to know they need to check in with a girl. When it comes to intimacy, it’s better to ask: “Are you okay? Does this feel good to you?” than just plow ahead.

      Thanks for visiting. It was nice to see your name at Jenny’s yesterday. How is it that I don’t know you? 🙂 What is your blog? I don’t see it hooked up to your gravatar?

      1. I’m glad you are going to do some follow up. This is an important subject. I am a fervent believer in teaching young children these concepts as early as possible. I only had one sister. My parents taught me about respect, and my father showed me by example.
        I plan on doing the same thing.

        It was a pleasure to meet you too. I don’t have a blog. All of my extra time outside of work and other obligations is used to write. So, like Jenny has told me, I need to start up a blog. 😀

        1. You. Don’t. Blog.


          But you leave amazing comments! Wow. Thank you for visiting me. Jenny is wonderful, ain’t she. I was wondering why I couldn’t find your place. I kinda wish you had one! 😉 I would totally show up!

          1. Thanks! *blushing Jenny is wonderful. It would be fun to start something, but I’m not sure what I would blog about. I can’t talk about anything related to work. I appreciate the vote of confidence, it is totally pushing me closer to the blog-overse.

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