By Cynthia Ann Kazandjian
We are not supposed to go down into the darkness of the core. Yet, if we can risk it, the something born of that nothing is the beginning of truth.” —Adrienne Rich
Readers, it was time to write about Edgar. My heart feels strangely lighter. A great weight has been lifted from my soul. Still, I couldn’t have written this story any earlier because my level of self-security was too low— and my thoughts about what happened took decades to coalesce. I wasn’t ready to confess to having so much shame either. Shame prefers to remain silent, and tiptoe around the attic like a reclusive ghost. Shame never comes downstairs to eat with everyone. Shame places you inside an invisible garbage bag, and everything that you are feels like it belongs in a dumpster—permanently. Also, the silence of deep shame is always at war with the possibilities for healing.
We are all the first row spectators of our memories—the seemingly endless clusters of mini films we watch and rewatch within our minds. But as we change through the years, our memories mutate, and change with us. Some memories are more difficult to own than others. As our consciousness or awareness expands, constricts, or evolves, we revisit the same memories with altered eyes and different souls.
In retrospect, my self-destructive years were largely unecessary. Overkill really. I could have taken it all to the page, or at least I might have channeled my brokeness very differently. Hopefully men and women who would most benefit from reading pieces like this one—as more sharing occurs—will spare themselves any further self-loathing and self-sabotage. I can’t wave a magic wand, but I can be convincing when my conviction feels like a cosmic calling. The life force of this piece comes from deep empathy and the unbearableness of what’s been done to so many, including myself.
Disclaimer: This piece may make some demands on you dear reader. You may feel very uncomfortable. Unpleasant emotions may surface. For this, I apologize. My goal is to do my best to add my voice to a bigger one—a collective voice that will be heard until this strain of evil is no more.
I have another self that never fully actualized. My other self arrived at a cul-de-sac and couldn’t go any further. Still, she exists inside me like a second heart. She is my twin soul, a permanent child really, who didn’t have the necessary possibilities to become or grow beyond the abstract realm of what ifs. Our lives are conjoined; one halted, the other continued. However, our souls are eternally connected and dwell within each other. We’ll be burned into the same heap of ashes when my time on this earth expires.
Up until the age of ten, we were more or less the same little girl. We shared a reserve of resilience. But things got too complicated and I had to carry her because life as I would know it was not meant to be her destiny. Regardless, I managed to make some of her dreams come true. And I have no less love in my heart than she would have had had she arrived at the same stage of life.
I write this for us both, and our kindred family too. I know she’ll be pleased—more likely proud. She’s like that. And so —for all of us —let me tell you about a man I once knew called Edgar.
I was alone with Edgar when he began to die very quickly. We were sitting beside each other on a couch in my basement watching The Price is Right. He placed a throw blanket over our laps. This time he wanted me to feel his penis over his pants. It was hard, yucky, and felt like a small date. All of a sudden the polyester peridot colored footrest jerked forward when his legs that were resting on it abruptly stretched out. His head fell backwards and he made the sound of someone gasping for air. Unwillingly, he fixated on the ceiling, unable to move. I yelled for my father who was a doctor to hurry downstairs. When he first saw Edgar in this strange state, he assumed it was a typical Edgar prank, but he quickly realized that this was not a joke. I watched my father administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and pump Edgar’s chest. My father’s sister who lived with us at the time came rushing downstairs with Edgar’s wife. The wife began to scream hysterically. Someone called the ambulance and I faded into our home’s tacky 1970’s metallic wallpaper. Adults were dealing with a deadly drama that I was regretfully tied into and I wanted to disappear.
Edgar died of a heart attack before the ambulance arrived. He was in his early sixties. Not many adults die while sexually aroused by a ten year old in a basement with a fake palm tree and Bob Barker’s voice in the background —but Edgar did.
In a distracted effort to comfort me, my father smiled and gave me reassuring hugs whenever he noticed me wandering through the wallpaper. He was unaware of a side to Edgar that I am certain he never would have imagined. The ambulance left and we waited for the coroner to come pick up Edgar’s physical shell. I quietly sneaked downstairs to see if he was really dead. My basement, now the setting of a very dark fairy tale, was full of icicles, or so felt my heart. Edgar was dead, but his eyes were hanging on to life because they were still open. He seemed permanently astonished by his own demise. His coloring was blue and he must have been in some kind of very cold hell. I wondered what type of spell had been cast. What was my role in all of this?
That day, if I had such a thing as a guardian angel, she clearly was no longer vacationing in the South of France or exploring the Costa Rican rainforest. She was right by my side when she decided Edgar was on the last page of the last chapter of his life. She’d clearly had enough. Death for molestation was the message she transmitted to anyone paying attention on earth —a fatal personal error. Or maybe my guardian angel was a he, a fetching bodybuilder in the sky, overloaded with otherworldly steroids. Maybe all he intended to give Edgar was a minor physical shake up, but his Hulk-like strength led to loss of life instead.
More: Maybe Edgar fled the scene of the crime into a darker dimension where the devil needed him to perform hi-tech evil acts. Or maybe I was a child siren with supernatural powers to take out bad people and didn’t know it? Whatever the case may have been, with the mind of a ten year old, I was left to manage the detritus that resulted from being the subject of a paedophile’s interest. Sad statistics had become very personal.
My body had a new occupant after Edgar died, and she was an unfamiliar girl. I had emotional reservations about telling anyone anything, including my father and aunt. I was shell-shocked. A complicated sense of guilt had a stranglehold over me. How could I forgive myself for something I didn’t even understand? It took me a little over a year to tell my father and aunt what Edgar had been doing with me —a year during which time I could no longer sleep in my room and had to sleep with either my aunt or my father in their respective bedrooms. They naively assumed it had to do with witnessing a dramatic death as a child. Sure that played a role, but there was much more to it.
At the end of the day, my father was an unsuccessful and ineffective protector. I didn’t want him to feel sad for failing me, especially as his intentions couldn’t have been any nobler. Initially, my aunt who lived with us didn’t believe me. Luckily, my father did. But I always felt like the inconvenient hybrid spawn of two highly mismatched individuals —my divorced parents. I was damned tired of being a hot potato of problems for everyone that loved me. I carry this sense with me still. Hitting everyone with the juggernaut of my sexual abuse was just too psychically exhausting.
Edgar, an Egyptian from Lebanon, was a friend of the family. He and his wife had introduced one of my father’s many brothers to the love of his life. Edgar gained major brownie points for his essential role in their incredible lifelong union. This uncle helped Edgar and his family financially for decades. Edgar eventually left Lebanon with his wife and son to live in Montreal. My father and aunt, expats from Lebanon already living in Montreal, were happy to maintain a nice friendship with Edgar’s family.
Edgar was an avuncular type with a ready joke up his sleeve at all times. He made everyone laugh. His dismal appearance however was no laughing matter. At most, he was two hair strands away from being completely bald. His head reflected the sun as well as any mirror. His bulging eyes and hoarse, throaty voice increased the effect of his lack of physical appeal. His hardened, distended stomach seemed filled with clay organs and intestines that had been cooked at 450 degrees for forty minutes. His short body was carried by short legs. I don’t mean to insult cows, but there was something incredibly bovine about Edgar’s overall appearance —it wouldn’t have seemed at all strange if he had hooves instead of feet.
Thinking back, Edgar had a felonious aura- like a bottom feeder pirate thug. And just like a pirate, he was a thief. With a bulky nose ring below his protruding eyeballs and some artfully placed tattoos, he easily could have been caste as an extra in a Disney pirate movie —making a two second appearance as a pirate fighting good guys on a broken sinking ship. Put differently, Edgar was no Gerard Butler.
Edgar molested me approximately six times. When we visited his apartment, he smiled and smiled after suggesting I check out his new video games in the other room. How seductively easy it must have felt for a bastard like him. Unfortunately, I can never forget his ugliness—sheathed as it was with the phosphorescent glow of some Atari video game after he climaxed with the help of my hand on his penis and a ready Kleenex in his other hand. He never touched my private parts, and if he did, I have successfully eradicated the memory.
Those who actively seek ways to satisfy odious yearnings are not only despicable, but dangerous betrayers. Edgar betrayed the trust of an entire village: his wife, his son, me, my parents, my aunts and uncles, possibly other children, and the list goes on. Edgar was a son-of-a-bitch who couldn’t keep his perverted prurience in check. He was an insidious wart of a human being—an untrustworthy cockroach. Frankly, I can never run out of bad things to say about this bovine monster, or his kind.
I am happy Edgar died. I don’t even feel guilty for not feeling guilty for being pleased. However, what plagues and torments me most about the memory of him is my difficulty understanding why I never left the room. I am not a psychologist but I can safely speculate that it is hard to know if something is wrong when you don’t know what’s normal anymore. I am positive there is no horizon to understanding one of my life’s biggest riddles. Sure, I’d been through many difficult things prior, but still, I could have left the fucking room.
As I grew older, I felt increasingly ashamed by what happened. I felt guilty when I burdened loved ones with this painful information. Many people don’t share these types of experiences because they don’t want to burden those they love with such painful knowledge.
As a mother of two children, one of my important priorities has been to protect them from experiencing even a tan line of sexual abuse. I remember being eight months pregnant and charging down a school hallway when I saw a creepy janitor who always undressed me with his eyes, running his hand through my son’s hair when he returned to his classroom from the restroom. I yelled at the janitor, “Don’t you dare touch my son’s hair!” Teachers came out from their classrooms to see who the hysterical screaming lady was. Innocently, my son defended the janitor, “Mom, he’s just being nice.” Right. Nice. My ass you pervert motherfucker.
I had this janitor fired, between his lustful eyes, and touching my son in a weirdly intimate way, he had to go. The school administration agreed. At a subsequent dinner with fellow parents from the school a thoughtful father asked, “Did you warn his employer or try and find out which schools he may be working at to better protect other students?” Sheepishly, I mumbled that I hadn’t. Shame. On. Me.
There was also the time I threatened my son that I would go talk to one of his high school teachers with a bad toupé if he called my son into his office one more time too many. He had been consoling my son repeatedly over a small and easily resolvable issue. I think you get the point.
My daughter freaks out whenever I discuss the sad reality of there being unsavoury adults who may try and touch her inappropriately. These people don’t necessarily have creepy auras, and certainly don’t appear with warning colorations. But they can sadly exist as the people we least suspect.
I see shards of Edgar all the time: a man’s stomach at the coffee shop, a fellow’s eyes in the supermarket line, a bus driver that looks at the young girls climbing onto his bus in a certain way. Whenever I run into men that look like Edgar, I cringe within.
My relationship with men has more than likely been negatively impacted. Duh. As mean as it sounds, ninety percent of the males I’ve been romantically entangled with in the past, I wouldn’t let take out my garbage today. Maybe I was trying to drown out the memory of Edgar with other encounters. But I sure collected relationships like cockleburs while running through a field, high on any given drug. It’s all a big messy blur of confused and half-baked desire. Admittedly, most of my sexual encounters wouldn’t have even been possible without my being in some kind of altered state.
With all of our hotheaded quarrels and ups and downs, my husband is the first and only man I’ve ever felt was home. No surprise our marriage has lasted as long as it has. Because—believe me —we are radically different. And that’s another thing, all forms of perversions in the end turn me off. I can’t help but see them as different strains of the same virus. I’ve paid close attention to lovers who have shared their sexual preferences or elaborate fetishes, but in the end, it somehow leads me back to the Edgars of the world. I need to stay as far away as I can manage. If meat and potato sex isn’t enough—and simple romantic sexuality doesn’t stimulate you —and you need props and role-playing worthy of an elaborate circus performance, ultimately —you are not for me. And I am in no way a far right conservative type. I am a middle-aged gal still coping with the shards of Edgar I see in many things.
Today though, I stand on top of stars with my brothers and my sisters in order to expose the Edgar’s of this world. We are reclaiming our power together—one story at a time. Hopefully these very sick individuals will find it harder and harder to hide in plain sight. Maybe they’ll go get help instead of ruining the lives of innocent children. Let’s all make it tougher for these assholes. We’ll certainly need to have more uncomfortable conversations with our children. And not only dare to trust our instincts or gut feelings, but act on them. Even if we’re ridiculed.
If I could, I’d travel through worlds to meet my maker or makers, just to do a little negotiating. I’d love to carve the Edgar’s out of ever existing. Evil paedophile child molesters are a thought that should be wiped entirely from the mind of God.
And I’m not dirty —even though dirty things have happened to me.
And neither are you.
Below is my favorite quote of all time. I could never say it better. Please read and reread the words as many times as possible. The words are worth memorizing.
We are born, so to speak, provisionally, it doesn’t matter where. It is only gradually that we compose within ourselves our true place of origin so that we may be born there retrospectively and each day more definitely.”—Rainer Maria Rilke
Cynthia Kazandjian, mother of two (her favorite lifetime projects) has decided to get off the fence and take her elaborate writing hobby to the next level and share her voice beyond the pages of her countless journals. Family life has been her vantage point for a little over a decade.
I realize some topics we cover here are heavy, but sharing them is only way to raise awareness, break stigmas, and encourage others to step forward and say, “Yes, me too,” and therefore, begin to heal.
Cynthia is a mom in my Montreal community, and I am so grateful she shared her story with us.