I'm a psychology student, but until this summer I didn't know about repressed memories.
I was a sophomore in college. It was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic - or at least, I hoped it was. I had been exposed and I was living in a house for two weeks with my other friends who were exposed. I was living an hour away from home - and I had never moved out before. I had to get a COVID test before I could go home to my parents and my animals.
My cousin was driving me, because my anxiety was through the roof that day. I had heard that some patients who were tested got migraines after, and I was prone to those.
We had to drive up to my hometown to take the test, because there were no urgent care centers in the little tiny town we were living in an hour away. So one bright June morning, Heather and I drove up the ancient, pothole-filled highway to the place I'd lived for the last twenty years. We found the urgent care center and turned into the parking lot.
And there it was.
An orange-and-green sign plastered on the side of a brick building. It was a grocery store. I stopped. I froze.
My blood chilled.
"What's wrong?" Heather asked.
I had been there before.
I didn't know when.
But he had touched me in his mother's car in that parking lot.
"I was sexually assaulted there," I said softly.
"...Oh. Are you okay?"
At the time that Heather and I drove by the grocery store where I was assaulted, I was aware of only one sexual assault, at another grocery store parking lot across town when I was seventeen. Now, I am aware of five others - all by him, all in places where no one else would know. Two were in grocery store parking lots, one was in a dollar store parking lot, one was in my basement, and one was on a three-mile walking trail.
I was seventeen.
He was twenty-nine - and later, thirty.
I feel broken and disgusted. I want to wash my mouth out, but I can't. I want to wash my body, but I have. Broken and disgusted.
I am a sexual assault survivor.