Title: Rape: A Love Story.
Author: Joyce Carol Oates.
Genre: Literature, fiction, crime, rape.
Publication Date: 2003.
Summary: Teen Maguire should not have tried to shorten her way home that Fourth of July. Not after midnight, not through Rocky Point Park. Not the way she was dressed: tank top, denim cutoffs, high-heeled sandals. Not with her twelve-year-old daughter Bethie. Not with packs of local guys running loose on hormones, rage, and alcohol. She was practically asking for it, maybe even for a while now, with her lifestyle, as far as many are concerned. A victim of gang rape, left for dead in the park boathouse, the once vivacious Teena can now only regret that she has survived. And Bethie can barely remember a childhood uncolored by fear, for they’re not even a neighborhood away, the men that she identified for the Niagara Falls Police Department. The author unfolds the story of Teena and Bethie, their assailants, and their unexpected, silent champion, a policeman with demons of his own who knows only too well the meaning of not only justice, but also love.
My rating: 7.5/10
♥ Making that decision, a split second out of an entire life and the life is altered forever.
♥ He'd enlisted in the U.S. Army out of high school. In the army they'd taught him to shoot. Almost he'd been selected for an elite sniper team. But he hadn't been that good, for those guys were really good, awesome. He'd conceded it was probably just as well.
Might've liked it too much. Killing.
They'd sent him to the Persian Gulf. Operation Desert Shield that became Operation Desert Storm. Only just a few years ago in his lifer but it seemed longer. In the life of his country, so fast-moving and not-looking-back, the Gulf War was nearly forgotten. He wasn't a man to look back, and he wasn't a man of regrets. What happens, happens. He'd returned to the States with a medal for valor under fire and the exposed areas of his skin permanently clay-colored, lizardy. Ever afterward his eyes would appear lighter than his face, spook eyes some women would call them, shivering at his touch. In the Iraqi desert he had participated in killing an indeterminate number of human beings designated as enemies, targets. These had been Iraqi soldiers of approximately his age and younger. Some of them a lot younger. He had not seen individual enemies die but he'd smelled their deaths by frying, explosion. Inhaled the unmistakable burned meat odor, for he'd been downwind from the action, either that or not breathe. Telling of the Gulf War to those few persons to whom he spoke of such matters he would say the worst that had happened to him was fucking sand-flea bites. In fact, the worst that had happened was diarrhea. And one bright hallucinatory morning in the desert he saw his soul curl up and die like an inchworm in the hot sand.
At first he'd missed it. Then he forgot.
♥ How a life is decided. How a life is ended.
Good luck, bad luck. Purely luck.
..You were Bethel Maguire everybody called Bethie. Your childhood ended when you were twelve years old.
♥ Watching Momma dance and flirt and laugh so hard her eyes were shut to slits, seeing how other people looked at her, you worried sometimes. That Teena Maguire made a certain impression that wasn't exactly her.
Drinking too much at these parties. Acting kind of breathless, excited. Like a high school girl not a woman in her midthirties. (So old! You were too fastidious to wish to know your mother's exact age.) Her tank top slipping off her shoulder, you could see Teena wasn't wearing a bra beneath.
Her hair, scissor-cut in layers, which she'd had "lightened," falling into her eyes.
Her skin that, if you touched, you could feel; heat lifting from it.
Her laughter, in surprised-sounding peals like glass breaking.
♥ Now it was Ray Casey, your mother had been seeing for about a year.
Were Momma and Casey going to get married? You could not ask.
You told Momma you liked Casey a lot, which was true. You told her it was okay with you if they got married but really it was not.
If they got married, if Momma brought you to live in Caasey's house, you believed that Momma would love you less. Momma would have less time for you. Momma would love him '
You were jealous of Casey, sometimes you wished Casey would get back together with his wife. Or move away. Or die.
Four years seven months since Ross Maguire your father had died yet you thought of him a lot. More like the idea of Dad, Daddy sometimes than any actual memory.
♥ Heroic stone figures in recessed alcoves and at the edge of the roof: nude male warriors with swords and shields, females with blank faces and hair to their waists. One of them was a mermaid with a ridiculous curving fish tail instead of legs.
You asked your mother what's the point of a mermaid—"It's so silly."
You didn't want to say the mermaid scared you, somehow. Since you'd been a little girl, seeing it above the lagoon. A freaky deformed female with no legs.
Momma said, "What's the point of anything made up? Just something exotic for men to look at, I guess. Men make these things up."
"But, Momma, there has got to be some point."
Suddenly you were angry with your mother. Not knowing why.
♥ You were twelve at the time. Your thirteenth birthday would arrive abruptly, too soon in August, and depart mostly unheralded. For childhood belonged to before, now you had come to live in after.
..You had thought she was dead, on the boathouse floor. Crawling to her. To where they'd left her. Racked in pain, frantic. You had hidden in the darkest corner of the boathouse and you had pressed your hands over your ears and you had heard the ugly sounds of your mother being assaulted and you had reason to believe that you had heard the sounds of her death and so through your life it would seem to you that your mother had died, and you had been a witness to her death who had died, too.
After would be years. You are still living those years. After would be the remainder of your mother's life.
♥ What you didn't realize. What no one could have told you. How the rape was not an incident that had happened one night in the park in the random way of a stroke of lightning but the very definition of Teena Maguire's life, and by extension your life, afterward. What had been Teena, what had been Bethie, was suddenly eclipsed. Your mother would be That woman who was gang-raped in the boathouse at Rocky Point Park and you would be That girl, Teen Maguire's daughter.
♥ He loved Teena Maguire but you could see that he was terrified of what was hidden beneath the white gauze that tightly covered her head. He was terrified of what injuries, the worst of them internal, had been done to her in that part of her body hidden by bedclothes. The last he'd seen of Teena Maguire they'd all been drinking and happy celebrating the Fourth of July. The last he'd seen of Teena Magyuire she'd been another woman. Leaning to kiss his cheek saying Love ya, Casey! Call me in the morning.
There had been no next morning. For Casey and Teena there would never be another next morning.
♥ But in Momma's hospital room you are safe, and you can sleep. Patches of sleep drift by like clouds. You smile seeing Momma's dreams fleeting and shining like vapor. Momma wait! Take me with you.
♥ Relatives of the suspects. Friends, neighbors.
That woman. What did she expect? Asking for it, the bitch.
Dressed like a hooker. Her word against theirs.
Who knows what was going on in that park in the middle of the night?!
You've seen the eyes. Drifting onto you and your grandmother Agnes Kevecki. You've seen, and looked quickly away.
Grandma doesn't seem to notice. Not Grandma! She's convinced that all of Niagara Falls is on her side, wanting those animals to be put away for a long time.
..Grandma has been a widow for twelve years and she had learned to cope with what she calls the inescapable facts of life and so she does not foresee trouble: those animals are guilty, justice will be done, they will be tried, convicted, sentenced to prison for a long time. Grandma has uttered these words so frequently and so vehemently, to so many people, for her they have the ring of prophecy.
When you're with Grandma, you try to believe.
♥ Look: don't get involved. Whatever shit happens to these people isn't happening to you.
It was too late, though. Since he'd first seen the fazed bloodied girl at the side of the roadway in Rocky Point Park, and since he'd first seen the woman broken and bloodied on the filthy boathouse floor, it had been too late for him.
..Dromoor recalled how he'd first seen Bethel Maguire, by the roadway in Rocky Point Park. Disheveled, bloodied. Her clothes torn. He'd been sick to think that the girl had been raped. She'd looked at him with such desperate hope. As if he, a police officer out on routine patrol, dispatched by chance to the scene of a crime, had the power to truly held her.
My mother is hurt! Please help her! I'm afraid my mother is dying please please help her!
In that instant, Dromoor was pulled in.
As if their lives had gotten tangled with his, Christ knows why.
Like tangled fishing lines. Knotted together.
Dromoor had seen a lot of things. Ugly things. He'd done some ugly things himself. Things you'd imagine you would not forget, but he'd forgotten. Except this girl Bethel, and her mother, Teena, in the boathouse.
♥ A lawyer is basically a mouth, like a shark is a mouth attached to a long gut. The business of lawyers is to talk, to interrupt one another, and to devour one another if possible.
♥ At the Whirlpool just below the Falls, sixty-foot vertical walls of water rushed in a giant circle fasterfasterfaster as if about to disappear into a giant drain.
God help me. God give me peace. God?
"Ma'am! You don't want to do that, ma'am."
Whoever it was interrupting her reverie, sometimes daring to take her arm, Teena was indifferent. She shrugged, she made no reply. Often she was driven home by park officials/NFPD officers soaked through, shivering convulsively and her teeth chattering yet with a curious passivity, as if by being taken into custody in such a way she'd become again merely a body, an inert and soulless weight.
♥ Now you didn't dare speak to him about Teena Maguire. Not a word about any of it.
..As for Teena she would not see him now. Would not speak with him on the phone. Ray leave me alone, I'm so tired. I don't want your pity. Somebody better put me out of my mercy. I mean misery.
He felt so guilty about Teena! Wanted to love her like he'd done but she wasn't the same person now. Never would be again. The hurt was deep inside her, it would never be healed.
Or maybe Casey had not loved her enough. That was the test, maybe. A woman raped by how many men: even she didn't know.
♥ Was it possible, Dromoor and Casey were aware of each other without so much as glancing at each other like creatures of identical species among natural enemies?
♥ Must've been like this. The chronology of events. What links events is never so clear as the events themselves.
♥ It was a good time for Dromoor. He felt good about the future. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. In time.
♥ In time you would fall in love with other men. More appropriate men. Men your own age, or nearly. You would marry a man older than you by eleven years, when you were twenty-one. But you would never love any of these men the way in your desperation and yearning you had loved John Dromoor in your adolescence.
Not until years afterward would you realize I loved him for Momma's sake, too. Because she could not.
So it had been a double love. Dangerously sharp, like a double-edged knife.
♥ Marvin Pick, Lloyd Pick. After the arrests the brothers carried themselves with a certain public swagger. In their neighborhood it wasn't said of the Picks they'd raped, almost killed a woman and terrorized the woman's daughter, it was said These two! Their old man has hired a hot-shit Buffalo lawyer.
..Jay Kirkpatrick was the man. Kirkpatrick will cost you an arm and a leg and your left testicle but Kirk[patricl ios tyhe man.
..He'd hired Kirkpatrick, though. Like a gambler risking all his cash on a toss of the dice.
You had to be impressed with Kirkpatrick. An hour's interview with the boys and already he'd allowed them and their father to see how "rape" could be reinterpreted as "consensual sex"—"sex-for-hire." The Maguire woman had been drinking, her testimony was shaky. A good cross-examination and she'd be discredited. And the daughter allegedly hiding in a corner of the boathouse had not actually seen anyone rape anyone by her own account. She could not testify that other young men had not entered the boathouse and raped her mother after the departure of the Picks and their companions.
Kirkpatrick said, "There are two sides to every story, in a trial. The winning side, and the other."
Walt whistled through his teeth. Here was genius!
♥ Walt had hoped for a discount of many 10 percent. Kirkpatrick smiled and said Walt would make a damn good lawyer, arguing so precisely. Except a discount was not possible.
"I am an attorney, Mr. Pick. I am not a remnant carpet store."
♥ Marv said, aggrieved, "She asked for it. Fucking Teena. I seen her around, I know her. She knows me, too! She was showing her ass and her damn boobs. She was plenty hot. She said, "What you guys got in your pants? Are you hot, or what?""
Lloyd looked at him, incredulous. This was all fanciful stuff, like what came out of Kirkpatrick's mouth was contagious.
Marv continued, inspired, addressing Nate like Nate was the Jew judge Schpiro, "She said she'd suck us off for ten bucks each. If there was ten of us, we'd get a discount: nine bucks each. She did! You can laugh but she did! She's a hooker junkie. Anybody in the neighborhood will tell you. Some people, they came to Father Muldoon to tell him what they knew about Teena Maguire, if it was needed to be known for our sake. Our attorney Mr. Kirkpatrick he's gonna get witnesses from like her high school, guys who knew her way back, establish a pattern of "promiscuous and reckless sexual behavior" to present to the jury. He's already got witnesses testifying she was falling-down drunk and high on coke before we ever saw her. Before she ever got to the fucking park. And the daughter, see it was some kind of mother-daughter deal. Like, two-for-one. The little cunt was half price."
Lloyd said, squirming with sudden excitement, "That girl! She saw my face, I guess. Must've picked out my picture. And in the damn lineup she collared me. And there's bloodstains, and other stuff. Wish to hell I'd known what was coming, this girl, this kid, putting the finger on me." He shook his head, mute in anguish.
Nate crowed, "See? You assholes? What I told you, I'd of been there, you needed to finish the job and dump 'em both. Tied down with rocks. Save your old man having to sell his boat."
♥ Momma had not eaten dinner. You had not seen her for two days. Sober was not much cherished by Teena Maguire. Sober was no protection against your thoughts.
♥ It was notable how, high overhead, the hawks became suddenly weightless. They scarcely needed to move their wings. The wind bore them as if they were swimming. The wind was the hawks' element as completely as if these gusts, random in velocity and in direction, were but the hawks' breaths.
♥ Self-defense is the best offense Officer Dromoor believed. Not likely he'd tell the media this.
And know he was training to be a detective. His mind seemed to work pretty well that way, too. A police officer on the street is quick reflexes and a sharp eye for danger, a detective is more like playing chess. It's a game and you have time to make your move. You can see the other guy's moves, right out there on the board. What you can't see, you have to figure out. What's a detective but a guy using his brains figuring out, If I did this crime, why'd I do it? And who am I? Dromoor liked that feeling.
It was seeing around two corners not just one. Sometimes, three.
♥ You lived through it. For years you would live through it and only when you graduated from Baltic Senior High and the cobwebby cohesiveness of peers, classmates dissolved with no more resistance than actual cobwebs would you escape it.
There wasn't money for a private school. If you'd transferred to Holy Redeemer, where there were boy and girl cousins of yours, things would have been easier.
But you lived through it. That fall, eight grade at Baltic Junior High. Approaching the school and in the crowded corridors of the school feeling the eyes move upon you. Those classmates who were related to the rapists or who were their neighbors or friends. Those classmates who were sympathetic with the rapists, the guys, because they'd heard nasty things about Martine Maguire, and about you.
What you were doing was ratting. Ratting to the cops, ratting to the DA. Nobody likes a rat.
♥ There was not much of your life as a thirteen-year-old you told your grandmother about, and even less did you tell your mother.
The stuff at school, all that you spared them. Your worry that Momma would be arrested, charged with contempt of court, if there was a trial and she refused to testify.
Your worry that Momma would die.
You spared the adults in your household. Your learned how if a thing is not spoken of, even those closest to you, who love you, will assume that it doesn't exist.
In your marriage, you would cultivate this wisdom.
♥ There was nothing actually to it, being a lawyer. He, Fritz, had worked at every kind of shit job from Parks & Recreation he'd started summers in high school to busboy at the Niagara Grand to driving short-haul lumber and gravel deliveries in secret, he wasn't a Teamster and could get his head broke if any union guys caught him. Every kind of degrading shit job you could imagine but all of them real, actual. None of them just words. This legal bullshit the lawyers and judge tossed at one another with straight faces showing this was serious stuff, not bullshit like everybody including them knew.
♥ You could distract and confuse the jurors, Kirkpatrick said. Because there is a wish in the heart of mankind to be distracted and confused. Truth is but one attraction, and not always the most powerful.
♥ You pause, you're stricken into silence.
It's years later. It's another world. This world of urban New York City where you and your husband live, in no way contiguous with the lost world of your Niagara Falls girlhood. As your husband is in no way kindred to the boys and men you'd known in that world, of whom you have told him virtually nothing.
When will you tell him? Maybe never. For why tell him? He would not understand. There was ugliness in that world but there was beauty, too. There was hatred, but love. Only one man could understand and your husband is not that man.