I have a recurrent nightmare that never fails to awaken me from a dead slumber groping for my husband's sleeping form. In this dream, I'm transported back ten years to twenty-two, which is the age I was when Peter Curran killed himself. I'd met him as a child of seven and for fourteen years alternately perceived our relationship as a romance or a father-daughter relationship. For all those years, I worked to block out the fact what had happened between us in his basement and bedroom constituted sexual abuse. In my nightmare, I am still steeped in denial so I calmly read to him in the privacy of his smoky, aquarium-lit room.
When I wake up, I remind myself that I've revealed his true criminal nature in the book I wrote about him: Tiger, Tiger. I've made his deeds known - albeit after he died. There has been critical acclaim as well as controversy surrounding my memoir. Talking about the hidden relationships that can occur between paedophiles and their victims, and the honest feelings of love a child may have for an abuser, is not an easy discussion to enter. Yet I feel it is because almost everyone I depict in my memoir, including myself, was too ashamed to speak of the disturbing and inappropriate bond between an adult man and a little girl that this attachment was able to continue for fourteen years.
One of the reasons people might have believed it was benign is because almost all cultures have struggled to maintain their innocence by permitting their art to only depict adult/child relationships as parental and platonic, or by portraying a sexual predator as a caricature whose blatant inhumanity renders him immediately recognizable and therefore easy to avoid. To some extent, Peter himself wanted more than anyone to believe in the innocence of what he repeatedly called "our love." James Baldwin, a writer and man I deeply admire, has said, "People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster."
Sadly, children often won't disclose toxic secrets like the ones I carried inside me if they sense the adults around them are too ashamed and afraid to face it. They may even become more bonded to their abuser than to their parents, which is what happened to me. My memoir is by no means a universal story - as there are many children that don't form an attachment to their abusers. At the same time, there is a good chance that my book is relatable and cathartic to those who have been through the mind-boggling experience of being told abuse was love and really believing that because the alternative was too terrible. I often felt intense self-doubt when I wrote the more horrific passages in my book, but realized that was just Peter's voice urging me to only write about the good things and happy times. When Tiger, Tiger was accepted for publication all over the world, I was assured that the battle for truth had won over the cultural quest for an innocence that is long past its time.
Margaux Fragoso was born and raised in urban New Jersey. An exceptional and gifted writer, she has always used writing to help deal with her childhood. Margaux's recent works of poetry and fiction have appeared in The Literary Review, among other journals, and she is currently working on a novel. Tiger, Tiger is her first book. She is thirty-one years old, and no longer lives in New Jersey.