To Anonymous A

Photo Credit: Joshua Siniscal Photography via Compfight cc

I sat on the sofa, my back propped against paisley pillows, and my legs crossed at the ankles. My camel-colored clogs, the ones with the wooden heels that knock on the floorboards when I walk, hung from my feet over the square cushion’s corner.

You, Anonymous A, sat across the room from me in your favorite leather chair, high-backed and black, legs in your usual beige polyester pants crossed at the knees. I wonder now if you were doodling more than documenting on that clipboard you had propped on your lap.

You swiveled when you spoke to me about the possibilities of my placement, about your willingness to protect me from the pernicious, about your family’s enthusiasm to meet me. You failed to mention my expected duties. The reason for the temporary arrangement, you wrote in my file, “Intolerable conditions within the home.” Tolerance, I suppose, is subjective.

That social studies teacher whom I loved so well sent me to your office initially. She had noticed my sadness and thought you could help. She, too, apparently didn’t know the price of lodging at your place.

I liked that you signed me out of class. What you had planned was far more important than algebraic equations. You didn’t bother with bogus excuses. You didn’t need to. You were the Dean of Students.

I was seventeen.

You pulled me close in the front seat of your classic Caprice, chestnut, like your wife’s hair, while she lay alone in a hospital bed with a heart broken from what no surgeon could repair.

Only the dog was there to greet us.

You told me, “Come,” with a crook of your finger. You walked me down the basement steps to that subterranean chamber you had made into my bedroom. There, sound was muffled. The rug was orange and brown, oval and braided. The single window was small, high, and covered. The paneling was musty and buckled, perhaps from the dampness of too many tears.

“You have to please me,” you said, so I did while you leaned against the spindled banister. I didn’t know no was an option.

Do you remember, as I do, that first time? “I love you,” you whispered with your eyes closed and your head bent back. I reciprocated the sentiment because the echo made me feel special.

I emerged from your fire all consumed, ash and smoldering. You didn’t seem to notice. Neither did your wife when she returned.

It was a very long year.

We no longer sat. Our legs, they were no longer crossed. We would kneel. We would lie.

You gave me bus fare to get to the mall so I could earn money to pay you rent. Sometimes, I ironed your shirts, starched your collars, chose your ties. A charade you had created, a dollhouse of blind characters. From the outside, it looked so pretty.

Your sons at the movie, your wife at Waldbaum’s, your head in my lap—a typical Saturday afternoon. Up close, I could see the hairs of your nose and ears—the parts of old men that grow long while their other parts shrivel. You handed me tweezers. “Do you mind?” you asked. “Of course not.”

You mirrored me and imprisoned me with your desire to be coddled and your need to be cared for, though you were fifty-one.

Christmas Eve. The silver was polished, the soup was served, your sons sat close. Guests, too, had gathered. No one noticed you gaze at me above the glass you held high as your foot reached mine beneath the red tablecloth. “Smile,” your eyes insisted. I did.

Our secret did not deter your political ambitions. How brazen you were! The public, unsuspecting, voted you in. Trustee. “A pillar of the community,” the newspaper said of you. I retched when I read it.

Prom night. You stood next to me with your arm around my waist and a smile on your face, posing, not only for the camera—so suave, so innocent, so deceptive. I waved goodbye and stepped into the black limousine in my white gown. You waited up late for me to return so you could taste afresh what I might have been up to without you.

I recognized the scent of such secrets emanating from the chick who worked behind the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts. There you often sat on a stool, swiveling, drinking morning coffee before classes began.

You were good at grooming young girls. You had, more than a decade before, done the same to the woman who wed you. The one with the chestnut hair who used to be your student, whose mother was your peer.

Graduation day. I packed my bags, according to plan, and moved to university housing on a campus far away.

For several years, I remained silent. I carried your lies as if they were my own bundle of shame.

Then, someone guessed the truth, someone, who wanted that part of me you had seized. She insisted I tell. I caved. She coerced me to the DA’s office.

“Suck this,” you said so many times. Well, you suck this! Suck these secrets from my lips until they sting your tongue. Then, let’s see if you can swallow!

I sat in a straight-back chair of grey metal; nervous perspiration made its vinyl seat feel moist beneath me. Officials wanted to know every sordid detail. I didn’t know where to begin.

Where did we begin?

I sat on the sofa, my back propped against paisley pillows, and my legs crossed at the ankles.

Mary Wanser

Mary Wanser is a contributing author to the anthology My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends and is currently revising for publication her memoir entitled Things I Wasn’t Supposed to Say. She earned her MFA from the University of Tampa. A Long Island native, Mary now lives where two rivers meet in Bradenton, Florida. Between tennis matches, she writes, edits, teaches, and accepts invitations to read her work publicly. Visit her at

12 thoughts on “To Anonymous A

  1. Mary WanserMary Wanser Post author

    Perpetual, as always, your encouragement of my writing is a buoy. My intent is that the “power” you mention being in my telling will “empower” other women to tell their own stories. To expose the secrets, I’m learning, is the only way to escape the haunting that comes with situations like these. Thanks for “fanning” me and for supporting Feminine Collective. ~ M

  2. Mary WanserMary Wanser Post author

    I’ll tell you, Doreen; had you asked me a couple of years ago, I’d have said that I’ve moved on. However, going public with the story now on this forum reminds me that I’m not quite through with it yet. I still feel painful pokes when I contemplate the details. I’d avoided doing that for decades, but being in recovery and pursuing a memoirist’s path requires otherwise. It’s women like you and the others here and elsewhere who read my work and remind me of my innocence that help my healing. Thank you! ~ M

  3. Perpetual Murray

    Your power lies in the fact that you have told this story. Shame on him. Especially because even with this story’s ugliness, you manage to tell it with such grace and poise. Hold your head high and continue to heal. You deserve it. Thank you for your courage wrapped in beautiful writing.
    Your fan,
    Miss P

  4. Mary WanserMary Wanser Post author

    Pam, Pam, Pam, your capitalized ending brought me to tears. This I need to hear! The second-guessing has not quit, even though decades have past. However, I am intent on healing, releasing, forgiving him, others, myself. It was never my fault! Imagine that. Imagine a lifetime thinking that it might have been. Up until now, that is. Readers of this Feminine Collective online magazine and their loving comments, like you and yours, are helping to propel me to a new freedom. I thank you. ~ M

  5. Mary WanserMary Wanser Post author

    Yes, Derry, though it happened over three decades ago, and I reported it over two decades ago, it does still hurt. There’s a fresh pain about it lately as I am beginning to speak openly; that’s likely the grief you’re hearing in my words. The Feminine Collective site, with its platform of raising awareness about these raw issues and supporting at-risk women and children, seemed an apt place to go public with this story. Thank you for reading and for supporting the cause. ~ M

  6. Mary WanserMary Wanser Post author

    Oh, D, thank you for your warm words. I appreciate your pointing out that my sharing might lend strength to others; that, after all, is my intent in exposing this and other not-so-pretty parts of my past. Thank you for reading my story and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate that. ~ M

  7. Mary WanserMary Wanser Post author

    Thanks back to you, Rebecca, for reading my story so intently. I muster the courage to share vulnerable pieces of my past, like this one, in the hope that others who have kept quiet for too long about similar experiences will see that silence is not always golden. Sometimes, it tarnishes self-esteem and rusts holes in our sense of trust. I filed that report decades ago, but had kept the secret locked away again until not too long ago. Now that I’m speaking openly about it, I do feel a new layer of healing beginning, a distant light shining. Thanks for your support. ~ M

  8. Doreen Leone

    What a powerful and sad story! He was an authority figure and abused his position on a young vulnerable girl. So glad you got the courage to sit on that couch with paisley pillow and tell your story. I hope that speaking about the abuse helped you move.forward.

  9. Derry Smith

    Wow, Mary–a very moving piece. I can’t stand the thought of your vulnerability taken advantage of. It hurts my heart. How brave of you to tell about it, because I’m sure it still hurts yours as well. And what a beautiful job you did, telling it. Your choice of words brings out grief that sounds fresh, which only makes the story that much more heartbreaking. I loved the ending–if only it wasn’t true…

  10. Pam

    Thank you for sharing the “opportunist’s-narcissist” pattern.. These people appear to be whatever it is we need and therefore, on the outside, it all makes them look so benevolent, kind, good. Being a vulnerable child, adolescent, a widow, in a place of vulnerability, the narcissists sets their target. They have a radar for us, and know before we Ever know exactly what they are doing. They use the vulnerable. Thank you, Mary for sharing your story. IT WAS NEVER YOUR FAULT.

  11. Dori OwenDori Owen

    An incredible, unfortunately too common, story. Kudos to your bravery to tell your truths. Not only to law enforcement, but publicly to give strength to others you certainly will help tell their truths. You are a fabulous writer and it’s an honor to read your words, albeit painfully raw.

  12. Rebecca Rice

    The writer puts you right on that sofa, leaning on those paisley pillows. Feeling the angst, the disgust the disappointment. After all, he was supposed to rescue her yet violated her over and over. It’s raw and unsensored. It shines a light on a very dark and scary place. Light is the only thing that can stop this kind of horror. Thank you, Mary for your bravery and for pouring out your story. Let the healing begin!

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