Dear Mr. Vasquez,
I was always one to say what’s on my mind. In fact, I might have said more than I was supposed to. Always scolded by my mother, “No andes diciendo todo, aprende a tener filtro mija por favor!” Then that careless girl came to your class in the middle of first grade and it all changed.
I know the last person you would want to hear from is me, I just need to say what I wanted to when I felt I had no voice. I don’t need to explain myself or show you I’m doing well, that you didn’t affect me when you did. For years I craved to prove to you and everyone that it doesn’t affect me. All I ever wanted was for you to realize and truly be sorry but you are just sorry you got caught.
I remember that first time. I didn’t know what to say or do so I just froze. I thought that maybe it was normal. Then I noticed you wouldn’t do it to others. That’s when things took a turn. You could tell I was afraid because I was shaking. At the end, you said, “If you tell anyone I’ll kill you and your family, one by one in front of you.” I remember the whisper almost like it was yesterday. Your breath on my ear. How tightly you had grabbed me. How was I supposed to know that it was just a threat you wouldn’t follow through with? Emotionally numb, not processing what was happening with those daily “hugs,” like a piece in the machine was missing, causing it to not work.
The little six-year-old that was always excited to go to school stopped wanting to go. Always “sick.” Like the last time. It was about to be lunch. You sent our line leader to take the rest of the class to the cafeteria and told me to stay back. You forced me into that “hug” while I was quietly sobbing. You kept trying to go further and further. Something sparked in me. I ran out of the room, crying and make it to the cafeteria. I anxiously cry to the lunch lady, “ Me siento mal me puedo ir a la enfermera? Me duele la panza. Me quiero ir por favor.” All I can think is about how he might catch me and bring me back to his room. I go to the nurse’s office and get sent home. This wasn’t normal. My parents asked, I never said anything. I just couldn’t go back or bring myself to imagine what you would do once you got a hold of me.
My first grasp at having a voice. I was still hesitant. It was third grade. I hadn’t gone to school one day and the day after all I hear is about how you got arrested yesterday. A sense of relief comes through me, but somehow I’m still scared. Are you actually gone? What if you come back? The school gives us papers regarding you and sexual assault to give to our parents. My mom works so I’d walk home and wait for her to come home. My mother always knew something was going on. She rushes inside. I put on the news. I wanted to make sure it was true, that I can be safe to breathe and free from pretending. She sits down next to me just as his mugshot is shown on the local Spanish news. I tell her, “Ma, viste? Mr. Vasquez está en la cárcel.” She grabs me by my arms, “Mija, dime la verdad. Porque era la real razón porque no querías ir a la escuela? Te hizo algo? Nomas dime, mija…” I could see the hurt in her eyes. I break down crying. “Si.” She hugs me, disappointed in herself for not putting the dots together before. Still I hesitated, “Trató pero nomas una vez”. She was already so heartbroken. I couldn’t tell her this was an ongoing thing.
A year goes by, still no court case. It was still itching at me. Why didn’t I say everything? I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I kept thinking of it day after day. I finally come clean.
All these years have been a rollercoaster. I know it’s weird, but I always ended up thinking about how it must be for you. I hope you come to an understanding of what you did. I no longer wish anything bad for you, only for you to be a better person than you were when I met you. I thank you in a way. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to find the meaning of my voice. Gracias por enseñarme el poder de no tener filtro.
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