“Why,” Bink asked me, “are all the bad people in my life called Robin?”
We were walking round the courtyard of her Cambridge college. Her second one.
There is so much of the story to fill in, to explain to you about Robin...
[I am so cheered by your comments in response to yesterday’s blog. Thank you!
I will continue to tell the story of ten years ago, as well as today’s story, if you can keep all these different coloured yarns knitting our story in your head. Since there are readers remembering the Robin of last September – which even I hadn’t remembered – you obviously can...]
I suppose I must have asked her to elucidate. It was early January, 2012. Mid-morning. Cold, and bright and clear.
And exactly the time of year she had crashed out of Cambridge a few years earlier, in 2008.
Much had happened in our lives since. A move to another town and home and life.
Bink struggling on. Longing to return to Cambridge. Discovering her college didn’t consider her well enough to return.
Serena and I calling an ambulance (probably one of many) early one morning or late one night, I don’t remember. Perhaps both. Bink locked in the bathroom. We sensing her blood in the air, seeping under the door with her pain and panic: razors, wrists, white limbs with savage threads of weeping red.
Angry at us calling the ambulance.
Disappearing again, running away through the streets. Scooped up into hospital when they found her. None of it for long: two or three days. None of it helping.
My father, astonished, horrified, at what we lived with all the time.
My dear mother’s birthday, the day he took her under his wing.
The fight continuing, to return to Cambridge. Trying a harder way. Every way.
I would love to tell you how we stumbled through much of this but I must fast-forward to explain to you about Robin. We can return to the details on a happier, sunnier day, if you are still walking with me when the dawn rises on Bink’s life...
“All the bad people in my life called Robin...”
Robin One. A sexual assault. An unwanted kiss in early adolescence.
The first sounds so shocking: the second so commonplace. And yet they can be one and the same. I know.
I was eleven. My father a head master, my mother a teacher; every August, teachers’ holidays. (I’ve said already, I disliked those holidays, being away from home. Perhaps this is why?)
The previous year we had been abroad for the first time, the first holiday not in my grandparents’ seaside house in Norfolk, camping in streaming rain and flimsy, leaky, hip-high tents in a flooded French campsite.
So this year, my parents had bought a caravan and we had driven to Spain. Staying for two weeks in a campsite on the beach.
The best part of which, for me – perhaps the only good part – was the horse. Every day, around the campsite with his cart to collect the rubbish.
That horse and I were instant friends. I took his likeness, with my sketch pad and pencil: trotting, standing still, being harnessed. I rode in the cart. I got up early to be with him when he was taken out of his stable and tacked up.
I was blonde and eleven. The dustman was Spanish and adult. It was eight in the morning and no one else around. He took me into the doorway of that stable and kissed me. Twice.
I can still see his eyes, close up, terrifying, blurry in the blinding morning sun. Lip on lip – that was all – shocking in the scorching Spanish sun.
I never went to see that horse again.
I sat in my parents’ caravan, in someone else’s caravan when we went to visit, appalled at the closeness of my father and brother; deeply uncomfortable in their proximity in such a trapped space; myself exposed and changed for ever. Sensing, in those two innocent and unknowing men in my loving family, an overwhelming threat.
I never told anyone: not for years.
The blur of his eyes in the sun haunted me for years, too. Till late teens or early twenties.
Since then I have always churned, squirmed at, shrunk slightly from, men of Latinate colouring. Could never have loved a man with raven hair and deep brown eyes and olive skin. Too intimidating.
I never thought of it as “sexual assault”. I never complained of trauma. I believe I eventually told a friend, many years later, of the intrusive picture I still carried with me. The eyes swimming in the sun.
That was Bink’s Robin One. An unwanted kiss. (For all I know, more: she never told me.)
Two adolescents: one unwilling.