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Authors: Lacy M. Johnson

The Other Side

BOOK: The Other Side
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Praise for
The Other Side

“In this brilliant memoir, Lacy M. Johnson offers us a guide to the impossible—how to reconstruct a past when the past itself is shattered, each memory broken into pieces, left rattling around inside us. Sometimes flashes of poetry are all that we can find in the wreckage; sometimes these flashes are all that can possibly save us, brought together for brief, burning instants, and then let go.
The Other Side
bristles with life and energy and to read it is to be transformed.”

—
NICK FLYNN
, author of
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

“Lacy M. Johnson's powerfully moving and brilliantly structured memoir,
The Other Side
, asks, ‘How is it possible to reclaim the body after devastating violence?' Her intense desire and demand for a life lived in the body is triumphant. Johnson's strength not only to free her physical self but also to move through years of incapacitating fear by writing this book, is breathtaking: ‘I lift the chain from my neck, over my head, let it rattle to the floor.'”

—
KELLE GROOM
, author of
I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl

Copyright © 2014 Lacy M. Johnson

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, contact Tin House Books, 2617 NW Thurman St., Portland, OR 97210.

Published by Tin House Books, Portland, Oregon

and Brooklyn, New York

Distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West, 1700 Fourth St., Berkeley, CA 94710,
www.pgw.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Johnson, Lacy M., 1978-

The other side : a memoir / Lacy M. Johnson.

pages cm

eBook ISBN 978-1-935639-84-8

  
1. Johnson, Lacy M., 1978- 2. Rape victims—United States—Biography. 3. Kidnapping victims—United States—Biography. I. Title.

  
HV6561.J65 2014

  
362.883092—dc23

  
[B]

2014006794

First U.S. edition 2014

Interior design by Jakob Vala

Excerpt of four lines from “Mystic” from
The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath
, edited by Ted Hughes. © 1960, 65, 71, 81 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial material © 1981 by Ted Hughes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

www.tinhouse.com

The chimneys of the city breathe, the window sweats
,

The children leap in their cots
.

The sun blooms, it is a geranium
.

The heart has not stopped
.

Sylvia Plath, “Mystic”

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Notes

Thank You

[one]

 

I CRASH THROUGH
the screen door, arms flailing like two loose propellers, stumbling like a woman on fire: hair and clothes ablaze. Or I do not stumble. I make no noise at all as I open the door with one hand, holding a two-by-four above my head with the other. My feet and legs carry me forward, the rest of my body still, like a statue. Like a ninja. A cartoon.

In the small gravel lot behind the fourplex, I find my car covered by a beige tarp—the elastic cinched between the bumper and the wheels. I wrestle it off and climb inside, coax my key into the ignition. The lizard key chain shakes like an actual trapped animal in my hand, ready to shed its tail and flee.
Take a breath
, I say.
You're not dead yet
.

Inching away from the building, I see the front screen door slapping in the wind against the outer wall. It's too late to get out and close it. The tires spray gravel around the building's unlit side and toward the street, where the streetlights strobe on and on and on along the deserted boulevard stretching between the highway and downtown, where the boys down Jäger shots, the girls down Jäger shots,
all of them dry humping at the bar or on the dance floor or in line for the bathroom.

I'll never be one of them again.

I cross the boulevard by stomping the gas pedal to the floor, fingers ratcheted blue-knuckle tight around the wheel, leaning so far forward my breath fogs the windshield from the inside: proof I'm still alive. Or my breath does not make fog. Does not leave my body, even. Not one nerve-taut muscle gives way as my headlights illuminate the narrow street, the empty parking stalls, the low beige brick buildings.

When I realize I am not being followed I begin to cry and laugh and scream. Like bubbles. Like a peal. The rearview mirror shows my mascara running. Maybe I should apply a coat of lipstick? A patch of blood spreads where I have bitten my lower lip, the taste of a penny stolen from the kitchen jar.

I park the car in front of the police station and run through the dark with my shoes in my hands, cross the cold tile floor—a checkerboard—and pound on the glass separating me from the two female dispatchers, a steel U-bolt still dangling from my wrist. Under the fluorescent lights, their skin flickers black and blue. They lean back in their chairs, hands folded over their soft round bellies, each pair of legs coming together like a V. Their black sweaters. Their
blue polyester pants. Their faces turn toward me, their eyebrows raised in disbelief.
The clock's arms both point to eleven. They're black. They're blue.

The stationmaster calls a detective out to meet me in the lobby. Tall and wide-shouldered, with brown hair and eyes, The Detective looks vaguely like my uncle: both have kind faces. But The Detective does not smile, does not give me a lung-crushing hug. He leads me into his office with his hand on his gun. Or it is not his office, but an office that is used by him tonight. There is a black rotary telephone with a black spiral cord pushed to the corner of a desk. The wood veneer comes up at the corners, exposing a layer of particleboard underneath. He shuffles in the drawer for a small pad of paper.

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