I wake up at 3 am, as I often do. The hours between 3-5 am are the moments where my mind chooses to rouse me from a series of rich, lucid dreams. To reach deep into my memories and carefully lay out the thoughts and images that I usually cannot hold still in the presence of daylight.

These are the moments when I remember things most clearly and understand my feelings as they beat through my heart, not as I have filed them away in my mind. I see and feel myself and that is when my writing is the most honest. My journal sleeps next to me, ready to be awakened by my pen. I often fall back asleep with my fingertips resting lightly on the pages.

What I wrote yesterday morning:

Enough about my parents for now. It’s time for my memories. There are very few (and some are merely flickering images not grounded to an event) but I remember them with the intensity and depth of being a precocious child.

How did I become Melissa? How do I figure that out from a handful of memories and yellowing pictures? I have stretched out each memory for miles to cover the long, dark gaps which trail through most of my childhood. They are beautiful, complex memories though and they have kept me company instead of in the darkness.

Trying to gather information has been like trying to put together an account of a crime with mostly unreliable witnesses. Everyone has their own perception of the experience and their own physical location and vantage point for observing.

The stories are always changing. I suppose that is one reason I choose to write. I have approached this like I am creating a police report- if I can capture the statements and create a cohesive report then I can hold people accountable. I can ask for validation and can hopefully make sense of what happened around me.

I think this is the time to admit that crimes actually were committed. Children were kidnapped, government officials were held accountable, warrants were issued, and there was an arrest. The stories moving forward are sweet, heart-breaking, inspiring, and at times infuriating. The important thing to remember is that an incredibly empathetic, funny, and kind woman emerged from all of this.

But she is also a woman who seeks love as hard as she pushes it away and can be absurdly insecure even as she fiercely, proudly lives her life. I write this story mostly for her… she deserves to understand what happened. She deserves a good nights sleep.

“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” – Bob Dylan

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