The house is on a street of houses ringed by low, cheap fences. People are watching me pull up from their porches and from behind their screens.
You can tell right away that it has been abandoned. There is a deep staleness to it that is apparent from afar.
I don’t know what force has pulled me to come to this house today of all days. I have had his address for ten years. My mother found it at some point and gave it to me like some sort of weird gift. I tucked it away and forgot about it, even though I moved back to my hometown a couple of years later and was living just thirty blocks away from where, according to that piece of paper, he lived.
I didn’t plan this visit. I had exactly one hour before I had to pick up my kids from school. I didn’t talk to a therapist before hand or check in with friends to see if it was a good idea. Honestly it probably isn’t—making an unannounced visit to the father figure who molested you when you were a child, the man who (because it was the 70s and things, I am told, were understood differently back then) you ended up having to live with for another ten years. And yet, having just been through an infinitely hard divorce, my mother’s attempted suicide, and a brother sent to prison—I guess I had become blind to the idea that there could possibly be something I couldn’t handle. So, instead of just driving by, I stopped. Instead of just looking from my car, I got out.
A woman comes out of her house across the street, yelling something to her twenty-something son who is halfway down the road carrying a pillowcase full of laundry.
I ask her if the man who lives at the house is still around. “Bob?” she asks. Having not heard another person say his name aside from immediate family for thirty years, this familiarity makes me pause. “Yes.” I respond, trying not to look like someone out to do harm. “He was my stepfather but I haven’t seen him for many years.”
Of course, I don't mention that the last time I saw him, he was being led out of our home in handcuffs.
She leads me to the front door of another neighbor. Tiny dogs bark and are yelled at to be silent. We are told to enter. A sickly woman sunk into a couch listens as the situation is explained. She looks at me long and hard. I can tell that she knows Bob and is desperately trying to put together him—old, hardened, mentally ill man that he probably is now—with this woman before her.
She tells me where to find him. He lives in a hotel now, the house having been condemned on account of black mold. I don’t pause. I drive to the hotel. I sit outside and look at sad, cheap hotel and think again about how much my friends would disapprove. I give my phone number in a note to the manager. Of course, I never get a call. There is relief in that.
Now I know where to find him. I know that I can confront him if I feel the pull to do so. I feel strangely satisfied with that knowledge. When I thought about writing this to the listserve, my original subject line was “How I (almost) confronted my abuser after 30 years,” but I quickly realized that wasn’t true. I confronted him and his memory that day, and that may well be enough.