The event was a rally for "Until the Violence Stops" at the Main Library Friday evening. I was asked to be one of about a dozen speakers to read monologues and short essays written by people who'd been victims of domestic violence and abuse. While my script was emailed to me a few weeks ago, I really didn't take a look at it until a few hours before the event. Let's just say I was a bit taken aback.
My monologue was called "Rescue" and was penned by a man who was recalling growing up in a fatherless home of women who'd been raped. The prose contained language I wouldn't feel comfortable saying in front of my mother, and come to think of it, probably your mother too. Still, the writing was raw and without boundaries -- certainly far more poignant than what I typically read on the evening news.
I tried to read the script aloud as I walked from our TV office to the library next door. A few folks who passed me in the parking deck figured I was having an 'episode' or something. Oh well, it gave them something to talk about later.
I got inside the library to discover I was one of only two men in the group. My colleague, Kim Wheeler, was also one of the participants so I had someone to chat with so that part was good, but I was still nervous about the reading. How would I pull off reading this guy's words? His pain? His journey to discovering that not all men were rapists even though the only men he saw in his life growing up were assaulting the women closest to him? "I must be nuts," I thought.
As the other women each read their monologues, I realized that this would be a night of all of us getting outside our comfort zones and recognizing that the world is not always filled with Swenson's cheeseburgers and Stricklands chocolate shakes. There's a lot of pain out there and much of it is kept behind closed doors.
I decided to just let the words take me where they would. I skipped the first "F" word (and the others too) in place of something more politically correct and tried to raise and lower the pitch and tone of my voice when appropriate. By the middle of the monologue, I began to realize what this writer must have been feeling putting his thoughts down on paper. It struck me hard and I paused for a moment. I looked up at an audience that seemed gripped by what conclusion this man was coming to -- that he'd been robbed of a true example of a "man" in his life and now he was paying the price. He realized that while the hole in his life would never be filled, he didn't have to life an un-whole life.
In the end, I received some nice applause and some nice words afterwords. One woman even told me that I had such a nice voice that, "you should really read the news for a living." That dropped the woman to the right of her to her knees in laughter. Since there was no program, there was no indication of who any of the readers were or what we did for a living. We all got a good laugh, but I was still consumed by the emotions of this young man.
How many other young men are in our community without a real father-figure and mentor and whose only interaction with women is one of problems and pain? What happens to those boys when they become men and can't maintain a healthy relationship?
I'm not sure I have any answers here, but I know that I'll never even have a suggestion to the problem without letting myself come out of my comfort zone.