I have these recurring dreams that I am driving between exits for Dover, NH, to do errands. Sometimes it’s to buy macaroni and cheese from a convenient store. Sometimes, it’s to head to work in Portsmouth but something gets in my way of getting there. Like, In the dreams, sometimes I run out of toll money. Sometimes, I discover that I never gave notice on my old apartment and they are expecting rent even though I moved 20 years ago. Or, I haven’t had my mail forwarded and I need to go to the office to get 20 years of mail. Or, I remember I own a house I forgot to sell and when I go to check on it, I find out that none of the locks on the doors work so if I stay there, it’s super easy for someone to break in. Other times, it’s my old apartment but refurbished in most areas but one floor has holes in it and the foundation is warped. I don’t know where it’s safe to stand and there are cobwebs everywhere like an old attic.

This weekend I drove up that way for a holiday party. It’s the first time in 20 years I have stayed left passing Portsmouth and gone into that territory where I used to live. I lived in Durham for awhile, then moved to New York street in Dover, did a couple apartments in the WhiteCliffs complex and then headed to North Hampton for awhile before eventually heading to New Mexico. In fact, I just realized I have no memory of how I actually moved my things from Dover to North Hampton. That’s really creepy.

I was excited driving to my friend’s house for her holiday party. I need to expand my social activities beyond hanging out mostly with my parents. Don’t get me wrong, I love catching up on lost time in my relationship with them. I probably need my Cape weekends with them more than they need me. It has helped me establish better weekend habits and I am having the relationship with them now I didn’t have growing up. As they get older and battle illnesses, I need these weekends. But I also need friends my own age and to grow.

It was a lovely party and the people were fantastic! I hated to leave but it was a long drive home. I didn’t want to be on the road suspiciously late and risk getting pulled over for any reason. Strong distrust of police. I had been sick for a couple weeks and the old energy hadn’t caught back up. In addition, I had the strangest feeling and sense of “who am I? Who was I.” I couldn’t reconcile who I was then with who I am now even though some of the friendships are the same and connect me to both times. It’s remarkable to see yourself as a complete stranger. It’s almost as if I time traveled back and forth to this location but lost a memory in between. Have you ever seen the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?” Something along those lines it not romantic.

I guess it makes sense when there was a big part of my life I actively worked to shove into the back of a very full closet. I carry vivid memories of who I dated afterwards, where I worked, all the places I hung out, what my friends were wearing when we went out, conversations other people would never recall having decades later where I can repeat every word, facial tweak and sentiment. I remember the food I gravitated to. But I don’t remember the beers I drank. I hadn’t really landed on any one type at that point. I remember the furniture in apartments of friends and the cars they drove. I remember “Portsmouth” time. I didn’t live there, but my friends did, I worked there and we went out there. I kept those memories and erased “Dover” time.

Upon leaving Somersworth, I had planned to just grab exit 9 on back. While waiting at the Chili’s traffic circle, I made a game time decision and went left. I headed for New York St. to see the house where I was raped. It had never before occurred to me to do that. It hadn’t even occurred to me the entire time I was up there Saturday. Had the light been green, I may not have considered it. But it was red long enough to open the compartment in my brain…to forage to the back of the closet and direct me down Main Street. Funny, along the way I passed my old hairdresser’s place & remembered she is the one who told me my ex (not the rapist but he did have the same first name) had been sleeping with our co-workers and telling everyone I was crazy and he was having nothing to do with me while he was also sleeping with me. That was a fun day where I made some wild phone calls. But I digress….

New York St. always had a reputation of being a “tough” street and the dilapidated old houses converted into cheap apartments, run by slumlords, definitely lined up with that reputation. I lived there with 2 other girls and we were fine. Once we got to the end of the street we were on Main St. which was fine. It was just that one side street we lived on which had odd crimes and a closed down biker bar. It was prefect rent for college kids or the downtrodden. We were the only college kids, though.

My rape had nothing to do with the street or it’s criminal attraction. That’s the ironic part. It was someone I knew who I had let into our home several times before, as had my roommates. One of them didn’t hesitate to let him in the house that night. It wasn’t until months later I would find out he had been there a few times before, drunk, trying to open the door himself and being sent away by my roommates. They didn’t want me to know because we had broken up and they thought if I knew, I would go back to him. They were also worried for my safety. I don’t know why he got let in this time.

My bedroom was in the attic at the far end of the apartment so I didn’t know he was there until he was halfway up my bedroom stairs. The roommate below me could never hear anything up there and I never heard her. I was always running a fan for white noise. She took Ambien strength sleeping pills. We could have been banging pots and pans over her head in a fire and would eventually just have to leave her there to save ourselves. I don’t know where the other roommate was and can’t remember to this day. All I know is I was up and out early the next day for a surgical procedure my dad was picking me up for and the rapist was still in my bed and if I had let on to the slightest hint of what had happened, my father would have gone up and killed him instantly. I just couldn’t go there and I wasn’t going to tell anyone what happened. Not to mention, I left a rapist for my roommates to deal with which I wasn’t feeling really good about.

As I relay this….what happened in the attic above the windows in the left corner of the picture above, I feel like I am telling someone else’s story. I still can’t seem to re-inhabit the body of the girl in that room. What is really odd is that many houses on that street have been renovated. In the back of this house, they have even added on new units. But the front of this house hasn’t changed at all. That room probably hasn’t changed at all. I have changed dramatically….or so I keep telling myself in my current body. There may be parts of me which haven’t changed at all. They were probably just sitting in a compartment frozen in time and are suddenly starting to melt out now. Despite this revelation, I still can’t seem to integrate. But I do suddenly understand all these years of those weird dreams driving from exit to exit in Dover and somehow never seeming to get past any of its exits. New York St. is where I used to live but it has never actually left me.