|Some of my photographs at Palladio Interiors, Memphis|
I’m sitting at my desk, nursing an injured foot while my dog snoozes on the floor beside me. Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind is playing as I write this. And if you could read my mind…what a tale my thoughts could tell, too. This past year has been full of life: of living this gift too many of us take for granted, experiencing what it offers and enduring what it doles out to you, embracing the miracle of life, and mourning the loss of it. The same as every person does, we all go through it. And then life goes on; the sun sets on the past, and rises with new opportunities and hope.
On January 10, 2012, this blog took life and while I had great ambitions for it to continue, I never thought it would be active very long. There was no timetable planned, just something new I started to promote my books and give myself a voice. It has been a struggle, the reasons why explained in past posts. Yet, it still chugs along and I refuse to give up on eight years of investment in personal goals. So here we are. For those reading what I post, there might not be much in the way of value to many; however, for myself the words are invaluable and at times therapeutic.
In recapping 2019, I will start with the best of the year which happened toward the end of it: the birth of my first grandchild. Being there for my daughter and seeing her little girl enter this world is something I’ll always cherish. The darling one has charmed me already with her ready smiles and curiosity. Another best is finally purchasing that second home so that we can be near her, something that had been planned for years.
Some highlights of the year included updating and launching my new website, www.veronicabatterson.com, and starting work on a play about the suffragist movement (I have been promised a staged reading of it upon completion). While I have shared two new book ideas in previous blog posts – one historical fiction piece set in Memphis with a dual timeline about the Yellow Fever Epidemic and Martyr’s Park, and the other being an Almost Famous type story (see my short story in this blog, Stardust from April 6, 2017), the third book idea happened recently while making dinner reservations in Denver, Colorado! These ideas drop in my lap in the strangest of ways. Rounding out the work, I had an art exhibit at WKNO’s Gallery Ten Ninety-One during the month of May, and my photographs were exhibited at Palladio Interiors in Memphis for six months (June 1 – Nov 1).
In August, my husband and I traveled historic Hwy. 1 along the coast of California. With our drive originating in Reno, Nevada, we visited beautiful Lake Tahoe and historic Truckee, drove through Sacramento and the Napa Valley to Inverness and Point Reyes Station, then headed south along the coast. Stops included seeing family and friends along the way while enjoying the beauty of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, Monterey Bay, Morro Bay, Big Sur, The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach, Carmel-By-The-Sea, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach (not in any particular order, and certainly overlooking much). We had the best lunch at Phil’s Fish Market at Moss Landing, and I enjoyed great seafood tacos at a place near Torpedo Wharf/Crissy Field in San Francisco. There was also a nice brunch with incredible views at Café Kevah (Nepenthe Restaurant) in Big Sur. We flew home from LAX, the least favorite part of the trip, with great memories and a lot of beautiful photographs.
The year began in the worst way, however, by learning of the passing of a friend, who was the daughter of a friend. Death snuffed out a light that was too young and new. She left too soon, and I can’t in any way imagine the pain her mother faces every day.
The final event of 2019 that I’m sharing is one that has been difficult for me to shake because I’m struggling to move past it; it haunts me, it won’t go away, and it makes me angry. I remain shocked that it happened, question why every day, but more than likely I’ll never get an answer. And if it can happen to me at my age, it can happen to any woman. “It” has many names: GHB, Rohypnol, roofies, liquid ecstasy, Ketamine, Special K, GBL, club drugs, date rape drugs…they’re odorless, tasteless, and they can’t be seen; they can be slipped into a drink or onto your food. If describing in humiliating detail the effects of what “It” did to me can help just one woman be aware, then I’ve made a positive out of something unthinkable. I’ve also used this forum as I initially intended it to become eight years ago: a voice. My voice.
On November 15, 2019, I attended an event in Memphis at a place where I have a right to be, and a place where I should not only feel safe, but be safe. Within minutes of sipping a glass of wine, I started feeling nauseous and very warm. Thinking all I needed was some fresh air, I stood up to make my way outside, took a few steps, turned and started stumbling, losing my ability to stand, much less walk unassisted. My vision became cloudy as well, everything was blurred. I suddenly heard someone’s voice in my ear (a person I recognized) who helped me get to privacy, which was a room with fewer people, then he left to find help; I then remember setting my purse and cell phone aside, lying down on a settee and passing out, only to be forced awake by another voice I recognized (different person) urgently telling me to sit up. I’ve no idea how much time passed. Eventually, I recognized two other voices (one was my husband); I couldn’t see any of them because I couldn’t make out shapes, nor could I communicate with any clarity. I lost all cognitive function and vomited all over myself, shortly after that everything turned dark, and a chunk of time became a black void lost to me. I have no memory of how I got home, only my husband relaying to me how I did. My next recollection came at 4:30 a.m. when I awoke with a start in my own bed, clear-headed, scared and knowing something terrible had happened. Something that had worn off and was no longer affecting me.
With all of this I was fortunate…lucky I was amongst people who I knew and who helped me. It was fortunate that I didn’t choke on my own vomit, or that it didn’t prove to be lethal due to an interaction with prescription medication I take, that I didn’t go into a permanent coma or need a respirator. I now know the potential horrors of what women face under the same circumstances if they’re alone or around strangers. But I’ve also experienced a reaction to it from others, although not from everyone, that surprises me. I’ve heard, “Well, no one can imagine who would do such a thing.” That may be, but it doesn’t change the fact that it happened, and somebody did. Another suggestion was that maybe I’d just had a seizure. If so it was the first one I’d ever experienced and I have a lot of years behind me, but seizures are a side effect of these drugs. At any rate, it stresses the importance of medical attention in any such situation (intentionally induced or otherwise). Timing is everything; it is critical. It’s crucial for a diagnosis and to collect evidence; the timeline for such a drug to be in a person’s system is short (just a few hours), and it’s all the time a predator needs. I didn’t get medical attention, and I wasn’t in a state to ask for it. Two more things that are facts: I wasn’t intoxicated and I’d eaten a plate of barbecue for dinner at this very event, so it wasn’t due to the lack of food. I was normal and coherent, and within minutes I was incapacitated.
Which brings up two other things…how the burden of proof falls on the person who was victimized, and the victim is the one who has to protect herself/himself from it ever happening again. How does one go the extra mile when you already run a marathon protecting yourself every day you leave your house? Should I pack the car with water bottles and only drink my own at all events? Refuse to eat food that is served to me at the same functions (even though others are eating) out of fear? As women, we have safety issues drilled in our heads from the moment we’re able to venture out on our own. Do I look at it as, “Whew…dodged a bullet there,” and do a hand swipe across the forehead? Sorry, I can’t. All I know is this: it happened, and if it is what it appears to be, the predator who targeted me is still out there to do it again. Just as bad: the expletive-filled slime knows he/she/they got away with it. It’s illegal to possess such a drug, it’s also illegal to use it. That night, apparently, I was the victim of a crime.
This post is about gratitude, so I’m grateful that it wasn’t worse, and I survived. However, I do everything in my life in a safe way, always careful (at times overly so). I lectured my daughters about being aware of such drugs when they were teenagers and when they started going out with friends and on dates; I’m watchful and cautious. It still happened. One can be grateful and still be outraged. That’s where I am, and seeking counseling.