Once, for a very short time in my life, I was a compulsive hand washer. It started after a frightening incident in the library parking lot that happened when I was 13 with my grade school best friend, Jody.
I met Jody in kindergarten. When I was really young my parents had me stay with Jody for a week when they took my brother Matt to the hospital. At the time, Jody’s parents were going through a divorce. I remember sitting on the steps with Jody at age 6 listening to her parents fight. Things may have been thrown, I don’t recall for sure. Just a lot of noise, a lot of yelling. I had my grandparents pick me up before the week was through.
I don’t know why Jody’s mom didn’t like her dad anymore. He was a fun guy. He loved to laugh and would buy us soda at the bar. One night the roads were way too icy to take Jody and I to dance class, so we went to the bar instead. He told me not to tell my mom as she would probably worry. I also went up north with Jody, her dad, and his girlfriend for the weekend. He had to stop halfway there because he was tired and needed a drink at the bar. Lots of quarters for soda that night. I think we may have even put some songs in the jukebox. When Jody turned 10 she had her birthday party at you guessed it, the bar! Jody was a lot of fun too.
When my mom told me that I could bring a friend with me to the library that night, I chose Jody. Once a month, my mom attended a support group for mothers of the disabled at the library. Most of the time the meetings ended after the library closed which is what happened that night. It was a warm summer night, so we waited for my mom in the car. We were talking when 3 older boys showed up at the car on bikes. They saw us and tried to get in the car. We locked the doors, but it was hot. We had to roll the windows down a little as the heat was stifling. The boys tried to pry their fingers in through the crack in the windows. They banged on the glass. That kept trying the car handles over and over, rattling on them, trying to get in. They taunted us, put their penises against the glass, and held condoms against the windows. I found the incident very frightening.
It was after this happened that I washed my hands over and over. I washed them until they were cracked and bleeding. For months I refused to touch the car handles that those boys touched to try to attack us. Everything they touched felt unclean to me. I wouldn’t touch those handles even if it meant that I had to sit in the middle of the back seat. So I washed and washed until the memory and terror of that night faded. At least I had control over something.