There’s a hill in Rio that overlooks the water, named for the fact it has two peaks. You describe it to me, but I don’t catch its name as you take my breasts in your hands, nuzzle my neck…
I have always written, but it’s not until recently that I really recognised the role writing plays in my life.
As a journalist, I have researched and reported on the lives of other people for two decades. I have been privileged to have a ringside seat for moments that have carved themselves into the consciousness of countries and communities. I have been fortunate to make friends with extraordinary humans and become familiar with places I might never have known, were it not for my work.
At the same time, I spent years wanting to write about my own experiences. A few years ago, I started to write flash fiction. I also wrote the first draft of a novel loosely inspired by my journalism experiences. Much of that writing was done on planes and in airports, or in hotels between meetings: those moments of transition as I travelled the world became the places where I found I was most able to make sense of things.
The last few months have put the brakes on those moments and movements and I’ve struggled to write fiction. And yet a different kind of writing for me has accelerated: creative nonfiction and memoir.
When the pandemic started, I worked remotely with a therapist to process my past experiences, to jigsaw together the moments I had suppressed from times in my life where I had been hurt. I couldn’t speak as openly about some of my experiences as I might have done in a face-to-face therapy session because I felt hampered by my computer and the fact others were always in my house.
My therapist encouraged me to revisit moments, to write about them and then to write about them again. I started to create a narrative to help me recover from the shame I felt and the symptoms I experienced with post-traumatic stress disorder. I started to build my own memoir and the words kept coming.
Although it had taken me more than a decade to do so, I’d already written something of my experience of sexual assault linked to my media work. However, I had not gone into detail about the experiences of my rape—partly out of fear and shame, partly because of the context in which I was writing, and partly because every time I returned to Rio in my mind, something was missing.
Trauma messes with memories. It suppresses and compresses time and experiences, so that they become buried and hard to excavate. By writing about them and revisiting them, I have been able to start to understand more of what happened to me, to find my own voice.
One day, I decided to trace my time in Rio through walking the city’s maps online, and it was then I really remembered what happened back on that December day in 2005. It was then that I remembered the hillside that formed the backdrop to my experience, recalling its name, and how it represented the vast gulf between the rich and poor in this city back then, and I realised how that name framed my experience, and the abuse of power by someone I trusted.
I wrote and I wrote and the words poured out of me. I wrote about how I stood in my rapist’s shower, watched by him and his ‘brother’, feeling like I would never be clean. My words flowed from me, a cleansing catharsis, painting a picture on the page. I wrote quickly and my story came out almost as you see it now. This time, I was in charge and I started to feel the shame wash away. I knew that this was my truth and my way of reclaiming something taken from me. I sent my story that same night to CRAFT and it was greeted with such care and love by the editors, that I knew I had finally found my words. I’m now almost finished with the memoir of my experiences—of which “Dois Irmãos” is a part. It’s been a long journey, painful in parts, but I have finally written what I have been wanting to write for so very long, and in doing so, I know this is my truth, and hopefully it helps others know they are not alone.
HANNAH STORM has been a journalist for two decades, and now writes CNF to process her experiences, and flash fiction inspired by some of her experiences travelling the world. She’s been published online and in print and placed in several competitions. She lives in the UK with her husband and two children, runs a media charity, and also works as a freelance media consultant. Her debut flash collection will be published in 2021 by Reflex Fiction. She is also working on a memoir.