For the last thirty-nine years, I have slept with another man. He has pale blue eyes like my husband. I don’t remember an introduction, though there must have been one to dull the danger so I wouldn’t feel those eyes on me.

He is a predator. He is The Norwegian.

It is 1979, and I am wearing a red dress. Disco has just exploded into a supernova, already dying. Girls wear dresses when they go out dancing. The rest of the time it is engineer-striped overalls and hiking boots for me. I am small, maybe 108 pounds, and look like a miniature railroad worker trudging around my college campus. My dancing dress is loose and long. Not too much exposed. From where he watches, The Norwegian needs to use his imagination. I’m not giving anything away.

There is beer at this dance, a welcome event for international students like me. It’s free, offered by the Summer School in Norway, which I am attending. I don’t drink at my college in the U.S. I have a straight-A average. I don’t smoke pot. I haven’t had sex. I am a tiny virgin girl in a red dress dancing in Norway.

My people come from Voss. We sailed from the fjords and still carry the midnight sun in our hair. To be in Norway is to be on sacred ground. I am here to go to Vigeland park, to buy a Norwegian sweater, to look at the Kon-Tiki, to go to Voss, and to learn the language. The Norwegian has other plans for me.

He urges me to drink something, and I do. I’ve been taught to be nice. Later, I’ll tell myself that The Story is about alcohol, and I will fold it into a small, neat square for storage. I take the drink he offers me, and—I don’t know. Not if we dance or talk. Not how we get to that place where I am alone with him, shouting No! I am under him, fighting hard. The Story says that someone comes to the door, rescues me.

But no one comes. It is me in the doorway. Watching myself.

After, I take a long shower and wrap myself in a soft white robe, and he is brought to justice.

No. None of that. The Story ends with Forgetting for thirty-nine years. Erasing enough to get up and get up each day, but not enough.

The Story begs for an ending. Through hyper-vigilance and rage and startling, in migraines and teeth grinding and touch rules, it demands to be heard. And Forgetting becomes Remembering. At first it comes from my body. My face and legs and arms twitch in terror while Remembering tells me The Story.

It takes me months to use the word rape. That can’t be. A tiny virgin girl in a red dress dancing in the land of her ancestors doesn’t get raped.

My husband and children are kind, relieved to finally have an explanation. My sisters struggle to believe me because I’ve already complained so much about my cousin’s hands around my throat long ago. And I’m so fussy about how my great uncle harassed and groped me. We just aren’t that kind of family. Norway isn’t that kind of country. But I am that kind of girl. Always making trouble.

Remembering, I can see The Norwegian in my bedroom, watching me with his pale blue eyes. He calls me, and I reenact The Story. Satisfied, he comes back another night. And so many others. I am awake in the dark with him. I am awake and awake and awake.

The Norwegian climbs into our bed, joining us for sex, and I retreat to the doorway. I watch myself, abandoning my body. He whispers that he has always been there, between my husband and me. I am afraid and afraid and afraid.

I fight him, shout No! He retreats, but there is no forgetting him anymore. And in the dark hours of insomnia, like a pathetic Scheherazade, I tell and retell The Story to someone who isn’t there. Someone who will believe me, if I can just get it right. And then it will be over.

Susan Telander loves winter in Minnesota, where she teaches English to adult immigrants from all over the world—Ukraine to Somalia, Venezuela to Vietnam. She was a finalist in fiction for the Mentor Series at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and her nonfiction has appeared in the Briar Cliff Review. She once dreamed of being an opera singer and holds a Master of Music degree in classical vocal performance from the University of Minnesota.

Photo by Dinty W. Moore