Patti Davis is the author, most recently, of the novel “The Earth Breaks in Colors” and the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
Roughly 40 years ago, I showed up at a prominent music executive’s office for an appointment that had been scheduled suspiciously late in the workday. But I wasn’t suspicious. I was instead eager to try to place some of my original songs with artists he represented. One of my songs had appeared on the Eagles album “One of These Nights,” and I was hoping to turn songwriting into a career.
I brought along a cassette tape of my material, but I don’t remember what the executive said about the songs. Nor do I recall what we talked about. I remember the sky turning dark outside the window behind his desk. I remember sensing that people had left the building and we were there alone. I remember his face, his hair and what he was wearing. When he pulled a vial of cocaine out of his desk drawer and started chopping up lines on a small mirror, I’m 90 percent sure I declined his offer to do some with him, not because I didn’t do drugs — I definitely did in those years — but because I was starting to feel uncomfortable. My memory of the discomfort is sharp and clear, but my memory of declining the coke is, as I said, about 90 percent.
What happened next, though, is indelible. He crossed the room. There was a dark-green carpet, but his footsteps seemed loud, hard. He was against me, on top of me — so quickly — with his hands under my skirt and his mouth on mine, that I froze. I lay there as he pushed himself inside me. The leather couch stuck to my skin, made noises beneath me. His breath smelled like coffee and stale bread. He didn’t use a condom. I remember leaving afterward, driving home, the night around me glittered with streetlights and alive with people out at dinner or bars. I felt alone, ashamed and disgusted with myself. Why didn’t I get out of there? Why didn’t I push him off? Why did I freeze?
I don’t remember what month it was. I don’t remember whether his assistant was still there when I arrived. I don’t remember whether we said anything to each other when I left his office.
I never told anyone for decades — not a friend, not a boyfriend, not a therapist, not my husband when I got married years later.
It doesn’t surprise me one bit that for more than 30 years, Christine Blasey Ford didn’t talk about the assault she remembers, the one she accuses Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of committing.
It’s important to understand how memory works in a traumatic event. Ford has been criticized for the things she doesn’t remember, like the address where she says the assault happened, or the time of year, or whose house it was. But her memory of the attack itself is vivid and detailed. His hand over her mouth, another young man piling on, her fear that maybe she’d die there, unable to breathe. That’s what happens: Your memory snaps photos of the details that will haunt you forever, that will change your life and live under your skin. It blacks out other parts of the story that really don’t matter much.
Ford wants the FBI to investigate so that some of the details she doesn’t remember can be established. It’s a brave request. Perhaps the aging men who are poised to interrogate her, unless they hide behind surrogates, should pause for a moment and think about the courage it takes for a woman to say: Here is my memory. It has haunted me for decades. It changed my life. You need to know about it now because of what is at stake for this country.
Requesting an investigation into the incident isn’t a big ask. Unless they just want her to go away. Which is, by the way, one reason that women are scared to speak up.