We sat facing each other, loosely holding hands, cocooned by the strange aucoustics in the room. The buzz of noise wrapped around us, creating the kind of privacy those who lived their lives in full view of the Dilke's* were used to grabbing wherever they could. We sheltered what we said from those further away, words difficult to hear, harder still to speak, with meaning so very clear.
The postcard written from the heart upon arrival told just the basics of decades of pain;
"They locked me away. There was no-one to tell. They tied us to beds. I fought and fought. 4 people went to prison. Now I have a job, I'm an advocate and I'm happy"
But in our bubble we talked more. I listened to a story told many times before. I witnessed the strength gained each time as the words let out the pain trapped inside.
"They marched us in lines. Naked. Not just boys. Grown men too. Completely naked. All together"
Tears rolled down all our cheeks as we huddled together.
"Every day you got raped. There was no-one to tell. They didn't care. They raped you too so you couldn't tell."
We held a hand of his each, two of us, women with different disabilities, too young to have lived through the terror of institutions. Filled with awe by his strength, this intelligent, articulate man who had fought and fought. For himself but for us too. To ensure our futures would not be destroyed by the pains of his past.
Thank you Michael. We will never forget you or the battles you fought.
* Dilke is a derogatory word for those who staffed institutions used in the novel Skallagrigg