How have you been, Armani?
Time is so relative. In five weeks I will be with my cousins again in South Africa. I know that it’s close, but it honestly seems so far. Impossible. There are multiple points a day when I think I will not make it to them.
Here is where you come in. It has simultaneously been a painfully long and surprisingly short month since you forced yourself into my last safe space. When I say this, I am not talking about my body. It was terrible enduring you inside my body, of course. There was a reason I pushed you out of me multiple times, only to pass out and find you inside of me again. What I am talking about, though, is my mind.
I cannot control my mind anymore, and you are taking up too much space.
I have spent thirty days living flashbacks. Even now, as I type out my words, I do not fully see the screen in front of me. Instead, I see your dreads, and your torso coming down onto mine. I see your sheets, and hear your whispers. I can feel you, and I don’t want to. This is something you don’t think about. When you hear about other people who have been raped, you think about it as a one-time thing. You don’t realize that their minds will replay the experience for them over and over again. By now, Armani, you have raped me about twenty times a day, and the repetition is not doing anything to help me. I’m still not used to your invasions.
*Pause to be a social person. I have a job to do; I have schedules to create; I have new volunteers walking in whom I have to lead and make comfortable in this other country. So while you may hover in my mind, I am not allowed to reflect right now.*
There are good and bad things about how busy I am. Sometimes, I get so distracted that you go away for a little bit. Then, I’ll have a second where things settle, and you come pounding back into my head. I have anxiety now, thank you. I’m supposed to be stepping up, and taking charge of people, but I feel about as powerful and capable as a hypoallergenic feather.
“Kill yourself,” my friend told me jokingly, after I’d teased him.
“I consider it every day, but I haven’t don’t it yet,” I told him.
I’m not actually writing to you anymore, Armani. I don’t think I ever want to speak to you again. But I do need to write. I do need to get out my thoughts. I have friends, now in other parts of the world, to whom I can speak, but I cannot inject them into my mind when you are most troubling me. I need to be able to pretend that you are somehow receiving the negative energy I attempt to direct toward you.
My period was supposed to come on Monday. It didn’t. Finally, blood appeared later on Friday. Never have I been so happy to endure cramps. What were you doing this week? Were you having fun, as I considered the ethics of aborting a rape baby?
I saw my girls yesterday, for the second time. We went back into the school. Seeing them was probably one of the most lovely experiences I’ve had in a long time. It’s such a wonderful thing to be loved, as much as you love someone else. That’s what it’s like with the girls. As soon as they saw me, they began to shout, “Teacha Khalilah!” They rushed to hug me, and sang songs using my name. All of my girls grabbed my hands, and we became a mess of smiles and laughter and jubilant shouts. For the rest of the day, whenever we passed each other, they would call out to me and wave.
I saw Ava, now in kindergarten. Did you watch “A Path Appears”? She’s in it, from a couple years ago. I remember seeing Ava in Margaret’s Safe Place last summer, but I never knew why she was living there until I watched the documentary. Her grandfather raped her, before she was in preschool. And now she goes to KSG, and she can wave happily at me as she goes about her business. How do you do it, Ava? How are you able to continue living, to be alive and present, when all I want to do is crumble? Why are you able to keep it together while I, four times your age, am barely holding on?
I have the capacity to survive this. But I do not think that I can ever live in the same way, or to the same extent that I did before. Which is laughable, seeing as how the extent to which I was living before this happened was already limited. I hate you, Armani. I don’t have any better conclusions.