Lions

All around my bed, roaring at me.

I need to be sleeping. I need to be awake in four hours, getting ready to take care of a bunch of sixth graders at their school camp in the woods. Privileged children, who don’t see many black people and don’t know how to move bugs off the seats of their canoes. I’m going to expend a lot of energy this week. I need to charge.

But these lions, man. They’re keeping me up.

“The way triggers were explained to me,” my professor/friend said, “Is that it’s like you went on a safari, and you were in what you thought was a safe location, so you left your vehicle to take pictures. And when you turn around to head back into your vehicle, the other people on your trip start shying for you to run. So you run and you make it into the vehicle and you realize that a lion had been stalking you, and was right behind you. You’re in safe, but it did swipe and catch the back of your leg. And when you feel this, you go into shock.
Your trip ends, and you come home safely. But then a while later, you see a house cat, and suddenly you get scared. It’s just a cat, but to you it’s a lion. And you remember feeling your leg get swiped. And a bit after that, you see a jungle show on TV, and even though the wrong cats are present, you still see lions. So you never know when the lions will pop up, but there they are, and this is what you’ll have to deal with.”

I want to be shielded. I want someone to wrap me in their arms until the lions go away. Rock me until I fall asleep. But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?

Sometimes I feel like what happened to me will prevent me from being comfortable or close with anyone, ever again. Then I fear that even if I start to get close with someone, the rape will still find a way to complicate everything. My physical non-virginity and simultaneous mental discomfort and unfamiliarity with sex is too much for the red-blooded potential partners of my age. My need for stability, support, and closeness is too confusing an ask, and I’m not even sure I’d trust it if it came to me.

Strangers can hurt you.

Friends can hurt you, too.

No place is safe.

No place is off limits, either. A dumpster?? He raped that girl behind a dumpster?? The lions get closer, and I’m in the aggravating position of being thankful that at least my rapist was considerate enough to use his own bed. Even though I’m sure he was considering himself more than he was me. It was his house, after all. He didn’t really need to take me anywhere else. I probably fell down, too, like she did.

Her sister blames herself. I wonder if my friends blame themselves? I know one of them does, a little.

“I was with you earlier that night,” he told me. “We went out together.”
“And we left each other hours before the bar crawl ended,” I told him. “I went to his house with completely other people.”

The others, who were there, and then suddenly gone. I don’t blame them, really. I wonder if they ever thought to blame themselves, though. I wonder if things would have ended differently, had they still been there the only time I managed to get out of the room, before more nameless liquid was poured down my throat.

I still have images, shadowy, but there. Like snapshots in my mind. Projected like strobe, pieces of what happened. We don’t need to go over them. I just need to keep up the clicking of the keyboard, until the lions go away.

This is the time things get dangerous for me. This is when my mind turns into a spider and climbs to the ceiling, spinning webs of doubt and sorrow and fear and terror, which are actually quite different. Fear is the pulsing feeling; terror makes me think I won’t be able to move again. Only my fingers, as the spider webs continue to loop over me.

Will I be alone forever?
Will I ever be chosen in a way that doesn’t hurt me?
Is my only value to the world my body and energy?
Should I expect anything other than hurt?
Where does the line fall between overly dramatic, and simply truthful?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and considering them makes me so tired. Too tired to keep going. Do I want to keep living?

Maybe I shouldn’t ask that question.
Maybe I should just sleep.

Turn the roars into lullabies, let them mount until it’s overwhelming, and then pass out from the sheer exhaustion of stress.

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