I got your email. Wrong cousin reaching out. And I can’t answer.
“Do you think people change?” I ask our cousin.
“Yes,” he replies.
“Do you think HE has?” I press.
Sometimes when it’s cold, I curl up and flashback to crawling on your floor.
I roll over and see your feet stomping down at my head.
“If you touch my things, I will slap you!” You told me.
“If you slap me, I will kill you,” I responded.
“How are you smiling while you tell me about this?” a friend asked. “You have a huge smile on your face while you talk about killing your cousin! It’s scary.”
“I didn’t even realize it,” I said. “I’m not happy about it. I think my body just reacts to ridiculousness with mirth. I was in a domestically violent situation. That’s ridiculous. I don’t think my body can think about that without reacting like it’s a joke.”
My biggest regret is not smashing your bottle of cologne on the floor. Sometimes I think about you wearing it, using it to get girls, and I feel scared and a little sick.
“He never apologized for it?” our cousin asked.
“He apologized the next day,” I said. “But he always does. And he always does it again. He reminds me of an abusive boyfriend who regrets his actions when he sees you bleeding, but still beats you up next week.”
“You know, I’ve heard that about him!” he said.
“And you’re still cool with this man?”
The best part of all of that was being able to leave. Having the resources and connections, and STRENGTH of will to get myself the fuck out of an abusive situation. And a year later, after the second rape, I left the country. This time, I’d been the one locking myself in a small living space in the cold. Still curled up on my side. That part doesn’t change.
“Leaving isn’t enough. You must stay gone.” Thank you, “Frida”.
We aren’t okay. We were, and you destroyed that. I can’t forgive you for it. Not out of hate, or spite, because I feel neither of those things for you. All that I feel, when I happen to think about you, is fear and sadness.
You were the first human long con I was aware of.
“maybe i’m being selfish again asking only for what i want. i’d like you to tell me what you want.”
What I want is for the past two years never to have happened. I want to be rape free, con free. I want to have a cousin I’m cool with, and only one dead. I want South Africa to be a haven, and Congo a conflict-free possibility.
That’s not how things work, though. You can’t erase the past; you can only learn from it and move forward. I can’t go back to an abuser. They always blame you for the abuse if you go back to it, and they never think about the intense emotional burden the abuser hurls onto you, even from across oceans.
What I want is for you to change. To listen to others. To control your anger. To reflect on yourself, your thoughts, your actions. To take responsibility for your life, your failures and successes. I don’t think you do any of that. I don’t think anyone makes you.
Your friends enable you. They don’t care if you’re a monster; they don’t care about what’s happening to your soul. I do.
I think the best care I can give to myself, and to you by extension, is not attempting to see you or speak to you. Maybe that way I can heal. Maybe that way you can finally be sparked into growth.
This is your sign.