Tag Archives: Asexuality

A Preservation

Some kisses are magic.

Is it the kiss, or the setting? Or is the kiss the culmination?

Bam, bam, bam-bam bee-dum, bam, bam

“F*ck him,” she’s told me. “F*ck XXXXX for not seeing what he had in front of him. I wish I could date you, but I can’t date all my friends.”

A scrub is a guy who thinks he’s fly, and is also known as a buster

And just like that, I’m not sad. Well, I am. But when I open my mouth to respond, I realize that I don’t care about talking about what’s happened. I squeeze my eyes to cry, because this would be the perfect moment to, but nothing comes out.

I’m too happy.

I look around at people I love, only people I love, gathered together.

“You know what I’m thankful for?” one of us says, “Great friends.”

I think about that, it pulls me down into clouds. Great friends, great friends.

I get it. I look at my friends, and I feel our connections to each other. In this moment, our vibes are tangible. They weave together above our heads, forming a canopy that drapes over our bodies and wraps us in warmth.

I understand that this is something I’ve been missing. That, had a conversation gone differently, I probably would not have been here right now. And I so need to be here. I’ve spent the summer being drained, but this moment makes me feel full. I know that it will pass, and in a few days I will feel empty again. So I drink in as much of the moment as possible, let it fill every space in my body and mind, and as much of my soul as I can manage.

“I hate him so f*cking much,” she’s told me, “For what he did to you. I wish I could kill him, because he’s made you so sad. But then, that would make you sad, too.”

Yes, it would. I don’t hate him. I did, for about twenty minutes. I hated him for making me love him. I replayed our most recent moments in my mind, and hated him for giving me snatches of happiness, teases of how well we could fit together. I hated him for telling me he loved me when he wasn’t ready. What height of carelessness

But then, there was care in his letting me go. I can recognize that.


It’s personal, myself and I
We’ve got some figuring out to do

If my love for him had been like a candle, there would be hot wax all over my hand at this point, and the wick would nearly be gone. Painful. Almost as painful as putting it out.
After a bit, pains begin to overlap with one another, so you’re not sure what’s really troubling you anymore.


Loving you was nice,
But it’s a new day, a new season
I’ve been sad inside

You know what I’m thankful for? Great friends.

Friends who will meet you for lunch after not seeing each other in a long time. Who, over frozen raspberry margaritas will get you to tell the truth you’ve been trying to avoid: You didn’t downgrade anything to an assault. You got raped in South Africa. Who will listen to you tell, for the first time, the true and full story of what happened just two weeks ago, and will laugh with you about the teeny tiny size of your rapist’s penis (which actually, it turned out, made things easier for him). Who will watch your eyes tear up, then clear up, and make you laugh again by reminding you of that time in fifth grade that they got you to sit in their broken chair and the desk fell over on you.

Friends who will come over from Boston, having planned their New York visit to match when they know for a fact you’ll be in the country. Who will meet you in Grand Central and walk with you to Bryant Park, who will find a deck of cards and reteach you how to play Spit. Who will understand that something may be wrong, but will do such a thoroughly good job of distracting you by just being themselves. Who will remind you that you can love friends, even if you rarely see them.

I’ve been sad inside,
And he could see it, picked up your pieces,
We could just alight

Friends who will gather to say goodbye to someone, but do it in the most beautiful, celebratory way possible. Who will dance on two levels of a deck, with young children and older relatives. Who will take pictures together, and lean over railings, reaching their hands down to you, as you raise yourself up on your toes so that your faces can be as close as possible.

“We’re all soul mates,” she says, and I believe her. Our friendships are deep.

I sit among my friends, and blow out of the candle. I understand that it can’t be burning right now. I need to put it away. Not quite let it go. The day I lose hope for the candle, hope for us, is the day I have completely changed into another person. So I won’t get rid of it. I’ll just put it somewhere else, and try not to think about it too much, and maybe one day, when he’s ready, he will light what’s left of it, and help me build it back up again.

“I love you so much,” Gari tells me, hugging me on one side and Crystal on the other. “I love you guys.” And we hug her back, and I feel our friendship glowing, pulsing, so I close my eyes to let it better wash over me. And I feel her kiss me on my forehead, over my right brow. I’ve missed this. Feeling loved. Feeling safe. Feeling happy. We are a star.

Home is wherever I’m with you

This night is the most magical moment I have yet had the privilege to feel.

Blasts

WecantbetogetherbuttheworldisburningandlifeissoshortandtakenfromyousosuddenlyandIfeelsadandalsoscaredandIwanttoreachouttoyoubutIknowthatIcant.

Please, comfort me.

At the top of their stairs is a wall of bookshelves. It used to be like a house library, except filled with children’s books. The kind of children’s books that aren’t necessarily classics, but ones that every child should read. A collection of all the stories you vaguely remember, only it’s been such a long time that you aren’t sure whether the books exist, or if you made up their ideas. And then suddenly, you see the book in front of you at the bookshelf, you understand that everything was real, and your memories transport you back to that time period. The last time I was here, I found the Crestomanci chronicles. The last time I was here, I was by myself, and it was three years ago, and William hadn’t overdosed. Most of the books are gone now.

At the top of the stairs is a shrine.

I am facing photo after photo of the dead brothers. I’m even in one of the pictures. Edward’s arm is around me, and we are smiling into the camera. It’s Christmas of 2010, the year I caught onto his alcoholic and anorexic tendencies enough to worry, without knowing to be alarmed. It had still been a great Christmas. They used that photo in his memorial service. Proof of how apparent it was to everyone that we were connected. My aunt stays looking out.

I can look at our photo, and be okay. I know that he isn’t around, and I truly believe he’s in a better place. But what they left behind. Two parents who don’t like each other, are miserable together, but stay together for the benefit of their only surviving child, the daughter who graduated, who broke into tears during her graduation speech and then pulled herself together to thank her family and friends. I look at a picture of William, young enough to still be blond, before his hair naturally darkened to brown, smiling and pretending to work as he sat next to his father at his desk. It’s connected to a picture of baby Will on Uncle Steve’s shoulders.

“It was never so clear,” another cousin would tell me, “Two parents who absolutely had favorite children. Aunt Lori found Will’s body. She lay down next to him and told him to take care of Edward. Her speech at his funeral was all about how they could look after each other now. And Steve’s was just a really specific memory of Will. It was hard to watch.”

“No one chooses to be born,” Will said, at Edward’s funeral. “So I guess it’s good he got to choose when he died.”

I wonder if Will chose his death. It’s hard to tell. He’d been clean for a minute. It seemed like he was turning his life around. And then

I look at the happy babies with their happy parents. I look at the cards from their funerals. I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of, What’s the point?

You’d think it would be hard to go into Edward’s room, but it’s surprisingly easy. It’s also right next to the stairs. His cats lurk around like ghosts. They don’t run away from me like they used to; they just watch me as I sink into his couch. I wonder what that means, and then I try to stop myself from romanticizing the situation. Maybe our energies just match. We’re all still hiding together. Them from the family, and me from the babies.

What’s the point of crafting a life with someone, if that person will hurt you? Love fades, love sours. I guess that’s why people have children. So there will always be something to love. But then even when white, even when wealthy, your children can still grow up to hate themselves, and their lives, and maybe even you, a little bit. And they’ll leave you, and your suffering will only increase.

I guess it doesn’t have to be like this. These are just the examples I’ve been given.
I cry, silently, and Edward’s cats watch me.

“You know, Lucas believes in the same things we do,” their sister is telling me. “Like gay rights. He knows that Edward was gay.”

Lucas is her crush. They’re friends, and she wants more. I wonder if she knows about Orlando, and how she feels. Maybe Edward didn’t kill himself. Maybe he and Pat were just on vacation and got shot up for their orientation.

She shows me a picture of him.

“He’s pretty cute,” I say, and she side-eyes me. “But don’t worry, he’s all yours.” I put my hands up.
“Hey!” She says. “You take my guy, and I’ll take yours.”
“You couldn’t, even if you tried,” I tell her. “I don’t have a guy. I don’t think we can even hang out very much anymore.”
“Why not?” She wants to know.
“Because, it’s painful.”
“When I’m with Lucas,” she tells me. “It’s painful. But I keep spending time with him anyway, because he’s important to me. We have a connection. And I think that one day he’ll realize it.”
“But that’s why it’s painful,” I say. “We know we have a connection. He already realized. And it just gets stronger the more time we spend together, but he isn’t ready for it. It’s a tease.”

The next morning I wake up, and fifty people have been killed, with fifty-three injured, at a nightclub. Brown people. Gay people. I spend so much time worrying about my future, and theirs are gone. Taken.

America is burning out, and we don’t have very many friendly places to go, and hundreds of legitimate refugees have been and are drowning. Does anyone have a future? Does anything matter?

This is when I want to run back to Niles. Because with all the uncertainty, why would you not want to hold onto something that is sure? Like the fact that two people are in love. And if the future isn’t guaranteed, then why even think about it? I consider the guys who currently, actually, want me as a girlfriend, and wonder if it’s something I even want. Not because of him, or them, but because of myself and where I currently am, home for a few weeks before going somewhere and becoming unreachable, preparing to start work, trying to get it together enough to move into the city. Being In Love with one person, sure, but also loving different people in different parts of the world. Do I actually want to be in a strictly committed relationship right now? Not really.

But I do want to be in love, and be a priority, and not have to worry about seeing someone I care about hooking up with someone who isn’t me at a party. I want to be able to call someone when I’m down, and have them make me feel better, if only through distraction. I want to nestle in bed with someone and make them feel good. I want to hold hands, and feel safe, and truly believe that we’ll be together when we’re meant to.

So what does that mean? What is the healthiest option? For me, for him, for now, for the future that might not even be there?

And all I can think about now is how there was a moment last year, during our big fight, when we almost hooked up. I’m not sure he’s even aware of that, but it happened. I looked at him, and in the midst of all my anger and sadness I felt this overwhelming attraction, and I knew that if we hooked up, I would enjoy it. But I also knew that if we did hook up, that would be the end of us. So we didn’t, and here we are now. Now, I don’t know if we’re at the end, if I’m supposed to kill my internal flame, or if I’m supposed to run on hope that eventually things will work out. If one of us got shot tomorrow, would the other have regrets?

I’ve been exercising my arms, like he told me to. I can do fifteen pushups now. Next week, I’m going for twenty.

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.

Inviting a Good Love/What I Need

On the anniversary of my rape, he wanted to have sex. And I did too, a little, but not enough to overcome the feelings of fear and foreboding and discomfort. I couldn’t.

In 2015, I said no. And no, and no, and no. And when it was clear that I was going to continue saying no, he stopped asking. And forced it anyway.
In 2016, I said no. And no, and no, and no. And when it was clear that I was going to continue to say no, he stopped asking. And turned away from me, calling me a tease, blaming his frustrations on me, telling me that he regretted the time we had spent together because it prevented him from sleeping with other people.

I needed comfort. I got a bed partner who resented my inaccessible body.

I switched. Stopped thinking about myself, my triggers and traumas, and began to worry about him, and his mood, and how I could make it better.

Why do I always end up with an angry man of color? Is it my role to be burned by someone else’s rage time and again?
Is it my duty, as the sad girl, to weave my grief into blankets that will cocoon the angry man and absorb his pain until they burst all over me?

I am tired.

On my birthday, I made the mistake of showing him how upset I was that I had waited on him for dinner for so long, the restaurants were closed by the time he finally showed up.
“I don’t feel comfortable; Imma head out,” he told me.
“But it’s my birthday,” I pleaded, “And my party is tomorrow. How am I supposed to host people, how am I supposed to keep everyone happy and light, and have a good time? How can I do that when you’ve made me so sad? How can I project the positive energy that people will want from me?”
“You’ll do it the way you always do it,” he told me before he left.

The party was great. Everyone but him said so.
“I haven’t felt this happy in a long time,” our friend told me, and she continued to dance even as everyone else was leaving.

“You’ve had the best parties of the week,” the DJ told me some days later. “Your birthday was so much fun. It was the favorite.”
“Well, I had you DJ-ing!” I told him.
“It’s not that,” he said. “Everyone came for you. They came because they all love you.”

I know that people have love for me, because I work hard to spread love to them. I care about their wellbeing, before my own. Sometimes, I think about the Mrs Who, Whatsit, and Which in “A Wrinkle in Time”, and try to emulate them. Their characters are magical beings, former stars who exploded to bring more light into the world, in a fight against the Dark. When I’m with others, especially when I bring people into spaces I have created, I try to explode positivity at them. It’s why I’m an introvert; I need to recharge afterward. It’s funny: most of campus thought I was so positive, but my housemate believes I am one of the most negative people in the world. As an actually positive person himself, his energy was integral in most of my recoveries. Thank you, Nkosi. I love you.

You know what’s detrimental to recharging? Being in love with someone who drains you even more. Angry men of color will turn the humanity I’ve accepted into a shell.

I’ve spent the past ten days reflecting, and crying, and aching. The pain is becoming dulled, the tears becoming less heavy, finishing more quickly. I stopped crying today and went to greet my sister and her mother on the street. I hugged my father when I came home. I allowed myself to chat with my own mother. Wished some people happy birthdays. Reconnected with other friends, gave time to other guys.

It hit me that if I was in a supportive love, one in which we simultaneously grew, charged each other’s batteries, trusted and supported each other, we could do so much more sustainable good for the world.

That’s what I want. That’s what I need. I wouldn’t have to explode and give out. I could just emanate.
A silly part of me holds out hope that someday, this love will evolve into that. The realistic side of me knows this will not happen any time soon.

So in the meantime, come find me, love. Please. I need you, and I’m waiting for you. Help me to grow.

Letter to the Former Editor of The Ankh, to Him, and to You.

There are triggers in this. If I were reading it, without knowing what I was getting into, I would want to know. The triggers I can think of are rape, familial assault, drug abuse, suicide, and I hope that’s it but I’m sorry if there are others. I hope you read this anyway, because I’ve been crafting it since I came back to campus.

“REGAL” you wrote on my back.

Regal, royal.

“I don’t see you as a girlfriend,” he told me. “I see you as a goddess. You are the princess of enlightenment and higher powers. You can make my levels rise.”

Goddess, princess, queen.

“It’s what you are,” he said. “You’re always so poised. So poised. It’s like you’re a queen, and I’m just some foolish peasant.”

Queen, queen. Yasss queeeen!

That’s what I am, right? That’s what we are. All black women are queens. Black people are descendants of royalty; my body matches the statue of Nefertiti, flaws and all. Our black men were all Mandinga warriors, you tell me, wearing the same old mass-produced print of a dashiki that was put together in Indonesia, as you hold your fists high and display symbols of Isis on your necklaces, shirts, papers, chests. Our black men are warriors, and our black women are all Nubian queens.

If you say so.
But do you know?
Where are the Nubians today?
I know, I do. And if you know me, then I’ve told you.
Kibera.

My hero is a five-year-old girl; let’s call her Ava. My role model. It’s what I was supposed to be to her. The strangest part of my day was picking her up, spinning her around in the air, then holding her close to hear her whisper in my ear exactly what I’d been thinking, “I want to be like you.” I laugh. It’s what I do when I know the truth will be too much for someone to hear. “You don’t want to be me, Ava. You want to run in the opposite direction of what I am. I don’t even want to be myself; I hate myself.” I don’t say that. I laugh, and put her down, and when she wants to be picked up again and spun around again I do it, and do it, and do it, and do it, until the world is one great spinning globe and I’m hopelessly tangled and out of sorts but no, I’m on the floor now, and I’m spinning to avoid your sneakered feet aimed at my head, and Ava is long gone, countries away. I’m with you, scrambling desperately across the floor to escape your kicks, as you scream abuse and curses at me, me, me, me, the one who brought shame to our family, the disrespect’s too much to take, you see?

At this point, I’d almost prefer my father’s reaction. But then I have it, amplified, as you give me a final shove and step out of the apartment, locking me in behind you. I’m alone. I’m stuck. I don’t even know how you found out.
“I love you,” he said when he came back.

 

“I love you,” Ava tells me.
I saw her at four, dead inside. No friends, no playing, no smiles. When she was five, I came back and found her alive. Laughing and jumping, catching my hands to pull me into games. She’d woken up; she was blooming. Ten times on the plane ride over, I’d wanted to die, thought I would, too. Prayed that the plane would fall out of the sky. To this day I feel bad for the other passengers on my flights, having to share an aircraft with someone like myself. I stopped breathing every morning when I woke up, took to setting my alarm early so I could take the time to mentally move my limbs out of my bed and face the day.

You, mister Editor, have taken my breath, and my sanity. You have invaded every last bit of me, body to mind. I smile at Ava and see your teeth.

Kibera School for Girls Presents. A Poem. Untitled. Welcome.
When darling Ava was only three, her grandfather raped her. Repeatedly.
Until a neighbor chanced to see, and took her to SHOFCO to set her free.
Free from abusive family.
Margaret’s Safe House
A needed space, truly safe place,
where Ava was received with love and grace.
And now, she’s growing.
Supported, she has a community.

But what about me? Where can I be?

I rhyme to make sense of the world around me. It’s a coping technique, like being poised. But sometimes, I need to take the crown off my head. Sometimes, the rhyme breaks and the poise slips, and I shatter. I shatter at community barbeques, and I stop breathing when I see notifications from the newspaper he brought back to campus.

Campus. That’s become quite the problem. I can’t live here anymore, and I can’t breathe. I cannot breathe. Which is ironic, so ironic. “We can’t breathe.” That’s what we said last year in protest, didn’t we?
I used to be an activist. With you. It’s how I knew you. They say that you are more likely to be violated by someone you know, so I guess that makes me just another statistic. A cliché. A girl who had had too much to drink; who was given more to drink, and more, and more.

“You misunderstand,” he told me. “The poem is not about a rape. It’s about a girl – beautiful, beautiful – and she has to be raped, to make the point. But the poem is about the truth.”

“You’re so beautiful,” he told me, in between bites. “My whole goal this week has been to marry you. It’s what I told all of my friends,” he said.

I’m a cliché with memories. I remember you tilting the cup into my lips, pouring more alcohol down my throat, even after I had clearly had enough and only wanted to lie down. And sleep. I remember telling you no, over and over, and then somehow feeling you inside me anyway. I remember pushing you out, passing out, and waking up to push you out again. I remember asking you to choke me, not because I was trying to be kinky, or sexy, but because when you were inside me, I wanted to die. And when I passed out for good and woke up early in the morning, while I was walking back to my house I wanted to die all down Church Street.

It’s become something of a theme. Wishing death upon myself, but not having the will power to actually kill myself. It’s a strange thing, understanding how worthless of a person I am, to myself, to the people around me, and the world at large, while simultaneously understanding that I’m not allowed to speed up my death. I have no importance, no impact, alive; my death would be too apparent, too disruptive. I thought I could do it after my father found out, and refused to speak to me anymore. I thought stress would do it for me, when my period was over a week late and I was in my head debating the ethics of aborting a rape baby. As you posted graduation photos, popping champagne and smoking cigars, I fell asleep crying and woke up with tears still pouring out of my eyes.

Maybe I should never have cried. Maybe if I’d kept all the tears inside, I could have drowned in my grief instead of choking on it all the time.

Did you tell me that you loved me, too?

 

No, but here’s the thing. I can’t write about this poetically, or well. The point of all this is that every day now, I feel like I can’t speak. I can’t speak, and I can’t be with any of you. I can’t take part in your activities, and I can’t get behind any activism for black rights, or students of color in general because I see ARMANI in every space. I see my rapist in every space and then I can’t organize the jumble or hope that it will make sense to all of you, when it doesn’t even make sense to me. I can’t write about this properly. I used to write, to write, to write, to write write write write write write but now it feels so wrong. Where will it go? The Ankh? Can I put energy into something he has given me? How can I write on, support, his platform? I can’t support what he’s put his hands on, thoughts into; I can’t support myself. He got into every. Last. Bit. Of Me. The first two months, I couldn’t close my eyes. I could feel him inside of me; I could feel his dreadlocks on top of me. These are things you don’t think about when you hear about victims. Men who would take my story and use it for their own gain, their own snap-winning, emotion-eliciting accessory to storytelling seem to think a rape is only A Rape, and that’s it, but it gets into your soul and eats away at you forever. And it’s so bad here.

“You cannot be serious,” he tells me. “You’re really gonna insinuate that the entire MOC community are rapists and rape enablers? Like did you even think?”

I can’t walk outside without feeling dizzy. I can’t go to events meant to empower us, as a community, without feeling him stomping all over me. I feel like he used my body as a step, a spring to bounce off of as he raised himself up. What am I supposed to say to all of you? You people who like and respect him, who are inspired by him? I’m useless to you now, and I feel that devaluation. Put my experience into your literary works, but ignore my stories. Put my experience into a petition to justify your use of illegal drugs, but ignore my pain.

“You should be more friendly,” he tells me. “Why can’t you hug people when you see them? It makes them feel more warmth toward you. What does that cost you?”
‘Why can’t smiling be enough?’ I don’t ask him. ‘Even that takes so much energy.’

At the SOC barbeque, I wondered how many women Malcolm X had raped. If he really loved them, respected them, always, or if behind doors he closed lay trails of abuse.

 

A cousin is found dead on his apartment floor, needle at his side. The family is gathering for his funeral, while I’m at a barbeque watching people smile on as a girl reads about being fucked without consent. Has it happened to them? She gets a hug, then her story is wiped away for the next speaker, and the next, and then lively music plays again. No pause, always moving, moving on, okay, thanks for that; now keep it pushin’, but I’m. Still. Sitting here, before I have to stumble away and pray my poise keeps me from collapsing on Anders. My cousin gets lowered into the ground as I sink into my chair in psych class. I shouldn’t be here. I can’t be there, or I might pull a Batman and try to jump into the grave with him. No searching this time, like for your brother; I know exactly where you are.

I’m sitting in class; I’m pounding on your coffin lid to let me inside, because maybe in there I’ll be safe from your dreads, your words, your space.

Letter #2 (Trigger)

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.

Mixing Emotions, and Narration

Hooking up with an angry man of color.
It’s a strange experience.

I stared at him for a very long time before I decided to kiss him. I looked into his eyes, that were smiling at me, and wondered how it was possible to have such smiling eyes in front of such an angry interior. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, but I knew that I wanted the company, so I did. I kissed him.
We do not understand each other. It’s funny, because we both seem so happy outside of ourselves. I always saw him as goofy, and he probably saw my projected airiness. But underneath all of that, he is very angry, and I am very sad.
I don’t know if sadness and anger can really go together. His anger makes me sad, and my sadness will make him angry, whether it comes in the form of tears or laughter. I do not think angry people understand my need to laugh, hysterically. I think they take it personally, even as they try to make themselves humorous. My laughter has been the wrong laughter for angry people.
“Tell me a story,” I say midway through.
“What?” he’s shocked.
“Tell me a story,” I repeat, balancing on top of him. “From your childhood.”
“You can’t just ask for any random story.” He’s annoyed. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Just tell me one,” I repeat, and kiss him briefly to calm him down. I’ve been so involved in my thoughts that I’ve almost completely disconnected from the situation, and I need to find a different way to connect with him. This is what I need. A story, to understand.

I spent a lovely afternoon tripping with my friend. It took a while to come up, but once there, I didn’t want it to end. I saw my life so much more clearly. I realized that I view my world as a giant story, with all of my interactions as events, and all of the people as characters. I have narration, and English teachers floating in the back of my head to explain the symbolism of things. Everything has a different meaning, and I just need to understand what those meanings are. It’s not that everything happens for a reason, but rather that there’s a lesson to be found in each thing I encounter. If I were an author, I would introduce characters and kill them off as warnings to the reader. We have the celebrities, whose only purposes are to be celebrated. The child stars who teach us the hazards of living solely for the approval of others. Those white people who are parasites and aliens, coming in with superior technologies and fantastic mimicry, sucking the life out of all others around them.
I often get the feeling that the story in which I’m living is not my own, but rather that my whole life is being lived to make some sort of impact in the story of someone else. I’m not my own main character.
I used to want to create a movie whose beginning was the end of another story. Start with two characters in a car that is driving into the sunset. After a point, the audience realizes that this was initially a triumphant drive. At the end of the first story, maybe the characters had packed their bags to set off to the college of their dreams, or maybe they had finally saved enough money to move away from their piece-of-shit town. The story ended on a happy, expectant, hopeful note, and it stopped before things could become sad, or mundane. Does no one ever wonder what happens next? I do.
My friend left for a bit to talk to her boyfriend, and I waited with another friend for her to come back. When she did, the second friend left to make guacamole and the first friend sat down and started talking to me. I was so happy to see her, and the experience swirled, and I realized that she could have talked us through the end of our movie. Music would have swelled, the camera would swivel up into the sun, and that could have been the end of us. But it wasn’t.

“You said that you and your cousin are both of the crows,” he said, “So both of you are trapped and both of you are free. But how are you trapped?” Hadn’t he been listening to me?
“I’m alive,” I told him. I’m alive, and I really don’t think that I should be.
That’s the difference between the real world and stories. In books, it’s understood that not everyone has been written to make it. Not everyone is supposed to survive to the end. In life, there’s the expectation that everyone will survive, and I don’t understand it. I feel like my character’s course should be coming to its end, but I don’t know how to finish my book. My author is hiding, and I do not know how to find hir to talk. All I have are these English teacher directions, making me analyze the colors of my curtains and look at certain people in my character cast as ghosts.

Thomas was playing soccer at the bottom of the hill. She felt an intense need to call out to him, to go down to him. But there was nothing to say. She’d only be a nuisance, interrupting the game. And then the soccer players were stopping, and Thomas was gone.

She watched the friend walk off, and knew that she would be fine. Sad, yes; but fine all the same.  She was protected, and loved, and had her companion. Yes, she would be okay. This was good.

I wonder if it’s better to live off of anger, or to live off of sadness. Anger seems to give you a false energy; it fuels itself, and you by proxy. Sadness begets sadness, but sadness drains you. I’ve never been too angry to move, but I have been paralyzed with sadness. Anger probably makes you more productive. This guy is doing things. He’s organizing trips and creating theater pieces. He’s loud, and known. I am small, quiet, selectively presenting myself to the world. He’ll probably go farther than I do. Still, I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to hate people. Sadness might make me a ghost, but I think hatred makes it easier for one to become inhuman.

Pulling myself back out of my thoughts. This is over. He will be leaving.
“This was nice,” he says. I wonder what was going through his head all this time.
“Yeah,” I say, although I’m not sure. “We should do it again sometime.”
“Definitely,” he agrees.
I am not actually sure if he will come back, and I am not actually sure if I want him to. I’m attracted to him, but also afraid of him. If only he was not so angry. If only I was not so sad.

If only our lives were written in a novel.