Tag Archives: Family

To MC

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.

This Time

The third one is of a giant woman riding a giant leopard, with giant hair billowing around her head. Behind her is an eagle, swooping toward her, talons outstretched.

It isn’t attacking her. That’s what some people think.

She isn’t supposed to be me.

“She looks like you!” says a lady in the locker room.

“You don’t look like her,” my friend tells me.

“Cool,” I say. “That’s not what it’s supposed to be anyway. They aren’t supposed to exist. you don’t have leopards and bald eagles organically in the same place. The world wasn’t made for that. But my body was. And she isn’t real, but she exists anyway, and maybe that’s powerful.”

I can now pull myself up if I subtract 80 pounds. Last week it was 90, the week before that it was 110. I don’t know what’s changing. Most days I’m too tired to really work out, now that my day has been extended.

“I hope you’re making more money than Oprah, with how busy you are,” says the only other Congolese person in Flatbush.

“Je travaille plus pour l’humanité que pour l’argent,” je lui répond, but I’m not even sure if that holds. It sort of does. I’m happy not to have immediate financial worries, but I’m also terrified of getting cancer, or getting locked out, or breaking technology, or losing health insurance and having to pay for birth control again. So when it comes down to it, there are more lucrative things I could be doing if I believed in a future after four years.

I also wish I hadn’t picked this month to go back on bc. I wish I could know the reasons behind how I’m feeling at this moment. If it’s the administration, my own mental health, the changes in hormones, or the anniversary.

“I should apologize. I know I haven’t been a good friend, and I was supposed to make it up to you tonight, and I came so late we almost missed the concert,” she tells me on the train. “You must hate me. I bet you’re thinking, ‘Oh, this fucking bitch!’”

I don’t use that word. I look down and see the leopard’s paw poking out.

“I didn’t expect to see you out last night, even though I invited you,” I tell her, slowly. “So when you showed up, it was beautiful and amazing. I was so happy to see you because it was such a surprise. But tonight, when I needed you, and you knew I needed you, you sort of let me down. And it feels like things work so much better when I expect nothing from you, because then it can always be nice. But I don’t think I can count on you anymore.”

They ride away.

Five days later, the friendship is over. Apparently telling her the truth about my feelings was uncalled for. It’s wrong to say that I can’t count on her, she tells me, but I shouldn’t have expectations for her either. So, you agree with what I was saying? What? Oh…yeah. Whatever, it still shouldn’t have been said. She doesn’t need that in her life right now.

“What you have to understand,” he explains later, “Is that people want the truth but not really. You are a no hold bars kind of lady, but not everyone can handle that.”

“What I am JUST realizing,” I say, “Is that people really aren’t honest, but I always assume they are. I operate under the assumption that everyone is being 95% straightforward with their thoughts and feelings, just as I am. But everyone else just assumes I’m like them. So when I’m being honest and up front, they think I’m being shady and hiding things still. And if what I’m saying bluntly is harsh, they assume I’m much nastier underneath.”

“…Yeah, actually,” he agrees.

“But honestly, I think I’ll keep the vice,” I tell him. “I’m trying to spend as much time in reality as possible, and I don’t need already-toxic people dragging me away for their own sakes.”

It’s only ever been the most negative, the most toxic, the ones who stole the majority of my energy, who haven’t been able to handle my honesty. Who have left. The toxic ones, and you.

Were you toxic, Edward?

I don’t think so. I definitely think you unleashed a swath of demons into my life, I know The Man used you as a gateway, and too much of my energy got tied up into yours. But I’ve let it go. Or I’m still letting it go, and it gets better all the time, and I can feel myself getting harder. I just have to remind myself of that during this time of year.

But you definitely didn’t like my honesty, either. You didn’t like that I saw parts of you and pulled them to the surface.

Your sexuality. Your body negativity. Eating disorder. Drug problems.

Suicide attempt.

So you lied to me, a lot. And in the end, I believed you, because I wanted to. And it was so much worse when a jogger ran into the dead truth on the morning train tracks.

2016 was about being conscious of energy. 2017 is being mindful of time. Where is my time going, what am I doing with it, who am I spending it on, and Is It Being Wasted? I don’t have time to waste on people who will steal my energy. I don’t have time to waste with lies. I only have time for the truth, for understanding, for enlightenment, and for advancement. Shadows, go away.

Edward, come back.

I’m just kidding. I know you can’t.

Lily-Colored Glasses

“What does this tattoo mean?” he asks, touching Akeelah in Reality, the larger one on my back.

“It’s a girl who meets a man who’s really a monster,” I tell him. “She only sees what he presents to her, but the whole time the monsters are coming out the back of him to swallow her. She realizes it almost too late, and now she is in a perpetual struggle to withstand corruption and stay safe, in the face of the evils coming to get her. If she looks him in the face and fully acknowledges what he is, she’ll be corrupted and lost. If she remains ignorant, she’ll be swallowed.”

“Wow. How did you come up with that?”

“I met some monsters.”

                  img-20141223-wa0014

I was going through old messages to a friend, when I found this picture from a few years ago, with the caption, “I need to tell you about SA!”

I didn’t think this picture still existed. I’d deleted it from my phone, along with all the others concerning This Guy. But it turns out my phone saves all mms messages, and this sucker has been with me all along.

I considered deleting it again, but decided not to because

  1. We look good
  2. I look happy
  3. I look young

2 and 3 sort of go together. When I say that I look young, I’m not trying to be ridiculous and imply that I look sooo ollllld now, or that I have a fear of aging. Quite the opposite. By young, I guess I mean that I look my age, which at the time was 20. I look like a 20-year old in this picture, and I think it’s because I’m happy.

The other day in the teacher work room, we were talking about birthdays and ages. The 27-year olds were all surprised that I was five years younger than they. The 30 year-old suddenly felt awkward for hitting on me. My tattoo artist asked me if anyone ever told me I seemed very mature for my age. My ancienne French professor praised my “incredibly strong, emotional maturity”.

At first all of this was cool. It still is, a little, knowing that people will take me more seriously than they might other people my age. This is all when I don’t think about where it’s coming from.

When this picture was taken, the worst thing that had happened to me was my cousin jumping in front of a train. And, I suppose, meeting The Man, and then again finding him inhabiting another person’s body. It’s funny that all of that used to dominate my life.

When this picture was taken, This Guy and I were just ‘friends’. He hadn’t kissed me yet. He also hadn’t yet sat back as my cousin, his friend, abused me, or after our mutual friend, the photographer, raped me. In my life, I had only ever been assaulted. I was a virgin who was afraid of love and had never been in a relationship. As I type it all out, I understand that I wasn’t really innocent back then. The nostalgia of my present day tints it that way, though.

“The yearbook committee completely messed up my senior quote,” I complain to a girl I haven’t seen since high school. “It was supposed to be a quote from Tennyson, The Lady of Shallot? It’s a poem that takes place in Arthurian times.
“Basically, Shallot is a little island upriver from Camelot, and it holds a tower, in which a woman lives. No one ever sees her, but sometimes reapers hear her singing. She spends all day and all night, all her life, weaving at a loom. She weaves what she sees in a magic mirror that hangs beside her and shows her the outside world, and she can only look into the mirror, because there’s a curse on her should she ever stray from it. But she gets so tired of only seeing the world second-hand.

“Then one day, Lancelot stops by Shallot on his way back from a quest. He doesn’t really pay attention to anything, and just sort of bathes and sings to himself before riding off again, but that’s it for the Lady. She decides that she wants to see him for herself. So she leaves the loom, and looks out the window, and falls in love with what she sees. Only immediately afterward, she’s hit by the curse. She flees from her tower and gets into a boat heading after Lancelot toward Camelot, but she dies on the journey over.

“Anyway, my quote was

She left the web; she left the loom
She made three paces through the room
She saw the water-lily bloom
She saw the helmet and the plume
She look’d down on Camelot

“It’s the perfect part of the poem. She decides she’s had enough of the limits. In an extreme bout of courage, she leaves the world she knows, and for the one moment between leaving and the curse hitting her, everything is beautiful. Of course, the committee messed everything up and stopped the quote in the middle, saying it was by a Lily Bloom.”

In so many ways, I have tied myself down to my present understanding. As lies and manipulations have surfaced, as true characters are exposed, clarity necessitates that the cousin is gone, XXXXX is deleted, This Guy has been removed. It’s torture to look back on lies, to remember false realities, so I don’t. But I think I’ll keep this one picture. This Guy was never fully a monster, and the happiness in this picture is completely real. Everything about this picture is real, I am as happy as possible, and on the edge of Everything. This picture is a water-lily, and it’s nice to know that the past has flowers among the thorns.

I look at this picture, and the monsters slither and weave out of The Man’s back, and all I can do is put up my hand to hold them back, because I am tired. I am tired. And maybe it’s okay that I won’t have seven kids, because maybe I’m like an animal, aging faster than my years, and maybe 83 will come to me faster than it would a normal person.

Or maybe I’m not the Lady of Shallot, and maybe this is my awful moment at the edge of some great happiness, and maybe in aging quickly I’ll be able to retire faster. Maybe my boat will make it to Camelot before I’m dead. She did go out unprotected in a storm, and with my maturity comes weathering experience.

Room Sanctuary

I remember taking General Psychology freshman year, and learning about the body’s conditioned responses to stimuli. The professor talked about how in most cases where celebrities die of drug overdoses in hotel rooms, they haven’t actually taken more drugs than they normally do. They’re taking their normal dosages, but because they’re in a new environment, their bodies haven’t started to produce anything to counter the drugs’ effects. What happens is that if you take strong drugs often enough in the same places, like your home, then your body will naturally begin to counter the effects of the drug you take as soon as it recognizes stimuli in the environment. Your dosage increases as your tolerance increases, and suddenly you take the new, strong dosage in an area without any familiar stimuli, and your body isn’t prepared to defend you.

The other side of this is that once your body has ingrained its stimuli, it’ll start its counteraction even if there are no drugs around. If you go to rehab and “cure” your addiction, as soon as you come home, you’ll be surrounded with the same stimuli, and your body will automatically expect drugs. This is why people relapse.

“The best thing to do, if you really want to quit something,” my teacher told us, “Is to move. Just leave everything behind, and move.” But who can afford to do that?

I’m thinking about this on the last day before coming back to school. I’m in my bed, in my room, and I suddenly realize that this is where I’ve been for the majority of my four weeks between Africa and Wesleyan. If not at work, I’ve probably been in my room. I wonder how my parents felt about this. My dad probably didn’t mind very much. He spends the majority of his time at home sitting quietly in some obscure part of the house, not interacting much with us. In retrospect, I probably made him seem a lot more social by contrast. For my mom, it must have been hard. She’s the most social of us three, and I know she misses me when I’m away. She tried so hard to contact me in Cameroon, and I managed to have the least correspondence with family of anyone in the program. I wonder if they think that I don’t like them, or the family. It probably doesn’t help that I’m the same way with any company that comes over. When my aunt and uncle came for New Year’s, I went to my room as soon as dinner was over. I read while they all went on a walk, and slept while they had dessert. I came down to say goodbye, and then went back upstairs and closed my door.

If I told them that they were my favorite people in the world, and that I loved them all so much I could cry to think about it, would they believe me? Would they understand that?

It’s the truth. I love my family. But I can’t be around them anymore. They’re my stimuli.

On the first day of French class in Cameroon, our teacher had us make timelines of big moments in our lives, to see how we ended up choosing a study abroad program in her country. It wasn’t until I looked over my finished timeline that I realized I only started going to Africa after Edward left me. He killed himself in March, and I was in South Africa in December. I was back the next year, and then I went to Kenya. Then Cameroon, and South Africa again, and every time I come home, I’m saving money and making plans to leave. Meanwhile, I’m seeing my American family less and less.

At first I thought that this was because of my now increased fear of getting attached to the people I love. If I spend too much time with you, increasingly investing my emotions into you, that’s dangerous for me. Who knows how long it will be before you’re gone? It’s better to have you near me and around me, but not often directly interacting with me, so that I can be used to you as a ghost before you actually become one. Yet while I still think along this train of logic, and use it sometimes, recent friendships have taught me that it’s okay to become close to people. And continuously ghosting the people around me prevents me from fully living, myself. I understand that, and I try to prevent myself from falling into that, but it’s something that I can’t help doing when I’m with my family in the States.

It’s just that every time they look at me, I think about Edward. When we have gatherings, I notice his absence. When it comes time to talk about our recent achievements, I realize that he will never have any. It makes me feel like an impostor, someone occupying the wrong space. I wonder if I’m doing enough with my life, compared with what he might have done. I wonder if the people around me are monitoring me, measuring us up in their minds, trying to see how like him and different from him I am. I have to be happy, when I’m with my family, and not the sort of happy I prefer to be. A displayed happiness, at the correct level of sociability, from which he and I used to hide. Now when I go to hide, I have nothing but his memories to keep me company.

And there are so many of them. I remember being in his living room when we were both three, with my mother struggling to do my hair. As I braced my hands against the edge of the coffee table, she was brushing the hair back and pulling it tight into a ponytail puff before braiding it. Edward was watching both of us, cross-legged on the floor.
“Edward, do you think you could have braids like this?” My mom asked him. He just smiled shyly and shook his head.
“No,” I said, laughing. His hair was much too short.

It’s the little moments, those innocent moments that come sneaking back at me now. It isn’t the brutal blow that came the first year, or the agony of the second. Now, it’s just the memories. The blissful, meaningless memories. Sad, indifferent, and increasingly happy. Bothering me. I can remember him as a person, the person I knew. I realize that this is all I have, because no new memories will come in. I have to live with this understanding. It’s a new kind of pain, like a constant rub at the back of my mind that becomes ever-more irritating. Usually, I don’t have to think about it. I’m living away from most triggers at school, and have next to none in Africa. When I’m home, it’s different. Even at the voice of another family member, the memories and thoughts come rushing in until I think I could suffocate.

I never realized the extent to which one moment could impact my life, but it seems that I’m continuously discovering the ways in which I’ve been affected. I wonder what kind of person I’d be if this hadn’t happened, what sort of existence I’d have, if I still existed at all.

It doesn’t really matter, though. I’m here. My memories are here. My family is here. I need to get out of bed, leave my room, and spend time with my mother before I leave. I already know that I would hate to have myself as a daughter, someone who keeps to herself and shies away from open displays of love and affection. It must be awful for my mother. She should know how I feel about her. I’ll go downstairs, and hug her, and kiss her cheek. I’ll tell her how much I love and appreciate her, and then I’ll show her the video of me dancing, from the second part of my research presentation. I won’t think about the last time I openly displayed emotion with an American family member, and it’ll be great.

I’ll do all of that. In a minute. Thinking about it all has made me tired, and I need to sleep first.