Tag Archives: Ghosts

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.

Spirits

A few weeks ago, I had a terrifying thought: at the time, the last man to kiss me had been the second rapist. I hated that thought, hated that feeling. It made me unclean, stained. If my body was a ledger, there was nothing below his mark; nothing to make him forgotten.

Tonight, the train doors open, he steps onto the train, and I’m saved. I’ve only ever dealt with bad ghosts. Ones who have made me afraid. But here, I have a happy spirit. A safe one. Lindo.

It’s funny, because the first summer he saved me, he definitely associated me with the extraterrestrial. My eyes he told me were planets into which he was afraid to look. My aura reminded him of that of a goddess. He called me the Princess of Enlightenment and Higher Powers. Yet he never worshipped me. He just washed me over with appreciation, and allowed me to exist in his space as I needed to. My only safe space in the world for a brief period of time was in South Africa, in a drug dealer’s small apartment.

He’s on the train, now. His clothes, his hair, his smile. He’s dancing around, sliding in slippers, hoping for tips. I don’t want to give him money (his dancing isn’t great) but I don’t want to ignore him, either. It would be wrong to just let him go.

It’s not really Lindo. But it’s his spirit, inside this guy. This is where he could be, were he not where he is. It’s nice to know that there are others like him in the world, and that they are doing okay. More spaces are being created for other people. It’s hopeful.

He sits next to me on the train, debating out loud whether to take off his shirt (sweating from dancing) or put on a jacket (it’s cold outside). He miscalculated and still has a few stops before he needs to get off the train. Classic.

One time, we went to get burgers, and he was so lost in thought he didn’t realize the elbow he wanted to lean on was in the air, not on the table.

“You remind me of my ex,” I tell him.
“Your ex?” I nod. He laughs. “Oh, he used to dance around, too?”

“No,” I tell him. Although as I shake my head, I flash back to the morning I woke up and walked into his living room to see him standing on his sofa. Smoke wafted equally out of his blunt and lungs, swirling around the room, picking up the light of the morning to make an ethereal haze. Twisted, he sang with the music, and jumped off of the couch, spinning around the room and kicking out his legs. He loved me, he said later, because I let him be himself. Because I could be in his space without taking up his space, and he still felt free to do what he wanted. So yes, in every way, he danced.

But I don’t say this to the spirit on the train. Instead, I hold up my palm and move it in a circular motion to encompass his body-space. “It’s more – “

” – The aura, huh?” he says happily.
“Yeah,” I agree. Auras.
“Well, you remind me of my ex,” he responds. “The aura again.”

Then it’s his stop, we say goodbye, and he leaves.

And I remember.

All of those memories are from the summer of 2015. I only saw Lindo in the summer of 2016 once. The night after the rape. I hadn’t wanted to see anybody, but he came by, and came up to the room, and sat on the bed and talked to me. He sat where the guy had been as I folded my body far away from it. I never told him what had happened. I never told him anything that happened, the entire time I knew him. His safe space came with forgetting. Midway through his visit, he stopped, leaned forward, and kissed me on the forehead.

“I can touch you now,” he said, “I’m not afraid. That’s the kiss I wanted to give you last year. It’s for someone to watch over and guide you always, for protection. Now you have it.”

He’d been the last. Immediate protection, to begin to cancel out the ledger mark. I’d forgotten.

Every day I unpack something new that’s been repressed. Thank goodness for the dancing spirit, reminding me there are positives that can come slipping into life as well.

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.

Letting Go

Somewhere, his soul is free. I feel it.

I’m walking with Ramses, and he asks me if I’m happy. I tell him no, but at least I’m not sad anymore.
“Were you sad?” He seems surprised.
“Yes,” I tell him. “I spent about five-six years being sad.”
“When did you stop?”
“Maybe a month ago.”

I tell him about Edward, but it’s different this time. This is the first person with whom I can share my story, and end it knowing that I’m in the right place. My spot. I recognize the tragedy of what I’m saying, while simultaneously recognizing the beauty of the way the setting sun pierces through the bushes of flowers that surround us. The shadows that play across our winding path, the leaves at our feet, and the trees overhead. I take everything in, and love it. This can be a paradise. For a moment. I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad he’s free.

We all possess our own magics.

I think I turned Edward into a crow all those years ago. I think my pain pressed his into the crow’s body. I didn’t want him to be at peace until I could be, myself. It was selfish. I knew it was selfish the whole time, but that didn’t help me let go.

And then, in dealing with XXXXX, I did. And then I found Ramses, whom I don’t love, but I think I could, at least as a friend. And he told me about spiritual planes, and physical bodies becoming ethereal, and seven layers of existence. I’m not sure how deeply into all that I can understand, but I do believe that Edward is now finally past the physical. His crow is gone, and I can smile about it. Thinking of him makes me happy, for the first time since he left.

I held onto Edward because I didn’t have faith that I would be able to survive otherwise. The torture of grieving him was all that I knew, and I figured miserable existence was better than the worse existence I imagined without him.

I am a coward.

Now, I wish that I had let go sooner.

I let go of Edward on my birthday, and for a minute, bad love made me regret it. I do not want to be miserable holding onto love, purely because it is the only love I have known, and I don’t know what I’ll be without it. We need to grow. We need to be free.

He will always be in my heart, just as Edward is, but maybe the best thing for now is for me to let go of him. I’ll see Edward again, and XXXXX and I can always find each other.

I didn’t cry yesterday. We have progress.

Pheonix

Have you ever witnessed a heart break?
I’ve seen the part right before.
There’s a part right before a heart breaks, right before it completely goes to pieces. The heart is so hurt it wants to shatter, but something won’t let that happen, just yet. The body fights to hold it together. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it understands that it needs the heart to keep going. Maybe it still has hope, somehow. The heart tries to break, but the body fights to hold it together, and as a result, the body shakes. It shakes, it vibrates, with a force.

At Edward’s funeral, I watched Pat, his boyfriend, as his heart tried to break. I watched his body, on the pew directly in front of me, vibrating as it was hunched over. I saw the waves of sobs wrack his body, and I saw as the entire bench shook from the force.
He’s had other relationships since; it’s a good thing his body kept himself together.
That was the only time I’ve seen it happen. Then I felt it happen to me.

Four weeks ago, after four years, he wrapped me double in his arms and told me that he loved me. And I said it back, and felt happy. XXXXX and Khalilah, together at last.
Three days ago, I accepted that it didn’t matter. Love wasn’t enough to keep us together.

As I made his bed, preparing to leave him, my body shook harder than it ever has. I didn’t see the bedspread I was holding. I saw Pat, shaking the bench in front of me with his entire-body sobs. Love wasn’t enough to keep Edward here, either. Not for Pat; not for me.
I tried so hard this time, I thought, and realized that my heart was what was shaking me. It wanted to fall apart, but my body wouldn’t let that happen. Why wouldn’t it let that happen?

“Hey, what’s good, shawty? I wanna see you smile!”
We’re cutting into the narrative like this man cut into my thoughts. You never escape your identities. Even walking out of his space, crying and remembering and trying to make sense of my situation, I was still a woman on the street, begging for a man to slow down his car and yell at me out of his driver’s side window.

In “Eyes of Zapata”, Sandra Cisneros writes as one of Emiliano’s lovers. She beautifully describes ‘balancing his body on top of hers’, taking him in, protecting and loving him fiercely until the time he leaves her to go back into the war, and to another mistress. I think how relieved I am, that I never balanced his body. I wonder how I would be now, if that had happened.
In another story, she writes of a thirteen-year old impregnated by a man who never sees her again. It’s an abusive, sad story, that you wouldn’t realize if you didn’t shut off the beauty of her writing. When Sandra writes, it’s a love story to rival the classic romances.

I don’t want to romanticize my pain anymore. I don’t want to make it beautiful. I’ve done it for four years, and it’s taken me until this moment to realize that it doesn’t help anything. It’s a hindrance.

“The worst part of all of this is that now I suddenly relate to all these things,” I tell my friend. “All these posts about relationships, about love. I get them. I see myself in them. It’s like I’m a person.”
“You are a person,” my friend tells me.

I am a person. I, am a person. I can’t look at myself as a ghost anymore. I’d like to. I’d love to think of myself as a perpetual haunt, untouchable as long as I’m trapped on Earth. It would mean not having to face reality.

But in reality, he touched me, anyway.
And he is a person. And he is flawed. And I am not enough to make his flaws go away, because I, too, am only a person.
Maybe he didn’t understand that. Maybe, in the grief of four years ago, I convinced him that I was a ghost. So when he touched me, he didn’t believe in my tangibility. He didn’t believe that I had enough love to actually stay.

I’m not Edward. I can stick around.

And maybe that’s why I’m supposed to be here. Because I can stay. I may not enjoy it most of the time – I may hate it most days. But I have the strength to be suicidal and stay alive, and he didn’t.
I’m not shaking anymore, and I’m not hiding. I’m not a ghost. I’m the free crow, and I’m a person.

Weekend Haikus

We are together
until stares cut us apart.
Where do moments go?

Beauty makes me cry,
From happiness, and terror
for when it will die.

I see his past’s smiles.
If I saw his face today,
What would be left there?

The future scares me.
Don’t see myself in it, but
Don’t know how to leave.

And now, you are here.
His ghost behind you, staring
at me, at us, there.

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.