Tag Archives: Rape

NGs

Walking to work, walking to work. It’s cold outside. I keep wrapping my scarf around the lower half of my face, but the loops somehow keep slipping down and exposing me to the wind. I start over again. Step, step, step, wrap. Step, step, step, wrap. Freeze (arms only; feet keep stepping) for half a second, return arms swiftly while casually to my sides. Tilt chin forward, fix eyes ahead on nothing, step, step, step, step, step.

There’s a man on the sidewalk, with a dog. The dog isn’t scary; he’s just part of the scenery. It’s the man. He isn’t necessarily scary, either. I just don’t know if he’s the type to try to call out and bother me or ignore me. I hope it’s the latter, make sure my hips aren’t swaying and my body isn’t suggestive, and walk past.

“Good morning” he says, when I’m behind him.

It isn’t a nice “good morning”, or a friendly “good morning”. It’s a “good morning” that makes a point, and the point is: You Probably Thought I Was Gonna Try to Holler or Bother You or Some Disrespectful Shit Like That, But INSTEAD I’m Just Out Here Trying to Greet People like the Good Fucking Person I Am and Look At You, Rude As Hell Just Walking By Any Old Stranger Without Having The Decency to Acknowledge Them Because of Some Preconceived Notion You Had About Men But You Should Feel Bad Because I Sure Proved You Wrong, Didn’t I?

No, you didn’t.

Honestly, I might have felt bad if he’d said, “Good morning” in a completely friendly, genuine manner. I probably would have turned around to say, “Good morning” right back. That’s happened a few times. This time, though, was just gross. It oddly reminded me of a similar scenario:

Walking home, walking home. It’s dark, and late. Two men are strolling in front of me, taking up most of the sidewalk. I’m a fast walker, to the point where the gait of these two men has my femurs and fibulas trying to jump out of their skin to get around them. I really want to pass the men, but to do so I’d now have to walk between them at an awkward pace. I don’t want to do that. Don’t want to draw attention to myself. So I wait until we’re all at a corner, and then use the widest part to quickly, yet casually, walk around them at as much of a distance as possible.

They notice me.

I can tell, because they’ve been talking the whole time, but are now both suddenly silent. Are they looking at me? It doesn’t matter, I tell myself, It’s probably nothing anyway.

“Don’t worry, miss,” one of the men says. “We’re nice. We won’t bother you. You don’t need to be afraid.”

Except now I’m not afraid, I’m angry. Angry at myself for being read so easily, and angry at the man for talking to me. If you recognized that I could be scared of you, and understood why, then why wouldn’t you change anything about the situation to to put me more at ease? Why not move to one side of the sidewalk so as to stop dominating it? Why not continue to talk with your friend, and not make salient my passing in front of you? Why not –

At the gym, at the gym. Cycling through the elliptical. Cycling, cycling, cycling. I’ve started using mantras to motivate me. I remember when my research adviser told me not to eat for thirteen hours before dancing, because it would make the body get stressed and go into a trance, so I could dance better. I’ve started to go into trances on the machines, feeling my body occupied by something that wants to make it powerful, rather than overpower it. I come up with curses for the men who have wronged me, and chant them to myself in time with the motion of my feet. To the second rapist, I wish “impotence…impotence…impotence”. To the liar I wish “isolation…reflection…penance…healing…”. To the first, I have yet to come up with a vengeance that is good enough. But everything helps, and when I get off I’ll feel accomplished and calm.

“How you doing?” asks the man who has walked past me four times now, whom I have ignored four times now. He hops onto the machine next to mine and starts chatting, interrupting my mantra flow. I don’t even completely know what he’s saying. Something about ‘Have I read his book yet?’ That’s right, he sent me a link to a book he’s written on finance. When he introduced himself, he immediately told me how lucrative his business is.

Gross.

“No,” I tell him. I could add that I haven’t had time, but I don’t feel like conversing. I want to get back to cursing. I turn my head away to focus, but he keeps trying to pull me back to talk about nothing (and not the good kind of nothing), and I keep turning back away. Finally, he says,

“You seem like you’re nervous, or scared, or something.”

I want to scream at him. I’m not nervous, or scared. We’re in the gym. I could get off my machine, kick him in the crotch, and leave. He’s at the disadvantage right now. I’m just annoyed, and bothered, and unable to focus on my work. But I look directly into his eyes and understand that he thinks I’m flustered because of the attention of a rich businessman. This whole situation is a power trip. I’m at the gym, so I’m probably insecure, and don’t know my own worth. He’s sees it in me, sees me as young and inexperienced, and is swooping down to show me as much of the world as will get him into my workout leggings.

Gross.

“You don’t have to be,” he’s still talking. “I’m not here to bother you. I’m nice.” Flashes his teeth.

Gross.

I don’t even know what I say back, but he finally leaves. I think about coming up with a mantra that curses men who understand what their presence could negatively do to women, but allow it anyway. If you think that your unwanted presence scares me, take it away. Don’t force your unnecessary company on me, simply because you want my attention, and want me to see what a nice guy you can be in the uncomfortable situation of your design. If I’m on the street and I clearly don’t want to be bothered, you telling me that you aren’t bothering me is still bothering me. If If you rudely tell me good Morning, to show how polite you can actually be, you were still rude. The fact of the matter is that I don’t want anyone speaking to me, that I need space to be in my head by myself, and your talking to me to disprove my thoughts is an intrusion that immediately strips the validity from whatever you might be saying.

“Well how am I ever supposed to talk to girls then?” a friend asks me as I complain to him.

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “Don’t? Not if you can tell they don’t want you to. Nothing positive can come from forced interactions. Is that really hard to understand?”

Who Wants to Be in a Piece?

I wrote this to be performed, then realized I have no performers. Eventually I want to turn it into some sort of visual story. As my visual skills are lacking, that may take a while. So in the meantime, here.

 

I heard that after she died, her mother wanted to move to a place where no one knew her, so that she could walk outside and be sad without wearing sunglasses.

I wish I could do that. All of that.

I wish I could be publically sad. I wish I could walk around crying when I felt like it. More than that, though, I wish that I could want to go somewhere that no one knew me. I wish that living amongst strangers were an attractive dream, and not a nightmare. It would allow for the possibility of escape. But right now, walking amongst strangers is one of the most terrifying experiences I go through.

What are the social rules for when you walk through strangers?

Repeat: “After she died, her mother wanted to move to a place where no one knew her, so that she could walk outside and be sad without wearing sunglasses. I wish I could –”

Whom do you greet? At whom should you smile? I want to be friendly; I want to be kind.

In high school, a speaker came to our school to talk about bullying. He told us the story of a man who was so depressed that he jumped off a bridge. In his suicide note, the man said that he would turn around and commit to living, if one person smiled at him on his walk to the bridge from his home.

I think about that story every day.

I think about calls I never made, and texts I sent too late.

I think about my own jumper.

I don’t want to be the inadvertent cause of another.

BUT –

I don’t really want to be that friendly, either. To strangers. Who don’t know me, and who could misinterpret my intentions in smiling. I don’t want to smile at the wrong person and then regret it.

Hidden Thought: “Edward”

What I didn’t realize would happen after I was raped: I became afraid of men. I don’t think many people think about the extent to which this happens. You think, Oh, well of course. A man did this to you, so you’ll have trust issues. What you don’t realize is that there will come a time when you’re walking through the city with an acquaintance, and you will pass by a group of guys on the corner. You will notice them noticing you, and why shouldn’t they? You look good. Hair nice, new lipstick, skirt with the slits. Let ‘em watch! you’ll think as you walk by, until you notice them peel off the corner and start to walk behind you. And for three blocks, as they continue to walk behind you, your acquaintance will talk and talk and never notice how silent you are, how rigid you are becoming. As you hear the low murmur of their voices, punctured by sinister laughs, as you begin to be confused about whether their footsteps are shaking the Earth, or you are just shaking, you’ll be thinking about the keys in your purse, wondering, if I push them between my fingers, can these work as brass knuckles? Or will that just make them mad, and rougher with me? If I just submit without trying, will they be gentler? Will anyone believe me after? Will they blame me?

Thought: “Of course they will.”

*Everyone pauses, Thoughts look at Khalilah, then all resume walking*

Repeat: “What I didn’t realize would happen after I was raped: I became afraid of men. I don’t think – ”

You will be scared out of your mind, because you will know that those guys are there to rape you, that they will rape you. This you will know, even after it turns out that the guys were just walking, and have turned off somewhere else, because this is what you have internalized: if someone you know and trust, someone who could be a friend, could do this to you, then there is nothing to stop a stranger, someone with no connection to you, and no reason to care about you, from violating you.

From One side: “You’re stupid to want to look nice. You’re an idiot, trying to be attractive, just luring them in, and expecting them not to touch you. *Getting closer to Khalilah’s face* Don’t smile at anyone! Do you want to be asking for it?”

From Other side: “Edward.”

*Thoughts begin to walk in imperfect circle around Khalilah, stepping out of the circle to speak, and then re-entering as she speaks*

There are too many dates on the calendar. On February 16, we found his suicide note.

“Don’t let him die.”

On December 24, he told me that he was better. That he was committed to being healthy.

“What’s wrong with him, Khalilah?”

On March 25, a jogger found his body.

“Why can’t you be friendly?”

On May 20, he told me he loved me as he invaded my body.

“I never said, ‘he did not rape Khalilah’. Stop worrying that I’m spreading a counter narrative about you, and worry about yourself.”

*Khalilah stops smiling, turns from a Thought*

“Well fuck you then, bitch.”

From other side: “Edward.”

*Everyone stops walking*

You ever get to a place where your traumas seem to trump you? Where you’ve got to choose to let one run wild over you, so you can combat the other? It’s like a game a whack-a-mole where I am both batter and target.

*Resume walking randomly, not in a circle. Thoughts should be pretending they have somewhere to go, intersecting Khalilah/each other like traffic, but without forcing anything (if that makes sense)*

He is 1,728 days dead. And she would be 301 days old. I’ve got ghosts on each shoulder.

Does he have any? Does he have ours? The man whose name I am legally no longer allowed to say. Would he deny his daughter? My daughter? The proof of his perpetration. His friends, fellow activists, would no longer be able to send me hateful messages, or accusations, or spread their guilt-induced counter narratives, not with her around. She would have to be female, I know, because I would hate any son in his image. Any man.

“Edward.”

Please, please stop saying his name. I’m not even thinking it. I’m not saying it.

Thought from other side of the room: “You can still feel his dreads sometimes. You still see him when your eyes are open, and feel him when your eyes are closed. You can still hear the contrast between your moans and his laughter – ”

*Khalilah runs over as it speaks, faster now*

I don’t want to, I don’t want to. Those aren’t things I want to hold onto, those are memories I want out of my thoughts –

Thought from the other side of the room: “Edward.”

*Khalilah whirls around*

NO! Stop. He isn’t here. Why don’t people understand the power of names, the power of calling someone? Call a living person, and you summon an idea of them. When someone is dead, the idea of them becomes their essence. I do not want to deal with his ghost right now. His nonexistence. He left. He left – me. You cannot call him; I cannot call him – 

*Thoughts have been moving closer to Khalilah as she unravels. They pull cords out of their pockets, and begin to move quickly around Khalilah like a Maypole, binding her*
*Different thoughts begin to speak, in round form. After the first gets out two sentences, the next begins, and the next after the second’s first two sentences*

“He is seventeen-hundred, twenty-eight days dead. And she would be 301 days old. There are too many dates on the calendar. On February 16, we found his suicide note. On December 24, he told me that he was better. That he was committed to being healthy. On March 25, a jogger found his body. On March 20, he told me he loved me as he invaded my body. You ever get to a place where your traumas seem to trump you? Where you’ve got to choose one to let run wild all over you, so you can combat the other?”

“I wish I could be publically sad. I wish I could walk around crying when I felt like it. After she died, her mother wanted to move to a place where no one knew her. More than that, though, I wish I could want to go to a place where no one knew me. What are the social rules for when you walk through strangers? Whom do you greet? At whom should you smile?”

“You think, Oh, well of course. A man did this to you, so you’ll have trust issues. 

*When Khalilah is sufficiently bound, one Thought moves to cover her mouth. She struggles around, moving her head to get out the last bit of monologue, while one Thought goes to get tape*

SOMETIMES I THINK THAT MY THOUGHTS ARE GOING TO TAKE OVER MY EXISTENCE. SOMETIMES I THINK I’LL HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN GETTING BY AND LIVING, AND ACTUALLY MAKING SENSE OF WHAT’S HAPPENING.

SOMETIMES I THINK THAT I’LL GO INTO MY HEAD TO ORGANIZE MY THOUGHTS, AND I’LL GET LOST. I’LL LOSE CONTROL, AND MY THOUGHTS WILL ALL SWIRL UP AND CONSUME ME AND I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO COMPLETELY SPEAK AGAIN. IT’LL JUST BE ME, IN MY HEAD, MUTE, WITH MY TRAUMAS.

*Thought finally succeeds in taping Khalilah’s mouth shut. It gently runs its hands over the tape, pressing it down more firmly, as the others stand watching, still holding their ends of the cords*

*A New Person enters, dressed in ordinary clothes*

New Person: “What are you thinking about?”

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.

Security

The one exception to the safety rule, the one time I feel completely comfortable in my body’s space, is very irrational. But I’ve dealt with so many irritating irrationalities, finding a helpful one is not something I’m going to worry about.

“I love your shirt!” the girl at the register tells me. And tells me, and tells me. She can’t get over it. “It’s just so cool, and the thing is most people probably don’t know what it means.”
Ah, we have a connection. Black women who share some level of consciousness.
“Yeah,” I say, gesturing with my thumb toward Darren. “He didn’t even know what it meant.”
She looks at him and nods like it’s nothing unexpected. “You should walk down 125th street in that.”

I bought this shirt partially because I like the design, and partially to spite my landlord. Since the second week I moved in, we’ve had ridiculous male-female debates over issues such as weaves, respectability, harassment, and hoe-ing.

“You’re a hotep,” I finally tell him.
“A what?” he asks.
“Look it up,” I tell him.

“This says, ‘an Egyptian word that means “to be at peace”‘,” he reads off his phone. “Hey, I like that!”
“You’re looking at the wrong definition,” I reply.

“Woah, woah, woah!” he comes back an hour later, reading off of Urban Dictionary.
“‘Black men who are only concerned about matters of social justice when it comes to black men and have little or no regard for the health and well-being of other members of the black race unless those people can serve to uphold their misogynistic societal ideas.
Hoteps are bitter black men who are somewhat progressive though undereducated on issues of racial prejudice and use pro-black rhetoric to support ideas that are clearly not in the best interest of all black people.
These men are typically misogynists who display a particularly high level of disrespect for the thoughts, bodies and experiences of black women, black homosexuals and black children. These men regularly espouse anti-intellectual and anti-scientific beliefs about nutrition, women’s menstrual cycles and child development on social media.’
“That’s not me! I’m not a misogynist, I love women! They just don’t know how to love themselves right!”

“Mmm-hmm,” I say, and go upstairs to order my shirt.
Four weeks later, I have it. It’s oversized, and I crop it badly, but not so badly that it doesn’t still look god when I wear it. A black tank, with orange and green designs around large letters that spell out, “AIN’T NO HOTEPPIN’

The shirt is perfect. I wear it the entire weekend. I go everywhere in it. My waist beads poke out from underneath it, the burgundy of my combat boots complements it nicely, I pair it with leggings and long skirts, jackets and sweaters, or by itself. Any other shirt that was cut this way, I would wear it in the daytime only. But this shirt, I almost prefer to wear in the dark. It protects me better than mace or an oversize pullover ever could.

Why? I think it’s the message. The message for monsters to leave me alone. Ain’t no hoteppin’ means I don’t have time for bullshit, for men who would harass me or waste my time, follow me or try to hurt me. When I wear the shirt, I am unequivocally Not Asking For It, or For Anything other than Respect. And despite the fact that most monsters probably don’t understand the writing, I do, and that means my mental state is secure and confident. I can stare men down, I can sit where I want on trains, and I can walk through the dark with less fear.

“Dear L train,
Thanks for Jessie. She wore, skinny jeans, no lipstick, and a pair of scuffed black boots that looked like they could kick God’s teeth in.”

That’s how I feel. Safe in my brain, secure in my body. I feel like even if a third rape were to be attempted, I would be able to stop it. And I would know that no one could ever call it my fault. That’s probably the best part: existing, and only being responsible for myself, without mentally taking on the responsibilities of those who would do me harm. It makes me feel lighter, clearer.

I wish I could translate it to my other clothes. I wish I didn’t need to wear my lack of consent in writing, in order to feel safer.

For now though, if it works, I’ll take it.

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.

Clarity and Panic at Orientation

It doesn’t get easier the second time.

It just takes longer to sink in.

In the moment, when you realize what’s happening, you go inside of yourself and tell yourself that you can spin it. That even though you’re fighting and pushing and not wanting to be a victim, he’s stronger than you are, and he’s not letting go, so your last escape from victimhood is to pretend it isn’t happening. Make sure there’s a condom so you won’t have another thing to worry about later, use your last bits of assertiveness to ask for one if you can’t tell (and understand that even though you’ve been saying “no” and “what are you doing” and “stop” repeatedly, and pushing and arching and pulling away, he’ll take this to mean consent), then go into your mind and seal it shut so that you can’t remember anything afterward. The first experience has taught you this much. Seal your mind to everything but the memory of his unfortunately “sized” penis, so that you can laugh at him, instead of being afraid of another monster. Even though that’s what he is.

And then, you’ll dull yourself to everything else. Dull, dull, dull, and not think. Because when you think, you feel pain, and fear. You don’t want to process this. You’re tired of processing everything, always. Tired, tired, tired. You want to forget everything, forget feelings, go to sleep forever and drift away.

The only thing you embrace is laughter. You recognize how hysterical it is, how outrageous it sounds. How your coworkers, who know you mainly to be calm with splashes of whimsy but ever-poised (there’s that word again), are always taken aback by the laughter that rockets out of you. Perhaps, to them, it seems disingenuous at times. It’s not that funny, or there’s no need to laugh so hard, are things you’ve been told all of your life. But ____ that, because you know that laughter, mirth, is the only one of your feelings that’s acceptable. It’s the only way to release the tension, the stress, the craziness of your mind in a way that can lift the spirits of others as well, so ____ anyone who tries to stifle it.

Laugh your heart out, laugh so that tears can freely pour out of your eyes, laugh until your face is red and your stomach retches. Scream out syllables of jolliness that rise into the air, and let them carry you away from your body. Forget how Not Okay you are, then come back into your cellf and consider antagonizing a cop.

He said he loved you. He flew out of the country.

He knew he loved you. He stayed in the architecture studio.

He wanted to love you. He rolled out of your bed, and out of the hotel.

He said he loved you. He stopped being your friend; closed the Skype.

You don’t leave people. You get left.

What does that say about you?

And now what will you do?

Where Are They

“So, have you thought about it?”
“About what you asked the last time I saw you?”
“Yeah.”

I look across the table at Ramses. The last time I saw him was before Orlando, before the second heartbreak. Not that he hasn’t still sporadically talked to me, wishing me good morning, saying sweet things. I’d kind of hoped that we’d be able to eat, chill, and then part, but it makes sense we do this now. It’s only fair.

“I did think about it,” I tell him, “And I think that we would work much better as friends.”

His face changes. I get an “Oh,” and then the meal is being wrapped up and we’re leaving. He asks me how I’m getting home, pays for my cab, kisses me on the cheek, then peaces out to the train station. He took a train to be disappointed.

Later on, he texts me.

“I see the potential in us together…If you ever change your mind just say the word”

He would be amazing, if I felt anything for him. I’m so stupid with my feelings.

I moved today. Out of Westchester, into a burrow. I went into my old store to buy some professional dresses, as a last stop before getting out. The anxiety was real, and heightened by the fact that my mother was with me. I could feel everything pouring out of her, mixing into my own nerves. Couple that with the fact that I’ve never been in this store since walking out of it, telling my managers that I would contact them over my Spring break when I had no intention of coming back. I’m only coming for the deals and discounts, but the longer I’m on the floor, the more I want to run away. What is wrong with me?

There has only really been one other time my anxiety was consistently this bad, and it was after Armani. I’m falling into the same patterns now that I did then. Setting my alarm early so I can take an extra hour to talk myself out of bed. Holing myself up in my room (and my new landlord doesn’t allow eating upstairs. What will happen? Will I force myself out, or just starve a little?). Sleeping too much, but always feeling exhausted. Aversion to social activity. Except –

“It’s you! How are you?”

I’ve been recognized.

“Come’eeere! Oh, it’s been so long, how you doin’, baby?”

I’m being hugged. I’m hugging back. It’s Alyss and Michelle, maybe the only two people left in the store that I genuinely like. These women watched out for me, talked to me, showed me around. I never realized how much love I felt for them until they popped back up. Michelle has me go to her register, where she gives me her discount and listens to my plans.

“You know, I always knew you’d do something great,” she tells me. “Always such a good worker. And so sweet, and kind. We miss you around here.”

I leave the store feeling good.

That’s kind of how it’s been, recently. The more time alone I spend, the worse I feel. I get stuck replaying the sad, scary, terrifying episodes in my mind until I don’t want to go outside again. But then I do go out, and I find friends, and they make me feel good.

That’s when I realize that I was right to deny Ramses. I don’t want a boyfriend right now. I just don’t want to be alone. I feel alone so much of the time, and I get scared that I’ll just be alone forever. But what I really want, is to be with friends who love me, who make me feel good, who let me have fun. I miss having friends nearby. It’s part of what made the aftermath of South Africa so terrible.

Once, I had a very good friend. I fell in love with him, and he fell in love with me, and we told each other. I fell in love with him because he was such a good friend to me. He was there for me when I needed him, and he could tell if I needed him before I even knew myself. He introduced me to new things, new phrases, and to new people. We went out together. We had fun. We had talks. We opened up to each other. We hung out. I made him watch movies and television shows that I thought were hilarious or cool, and he hated most of them, but he watched anyway. Things were good. Love grew out of trust.

But when we said that we loved each other, we weren’t completely friends. We were halfway back to friendship, after not talking for a while. It was the wrong time to talk to each other. Instead of growing closer together after that, we just drifted further apart. Mentally and emotionally, if not physically. It got sad. I lost my friend. And I miss him. I miss that friendship.