Tag Archives: Sexual Assault

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?”

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Surreality

“How are you?” my white coworkers ask me at a meeting. I’m at a meeting.

This morning, I woke up and saw that Trump was elected president. And then I re-saw it, and re-saw it, because I couldn’t believe it was real. I don’t believe my reaction was uncommon. Apparently, though, it was uncommon enough to allow for the reality of the election results.

I really am a minority in this country.
That’s something you always know, but it rarely feels concrete to this extreme.

And now I’m at my real meeting, waiting for it to start, with real tears welling up in my eyes.

I am so. Scared.
And. Disillusioned.

“At least Trump is pro charter schools,” one teacher says. “So we’re safe! We still have our jobs.”

I don’t want to work here anymore. I don’t want to work here anymore.


“These charter schools weren’t even started by a black person, but they’re supposed to help black people?” he said angrily, at my old campus. He was a product of one of the first. “So much of it is bullshit. I used to get in trouble all the time, because if you cut corners in line you’d have to go to the end. They had colored lines on the floor to tell you where to walk! I was not about that shit, like are you serious? It was way too controlling, so I always cut corners just to show how stupid it was, and then I’d get sent to the end.”

“I think the benefit people see in these schools is that they recognize some of the world we live in,” I said. “We live in a white-dominated society. So if a white person wants to create schools that teach black kids how to successfully conduct themselves in white society, some people are for that. Some people think it can help. And we hope that along the way, the kids will gain confidence and connections. Maybe they’ll turn out like you, and see it all as a system of bullshit and wrongness, but at least you ended up at an elite university, with better tools to attack your problems.”

“Who would want to function well in white society though?” was all he had to say.


I always bought into the idea of teaching the whole person. I thought that learning chess would help with decision making, and round out the soul. I believed that it would help to learn how to conduct oneself in the master’s house.

What do they say? You can’t dismantle the master’s house with his own tools?


I need to go away. I’m still at my meeting, being antisocial as anything. I’m the only woman in the room, and I’m already pretty quiet to start with. I’m the only black adult in the room. White men, white men, white men!


“We’re not being sad today,” they say. “It’s bad, but we still have hope.”

“My friend got called a nigger in Times Square last night after the results came out,” I didn’t tell them.

“I’m just going to put positivity into the world today,” one guy says. “I’m going to smile at everyone I see.”

“Dude, you can’t do that!” The leader of the meeting says. “You’re a white man with a bald head! Someone called me a racist today when I ordered my coffee, and I voted for Clinton!”

“Clinton is racist too,” I actually do say.

I need to get out of here. I need to go to sleep.

No. I can’t sleep anymore. I need to be active. I need to do something. I need to quit my job. I need to take my money out of the bank. I need to join a gym, and get in shape. No longer for a rape revenge fantasy, but for actual survival. I need to cut down my eating, and cut out bad things. Carbs, sugar, anything that’s processed. I need to change my lifestyle.

I need to watch the news and read the papers. I need to stop hiding from everything. I need to be fully present in the world, because not enough people are, and then something like this happens. And in order to be fully present, I need to fully process every bad thing that has happened to me. I need to cry for a week, understand how things have happened and why. I need to get the flashbacks out of my head, or at least get to the point where my lions are only kittens. I need to, I need to, because my president has advised grabbing women by their pussies, and I have never taken the time to fully think about those implications.

I need to make art, and join festivals. I need to learn how to sew my own clothes, so I can stop being dependent upon companies, because if I lose my job, I lose my ability to go out and be frivolous.


“Political consultants have been predicting this for months,” one guy says. “It’s not about reality to them. It’s about opinions. And if people think that there are more pink Skittles in a bag of Skittles, then that’s what it’s going to be.”

Am I a Skittle? Are people like me Skittles?

I need the white men in the room to stop asking how I am without really caring about the answer, or I will scream.

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.

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.

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.

Shame on You

The Man is in the doorway. Hunched over, watching me.

Watching, or looking?
Look – regarderOn regarde la télévision. Am I a show to Him? Or a subject, animal, to be observed? I cannot tell if He is more detached or active in what He does, but the fact that He’s present at all, for the first time in a year, is more concerning than how strong His presence actually is.

The look on His face. It isn’t a smile or a sneer, because sneers lack delight and smiles are too kind. It isn’t a smirk either. Maybe it’s this look to which people refer when they talk about twisted smiles. As if He turned up the corners of His mouth, took the half loop this created and used His eyes to braid into it hate and delight and fascination and longing and anger and just a dash of care, with an overwhelming amount of sadism.

I see Him without looking, without opening my eyes or lifting my head. I couldn’t do either of those things, anyway. I’m terrified of making eye contact with Him. It’s never happened, but I know that this would be the morning for it. Pure contact, and what would happen after that? I’m afraid to find out. All these years, and The Man still has me petrified.

I don’t want to look at Him, but I know that I need to acknowledge Him. The longer He stares, and the longer I stay frozen like this in bed, the worse off I’ll be. There’s a reason he’s here now. I’m not in good shape. When I came to South Africa, I knew that things wouldn’t get better. You can’t run from your problems, or your feelings, I understand. Still, I hadn’t expected things to get worse, either. And they had. Isolation in the cold, punctuated by visits from monsters will wear a person down. Nightly panic attacks followed by insomnia will just about wreck you. I’m low. So low, I guess, that The Man has decided to reappear.

So He’s come into the doorway, and He’s watching me. And I am low, and I am terrified, and I am tired. So very tired. I’ve lost a lot of sleep, a lot of happiness, and a lot of hope. I’m an easy target. Except.

Except that I don’t want to be a target. I don’t want to be a victim. I’ve spent a year digging in my heels and fighting monsters and I’m starting to get fed up with this continuous process that is ever-draining. I want it to end, I sort of want to give up, but I don’t want Him to end me.

Shame on you.

It’s my strongest thought. From amidst the why me‘s and the I’m tired‘s, the please leave me alone‘s and the how dare they‘s emerges a single Shame.

The Man’s face blanches, and His shoulder jumps. I can see it without looking, feel His energy skip without moving. I wonder if anyone has ever chastised him in this way before. I’m sure people have cursed Him, screamed, yelled, put His awfulness before Him in indictment. I’ve done it myself. But all of this has always been done because of Him, in reaction to Him. I don’t know if anything has ever been done to him or at him. Until now.

Shame on you! I think again, more forcefully. He stumbles back a step. It’s involuntary, and he is surprised, so He straightens His spine to stand, giving up hunching in the doorway. At full height, He towers. Or he would, if I wasn’t so busy thinking at him. Shame, shame, shame for all the monsters He’s guided who have stuck me in bed, for all the other feelings He’s caused that press down on my body, and all the thoughts He’s cultured that cloud my head. He’s trying to work them up now, and inside my mind I feel like I might suffocate from the cloudiness being created, but through it all I lock onto the SHAME. And I scream it, blare it out at him until the walls of my mind are trembling and the last bits of my energy are just spent from the effort, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it, because the Man is leaving, running away from me, finally. I know he’ll be back, and he’ll probably be harder when he is. But for the moment, I have made myself safe. And this mental activity, after a full night of tossing around restlessly, has left me wiped enough to pass out.

I wake to my cousin coming home from work, incredulously asking me how I could have slept all day.