“You don’t have to make your heart go. It just does. Every breath we take, we’re a new person. So why not apply this to our souls? If our body can rejuvenate itself with every breath, why not our souls?”
In Greek mythology, the phoenix is a bird that lives forever by being regenerated or reborn. It dies by exploding into flame, but then gains new life by rising out of the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix is used as a symbol of regeneration or renewal. Some legends say that the tears of a phoenix provide rejuvenation and healing powers to those they fall upon.
The things about the phoenix though is that it’s like many legends. Not real.
This is not real. Not happening. Not again.
My mind is racing at ninety miles an hour and I can’t breathe. I focus, I try to count to slow my breathing, but everything is moving around me in blurry lines.
I count to 500 and push myself up, but I feel like I’m caving in. Where I had previously felt nothing, I suddenly feel everything. It hurts. It’s too loud. Too much.
I am driving. I shouldn’t be. I can’t see.
I get where I’m going, somehow unbeknownst to me, and someone asks me what happened. But I don’t have the words. I know what the answer is, but the words won’t come out. I would rather disappear. When they come out, it’s named.
In my class on literary theory, we learned about Lacan’s ideas regarding the real versus the imaginary. My understanding of this, in layman’s terms, is that only extremely young children can exist in the imaginary. The imaginary is a pre-language state of existence, while the real is the state that we exist in once we have language. Once we have given a name to something, it always has that name. We can never go back to a time when the thing didn’t have a name; we can never return to an imaginary state. Lacan believed that we spend our lives trying to find that state again, looking for that feeling, that moment that will get us there.
I would like to go back to the imaginary. In my head, I picture it as a place where I don’t have to have this as part of me, where is no longer significant, where it doesn’t have a name.
But I can’t go back. No one can.
The eyes that bore into mine are dark. Stained. Evil is a stain; it permeates everything that it touches and it stays with me even now. I close my eyes and I can see those eyes looking into mine, no matter how much time or distance I gain. They are there. He is there.
I can’t say the word rape because it means him. That’s how I’ve named it. I have trouble writing the word. And when people say it, it makes me cringe. It has power. I have the experience of it. I have been there, to that ugly place where the word takes you. To that place where it won’t let go.
Every two minutes, someone in the United States is raped. Each year, there are about 207,754 victims. 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18. 80 percent are under the age of 30. 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police. 97 percent of rapists don’t even spend ONE day in jail. Two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone the victim has met previously. 38 percent are committed by a friend, acquaintance, or spouse.
To some people, this means nothing. But to others, like me, it has a name. It’s an experience. And it’s not one they ever want to have again.
My life is a journey of discovery. Right now, my journey is centered around identity and separating who I am from the things that have happened to me. Part of me wants to believe that these things have had no effect on me, but I also know that that’s not true. They are firmly embedded within me, threads of a life that tie together and form something that is…me. I want to shed my memories, like a snake can shed skin. I am where I am because I what I have done and seen in my life. I’m in a cool place right now. But if I could take back the way in which I got here, would I? Would I still be where I am? I’ve met amazing people; I’ve done amazing things. I never would have taken the risks I have if I hadn’t been pushed.
I certainly wouldn’t be applying to graduate school programs.
When my literature professor was talking today about rejuvenation and souls, I slipped an old piece of scratch paper out of my bag and started scribbling down her words. I knew that they were important, but I didn’t know why. I still don’t. Rejuvenation for me is not as simple as breathing in and out. I can’t make what happened to me go away because it’s stuck inside of me. I can’t make it go away, because I am always reminded of it. There is always something, every day, that makes me remember. There are too many things to forget. And I can’t make it go away, because I don’t know how to let it go.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word rejuvenate as giving new strength or energy to something. I want it to be as simple as my professor said; I want to simply breathe in the fresh new air and breathe out all of the bad. But I can’t. I can’t because it still hurts. I can’t rise fully out of the ashes because I am, in many ways, still in pieces.
What I want, more than anything, is to be that phoenix. I have flamed out, and now I want to be refreshed, regenerated. I don’t believe it’s possible; I let the world tell me it’s just a legend. A non-truth. I tell myself the phoenix isn’t real. By default, it lives in the imaginary. However, we can still give it a symbol. We can give it a name.
This means that even though the phoenix is not real, it’s real.
And if the phoenix is real, then rejuvenation is real.
So I breathe.