The fear appears out of nowhere, when I least expect it. Waiting at Whole Foods I can I smell it around the stranger standing behind me, a mixture of alcohol, not the cheap kind, Axe, and Old Spice. I can’t make myself turn and glance at him because I know he’ll be staring, his hair spiked and the lights dancing off it, his Abercrombie sweater situated just so.
I know he’s not here, my rapist, but he also is at the same time. This man I don’t know becomes him. I can’t explain it.
I want to be brave like everyone wants me to be. I want to turn and shout and scream and fight. Forget being brave. I freeze, become invisible, and pray I get sucked into the ground. I run, fast, my groceries forgotten, to the doors that don’t open fast enough, past the security guard left wondering if I’m that shoplifter he heard about yesterday. They have a lot of shoplifters.
And my fridge stays empty. I have to be okay with that. I learn to order groceries. I adapt, in all the ways that count.
Never Being Clean
When I think of fear, I think of hands. Not the kind of hands that should have waved to me when I was a tiny human, enclosed me in a safe hug. Not the hands that should have clapped when I was a silly, normal little girl. Not the hands that should have taught me how to properly do my hair, a skill I never mastered.
No, hands are the worst, hands are dirty and disgusting. They are magic; they find their way inside my pants and force themselves into places I don’t want them, and I can’t make them stop, the fingers as cold between my legs are they were pressed against my throat. I can feel it run into the veins and race through my body, into my heart, and out the other side. I change and my insides are my outsides, stained and just as dirty as he is.
I know I can never wash that touch away; I fear can never be clean.
His mother walked in on us, just one time, when we were in her basement. We hadn’t gotten married yet. She looked, saw his hand clearly in my pants, saw my tears, took her newspaper and walked away. I waited for her to come back, to shout him off, but nothing happened. We would sit side by side when he finished, when he came, and watch a movie. I would be angry with myself and disgusted that I could enjoy those small glimpses of freedom where he wasn’t touching me.
I imagine everyone knows and that terrifies me. But I also want people to know at the same time? How strong I was. How I survived. I imagine they can smell him on me, the shame and worthlessness oozing out as an indication of what had happened to me. I am the best at hiding, in pillows, in blankets, in the middle of a crowded subway car.
The fear has a fierce grip, its tentacles wrapped firmly around my whole being. I am always on alert, fear of life itself. I am on a treasure hunt, except forget sparkles as a prize, just the realization that monsters are real, though only in my head now. I don’t know how to beat them forever.
Then is the sound of keys bouncing off a car tire and hitting the concrete.
Then is pain and blood and cold and a purple stain in the backseat of the car.
Then is a sea of white, then nothing at all.
Then is the feeling of melting snow between my toes and a lost shoe. One black flat, size ten.
A Bad Person
The problem with believing you are bad is that it makes you bad. It makes you not want to get up in the morning, not want to leave the house. It makes you want to throw every piece of good you can at the world to try and make up for what you did.
The beauty of building walls that are so impenetrable is that they keep monsters and fear out. The problem with building new relationships is it demolishes those walls. Well, that’s my theory, anyway. I have tried to out run them. Drown them. Bury them. But the walls have kept them in not out, and I know that now. I have been their loyal keeper and given them a place to thrive where I could never win.
It’s been a long tough journey to stay afloat. I met someone who gave me this beautiful gift of trust in such a way I had no option but to allow the words that would stick in my throat, clawing their way back down to the dark depths to finally make the sounds for her to hear. It took huge amounts of courage for her to give me never ending love, compassion and support while I opened up to her and braved my soul. She’s taught me that behind these walls there is someone beautiful and worth knowing. The bricks can be brought down, one by one, slowly, each one letting in more lift so the nightmares and fear will gradually lessen. That the monster can be beaten. That I can, and will, adapt.