Sunday, August 2, 2015

Only three words

There are things people can tell you. There are stories about women screaming and struggling and crying. There are the ones about those who are too paralysed with fear to do anything but wait until it’s over. Some are beaten and left for dead. All will be traumatised. 

Some people will talk about false accusations, debate the circumstances, argue about consent, about relationships, context. You can talk to doctors and lawyers and policemen and policewomen and victims and counsellors and husbands and children and bloggers and poets and memories. There are a thousand ways to learn, before it ever happens to you.

There are things no-one will tell you...

The dress you wore the next day will go into a suitcase as soon as you get home. So you don't have to see it every time you open your drawers, and feel the pit of your stomach drop and your heart clench unnaturally and your breath hitch. You will want to burn it in a giant bonfire along with everything he ever gave you - but you will keep it because it's yours and you want to say FUCK YOU in whatever small ways you can muster. It was one of your favourite dresses and you don't want him to take that from you - you've already lost so much. So you lock it away, hoping one day it will just be a dress again.

You will think of him every time you see those small hotel tubes of shampoo and conditioner because that was what you stared at in the shower afterwards, bewildered. While you washed every inch of yourself, trying to pull yourself back into your body. Trying to wash the horror, the disbelief down into the drain with the soap froth. 

You didn’t fight him because you couldn’t believe you needed to.

You will get anxious every time you catch the train line that you share, even when you know he isn't going to be there. Even when you walk to the opposite end of the platform, knowing he always goes to the last carriage and sits on the top level. You will always sit at the bottom level now, just to be contrary, and because you know he won't find you there.

For a while, when you sleep naked, the swell of your own breasts against your arm will remind you, because he liked you to sleep that way. You loved your bodies pressed together in whatever configuration you could stand to sleep in. You will think about going back to him one last time because it's terrifying to think of having sex with someone unfamiliar and new, who might touch all the traumatised places in you and not even know, who might visit that horror on you again, inadvertently... maybe on purpose.

You loved his body and the way he touched you and how you felt desired with him. You will miss him so hard that it punches holes in your silhouette, but you will not breathe a word of that longing to anyone, because how can you miss your rapist? How can you admit to such a thing when you are so sure of the evil that has been done to you, when you turned away from him so completely?

The next man who asks about your relationship history will not accept your euphemisms, the polite version about boundaries not being respected. He will ask what you mean, dig, probe, until you shock him with the truth: he raped me. Holding your breath a little as you wait for a reply. He will tell you “that’s a lot of information”, and you’ll say, “no, it’s only 3 words”. And you'll forgive him his overwhelm, but won’t want to talk to him any longer.

You will stop telling people because you will believe they are tired of hearing about it (and some of them will be). Because you know they can't handle it, because you need to not be questioned over and over. You will tell new people about it, even though you don't want to talk about what happened anymore. You will want to talk about what is happening now, after: what it means, how it's changing you still, how you never forget - only get distracted.

You will have days where you feel like yourself again, when you smile and laugh and work hard and dance with abandon. There will be nights where he is all you can think about in the broken cocoon of your own bed. 

One day, maybe soon, maybe far off, you'll look up from your recovery. You'll look up from your life and see a pair of eyes that won't let you forget them. You'll feel that pull, that desire again. You'll crave it with all of you and be utterly terrified. And you'll make a choice, the one that's right for you: for all the torn up, deeply bruised, trembling, hungry, fierce, raging, loving parts of you.

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