I wrote this several years ago. Posted it and then later took it down. I’ve revised it and worked with it a bit. It’s time to leave this one alone.
A song reminds her of all those years ago—
Upon the screen words of “survivor”
And “not your fault” inked upon the forearms of a chorus—
In a moment,
All the gains of strength and safety cut,
Sliced by a razor as air is choked off,
And she is held up by the throat,
Feet dangling off the ground.
Then slammed into a wall,
The back of her head hitting first.
Fighting blackness, wanting to yield to it for peace,
Fear keeps her from giving in.
When another backhand hits across her mouth.
She reels, turns, struggling to move forward.
If she could just make it to the phone,
To the kitchen, maybe grab a knife.
Her hair grabbed from behind,
Pulls her back, off balance, she falls.
“Get back here, you fucking cunt.”
Her dog barks, bares teeth, growls.
Laughter, “Only have to kick that wiener dog like this—”
She feels ribs crack. She can’t breathe.
“And I’d kill him.”
She finds enough air, tells her dog it’s okay and to go to his bed.
“This ends when I say, bitch.”
Her hair is grabbed, and she is pulled down the hall to her bedroom.
“Now, you’ll give me what you owe me, you fucking cunt.”
She is pulled to her feet, stumbling against the wall,
She wonders what her fever is up to now, after this.
After all, she was sent home by her principal
Because the school nurse said a teacher
With a fever of 102 shouldn’t be around kids.
“Thought you were gonna get to that phone, didn’t you?”—laughter
“Just imagine, the cops showing up for a domestic disturbance at a lesbian’s
Apartment. You know those TV cameras would follow. How’s your job after that?”
Fingers dig into her face, grabbing, gripping, squeezing.
She is thrown across the bed, T-shirt ripping.
Now. Now is the time to fight. She reacts—flailing—use anything,
Nails, elbows, fists, knees—anything to connect, cause pain,
Then open a window to get away.
She feels a fist to her jaw, tastes blood.
A fist to an eye. It’s hard to take a breath. Her side hurts.
A hand at her throat.
“Stop it, cunt.”
Something in the timbre, in the octave, in the venom,
Makes her stop then. This can’t happen. Can’t be. Her thoughts stop.
It all barely registers after that—
Teeth biting, something tearing upon entering, a fist to the face again.
“I said kiss me, you bitch.”
She tastes blood again. She’s rolled over when she doesn’t comply.
“Think you’re better than me, you stupid cunt? I’ll show you.”
She thinks she must have screamed
Because her hair is pulled and used
To shove her face into the mattress.
She doesn’t know if she passed out or not.
Rumbling. A crash. Cursing from the kitchen, then the living room.
It’s best not move yet she thinks. And she doesn’t know if she could.
Then she hears the front door slam shut.
Movement returns to limbs.
Swollen faced and bleary eyed, she struggles to the door.
Lock the dead bolt, chain latch and all.
Hurts to take a breath,
But she must clean,
The apartment and herself.
Erase, erase it all—
All the traces, any trace
Of what happened.
No. It didn’t happen.
It did not happen because it could not.
As she steps into a scalding shower,
Wash away the blood,
The touch. Memory.
The she realizes more soap doesn’t help
The bleeding between her legs stop.
Then she realizes there is bleeding
from her anus too.
She isn’t sure now what to do.
How could she answer
The questions of a doctor
At a hospital ER?
She sinks down in the shower,
Thinking of what she must do.
Call into work, they expect it.
She is, after all, sick with a flu of some sort.
Break the lease,
Find a new apartment,
Movers are required, no time to wait on friends and a U-Haul.
Begin to rebuild, to regain.
Only to wake,
In a new apartment across town,
Hiding with her dog behind clothes in a closet,
And she knows she needs to do something.
She won’t live like this.
She didn’t work to overcome
the damage of an abusive alcoholic parent
to live like this.
Find a therapist and begin
To pick the shards of shattered safety
From the wounds,
Find the strength and begin.
“You’re going to have to admit what happened to yourself.”
Listen to the therapist’s litany for a moment:
Facial bruising and swelling prevent returning to work for nearly two weeks.
Bruised, if not broken, ribs from being kicked.
Bite marks on the neck and breasts.
Vaginal and anal bleeding for over three days.
“What does that list of injuries sound like to you?”
Her words tumble, fractured,
Broken by a truth she thought to scrub away:
…what you’re trying to get me to say…red flags
…addicted to speed or cocaine…so I cut it off…
…showed up at my apartment with soup… since I was sick
…became irate…still said no to seeing each other…
…hyped up on something that night…couldn’t fight her off
…so damn strong…couldn’t fight…another woman, for God’s sake…
…Not the same…
“Was anything that happened that night consensual?”
“That’s the definition of rape, isn’t it? Not consensual.”
In the admission,
The rebuilding, the redesign
Of strength, of safety, of taking back control,
She recalls the words:
All the words she has fought,
Words flung at her by friends and girlfriends who claimed to love her—
–One woman can’t do that to another. Lesbians don’t do that to each other.
–It couldn’t have been as bad as a real rape. It was only a woman. So, get over it.
–You must have done something to make it happen, to push her to that point.
–Women don’t rape.
Yes, so she thought too, even after it happened to her—
At least for a little while,
Until she admitted it was true.
But she learned to stay silent,
Trusting very few with the truth.
Even after all these years,
To have survived, regained control, found safety
And know it wasn’t her fault,
Yet deeper down,
There remains a tiny pebble of shame
Since her community said—
It wasn’t real
Since it wasn’t a man.
It was her fault
Since she refused sex after six weeks of dating
And wouldn’t continue to date her.
It never happened
since lesbians don’t rape.
She stands, watching the video her daughter shares a second time.
She finds herself close to tears at seeing the words “Not Your Fault”
Inked upon an arm. Her daughter wants to know if she thinks
It’s cool. She says it’s great. It’s empowering for those involved.
She quickly turns away.
She can’t tell her heterosexual daughter
That it happened.
If her community couldn’t accept it,
How could her daughter?
A risk she cannot take.
If she moves, twists, walks a certain speed or way,
That tiny pebble of shame bruises a little still,
As if yet rolling around in her shoe.
Perhaps for those in the community her daughter’s age,
Things are different and they hear, if it should happen,
Lesbians do rape.
It was real.
You did nothing wrong.
It is not your fault.
It is her thought.
It is her silent
Reverent, fervent prayer.