Trigger Warning: This piece deals with sexual assault.
It was like someone had made an object of my body and that object was a piece of garbage. Flesh garbage. Meat garbage. Probably why I became a vegetarian after. I couldn’t deal with my own fleshiness.
The subject had been erased. Unconscious. Unconsidered. The object was used and discarded. And then suddenly I woke up and found myself inside this piece of trash. This piece of meat that was bleeding from the inside. Why was I bleeding? Why didn’t I remember?
I felt heavy. Like a bag. Full of something that wasn’t mine. That wasn’t me. In retrospect, it was him. Still lingering. Bloating in my belly. And my body didn’t know how to reject it. So it consumed. It swallowed. It normalized.
So I swallowed. I normalized. I swallowed my words and my emotions and my screams. I smiled. Women are made to carry things inside them. To bear the blunt of men. To hold the burden. To hold the future. It’s in our very design. “Our frailty is the cause, not we, for such as we are made of, such we be.”
I was made of legs that night. I was made of red hair and red lips and curves and dimples and skin and fat and bones tempting him to get inside. Where were my 23 years of consciousness that night? Where was the three year old who begged her parents to let her start school a year early? Where was the thirteen year old who bought a punching bag for self-defence training? Where was the valedictorian who got drunk for the first time at graduation?
She was buried.
Lying dormant. Far away. For that night, I got to drift away and sleep. Perhaps I hung as a spirit over that body and watched, praying that I didn’t have to get back inside in the morning. Perhaps I whispered blessings and sweet nothings in the ears of the bag of flesh who lay on her belly, heavy and devoid of personality.
But morning came. The subject and object rejoined in a collision.
Confusion. Pain. Heat. Chaos.
Like getting the wind knocked out of my chest on the playground.
I wanted to escape again. What is this skin prison and where is the exit?
I didn’t know anymore.
The possessive pronoun was suddenly a lie. A lie I had been told my whole life. A lie that I had stupidly believed. Autonomy. The self.
Where was the self? The pieces had come apart and suddenly didn’t fit back together again the way they used to. A mismatched puzzle. Trying to shove my subject and object back together. A collision of the grandest magnitude. Tectonic plates forced together against their wills. My consciousness slipping between the cracks – displaced in the fallout.
The subject is supposed to come before the object. That’s what grammar says. The object is supposed to let the subject lead. The object follows. The object does not do. The subject does. The object is merely done to. But this object had been done to enough. This object needed to do back. This object needed to revolt.
So the subject did everything she could to take control. The subject became the perpetrator. Feels empowering, feels good: the self-control. The dominance and submission. The run until I can’t breathe and then keep running. The starvation. Chewing my fingernails as self-mutilation. The self-enforced promiscuity. The chosen pain.
I would make this object do what I wanted it to. I knew now that it could be forced. That it could be taken against its will. That it could be tricked. That it could be trapped. That safety was a lie that I believed for 23 years. But I wasn’t stupid anymore. And if someone was going to dominate this object, it was going to be me. I would be the master and it would be my slave.
If safety wasn’t an option, then I was going to meet pain where pain lived. I was going to seek it out and control it. If pain was inevitable, then I had better get my daily dose. I had better learn to grin and bear it. Bare it. I had better learn to survive. Adapt. Accommodate. Habituate. Homeostate.
Because somehow loving this object wasn’t an option. Because making this object myself was too painful. Unbearable. Impossible to digest. The reality of the invasion was too great.
So I separated. I segmented. I put my pain in a corner of my body and I did my best to live at the other end. Because reconciliation meant accepting the tear. Meant looking the breach in the eye and identifying with it. It meant allowing this story to be a part of my identity.
It meant believing safety was a possibility. Refriending naiveté after she had betrayed me.
But safety was the enemy.
I needed the sympathetic – Not sympathetic people – The sympathetic nervous system.
The charge – The rush – The adrenaline of danger.
Sitting on street corners
Waiting to be attacked
Tempting the unknown dark alleys
The recklessness a high
Eating out and destroying
Burning to exhaustion
And then running on the fumes
Fragmenting my circumstance
To fragment my consciousness.
I was in withdrawal
You cannot let go
You cannot relax
Don’t let your guard down
Hip flexors engaged
Ready to run
Stationary but in flight
You are not safe
You will never be safe
You never were safe
You were foolish
Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me
You will not fool me twice
Shame on me
Or will you?
Only time slowed my inertia
I am near certain that it is mine
Women. Women are so beautiful. We give ourselves tiny scars every day. We nip and tuck and wax and pluck and pull and shave and rip and suck. We bend and sway and navigate. We shut up. We shut up. We shut up and sit down and swallow. Our words. Our thoughts. Our dignity.
The power of a woman is
The power of a field
Trampled upon by men at war
At the end of the battle, it remains