The image is just a brief flash. I am standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at her. She looks shocked; I am screaming. Don't you fucking touch me!
When I wake up, the image makes me smile.
We were going out at the time, but when she kissed me, I wasn't expecting it. My mind was elsewhere, down by the river, electrified by the warmth of the air. Caught off guard, I tried to fake it. No such luck. I split and vanished into numbness.
The panic afterward came and went for three days.
On a Christian messageboard, the debate centers around sexual assault. One guy says that spousal rape can't happen, because the woman's body belongs to her husband and since they both consented to the marriage, any sex between them is obviously consensual. Someone else says that if we all just obey God, cases of sexual assault will decrease by 95%.
It makes me want to scream.
The door opens slowly on complaining hinges. I fake sleep, hoping aginst hope that it's convincing. The muscles of my ass twitch and tense at the memory of hands and my skin shudders at the thought of a body sliding under the blankets. Long seconds pass. The door closes. I'm safe for another twenty-four hours.
I wasn't taught to say no because a mother's hands aren't supposed to make you feel like screaming.
I'm twenty, and I can't watch the sex scenes in movies any more. I flinch and leave the room instead. I have no memories of anything explicit ever happening to me, but that makes no difference. There are no explanations for my reactions.
I feel trapped. Some days I wish I'd been raped; at least that way there would be a reason for this.
At one point I try to tell a counselor about this. She refuses to discuss the topic. I wonder how much of it has to with the fact that the person I identify as the problem is a woman and how much is because I have nothing concrete to support my story. I leave feeling disgusted and weak, like I'm overreacting, making it all up.
I'm not, but unless I can let people into my head, there's no way of proving it.
We ae warned that the class (all three of us and our two instructors) will be discussing sexual assault next week. I figure I'll be fine. When we are asked what kind of lines might be used to coerce people into having sex, I am stunned by the flatness of my voice. I spend the evening barricaded in the back of my head. When I pull the cord for my stop, one of the instructors picks up her gear and follows me. As we walk from streetlight to streetlight, she asks questions carefully.
I can't believe she takes my story seriously.
For years, I figured everybody knew how to split and vanish. It's so much a part of me, I can't remember a time when I didn't know how to do it. It got me through a lot of shit; all those years of hating school, hating small towns, hating people. I'd never have survived without the walls in my head.
Now I learn that my skill is a symptom of abuse. I don't know what to do with this knowledge.
I start to lose track of my friends. The things in my head are corrosive and toxic. When they leak out, I don't want anyone around to see what a mess I am. I don't want anyone to feel obligated to help me. If I can't do this on my own, I'm a waste of oxygen. I make new friends casually, keep them for a few months, then move on. It's easier that way.
I don't cry, ever.
Summer drags out endlessly. I'm sick of it. I need to go back to school and lose myself in lectures and studio classes and assignments. At school, nobody cares how fucked-up I am as long as projects and papers come in on time and I don't miss too many classes. I can fake sober well enough to come to class stoned without anyone noticing.
Hiding is easier with school as an excuse.
Night after night, I get stoned by myself. Around people, in an unstructured environment, I stay clean. Smoke makes me too relaxed and that's infinitely dangerous. Alone, I have no restrictions. Sometimes I just need to dull the edges in my head for a while. I like being able to smile every so often, too. The knots melt out of my back and I can start to forget things for a few hours.
There's always the chance of becoming dependent, but it feels too good to quit.
The more I remember, the more careful I am about touching people or letting them touch me. Gradually, I'm shutting myself off from physical contact. With the few I trust, I'm scared of overstepping boundaries, of contaminating them with the taint that clings to me no matter what I do. I'm too proud and to afraid to ask anyone for a hug, no matter how bad I feel; I know I'd feel worse if I did, not matter what the answer. So I cut instead.
Right now, there's no end in sight.
There are days when I think I'd be better off dead.
I don't know why I'm still here.