I don’t mean how you got there and then how you got out, but the truth. The raw moments in the middle that no one actually wants to hear. The words that, once spoken, somehow make heads turn away, eyes wince, shoulders shudder, and no one really wants to talk to you anymore because you weren’t polite enough to skip the reality of it. I usually say life was really bad and now its way better. And I tell people they don’t have to think about the bad part because I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. That’s a lie. I do want to make someone uncomfortable. Like laying a knife to flesh and just pressing hard enough to get the blood seeping, telling the whole truth would be such a release. A rush! A moment away from the numbness of the “good life.”
It happens, this truth-telling urge, when I realize I resemble the woman on the napkin. You know her, right? Her face is painted “just so” and she read Harper’s Bazaar to find out what length dress to wear and how to cinch it so her waist would be most appealing. She’s perfectly coifed, dainty doily on her apron string, and her ten-fingered serving tray has a drink at the ready for her man. The napkin usually tells you what we wish she was thinking—some modern “fuck you!” to the system that she’s subscribing to. What I recognize in the mirror of the cocktail carpet is her eyes. They are marbles peering past whoever is in front of her. Marbles frozen in the snow white frost bite of the storms of life and avoiding the reality as to avoid the embarrassment of the blood dripping from her nose when he was finished with her. She wanted to be there, don’t let anyone tell you she had no choice—she made one. She just didn’t know that choosing the mayhem of mainstream meant swallowing her soul. Sometimes she tries to remind herself of who is locked way down there, but that’s what the pills are for. She uses TUMS, tranquilizers, Tanquery & Tonic, and whatever truth suppressors it takes to make it to tomorrow.
The truth is I fought to get out of that bedroom. There were pawns outside the door who wanted me out and those who wanted me in, but the teenage monster over my shoulder won. I don’t want to tell you he was stronger, but eventually the door closed and I was a sixteen-year-old rag doll flung to my place on the bed. Mother Mary stood on the dresser prayerfully but he knocked her out too. The reality is he talked to me. He tried to convince me it was his turn—I was just the neighborhood whore anyway. He explained, while his fingers pressed my wrists up and back, that if I hadn’t bent over and taken it for his friends so nicely he would have never noticed me. He said rumor had it I was scared of him but there was nothing to be scared of. During that moment when he was assuring me, his eyes were in front of my eyes and I will never forget their blackness—pupils as big as the brown God gave him. His cheekbones told me what his words and smile would not. There was no talking him out of what he had set his jaw to do. So I set my jaw too.
I turned my head and braced myself for his long tongue reaching for my neck. He licked me. In one swipe of spit, he stole that place that used to make me giggle when someone kissed it. He whispered to me—the kind of whisper that was meant for private, intimate moments I may never ever be able to enjoy again. My eyes filled, and I willed them not to spill. I held my breath while he told me that I liked it. I could see the window peepers behind my head when I looked away from him so I squeezed shut, but he wouldn’t have that either. Things had to be his way, so I faced him square on and gave up. I believed him when he told me that because my body reacted to his touch in a way that I prayed it would not that meant I wanted him. A rubber Barbie made to be molded to his fantasy, he removed my clothes.
There was more licking. I cannot call it kissing. There were his hands groping the body that, for the moment, he owned. I pretended I wasn’t there, but he needed reactions to urge him along. The tears made him stronger, the twists of resisting made him want me. He placed my ankles on his shoulders and penetrated the only part left that he had not yet with his hands or his mouth. It hurts. Even when you’ve been there before, by choice or by force, it hurts. The woman on the napkin is really screaming at you through the smile that it hurts and she wants it to stop, but she does not have a say. The thrust of his control continued as he flipped me and flopped me until he was satisfied. Then he ordered me up and out and I obeyed.
You might be thinking that I must have run out of the house then – ran for safety but what you don’t know is my best friend was in a different room burning through a living hell too and I was not leaving without her. So I planted myself in a chair while the peepers all filed back in to visit in person. I didn’t try to make eye contact. I just sat as still as possible trying to avoid round two. When we were finally ready to bolt, someone confronted me for attempting to rise from the chair. I did not ask the penis his permission to leave and I was to stay put and prepare for more. I looked down just in time to see his foot connect with my nose. I left that day with blood flying from my face but that was not the injury that would last. A cold washcloth from down the street stopped the bleeding. The neighbor’s mother wouldn’t let me in the house because she had heard bad things about me. So I sat outside on the bumper of his car and tried to clean myself up. Eventually, in the days ahead, the broken body parts all healed—or at least the ones anyone really wants to know about.
I have days when I’m really thankful that I only have the years until seventeen filled with oozing truth like I just told you. And I have days when I don’t want to be thankful. I want to tell someone that just because a penis is not penetrating against my will does not mean that I will ever be an equal. Those days I weep for the societal rape of my personhood. I am expected to swallow my soul and announce that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and beg God and man for their forgiveness that I was promiscuous in the first place. I am expected to apologize because I had the parts they needed to gain power and that I actually tried to keep them to myself. The good life looks much like Matt’s bedroom that day. I know you don’t want to know that, but it’s true. On a daily basis, I am regarded as a bitch or a cunt or some other description man gave to us vaginas who aren’t willing to be quiet good girls, who actually believed it when we were told we could do anything we wanted with our lives. I can set my jaw and keep flopping and flipping to avoid the position they want me in, but the rape of my personhood goes on.