I’ve been beating myself up lately because it feels like really, the only thing on my mind that compels me to write is fucking rape, and then I get like, “who wants to read about that? who comes here to read my navel-gazing about how fucked up I am and how I can’t stop obsessing about a stupid event that happened ten fucking years ago? and why do I need to dwell on it anyway can’t I fucking move on with my life?” and the truth is my life has moved on, and it also hasn’t. And the same people who were interested in reading about my relationship and my random thoughts about queer politics might or might not be interested in reading me process my trauma, but that’s not my problem. And processing this rape isn’t really only just processing this rape but it’s about processing how everything in my life before and at the time was already brittle and it’s about trying to piece those things together so that I can figure out how to want, fully, to be alive.
The past two weeks I’ve been on the east coast and have spent a bunch of time with friends of mine from college. These friends were the very first people in the world who knew about my rape other than my rapist and the nurse at Planned Parenthood a few weeks later who, when I went for STD testing, knew immediately what the situation was just by looking at me, even though the whole reason I waited a few weeks was to avoid just that likelihood. But otherwise my friends in college were the very first people I ever told and it has been so strange now, at the ten-year mark, to revisit my relationship to it then. In ways I can’t believe how much I was able to separate myself from myself, how much I clung to this “this fucked up thing happened but it is in the past and anyway now I’m stronger for it” fucked-up survivor narrative which is now the whole reason why I have so many problems with the word “survivor.” Cuz in retrospect it doesn’t really feel like I survived it feels like I was just getting by however I could, and in college, my m.o. was like, I just gotta have a normal life, have real friendships that are meaningful to me and I can’t fuck them up by dumping some insane fucking trauma on them. I was also scared, I think, because I didn’t know what would happen to ME if I actually started really talking. When I was in Boston last week I spoke about it a bit with my best friend from college who is actually the first person I ever told about it and she said that yeah, it had been clear to her at the time that I hadn’t really known how to talk about it, how to be both a person who was still reeling from this nightmare AND a person who could be normal and thrive. And I of course remember still having intense flashbacks during those years, especially the first two years of college, and just not being able to move for hours, days, but not being able to even think about telling anyone why.
I guess I had a lot of internalized shame and to be honest I guess I still do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be feeling disgusted with myself for continuing to use this blog as a platform to write about this stuff. And if anyone else who has ever experienced any kind of sexual trauma or violence were to say to me that they felt shame around talking about their experiences I would SO VEHEMENTLY reject that without skipping a fucking beat, and so I’m trying to have that same graciousness with myself. And it makes me wonder how in another five years, ten years, how I will look back on myself now and think, “how did I do it? how did I survive?” the way I’m looking back now at college. I try to remember when and how it started getting easier and I can’t even force my mind to go back there without feeling like I’m going to throw up so I don’t know how to figure it out.
In early May, I went to a queer dance party in Oakland and left early by myself because I was feeling tired and drained, and I was followed by two assholes who were bantering with each other about my ass as a piece of fucking meat and I turned around and yelled at them to fuck off, yelled as loud as I could and was so angry. And rather than leave me alone they shoved me against a building and one of them went through my shit and stole all my cash and the other one went through my dress and stole my body. He couldn’t get a full erection (evidently my fault because I was a “fucking pervert dyke”) so he decided his hand was good enough. The whole thing lasted all of about five minutes and I am insanely proud of myself for staying in my body and not abandoning it. I stayed put with all my might. And I consciously decided at some point to just cry, thinking that maybe if I let it all out and just let my emotions be what they were, maybe it would stop them. So I did, I cried and crumpled to the ground and begged them to stop. And the one going through my shit was like, “this isn’t fun anymore, let’s go” and they left. And I felt broken and shaken and flattened and disgusted and terrified and humiliated, but I was like, whoa, I’m still here. I’m all here. And I called about eight different people to try and connect with someone, to stand up to my inner voice that wants me to isolate, cuz I was like, I am not going to do this again, I am not going to go through this alone. And I am so proud of that.
And then last week I was with my dad in my hometown and we were driving back to his apartment but there was some sort of race or parade or something through my town so he had to take a weird route and he drove right down that street and passed right by the spot where my rapist watched me run by him from his car ten years ago. And my clueless father took us right down that street and I have very intentionally avoided that spot for ten whole years. I haven’t been to that spot since it happened. And it’s funny because I was just thinking recently about how maybe I would want to pay that spot a visit sometime, maybe by myself or maybe with someone close to me, but maybe just by myself and sit there and rock. I thought maybe it would be good to confront that and see it as a regular spot on a regular street in a regular town. But the very second I knew where the car was going, I started throwing up and I had to frantically open the car door and lean out and puke on the street while my baffled father tried to figure out what to do. I couldn’t even talk to him I couldn’t even think, I just had this total panic meltdown and every tiny millimeter of my body needed to get the fuck away. And it was raining and we got back to my dad’s place and I couldn’t go inside, I needed air so I walked to the playground at my old elementary school and sat on the bench in the rain and stared at the playground that I used to play on before, and I tried to connect to a time before everything, when I would just play, on that very playground, with the same (child) body I have now.
I’m struggling. It’s like time is fucking around with me and has decided that it doesn’t need to move in a linear fashion, it doesn’t need to make things easier for me, it doesn’t need to be predictable and it will just do whatever it wants so-help-it-god. And I’m left trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of it all. Sometimes though it feels like even picking up the pieces is too much work, let alone the making sense of it.
One of my very favorite bloggers, and someone who in the meantime I feel really close to, wrote recently about a particular memory of her own trauma, a very specific memory that always flattens her and leaves her shattered. And someone commented, and said to her, have you ever asked that memory what it wants? Asked it why it keeps coming back? Cuz maybe if you can figure that out, you can give it what it wants and it will eventually stop coming back.
The simplicity of that stunned me. What does it want, this part of me that keeps poking and prodding and sticking, and what do they want, these images and memories and body-memories that keep revisiting? I know I need to figure that out. The thing is, the only way I’ve really known how to deal with it has been to push it away and say “no, you are not allowed.” I’m so terrified of giving it space and letting it in, I’m so terrified of what it will do it me and by syllogism, what it will do to everyone in my life.
In the meantime, I’m on the plane to Berlin right now. By the time I post this I will be there already but I’m writing this on the plane. And for the next three weeks I’m hoping that whatever part of my brain it is that is rising up and needing attention will just quiet down so that I can get some rest, get some space, and maybe then try to start figuring this out when I get back.
Also, sorry for saying fuck so much lately. It just sorta happens.