|In response to our October prompt, Katherine Page returns to a piece of writing that is distinctly connected to her past experience with sexual violence-a journal entry. By focusing on changing just a few words from the entry, she is able to reach back across time to believe her past self and validate her own pain. In language that is resilient and poetic, Page tells her story, newly acknowledging a truth that was there all along.|
by Katherine Page
I would like to (nine words from a journal entry from over) a decade ago.
The day after.
I write about folding into myself like a transformer action figure that snaps into new form–a getaway car with my body tucked inside, invisible. I write about the pain and the floating. I write about the two animals, one of which I think is me, and what they look like from the ceiling where I watch silent cries and the thwacking of flesh. I write about how this event has split me down the middle into after and before, an earthquake across asphalt, yellow parallels burst open like dry scabs. I write about the shame of having kissed him, of having said yes once before, on another day, of thinking that one yes was a contract, a rock for him to hold for anytime use, like a coupon or a card that says pass go and collect $200. He pulled into the parking lot of this shitty motel and told me to get out of the car, and I asked what we were doing but I knew deep down what was going to happen, and I felt the inevitable, mossy stone, the rodent of fear activated in my gut, scrambling through my chest, fluttering wildly into my lungs and hands. I said no, politely, too politely, but I didn’t run and I didn’t scream for help, just did what he told me to do and lay really still and stared at the cracked walls and corner cobwebs, and out of the window at the blinding white day and thought of all the people out there doing usual things, and down at myself and wondered what was happening and when it would stop and if I would get pregnant or HIV or if I could turn my body into an eggshell and disintegrate into dust beneath him.
Things were lost in translation. Was it just bad sex?
Why am I so upset? It’s my fault. It’s not like I was raped. I wrote in my journal.
So many years later, I am rewriting.
I am writing a story of coercion, of being in a foreign country, of speaking in a language I was just then learning, of a no that was ignored. I am rewriting because the denial lived forever in some box in the attic and on my skin in the hieroglyphic white of my fading scars. The words invalidated the experience I had lived. They kept me quiet in rehab when others were talking about sexual traumas and I knew my thing, whatever it had been, didn’t match some definition in my brain. I told myself I was crazy when the density of those moments pulled me back in time like some gravitational tide, some black hole.
I have since read the Webster definition: “to snatch, to grab, to carry off,” or “to seize and take away by force.” The force that snatched me, that seized me, was a power I didn’t think I could resist, even if in retrospect I could’ve fought harder. I’ve done the math and balanced the equations: yes + no ≠ maybe and
maybe + no ≠ yes and
no + force ≠ yes and
force ≠ power
In my rewrite, I’ve gone back to the journal in the attic. I’ve gone back to the memory, the original sketches, and recalculated the notes in the margins. I was raped. It wasn’t my fault. In my rewrite, I am kinder to myself. I make a plan to tell family and friends when I return from vacation. I write fuck that guy and make no excuses for him and take no responsibility for what he did to me. I write anger instead of hiding. I write loudness instead of shame. I write community instead of individual, me, alone. The packages of food I use to shove it down, and then violently expel into toilets and trashcans, stay tightly sealed on grocery store shelves. The scars rewind into scabs then open slices then unharmed skin that never bears the blame. The pills I take click back into orange bottles, return to pharmacy counters, fade from scribbled dosages into blank prescription pad sheets. In my rewrite, I cry more to others on living room couches and less in empty cars on late night Chicago highways. In my rewrite, I tell partners why I shudder, why I get quiet, why I leave. My rewrite still has sadness, but it’s held by many hands. Each letter I type fills me up. The loops and lines of words stack inside my chest and wallpaper the memory of the white room where it happened. The words have warmth and color. The goose bumps fade away. Softness tethers me to the present.
I was raped. It wasn’t my fault. I’m okay now.
I am happy.
Katherine Page is a writer and elementary school teacher currently living in Leadville, Colorado. She has had writing published in Open Minds Quarterly, Bluestem Magazine, Awakened Voices Magazine, and Chanter Literary Magazine.