Sometimes, simply watching a movie can be interrupted by sudden confrontations with a past trauma. Katie takes her readers through one of these tough, quiet moments of fear and self-doubt, and she does so with powerful imagery and detail.
a (wo)Man’s world
I was watching Singing in the Rain when you called. Laying on my right side, cheek stuck to the pillow, crusty with my long since–dried tears. My phone lit up, warning me of an unknown caller. I knew it was you from the 408 area code. I paused the movie—I wouldn’t let it be tarnished by your interruption. Like so many interruptions you’d already caused. I watched my phone ring four, five, six times before the screen went dark.
I started to sweat. What would you do next? Would you try to come over….would you try to apologize? Shaking with anger, exhaustion, betrayal, but the one that truly shattered me— the overbearing reason—was the deep fear of you. Of what I couldn’t stop you from doing. And no matter how tightly I clapped my knees together, the fear of you hovering over me will never disappear.
I covered my mouth and nose with my left palm, trying to smother the cry that would inevitably escape. Inhale slowly as fresh tears slid down my face, dipping into the corners of my mouth, and exhale quietly, choking into the hand that protected my pride. Indistinguishable from a yawn.
A minute went by. Two minutes. Three. You didn’t call again. Dropping my face into the pillow, I bit the linen and suffocated a scream—the scream I couldn’t voice two days ago.
I was drowning in my own body—being pulled down by the current of current events. How was I supposed to continue my classes, work, fitness routine after everything had changed? I had to come to terms that I could not. I just couldn’t do it all.
Your invasion taught me how to shut down without warning—laugh without joy. Cry without being heard. I haven’t had a full night’s rest in over sixteen months. I dream of my door being kicked open to find two bushy-haired men in ripped clothes pacing hungrily, impatiently. Just waiting for their chance to pounce.
Who are these men? They’re you. The you who wined and dined me—the one who didn’t kiss me on our first date, the one whom I bought golf balls for on his birthday. And the you who climbed over me, on me, and in me. All six-foot-four, two-hundred and fifty pounds of you.
You took my body like it belonged to you. Like it was your right by white-male birth. Why weren’t my words loud enough, strong enough, angry enough to keep you out?
I trusted you to keep me safe, but you lodged your foreign object inside me. There it shall stay forevermore.
The counselors, therapists, psychiatrists—they all say I’m a survivor, but I can never understand why. Is it a miracle I’m alive? Or is it simply hyperbole that I “got through it” with a gold star and an awkward pat on the back? I don’t feel like I’m truly living yet. I’ve been in Purgatory for sixteen months, except they’re not my sins I’m repenting: they’re yours. I am doing time because of your mistake. I am teetering on the edge of sanity because of your decision. I’m not fully here. And in this sick, twisted universe I can’t shake the stain that you spilled in me. I carry you with me, feeling two heartbeats: one that pounds in my chest and yours that has claimed my vagina, submissive to you, relinquishing my hold on any reviving shred of security.
You forced your mistake in me like a fist-bump from your boys. Sticking it to the man by thrusting it in an unconsenting woman.
But I have to keep going going going. There’s no time to pause my life, even after everything you dumped into me. There’s no place to file away guilt, shame, or confusion—only mouthfuls of fear.
Because of you I jump at the clanking of belt buckles, hesitate drinking more than one glass of a pinot noir, and avoid the glassy-eyed man at the gym.
Because of you I have to relive the incident every time I introduce the topic to a new partner—hold back the acid in my throat and hope he won’t run.
Because of you my friends have distanced themselves, reducing our relationship to motivational quotes, books, and stories. The only original words exchanged are: “Love you honey” and “Miss you.”
I guess I’m gone in their eyes.
Curling into the same position you left me in, I press play. Singing in the Rain lights up my screen, along with the memories of your wasted phone call. Right hand tucked into the gap between my neck and shoulder, my left balls into a fist, nails digging into my palm. Inhale, nails breaking skin. Exhale, teeth chattering audibly.
You’re not here. The door is locked. And I am safe inside.
Katie is a series editor for The Coil Literary Magazine. She works in publishing in New York City, and has edited and re-published the facsimile, The Travailed Pilgrime (1569).