When I was 10,

we lived in a neighborhood that was always under construction

My parents installed an alarm just in case anything were to ever go awry

They set up the defenses that should have been indestructible

But there was this one day that I ended my walk from the bus stop

to my place of safety by entering a house that didn’t sound an alarm

to footsteps in the doorway

The batteries were just dead

Before I allowed myself to indulge in an hour

of mind-rotting after school specials,

I checked every room in the house for intruders

I have always been cautious like that

I told my parents the alarm batteries needed replacement

but I never told them about how I checked the room

we kept our water softener in

to make sure there wasn’t anyone

dwelling where they shouldn’t have been


I tried to write an essay one time

comparing the sexual assault

I endured the august before my senior year

to my house getting broken into

I talked about being brave in the aftermath of a tragedy

After pouring all my blood and half-assed tears into that paper,

I received a C- and a try again

It didn’t connect, it didn’t make sense, and my metaphors were confusing

I think I tried too hard

to make the trauma a metaphor

instead of emphasizing the reality:

my own personal home

that I had been inhabiting for seventeen years

had genuinely been broken into

And the alarm didn’t sound

And that didn’t feel brave


I think all I did in that sham of an essay

was convince my teacher I was a coward

I talked to her about it once

I think she may have suspected that my batteries were dead


Either they were dead the evening I endured my attack

or I had just chosen to brush off the persistent ringing of panic

that was sounding in the air

because it sounded too much like my anxiety

I’d always pushed my gut feelings away

so I could continue to live without fear of going outside

Some instincts you just had to choose to ignore

I chose to ignore the wrong one

I chalked up the burrowing feeling

that had made its home in my stomach that night

in the glow of that artificial light to simply being nervous

So I turned off the alarm

and I let him kiss me


There’s two glaring repercussions

that being sexually assaulted has produced

I can’t look at lava lamps

And I can’t end poems about you

Lava lamps remind me of your bedroom

I can’t end poems because that would mean that I have closure

That you’re gone

That the alarms are intact

But I still have a creeping suspicion

that you could be hiding behind my water softener




Sarah Kersey is a sophomore at Gonzaga University who aims to enter the literary world. She is passionate about writing poetry, reading good books, taking photos, and advocating for awareness regarding social issues.