I debated whether I should use this title over and over, simply because stating that I have PTSD is scary. But upon seeing the recent rape/sexual assault statistics at Duke, particularly those pertaining to women of color and the LGBTQI community at this school, and after physically and mentally engaging in this work of disrupting rape/sexual assault/intimate partner violence, I decided that it would be important.
This is a fictional/non-fictional piece on what it can feel like to navigate relationships with men/ the self post-abuse. Read it and then begin/continue taking care of and protecting the women/vulnerable people around you.
There are places on your skin that still remain untouched. Which is not to say that multiple sets of hands have not known the contours of your body - the shallow dimples in your thighs that give way to smooth curves that remind you of wine glasses on a warm spring afternoon. You know your body through reactions and absences. There are places on your skin that feel saturated with lust. These are the places that remind you of steamy nights spent in beds that you no longer know the directions to; men who knew your body before your name. baby before Black Woman. And then there are the places that remind you of a loneliness that you have become used to; a loneliness that you have come to expect. The absences. These are places that transcend the bumps and ingrown hairs on your thighs; places that you haven’t even learned to summon yet. These are the places where your body knows hard coldness even on the warmest days - these are the places you have been reserving for yourself for when you finally find the sense to love yourself above guilt, above your sadness. These are the places you are savoring for your own caressing on the day that you decide to call yourself home, your own home
You convince yourself that you can find yourself on the surfaces of smooth chests and toned backs; that if you close your eyes and move back and forth fast enough, you can fuck yourself back to life - fuck yourself into reclaiming your body, your mind. In that moment, on that day you can find the parts of yourself that were supposed to be sanctified and blessed - places that you had wanted to sanctify and bless yourself, but you can never quite see your own hands as capable of bestowing blessings - all you see are diseased hands. Everything they touch seems to turn to dust, to absence. And so you find yourself always searching for dark, strong hands that you so badly want to believe hold magic, even when they always reveal themselves to be empty.
Your friend tells you that you heal at the pace of your ability to find peace within yourself. You pause and you think of all the time that has passed between the morning that man forced his way into your insides and now. And you think of how every man’s touch since then has tasted like sweet poison - sweet on your tongue, but destructive on your soul. You ask yourself: But how do you find peace when your skin feels like the butt of a smoking gun? Forever working to extinguish itself, even when it mistakes lessons to be failure - and especially when it understands disappointment to be the end. And so you move from place to place reminding people who want to love you that you are a bomb waiting to explode. You ask them to protect themselves, even if it means that you will be the one, left alone in empty rooms, waiting for the debris to kill you. You tell them that peace has always been scarce to you.
For so long you have wanted to make a home for him in the palm of your hands so that he could see you at your most functional. But when corrupted roots have destroyed the foundation of your home, your body, and when they are flowing like veins that poison any flesh that they touch, how can you invite him in? You don’t know how to make life out of death and you cannot ask someone to walk into a broken home. So whenever you open your mouth for him you deliberately lose the words to tell him that you also care.
You picture your mother asking, “How is it that you repel every good man that comes your way?” Your lips move to answer, but instead you pause. The answer comes to you in the form of liquid underneath your tongue; your mouth produces a bitter taste that you never swallow; it just remains in stasis at the base of your mouth. You never swallow it. One day the man who is your friend, the one who knows what each of the dimples on your thighs stand for, slips into your bed and kisses you. The bitter taste at the base of your mouth rises to the tip of your tongue. It becomes words, becomes slurs, becomes shouting, becomes poison. You wake up the next morning, your mouth free from the bitter taste underneath your tongue. Now your mouth tastes like lemonade. You close your eyes and remember how your lips poisoned your best friend last night and how you can now tell your mother the truth.