Every question is difficult now.
“Does your boyfriend know?”
He does and he doesn’t. He knows because I’ve told him. He knows because when I smell alcohol on his breath, I draw back into myself. He sees it when I say I’m not in the mood and my eyes well up because I still feel obligated to give him my body as a pretty, guttural gift. He knows I still feel corrupted beneath a tangled labyrinth of feminist affirmations that It Wasn’t My Fault. He knows that some part of my somatic integrity was cleaved open when my legs were, one year ago.
Or maybe I’m giving him too much credit, and he doesn’t know. Because he wasn’t there, didn’t know me then, didn’t know him. He doesn’t know the details, they’re not necessary, and he’s not ready for them regardless.
“When was the last time you saw him?”
I see him every day in the faces of most men. Their false convictions and their sense of self-importance and their inability to listen to another person. Their cowardice. I see him in news articles about girls who are stalked and harmed, in fathers that touch their children, in feature films where the ‘nice’ guy gets the girl. But what these movies don’t show is the moment the nice guy pretends he can’t hear “no” and takes what he wants from you. I see him in my nightmares, always behind me, following me, turning people against me. I see him in drunk men, high men, and sometimes – I’ll shamefully admit – I see him in my boyfriend.
If you want a more literal answer, though, it was last week. He was on the same bus as me. I cried.
“What would you say to him if he were here?”
I honestly don’t know. I could ask him why he hurt me or why he told people he would continue to hurt me. I would probably tell him that I hate him. And you know what he would say back?
He’d say: “I know.”
He wouldn’t care, because he knows he hurt me. That’s the problem; he knows, and he doesn’t care. He feels like the victim because the police showed up at his house. He feels like the victim because his parents know what happened, though they haven’t said anything to me. Maybe if he were here, I’d tell him how much I can’t trust people anymore.
No, actually, I don’t think I’d say anything. If he were here, I wouldn’t be.
“What is one good thing that happened this past week?”
On Thursday morning, I walked up to the bus stop. The air tasted sweet and goosebumps raised the hair on my arms and everything felt calm. Not calm as in static, like everything is pausing and time is slowing down and the seconds feel heavy. I mean the type of calm where everything happens at once around you – screaming children, honking horns, leaves rustling against wind and feet clanking on uneven footpaths – and it’s all still okay.
Sometimes, my memories drag me backwards, and time lags. Like tiny water droplets struggling to fall from a faucet. Sometimes, the oily grips of memory pull me into a time and place that smell of breakfast and sweat. Sometimes I’m back on the fold-out couch in my friend’s basement, waking up to sounds of muffled laughter. My head throbs slightly and my mouth feels sticky. I open my eyes and see beams of light squeeze through the blinds, illuminating a crumpled pile of clothes on the floor. My clothes.
The smell of breakfast suspends in the air: bacon, toast, eggs, and something else inedible but all-consuming. The scent clings to my hair and skin. I realise where I am, and that I am naked. On the fold-out couch. Everybody else must be upstairs. Everybody. I wrap my hands around my knees and breathe. The air is thin and nauseating and suddenly my head feels light but my body heavy. Like my ankles and wrists and stomach have been weighed down by leaden memories. I try to dissolve, but instead I remember what happened to me.
My trauma is old and complex. It sometimes feels like I’m stripping away at layers of paint to see what the walls of my body looked like before someone touched me. For many girls, their trauma is a fresh, bleeding wound that drips blood on pages and canvas. A wound that hasn’t even been disinfected yet. I wonder who will make it through their trauma and who won’t. I wonder if anyone else is triggered by breakfast or has weekly psychologist appointments or can only remember their assault in fragments. And with every new assault, I relive my own trauma again and again. But I will continue to force myself to feel their pain so that I don’t ever forget.
“So, will I see you again this time next week?”
Yes, I think so. Me and all the others.
Telita Goile is an Arts/Nursing student majoring in Gender Studies. Her interests include representation of WOC, exploring bodily trauma, and the film Moana. Her guilty pleasure is re-reading Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur while her boyfriend stares in disgust.