Time Stood Still

TRIGGER WARNING: DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE, RAPE

 

May 13, 2005
On a dingy bathroom floor in a house full of addicts, she waited. The test sat on the counter, scarce inches away, yet she couldn’t look. One… two… three minutes passed. It was now or never. Her hands shaking, she picked up her future, wrapped in a disguise of plastic and paper and urine. Positive. She closed her eyes, unsure if she was relieved or disappointed. Time stood still.

January 27, 2006
The hospital was crowded, as if everyone in a fifty mile radius had decided to give birth right then and there. A blur of lights and sleep and strange beeps and frantic calls and pain, oh the pain! She couldn’t quite remember how or why she had ended up in the operating room or why they wouldn’t let her hold her daughter right away or anything beyond the overwhelming agony that every second away from the child caused. A bundle was placed in her arms – The bluest eyes she’d ever seen, the blackest hair, the most perfect little mouth. The world melted away and she finally knew the meaning of her life.

July 15, 2006
She could smell the whiskey on his breath before he entered the room. Her heart beat faster as she clutched her baby closer. One foot out the window, easy does it, twist and turn and grab the ledge … – his hand wrapped around hers and in a single breath she was on the bedroom floor again. The baby bawled in his arms as he hurled accusation after accusation, stepping more firmly on her throat with every uttered syllable. Her life flashed before her eyes and in the moment before the stars became darkness, time stood still.

June 1, 2007
He stumbled in at 9am, drunk, though god knows he’d gone to work last night. She lay awake – eyes closed, breathing regular – hoping he’d think she was still asleep. Their daughter stirred; a heavenly coo from the cradle next to their bed. She jumped up to attend before his clumsy hands could reach the tiny being, but not before a slurred “Stunned cunt, let me sleep” escaped his lips as he collapsed into the pillows. When the darkness overcame him, she methodically packed her belongings and drove to the new apartment across town. Furniture would have to wait, but in that moment, her life started over.

December 17, 2011
The night was young, the music loud, the tequila flowing freely. Across the table, he winked and smiled and she had never felt so sexy. The bar closed, the after party started, and before she knew it, 3am had arrived and it was only the two of them awake. He kissed her, she kissed back, he reached up her skirt. She said no. He stopped. He tried again. The no became more urgent. He conceded and allowed her to drift into unconsciousness. She awoke long enough to kick him and roll over as he peeled her panties off, then returned to the nothingness she had been roused from. Seconds… minutes… ages later, her mind snapped out of the fog, feeling him inside her, momentum building, grunts of pleasure escaping his lips. Her body froze. Words caught in her throat. As he emptied himself into her, time stood still.

July 19, 2013
Eight hours of magic was coming to a close. She thought it was going well, but one could never quite tell with a first date. They placed a bet on the last bowling match – if he won, she had to say yes to a second date. She lost, albeit unintentionally, though she was far from disappointed at the prospect of more time in his company. He walked her to her car; she thanked him for a wonderful day. The sun was setting just behind him, a brilliant cascade of light gleaming over his left shoulder. He hugged her and she could feel the restless energy stirring within him. In a moment of impulsive desire, she pressed her lips to his and held on tightly as the rest of the world became irrelevant.

November 8, 2013
They lay in bed, her head on his chest, his arms protectively cocooning her. He kissed her goodnight, and just as he was dozing off, a timid whisper asked if he was still awake. Now alert, he asked her why. Seconds passed as she took a calming breath and responded with some off-pitch statement about needing to tell him something. With a hint of suspicion, he probed her intentions. Her heart beat faster as she attempted to gather her courage. “I love you,” she breathed, barely audible, as she buried her face in his neck. He gently lifted her chin, gazing into her eyes through the dark. “I love you,” he responded, kissing her tenderly as time stood still.

Release.

It’s reached a point where I feel the need to share the deepest, darkest, most hated part of my soul. I need to confess my sin, bare my inadequacy, and eliminate the pretense.

I’m not perfect, no matter how much he tells me I am. He knows almost everything about me: my hopes, my dreams, my fears, my quirks, my loves and hates. But every time I go to tell him this one thing, I freeze. My lips stop working. My thoughts slow down and my heart speeds up. My mouth goes dry and I find myself changing the topic of conversation to avoid telling him.

I don’t know why I’m afraid.

He’s never been anything but understanding. He’s never given me a reason to think that he wouldn’t sympathise, or would judge me, or would look at me any different. But yet, I hesitate. I’m scared to say the words. I’m terrified to feel their prescence looming in the space between us whenever we’re together. I’m ashamed to see the look in his eyes when he processes the truth, and I’m worried that he’ll start to read into the nuances of my personality and my preferences, finding causation that isn’t accurate in the slightest.

How do you tell someone you were raped without it colouring the way they view you? There’s no way to go back from that point. What has been said cannot be unsaid. And so I hesitate.

I had hoped that before we’d reached this point, I would have found a way to tell him. But I didn’t. Or maybe I didn’t take the chances that were given. Either way, the conversation is still pending and my stomach drops in fear every time I realise that I’m getting close to revealing the truth. It’s like I know that everything between us will change once the statement has been made, and I haven’t yet decided if it will be a positive experience.

I don’t doubt that he will support me. The very depths of my soul tell me that there is nothing I could say to change his feelings for me. But letting go and admitting my brokenness is a step I’m afraid to take. And so I resist, waiting for the perfect moment to drop the bomb, knowing that the longer I wait, the more I will fight the urge and keep the secret buried deep inside.

Dangling my toes over the edge has never felt so perilous.

On Love and Loss

“December 24th and we’re through again.
This time for good I know because I didn’t
throw you out — and anyway we waved.

No shoes. No angry doors.
We folded clothes and went
our separate ways.

You left behind that flannel shirt
of yours I liked but remembered to take
your toothbrush. Where are you tonight?

Richard, it’s Christmas Ever again
and old ghost come back home.
I’m sitting by the Christmas tree
wondering where did we go wrong.

Okay, we didn’t work, and all
memories to tell you the truth aren’t good.
But sometimes there were good times.
Love was good. I loved your crooked sleep
beside me and never dreamed afraid.

There should be stars for great wars
like ours. There ought to be awards
and plenty of champagne for the survivors.

After all the years of degradations,
the several holidays of failure,
there should be something
to commemorate the pain.

Someday we’ll forget that great Brazil disaster.
Till then, Richard, I wish you well.
I wish you love affairs and plenty of hot water,
and women kinder than I treated you.
I forget the reason, but I loved you once,
remember?

Maybe in this season, drunk
and sentimental, I’m willing to admit
a part of me, crazed and kamikaze,
ripe for anarchy, loves still.”

“One Last Poem for Richard” by Sandra Cisneros

 

It’s true, I admit it. Boyfriend and I are done. Have been for awhile, actually. While the Titanic sunk beneath me, I stood on the deck praying for a miracle, all the while knowing that deliverance would not arrive.

Everything was perfect, and then it wasn’t. Looking back, I can’t pinpoint the precise moment where it all started to unravel. Maybe it was the first fight. Maybe it was the second. Maybe it was when I stopped buying his groceries and cleaning his house because I only had the time and money to take care of myself. Maybe it was all of these things and maybe it was none of them. My perfect faerietale turned into something I didn’t want. My prince became an ogre… and I wasn’t about to stand for it.

I could do a lot of finger-pointing at his issues with his ex, or his questionable nights out with random girls, or his hidden sexist agenda that appeared five months in. But the truth of the matter is – I miss him.

I called it off. Yes, I’m the bad guy there. It hurts to know that someone you love is not right for you, was not right for you from day one and will never be right for you. It hurts to know that you, once again, gave your whole heart to someone who wasn’t able to treat it the way it deserves. It hurts to know he’s already moved on.

But now… now I need to live my life for me. I need to take care of myself. I need to mourn. And I need to make sure that the next time I give my heart, he’s playing for keeps.

Unbreakable.

**TRIGGER WARNING FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE**

Today I was introduced to an amazing project: Project Unbreakable. Created in October 2011, this project helps survivors of sexual abuse, violence and rape take back the power of words used against them. Creator Grace Brown asks survivors to make a poster showing a quote from their attacker and be photographed holding it. Many survivors outside Grace’s area are taking their own photos and submitting them as well.

This project resonated with me for several reasons. One: I’m a feminist. Sexual violence does not ONLY occur to women, but the majority of it does, and the pain of my sisters is my pain. Two: Rape culture is all around us. It pervades everyday  life. One third of women have experienced some form of sexual abuse, violence or rape. And three: I, too, am a survivor of rape – more than once, in fact.

As I devoured page after page of these photos, my emotions ran the gamut from angry to sad, discouraged, horrified, pained, and yes, even inspired. The strength shown by these survivors is admirable. The stigma around sexual violence often places blame upon the  victims and ignores the responsibility of the perpetrators. Speaking out about these topics may be triggering. It may cause conflict with friends or family members. And, let’s face it, speaking out is downright scary. In a world where most of us care to some extent what others think of us, it’s incredibly hard to open up about a topic that many are judgemental about.

So, in the interest of furthering my One Word project, of healing myself, of learning to speak out against injustice… I will take this step. I will be strong. I will be unbreakable. (And in typical over-achiever fashion, I’ll be submitting two pictures – one for each rape.)

(July 2001 – age 16)

(December 2011 – age 26)

The Beauty's In The Breakdown

The past week or so has been a nightmare.

Work is stressing me out, my darling daughter has developed a VERY grown-up attitude, and my partner doesn’t seem to feel the need to support me emotionally (by being there to listen), financially (guess who paid his half of the bills?) or physically (I just want a hug sometimes, darnit!).

I got home yesterday, only to see a little orange light lit up on the dashboard of my car. Low oil. Great. At least I remembered to pick some up last time I was at Hellmart. I open the hood of my car, reach for the oil cap (which the dipstick  is stuck to) and… nothing. It won’t move in the slightest. I try again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. This continues for about 5-10 minutes, with me alternately pleading with the vehicle to “just puhleeeeeeze open up for me!” and kicking it, yelling obscenities. (Thankfully, darling daughter was in the house, chasing Kitty around.)

After 10 minutes of feeling like a weak fool, I finally broke down in tears. My hand was sore from trying, I was frustrated by my ineptitude, and I felt foolish for 1) not being able to open the freaking thing, and 2) for making such a racket over something so trivial. I sat down in front of my car, leaned against the old beast, and I cried. Not quietly, or  ladylike, mind you, but full out whimpering sobs, complete with gushing tears and dripping snot. (Yes, I’m quite the supermodel when I cry!) I let go, and just let myself cry.

Wouldn’t you know, that was the best thing I’ve done all week.

After about 5 minutes of blubbering like a toddler who doesn’t get dessert, I stood up, brushed myself off, closed the hood and went inside. Nothing had been resolved, but I sure felt like a million dollars.

Today, I got a mechanic friend to take a look. He had to get his tools out to get the cap off, and then almost broke it in the process. It wasn’t just me being weak. I filled the oil up, and carried on.

 

The problem of low oil wasn’t solved right away, but the Universe gave me a beautiful gift in that moment of frustration. I got a chance to let go, to release, and to heal. Sometimes you just need to cry, baby.

 

So you can put your head on my shoulder, babe,
‘Cause I know you got some more tears to share,
Come on, let it go,
So come on, come on, come on, come on, come on,
Honey, cry, cry baby, cry baby, cry…

-Janis Joplin