20 August 2021

0 the saturday before the start of the semester is tomorrow

and it's not the 16th, so it's not the actual thing. 

but it's another part of the thing. a part i've not had to do before. 

that man who works at the library of congress raped me on a third date. 

it was january 16th. 

it was a saturday.

it was the saturday before the start of the spring semester. 

i went on a second date with an egyptian on wednesday. i told him about the rape. 

i went on a third date with him yesterday. i told him the first week of the semester would be manic and i'd not have the bandwidth to hang out again until after teaching on thursday. that is what i told him. that is all i told him. 

i didn't tell him that it was our third date. that we had survived the third date without him raping me. 

i didn't tell him that i didn't want to see him over the weekend because the weekend before the semester starts isn't just the weekend before the semester starts but also the weekend during which, before the last semester, a man raped me. 

i've been thinking on thursday i may invite him over. because thursday isn't a saturday. it would likely still be an evening but it wouldn't be a saturday.

i've been thinking the ideal would be, like, 2 pm on a wednesday afternoon. you can't get further from the feeling of a saturday night than 2 pm on a wednesday afternoon. 

this is only the second person i've told in person. 

when i told the first person, we were in the same park but gazing into the distance. 

when i told the egyptian, i looked him in the eye. 

i don't know why that matters. 

i don't know why any of this matters. 

because, intellectually, i know a wednesday afternoon carries just as much risk as a saturday night. 

the wounds i inflicted on my own hand are healing. itchy, but healing. 

the new cat has worms. because he wouldn't take the powder, once a day for the last five days, i've had to burrito him in a towel and inject liquid meds into his mouth. this has reenforced the hilarity of my having ever wanted to be a vet. 

i'm aware that when his claws tear my skin, i do not mind. 

i'm aware this is not healthy. 

but we are all doing what we have got to do. 

KBG and i zoomed today, for the first time ever. and seeing her face in the sunshine did my heart good. 

that is it. that is the end of this post. 

13 August 2021

0 i'm doing this thing now

where i message men i have dated and ask them whether they ever noticed that i may have been in an abusive relationship in college. 

the philosopher had NO IDEA. lol. are any of us surprised?! 

i am doing this because it is legit helpful but an unexpected bonus is that it reenforces one's understanding of these people's awareness of one's self. 

like, hearing that, i was like, oh yeah, he wouldn't have been paying that close attention to me so of course, yeah, no, he would have had no idea. 

which isn't to say that there were not hints. 

pointing at the scratches on my knee, he asked if i was self-harming. i lied. i said no. 

aware that i had lost weight, in a conversation about a friend of his girlfriend's struggling with eating disorders, he asked if i'd ever had one. i lied. i said no. 

the thing is i don't think these were particularly believable lies. 

i'm a good actress but i don't think i'm actually that convincing. 

prof j (formerly eF) and i had an email conversation late last year. his response to this question of whether he had any idea i was in an abusive relationship was: 

The simple answer is no. [...] The more complicated answer is…I always suspected there was something.  

eliza came over in june and we had this lovely time together in my apartment as the sun set and it almost felt like real life and she said this thing about how one time she was having sex with someone and he stopped it and asked where did you go? 

and we marveled that any man would pay that much attention to a woman. 

this was a one time thing, not a relationship, a distinction i make not to make any point about one-night stands but, rather, to point to the exceptionalism of someone actually paying attention. 

it was entirely in character for the philosopher not to have been aware. 

i appreciate prof j's emotional intelligence. he wasn't perfect. in our relationship, i often felt very small. in our phone call this past february, i asked him to remain silent and just listen to me because of that. 

from very dear man friends, i have not received such generosity. so i recognize it for the gift it is. 

i also recognize THIS IS MERELY CRUMBS. 

we deserve so much more. this is fucking bullshit. 

a stranger asked her where she went. men i've been in whole relationships with, men i have known for years have never cared so much. 

12 August 2021

0 last nite

i walked into a lightening storm to have an all-expenses paid italian meal with J & L, of the apartment on connecticut ave. with omar the screaming siamese. 

when last i saw them, we all gathered at a french restaurant after i took my visiting mother and her friend to service at the national cathedral. 

it was a sunday. in early march 2020. 

my mother's friend demurred from shaking L's hand because of this new corona virus and then we all sat down, the five us crammed together at a table for four, jammed into the back corner of the restaurant, right by the bathroom. 

little did we know, ya'll. little did we know. 

it is like it is all new again, J says. the things we used to know how to do, they feel kind of weird now and we have to learn how to do them again

i have just informed her that the mains are on the back of the drinks menu. the skill we have forgotten, it seems, is how to read. 

so much about this evening feel so familiar. the masses of food, the cocktails and wine, the smiles, the laughter, the discovery that we've been watching the same things, reading the same things, or, at the very least, adjacent things. 

i'm struck by how easily the conversation flows, how drunk J gets off a cocktail and a half, the ease with which we reference bad decisions made about bad men in our pasts. 

L's mask slides below his nose every time he speaks. 

we're eating indoors because the patio is closed because the rain falls in torrents. we're eating indoors because i arrived 15 minutes early and assessed that i would feel comfortable eating at the only table in the front room, the table in the window, invitingly alone. i could sit in the corner with my back to the window, face out, and i could feel comfortable. before they have even arrived, i have taken score in my head. 

J and L will never know i've assessed this, but i have. this is what i do now. this is all of the work that goes into my daily living to which others are not privy. and that's ok. they don't need to be. and the work has value. it keeps me alive. it keeps me writing. it helps me feel safe. 

i've left that cats alone. when i return, it's clear they've either had a party or a war, unclear which. 

a chair is turned on its side. 

tufts of hair await me at the door. 

they are both alive and seem not unhappy, so who knows. 

i lived in these people's home for a month, J and L's. watered their ferns and orchids and fed their fish. held omar in my lap, stomach turned towards the sun, and clipped his nails. 

such an odd thing, to know people's interiors better than you know them. 

such an odd thing, to see them now after having had the door shut so abruptly upon our plans the spring before last.

i wore a sequin top just in case. in case we would, again, be confined to our homes for another year yet. in my honor, J wore a skirt with sequins scattered across the fabric. i am glad to see that i am enough established as a sparkly personality that sequins are recognized as my just due. 

refreshing is how i would describe it. but also, like pulling out the accordion, so that it was at once that first week of march 2020, that first month of fall 2019, that first week of august 2019 when i first met them. 

moment upon moment upon moment, flickering by as i walked back down connecticut, after the storm's passage, past buildings i now recognize from condos listed last winter. 

bingley is young and spritely. claude looks at him like (1) WHO EVEN ARE YOU?! and (2) YOUNG MAN, CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

ah, youth. 

i'm recording videos for N's kid. silly videos of the cats living cat-life. the other day, i did a naptime movie (if a movie can be one minute) showing win all the sleepy kitties. 

claude slept through it all. 

bingley awoke on cue and stretched out his full length, hamming it up. 

are you a children's presenter? N texted back. winnie is super into whispering right now, she wrote. how did you know? 

obviously, i didn't. i was simply, intuitively speaking in the tones of naptime. 

but then, right now, don't we all need that? isn't that where we all just about are? hungering for a gentleness, a relaxation, a letting go that never quite comes, but which, somehow, whispering speaks to. 

whispering as care. whispering implies intimacy too, and physical closeness, yes, but also care. 

i got to the restaurant early as a form of care, i realize. to suss out the situation for myself but also for them so i could clearly communicate our move from outside to inside and ensure their comfort as well as mine. 

when my therapist told me to imagine myself in a safe situation, i imagined myself as claude, in my own home, cared for by me. 

at the time, this struck me as equal parts beautiful and sad. he is, to be sure, majorly beloved. but i wish i could envision something beyond caring for myself.

winnie is super into whispering right now. i read this as a love of secrets, maybe, but also as a love of closeness, of being snuggled into, of being confided in. 

as a child, i loathed whispering. because whispering made evident the fact that i could not hear like other people. 

i remember so many games of telephone at camp where i had to either fake hear the thing whispered in my bad ear (thus, instantly ruining the game, which 9 times out of 10 earned a lecture from the camp leader to "whoever DELIBERATELY spoiled the game for the rest of us") or turn my head to my other ear, so i could better hear what was said whilst also risking an accidental kiss and betraying the fact that something was wrong with me. i was not like everyone else. 

i was six or seven, watching mister rogers' neighborhood when i asked my grandfather to speak louder on the phone and he told me to switch the phone to my other ear and it came as a revelation that i could hear over there. the whole rest of my life, so much energy has been organizing events such that they are always occurring over there. 

so i have maybe always been assessing, always on guard, ever since that moment when joe told me to reposition the phone. there have always been secrets and there have always been situations in need of assessment. 

always, i have been a hard worker. i go above and beyond. she's so very adaptable, young people are so adaptable, the ENTs used to tell my mother whenever she asked whether i needed a hearing aid. 

i would immediately recommend you get a hearing aid, the audiologist told me a few weeks ago, because i'd failed to tell her i already had one. 

sitting in a booth that felt like a 1989 time capsule, i drew deep breaths. i focused deeply. i concentrated really hard. i am 40 and i felt 9. i felt a failure. i focused all of my senses and squinted my eyes to better hear the words she asked me to repeat. 

it wasn't until she told me "well, you're going to know your communication needs better than anyone else" that i actually breathed. and relaxed. 

i was only a kid. i didn't have a say. my parents trusted the doctors. we none of us really knew what was going on, what was done to me. still don't. 

i was 39 when i came to understand that the extraordinary pain i experienced after a surgery when i was 20, pain unlike any i'd previously experienced, was because they took a piece of bone from my jaw. i had surgeries so often. i'd known different things were happening. i'd not known they would hurt differently. 

already, i was accustomed to being hurt without my permission. always, i was treated as a child. and however much we love children, so often we do not respect them. 

the conversation starts with a discussion of what happened when i had my tonsils out when i was three. 

they took you away before we were ready, debo had told me earlier in the week. and, hearing her say this, what i felt was that i might throw up. we didn't realize they were going to take you away yet, we thought we would get to go with you. we all cried, because they just took you away from us, and it was just an orderly so maybe we could have stopped it but we didn't know. you were just gone, debo told me. paw-paw and gran and me, we were all crying and they just took you away from us. 

hearing her say this what i heard was the screams of my younger self. what i felt in my guts was those screams escaping my body. 

there was a moment when i was in memphis, a few days later. during a family walk, i'd already told her: i think we need to circle back to that time i had my tonsils out. this was a few days after that. when debo and i poured out our hearts in the early morning on the sunporch. melted is the word i would use. we melted into one another. our bodies melted into each other. 

it was already over 80 degrees out. 

our tears and sweat mingled as we hugged. 

when we pulled apart, our bodies smacked like suction cups as they came undone. 

in the months since, i've carried that sound with me. the physical, visceral, grossness of it-- so much of what we've been deprived of during the pandemic is physical and visceral and gross-- but also the care given in that moment. 

as i write this, bingley rubs the side of his lips along the outside edge of my big toe. 

care looks all kind of different ways. 

coping looks so different. 

i am trying to better distinguish between the two. 

on the way home from that dinner last night, i ran my left hand along the first five concrete pylons on the william howard taft bridge, as i've done twice previously. as i did last july 31, on the afternoon of the day i interviewed for the job i got later that night at howard. and once while staying at J & L's, so that i started teaching that august 2019 with what looked like a pair of gunshot wounds on my knuckles. 

this is coping. with what, i'm not entirely certain. 

i recognize it's suboptimal. i recognize i should be ashamed. i refuse. 

i think we just might be entering a season of refusal. a period of care and refusal. 

for refusal, like whispering, can be a means of care. 

because july was anything but relaxing and we're gearing up to go into another academic year of god knows what, i took this week off. by which i mostly mean i just refused to attend any meetings. and i wrote. and i petted cats and breathed deeply. 

there was a moment last night at dinner when L said something about a bad year at school and i asked them what their worst years were. L's was 7th grade, J's was 3rd, mine was 5th. J and i both said, as our reasoning for the worstness, that those were the years where we had no friends. 

this question arose out of a conversation about how, when i was house-sitting for them, walking back to their apartment from target, i walked behind a man who was holding aloft the best pizza i've ever smelled in my life. and i thought maybe it came from this restaurant. which is why i was pretty sure i'd been to this restaurant before on a date with the romanian (who i maybe never wrote about here??!), that last weekend in august 2019, the last night i spent at their home, in search of that pizza. 

but this italian restaurant doesn't serve pizza. 

you can't always get what you want. 

this is a post going nowhere and with no ending. those are my forte these days. but we're going somewhere, yeah? right? right.

03 August 2021

0 here is what happened

they got in touch with me. the organization. 

in therapy, i am like a scavenger. i go back and reread emails and take notes and i do my research and i come blazing into a session like "and then on june 29th, X, and then on July 1, Y." 

because i want it to make sense. i want it to be real. i want it to be grounded in THIS HAPPENED, and so this is why i feel Z. 

they got in touch with me. because they wanted to hear more. 

i'm saying they. it was a she. 

she got in touch with me to hear more. because she'd heard things and they all knew something had happened and, more recently, she'd heard i was involved, and she wanted to hear my side of the story. 

i am becoming so, so cynical. 

i hate that i am becoming so, so cynical, while also believing with all of my heart that she got in touch with me to hear my side of the story so she could feel better about herself. 

so she could say they did the right thing.

ladies and gents, hold on to your hats: they did not do the right thing. 

do not get in touch with someone whom your organization has harmed and then ask them what they want you to do to make it better. just fyi. little tip from me to you. 

they got in touch with me and they asked me to help them to be better. and, you guys, I WAS GAME. because i want us to be better. this is something about which i care. this is something around which i have built my whole life. 

out of nowhere, she messaged me. 

because powering through discomfort is my forte (we are working on this in therapy, i assure you), i responded LET US SPEAK ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW. 

and i told her my story and we hung up and i went about my life. 

except i didn't. 

a few days later, a dean at the place where i work tweeted her support of bill cosby. 

a few days after that, a colleague at the place where i work went rogue and published a critique of our workplace, which went quasi-viral. 

when i was in therapy after donovan's death and joe's death and martha's death, i reached a point where i described myself as feeling as though invisible pieces of myself had been set on fire. 

this was not that. 

what i remember is that i would lie down to go to sleep and be out of breath. like when i waited tables at applebee's and would lie down at night and feel i was still walking with a sense of urgency. except this was a sensation in my chest and throat and heart rather than in my legs. 

i was teaching at the time and i felt numb mostly. my coping mechanisms suck. i got drunk one night and had to teach hungover. something i've never before had to do. 

she'd emailed me and i'd not responded.  

the day after i taught hungover, she emailed me again. to follow up. she had more information. 

except she really didn't. she just confirmed what i already knew to be true. and she engaged me in an hour-long conversation of how i could benefit them by producing a #metoo panel for the upcoming conference and potentially starting a consciousness raising group and probably writing an article to be published in their membership magazine. 

she told me i could file a compliant. she spoke of the benefits of institutional knowledge. i could file a complaint and he would never have to know. 

i could file a complaint and i would be protected. i would have control. 

i left the conversation feeling i had control. 

i had an emergency therapy session. not for this but because the six month mark of the date rape was approaching and i wanted to be ready. 

i knew it would be hard. i had known, had felt it in my bones since the 6th and all the "six months since the insurrection" coverage, that it was going to be hard. 

on the day that marked six months since that man raped me on a third date last january, i bolted out of bed and spent four hours writing a complaint. 

i said what i wanted to say in the only way i could say it. 

i submitted it. 

the following day, aware of my need of a timeline, i emailed and asked them for a response by a given date. she said we needed to speak. 

i would need to edit the complaint, she said. it needed to be more factual, less about the harm that had resulted. 

he would need to be shown it, she said. because i had used the word "formal." 

there was a new editor for the membership magazine, she said. she could not promise he would honor the prior editor's promise of an article. 

what did i want them to do? 

what did i want them to do? 

what did i want them to do? 

what did i want them to do? 

what did i want them to do? 

what did i want them to do? 

what could they possibly do? 

she was so very, very sorry. what could they do? 

i think the better question is what would they do? the answer being pretty much jackshit. 

i had another emergency therapy session. 

"resentful" is the word i keep bringing to therapy. and i don't think it's just a cover for "anger." 

it is resentment. it sits like a lacquer on the experiences described, scumming over the unfairness. 

i resent that they contacted me. that they came out of nowhere and asked after my trauma in order to feel better about themselves. 

i resent that they fail to see a better world. that they are content with having filed a complaint against a doctor who did something awful to them. that they are content with that being the limit of what they can do. 

i do not want to complain. i want to rewrite the world. 

i resent that they evoked their awareness of my current circumstances, their awareness of my blog post about past rape and abuse. 

i resent that i know that our society will use rape and abuse as a means to discredit people. 

i resent that this woman mentioned her awareness of someone (people, even!) having raped me and that it made me immediately aware that this is the way it will go, this is what will happen whenever i raise a ruckus, i will be the girl who got herself raped. 

i resent that writing all of this makes me feel like a bitch. 

i resent that, in trying to make my point that two emails derailed my life and career in this manner, i wound up feeling like a fucking bomb. 

this is small, small beans, and still it is this awful, still it is this destructive, still it is this deconstructive to one's self. and still we do nothing. 

i resent that.

i resent that i felt i had to withdraw the complaint. because these fucking people could not be trusted with it.

i resent these people with power. 

i refuse contentment.

i refuse the notion of redemption. 

this bullshit is not redeemable. 

this system is not redeemable. 

i want to burn the fucking thing down.  

because we none of us should be writing about women's lives if we cannot take care of women. it we are content with the status quo. if we think what was good enough for us should be enough for the women who come after. 

that is not progress. that is bullshit. 

we only get the one life, and i refuse to use mine for that.

let's start here