18 November 2021
today, until like march or maybe even may, depending upon the type of winter we wind up with.
and so i popped bingley in his spacebag and marched him over to the vet to get a tutorial on how to do his nails. then i called up the egyptian and we went for a walk.
the banana trees are gone indoors, because winter is coming.
the christmas ornaments are out at miss pixie's. when we entered the store, i went straight to a pale blue-green pink and silver striped one.
apparently, i said this one's pretty, because after circling the whole store and winding back up at the beginning, i went to that same box i'd completely forgotten about, picked up the same ornament and said this one's pretty yet again. to which the egyptian, watching me do this a second time, said, i think that's the one that's yours.
time is so strange. as is communication. as is memory. as is life.
on wednesday (WHICH WAS YESTERDAY??!!), i had the longest therapy session of my life.
texting N, saying i'm assuming we're having our traditional chat on thanksgiving, i realized it's not yet been a week since our last chat.
when i teach all the classes, by noon, it seems entirely inconceivable that i taught NYU earlier that same day.
i have one week of HU teaching left. a few more weeks of NYU after that, but it's ending. winter is coming and we're putting fall 2021 to bed.
good riddance, i say, whilst also quaking a bit over what fresh hell may await us for spring.
we never know what we're going to get, and last spring was so unrelentingly awful.
but i am breaking patterns. i'm engaged in a seemingly unending game of trauma wack-a-mole, but i am breaking patterns.
time's passage is boggling, but maybe also a gift, in that, if today really is thursday and wednesday was only 24 hours ago, it somehow feels like i'm managing to cram nine years of living into each day at present.
not writing, mind you, but living. living beyond surviving, which is progress.
bingley got his nails did. when they clipped them, little tufts of the surrounding hair puffed off with each slice of the scissors.
he was a good sport.
when we returned, claude was in exactly the same place as when we'd left. clearly we'd not been missed whilst out on our adventure. claude staring us down from the sofa, it was like we'd only been gone a moment, nothing moved.
11 November 2021
i need to be writing things that will be published and, yo, i got nothing.
today, i randomly ran into the romanian on the street, and i gestured towards the horizon and said, well, as you know, howard is on fire.....
it is hard to communicate the extent of the disaster, whilst also feeling like there is no disaster? they keep saying there isn't! they keep saying everything is fine! and i'm like, is it though? IS IT THOUGH?
i cannot believe how much has happened since last friday, a colleague texts me, and i ignore the text, because i actually haven't the emotional bandwidth to even entertain the reality of how much has happened since last friday.
i went on some dates and went to a movie. but i know that's not what she means.
my to do list is as long as a CVS receipt.
learning is happening, teaching is occurring (kinda), grading isn't even sort of.
today, i went to eliza's and we pretended we were in paris and ate all of the breads on offer. and i feel like there are more days like this in my future, and debo and garebear are coming to town next month, and the cats pile into bed with me every night, and things are mostly ok, which is a big, albeit subtle, upgrade from "pretty ok," but also howard is on fire and i can do nothing about it and i cannot protect my kids and, though it's like an electrical fence over which my brain occasionally glances, materially, i can do nothing about it beyond showing up and listening and reading and giving them the space to take care of themselves.
it is not enough.
but claude slaps bingley way less, so progress is possible. we are moving forward. this horrific, impossible semester is crawling towards its inevitable end.
and i'm sad i've not seen their face. i'm sad i do not really know who they are. i feel i'm failing because i'm struggling so much. but still they seem to be getting something. still, they tell me, they're feeling their writing is improving. still, they are taking something away from our time together.
i've been thinking for years about lost time.
i've been thinking, especially since january, since first encountering this sign:
05 November 2021
our students have been protesting for 24 days. today, we faculty go and stand with them.
the semester has been chaos. in ways that are often super wonky but also, because WE ARE STILL IN IT, hard to put words to. because it feels like the whole thing will collapse if words are put to it, and we've still three weeks left.
three classes left. because there's a holiday, an asychronous day, and then the last week is only one day.
which doesn't feel like enough and feels like entirely too much.
then we have three weeks to scramble and three weeks to decompress and we're right back into it.
there is never enough time while also being too much.
learning is happening.
teaching is happening.
writing is happening.
i second-guess everything i do, but the rants are suggesting i've done the right thing. the rants tell me they are discovering things about themselves as writers, that they are getting things from the texts, that the theme is helping them. the rants suggest that we were not wasting our time here.
and i do not feel that we have, but i also just cannot even begin to understand what has happened to us this semester. the levels of abuse that have occurred around us.
i thought the spring 2021 semester would be the worst of my life. and, personally and psychologically, i think that's probably still the case.
but this semester has been something else. crushing in way that the others during the pandemic weren't.
this semester, everything has been impossible. and i feel i've done ok in finding things that are possible within that and we've somehow, miraculously, done all of the work i'd set out for us to do in the beginning in a manner that has been minimally harmful to us all.
but whew lord. let's not do this again.
14 October 2021
i'm sure this does something to a person, but i don't know what.
today, i cancelled class, because it's midterms and there's a pandemic and the students are protesting and we already had a "recovery week" scheduled anyway so i didn't feel so deeply that they would feel they were throwing their money to the wind.
i went to the portrait gallery.
because i love portraiture but, more precisely, because i wanted to see faces. i wanted to be surrounded by faces.
already, in my home, i am surrounded by faces, but i needed new faces, to make up for the deprivation of faces i've been enduring.
it's been cloudy and gray all week. today was blue and beautiful and borderline summerish.
burvil is in the hospital.
she went in yesterday.
a single sentence that tells you nothing of how she sat alone from 10 am to 7 pm in the hallway of the ER waiting to be admitted.
we're all laughing and lighthearted and cracking jokes about how she's going to outlive us all (something that, truly, does not seem unlikely at this point).
debo told me some weeks ago, when we were having a more serious conversation about this, that she believes burvil stayed on the farm in order to die.
burvil thought god would have mercy and take her there.
well, mercy was not had.
maybe that's why she was so angry for those two weeks she spent with us. maybe that's why she screamed at us that she just wanted to die.
i continue to fight to reconcile the pieces. the woman who yelled at us, who held a house of three other adults captive for two weeks, held us in some sort of psychological vice so that we stopped breathing at the sound of her walker on the wood floor.
the woman who yelled at me, in my grandfather's van, in that awful november 2017. the woman who made me cry and did not care and demanded i back a vehicle out of the garage.
there was maybe always a streak of anger? it maybe always frightened me? the way she'd grip my wrist instead of hold my hand. it was, she said, because i'd wriggle out and get away. it was out of loved.
she loved me deeply. that i believe and know.
what i cannot reconcile is the fact that, though she loved me deeply, she hurt me deeply too.
there was this summer, right after i just started menstruating. i was so embarrassed. i didn't know how to pack or plan. i didn't have anything i needed.
my period showed up when i was staying with her and joe for a few weeks that summer. ashamed, i improvised makeshift pads out of toilet paper and masking tape. because i didn't not feel i could ask her for help. maybe? or because i did not want her to know i was growing up?
we were already lying about santa claus because, after sarah odom relieved me of my illusions, my mother assured me that we needed to continue to pretend because "burvil and joe still believe."
i was, during this time, profoundly uncomfortable in my body. i stopped hugging my family because i did not want to be made aware of my own breasts.
(a period of time that surfaces in the acknowledgement out loud, whenever friends and i hug full on, that we were "breast-to-breast.")
i've so many sensory memories of my grandmother.
she's not dead yet. i'm not meaning to write like she is.
but she's also not here with us in the way she once was.
i think she knew who i was when i last saw her. at the very least, she knew i mattered. it took a few minutes, but eventually she did smile.
when i would stay with her and joe in the house on inverness, she'd come lie in the bed next to me while i fell asleep. not touching. but in the bed on the other side. and the lamp on that side would be on and she'd lay there reading a book until i'd fall asleep.
and sometimes i'd close my eyes and jolt back awake, afraid she'd left me, and i'd turn to look, but the light was still on and she was still there next to me, reading.
i've had these nights where i have dreams and i wake up convinced she is gone.
and, still, she's here.
and it feels like she is, in fact, going, albeit slowly. like she's already half slipped away, as she used to do in the night, so i'd wake up in the sunshine and roll over expecting to find her, only to find that after however long, she'd left me to sleep.
08 October 2021
where i go back and reconstruct the timeline.
i've such a vivid memory of blowing J and A's minds in a bar in chicago on division in 2011, when i knew the PRECISE date of every time we'd met in the preceding eight months.
my therapist knows this about me.
in our session the other day, i gestured towards it and said something like "you know i love a solid timeline."
i've always assumed this is because i'm a biographer. maybe it's just because i'm me. maybe i've always loved a solid timeline?
on wednesday, we held an event at howard that has been sitting in my head since february 26, 2021.
i went back.
i searched my gmail.
i know february 26th was when i emailed a man i work with about it. so it had been in my head before that.
i feel like this is maybe why i like yoga. the precision. knee over the ankle. hand in line with the foot. left foot at a 45 degree angle towards the left edge of the mat.
thursday afternoon was the first time i fully flummoxed my therapist. multiple times, she said "i think i'm just a little confused."
i rather more prefer it when she says, "that seems........... healthy?"
it's just so helpful to have the timeline.
with the memories, it's like an... i do not have the word but they are such a tangled knot that when we talk about what is triggering we wind up talking about at least three to five different men in order to excavate one moment.
clusterfuck. that is probably the word, but i'm unwilling to fully commit to it today.
the dates, finding the specific dates, feels like i'm stapling the story down. like, physically, there is a feeling of the staple puncturing the paper and going into the cork.
the specific dates are a restoration of some control.
but, really, do i have any control here? do we ever? this is also maybe a reason for believing in god, but i struggle with that too, excepting for the moments when i walk over the ledge into writing something i do not yet know.
AM I EVEN HERE?! i wonder that often, i'll be honest. whilst also feeling somewhat grounded by all of the time spent on zoom and all of the friendships and the haze of care that surrounds me and the words on the page and the concrete detail of all of the dates in my brain.
things have happened. knowing precisely when helps. for whatever reason.
and maybe the reason doesn't matter.
maybe it makes me feel realer?
ya'll know by now i do not do endings. because we're never really done here, right? this mess is ongoing.
i write about kim kardashian, trauma, time, and uncertainty. the dates of everything we ever did are seared upon my brain for whatever stupid reason.
i assume there is a reason. i assume there is a point to all of this. most days. as i wait for the words to come.
16 September 2021
i did not leave my home even once, but it felt significant.
not my not leaving my home, but the day, more generally. in that way that teaching on zoom feels significant but you also never really can be confident that you've had a real interaction. you've given a performance, yes, but you never quite really feel seen.
so much drama happens at home now.
my interior life has always been exceptionally rich, but now my public life occurs within my own interiors and it feels a bit ridiculous.
the proposal is finalized. the agent is submitting it.
i keep sending him nudges because all of my prior agents have ghosted me. and i appreciate that he has never shamed me for nudging him while also being annoyed at myself for feeling grateful.
"i don't want to sound ungrateful." that was the talk i delivered on kim kardashian this morning. a talk during which i disclosed that i was in an abusive relationship in college. something i know i would not be capable of doing in from of a room full of strangers in real life, but there are things that are possible on zoom that wouldn't otherwise be. and i am grateful. truly.
my essay grading scheme rewards risks, even if they aren't entirely successful. on zoom, i am able to take those risks myself, in my scholarship. and i am grateful for that. i fear it will soon go away. though i hope not.
today, tonight really, it will have been eight months since the date rape. i texted him early this morning, because i was awake and thinking about it and i needed to remind him. because i assume he has the luxury to forget.
screech is dead. do you ever think about that? screech died.
lindear found out the husband of the sister of someone we went to high school with died of covid a few weeks ago.
donovan died nine years ago of i don't even quite remember what.
all these men, all these boys of all our youths.
i think turning 40 threw me, maybe not just because it feels very grown up, but because it hit me that a full 20 years of my life, fully half of my life, has been spent dealing with the repercussions of abuse.
and here's to the next 20 years, should i be so lucky as to have them, being better because i'm doing the work now. but fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
i vacillate between anger and sadness and often conflate them.
06 September 2021
in all of the available venues. on the professional blog. in a draft of a talk i'm giving in two weeks. in the powerpoint for that talk. in a draft of a journal article i think i'm going to submit at the end of the month. in the dumpster fire word doc where i've been dumping for the last five years, working over all of the pieces that are spilling out everywhere else now.
and yet it still isn't enough.
i know i need to be writing about victim blaming.
writing about how what it is that i am actually talking about at this point isn't just how kardashian grabbed the narratives available to her after the assault in paris in october 2016. but how those narratives blamed her and how her recounting of her own experience was shaped by that blame.
to the extent that, in april 2017, she told ellen degeneres she was grateful for the experience.
talking to debo earlier today, i complained that there were no documentaries or books on the william kennedy smith rape trial.
maybe that's my next book, i said and even as the words came out of my mouth i felt that sensation settling in my guts. the sensation of having just had an idea from which it will not be easy to escape.
the sensation of the story sinking its teeth into your brain matter.
even over the phone, debo's horror was palpable.
earlier today, canvasing the internet for photos to use for my kardashian powerpoint, i found an image of a halloween costume from october 2016. it was eventually pulled from the market so maybe there's hope for humanity. but while it lasted, for $69, you could get a costume that would enable you to pay homage to the violence kim kardashian experienced in paris on 3 october 2016.
i cannot stop thinking about the nastiness of this, the cruelty.
i do not have the words for what i need to say.
02 September 2021
the egyptian and i have broken up two times in the last two weeks. which seems like rather a bit too much.
he knows he is not ready for a relationship. i do not even know where i am. am i here? i am definitely not there.
shane russell has died.
if you were a girl at my high school, that means something to you.
i cannot remember if he went to our middle school. i think he did but i don't want to commit to something inaccurate.
what i remember was that he was one of like five cute guys in whatever school we were in. and then, while i went on a journey towards trying to be chic (by which i basically just mean wearing bootcut jeans), he went country.
this is a typical trajectory for boys in tennessee. but it mean i no longer found him attractive, post-wranglers.
lindear had a crush on him too. we open the text conversation about how shane is in the hospital with covid by acknowledging we both had till-then-secret crushes on him in the mid-90s.
i'm realizing i've been in the middle of something of a light depression, ever since the charles j. shields stuff came boiling back maybe but more so with the changing of the seasons.
i'm pretty sure i shouldn't be crying in between classes.
i want to say something really profound but, really, i have nothing.
there are these banana trees, on the corner of corcoran and 15th.
i walked over to see them the other day. a day or so later, when the egyptian and i reconvened to discuss whether or not we had made a mistake, i took him to see them.
standing under them, he wanted to kiss me but didn't. i wanted him to but i looked away.
this is special, right? he asks me, as we break up for the second time in two weeks and i nod, swiping my pointer fingers grandly beneath my eyelids to collect the tears falling from my green eyes, like our queen celine dion.
the thing about the banana tress in america is that they cannot handle the winter. they have to be unplanted and packed away for the cold months. burvil used to put hers in the attic.
in order to live, they must be uprooted and packed away. but then the spring comes again and then the summer, and they stretch themselves, grandly lifting their green selves up towards the sun.
that's it. that's the ending. the banana trees will be back. let me just put my little faith in that.
20 August 2021
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
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
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.
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
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.
17 July 2021
i got this emotions wheel magnet, to help me better pause and take stock. i found helpful for, like, A MINUTE, but now i keep finding myself wandering off wheel.
it has so many words but, so often, i find they are inadequate.
thursday's therapy session legit looked like this:
for two weeks now, when i lie down in bed to go to sleep, it is as though i have run a marathon.
for three out of the last four days, my head has hurt.
my shoulders are riding up by my ears again.
i think we were about an hour into therapy when i said, i just feel responsible for so many people right now.
on june 29th, the president of that biographers organization i used to be a part of sent me a message on facebook asking if i'd like to talk about what happened, why i left.
no, no, i wouldn't. the 6th was coming around which meant the 16th was coming around which meant the fortnight every month when i go into survival mode was already back on the horizon. no. i didn't want to revisit a whole other trauma.
i wrote her back that i would be willing to speak to her that afternoon.
i cannot overstate how unexpected this was.
i cannot overstate how odd it is to be bracing for all these other things and then suddenly to be whacked over the head with this other.
i thought i was doing really well. i thought i was unaffected. it wasn't until i relayed this to k during our sunday walk last weekend and found myself entirely winded that i was like oh, we might have a problem.
miscalibrated is the word for how i feel this week.
i don't know that it's even a word. maybe wonky would be better. but there was a technical, engineeringy element to the sensation as well that miscalibrated seems to better capture.
like when you pull the compass out and it throws itself all over the place trying to get its bearings.
no, no, i don't want to talk about this but i will. not because i want to but because i'm so very grateful to have your attention, to have your concern, thank you for this brief validating moment. starving for crumbs, i'll take it!
i hate this place.
i took her call.
i told her what had happened.
every time i tried to minimize it, downgrading it in some imaginary hierarchy of sexual violence, the president of this organization wouldn't let me. she'd say, no, it's a big deal. it's big.
and i'd say oh, yeah, i guess it is. thank you for saying so.
i hate how much i've thanked her in the last few weeks. i hate how grateful i feel that anyone cares.
a few days later, cosby was released, and phylicia rashad-- who is in a position of power at the institution where i work-- released her tweet of support.
i cannot overstate how shitty that felt. i cannot overstate how deeply worried i have already been that we have two classes of students-- approximately 5,500 18 and 19-year-olds-- about to hit our college campus for the first time. a college campus that, prior to this, already had a violent history of failing to protect students who have experienced sexual assault.
i cannot overstate how unprotected for myself and for my students i felt reading that tweet and, subsequently, hearing my own colleagues brainstorming ways to engage rashad in our union fight.
i'm not being eloquent here. just stating facts and feelings.
i'm writing because my head hurts and i'm trying to get it to stop.
no wonder you're feeling out of alignment, my therapist said. you had about nine triggers this week alone.
i tried to clear the decks and take care of myself on the 16th, the 6 month mark of the recent date rape. instead, i popped out of bed with words at the ready, and spent 4 hours producing some of the best writing i've produced in months.
i resent that my best writing now is being put towards private memos.
i resent that some of the best writing i have done in all of my career is about horrible, awful men.
when i posted "men have raped me," i told debo that rape wasn't going to become my brand.
that's sounds awful and also glib and also i meant it. this is not what i do.
but it maybe actually is and has been for awhile?
writing is hard now because it isn't a release. it's my craft and my profession and a practice that is critical to my mental health.
but also, even in my academic stuff, i write about horrible, awful things.
there is nowhere to go, it seems, nowhere to get away to.
i talked to KBG this morning and she told me of her recent stay at the beach, and i was struck with so much envy. I NEED A BEACH!!!
my therapist had me do some guided visualization. she asked me to think of myself in a safe place, which it was pretty clear, from the guidance, she assumed was tropical.
hand on heart, i visualized myself as claude asleep in a sunbeam.
the safest place i can envision right now is being my own cat, in my own home, in my own care.
that is where we are.
i quote that a lot, because when i first read it, it encapsulated much of what i felt as an immigrant. the precarity. the complete collapse of any sense of stability and the lingering effects of that.