10 June 2021

0 I HAVE SEEN BURVIL

briefly, but she seems to have had an idea of who i was. if not entirely, at the least, she knew she liked me. 

her bed was full of crumbs. i was wearing shorts. they stuck to my knees. 

when we left, it was like i'd kneeled on the uncleaned floor of a bakery. 

an hour later, the crumb prints were still indentions in my skin. 

we thought we woke her up-- debo and i-- because it took her a few minutes of blinking at us, like someone moving into sudden light. but then, after the manic display of good humor and chatter (a mode i only ever put into effect in assisted living facilities), she flashed me a conspiratorial look such that i could internally sigh: YES. i am in. 

burvil is ok. burvil is looked after and cared for. burvil is safe. 

but god, ya'll, is it ever sad that we are sometimes blessed with lives longer than our minds or bodies can bear.



04 June 2021

0 where to begin

i think straight men have forgotten how to ask questions. this is my conclusion from the dating apps. 

i no longer fear sounding shrill. what i fear is sounding bitter. 

zana (the massage therapist) said i should try hinge. that was my homework. so i did it. like that was going to have some effect on the pain in my arm. but the straight men, they do not ask questions. they have forgotten how to have a conversation. or maybe they never knew. 

it's bizarre, being erased in your own conversation. 

i refuse. i am not here for that. 

i have something to say here but i don't know what it is. 

keep writing, i tell my students. fill up all the space. even when you don't know where you're going, keep writing. 

i want them to feel comfortable with their words. 

i am writing again. 

i count it as a victory that i have been writing through the last few months. i am attaching words to where i am, which seems crucial given the necessity of words by which to locate one's self. 

i do not want to write about the rapes. 

i do not want to be someone who only writes about rapes. 

i don't have therapy this week. 

every time i take a week off, i wind up in some state of crisis and i have to call her. 

nina. her name is nina. my therapist is nina. 

the massage therapist is zana. 

my rapist was nate. so i can't swipe right on any of them. or the clarks. 

he wrote me around my birthday in 2019. clark. the guy in college. 

that is a part of this, i know. i am bracing. i've not heard from him since then, but the threat persists. he could surface.

this must be so boring to read! some bitter woman banging on about all this. 

but i'm struck by the differences. 

i've signed up for a lecture on writing about sexual assault. it's being led by someone who was raped by a stranger while walking in a park. 

i envy that. i fucking hate myself for envying that, but i do. 

a stranger might be easier. or at least different. and more random. 

these other people, these people who know you, who you're involved with and attracted to and dating. it's so fucking messed up. 

it is so fucking messed up. 

not just that this happens but that it happens so casually. that it is so easily confused for dating. 

i remember the first time, on his nephew's bunk bed. i've written about that already. 

i remember the time in his mother's shower. i think he may have said "i've got you." because i was afraid of slipping and falling and getting caught. because i was trying to stop it. 

i remember the time on the stairs at my parents' house. i do not remember him. what i remember is listening, straining to listen because my hearing is bad and i wanted to be sure to hear the popping of garebear's toes. 

always, his toes are a giveaway. always, they pop. ever since i was a little girl, when he'd try to sneak up on me, i'd catch him because of his popping toes. 

but garebear didn't come. his mother didn't come. no one ever came. 

k.clen sent me pre-birthday balloons today. and it mattered more than i can tell you. more than i can even tell her. 

i am, currently, i feel, existing in a state of deliberate messiness. 

i am seeking refuge in a state of deliberate messiness. 

k.clen sent me pre-birthday balloons and i took photographs of thanks...





a process which yielded the most accurate representation of how i feel i am right now: 


this was written several weeks ago, i don't quite remember when. it did get better. 

i'm in memphis. on the way, i saw lindear. i'd arrived exhausted, battered by an abusive phone conversation along the way, drained by the ten-hour drive, wearing no make-up and dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt. lindear greeted me in a fashion forward jumpsuit and visible bra. while i talked to her daughter, she went and changed, so our fashions would be a better match. 

i'd made a joke beforehand that even if we just met in a mall parking lot, i'd be fine with that. and that was exactly what we did-- sitting in a closed up car together for two hours in the parking lot of the mall of our youths, sharing back and forth our stories of life lately. then spending a solid half hour figuring out our order of cracker barrel take-away to be eaten on her back porch. 

when we said goodnight, i saw her child-- who we joke is my daughter because our aesthetics are uncannily similar-- had taken care to tuck the stuffed bear i sleep with into bed. 

it's such a gift, to feel truly, generously physically and emotionally cared for by those you love. i recognize that for the luxury it is. and i recognize, though it probably doesn't come out here because this is where i process, how extravagantly blessed i have been, particularly in the women who love and care for me. 

when i drove up, my parents were sitting in lawn chairs in the garage, awaiting my arrival like people camped out for a royal wedding. seriously. there is no better way to be greeted after a year and a half apart. i will expect to be greeted in this manner from here on out.  

yesterday, my therapist said she was very, very proud of me and it felt like being given a gold sticker. 

being alive is often painful and difficult but life is also very very good. 

17 May 2021

0 fire in the hole!

today, i got in a fight with my parents because they took their masks off in church. which surfaced the deeper truth that i do not trust church to keep anyone safe. 

so that's fun. 

i called a family meeting. they came. we talked emotional dynamics and came up with two new phrases for the familect. 

i'm coming in hot.

fire in the hole! 

yesterday, it was four months since a man raped me. 

these events are maybe not unrelated. 

i'm texting him again. 

do i feel shame? i don't think so. i think i recognize it for the coping mechanism that it is and i am ok with how i am coping. 

this afternoon, as a very round-about way of getting to the grocery store, i walked down to lafayette square. a guy i went on date with in march had texted that they've opened up the park. 

and, yo, lookit. 


the fence is still up so it could be closed at any moment. but look at that green green lawn, those gorgeous clouds, that blue sky and that white house. can you tell? is it obvious that i teach descriptive writing? 

garebear tells me that debo has reminded him that i am traumatized in other ways, which they are not. that, in being here, during the protests and during the insurrection, i've maybe got some view on the world that they do not share. 

pretty sure they're not wrong. pretty sure there is not time enough in the world for us to cover that in therapy too. 

on 29 may 2020, i turned 39. 

on 30 may 2020, i got claude. (well, really, claude deigned to live with me, let's be real.)

on 1 june 2021, i watched live on CNN as the military and the police gassed people 0.8 miles away from my home. i watched live as the president walked across the street and held a bible upside down. i lay in bed as, all through the night, a helicopter hovered one story above L street, 7 blocks away, so loud it was as though it were in our alley. as i lay there, the police entrapped and held 200 people captive 3 blocks north

six months later, i watched live on CNN again as, 2 1/2 miles away from my home, hundreds of people who had been terrorizing DC for the previous three months, organized and attempted to overthrow the government. the silence then was stunning. 

there were no helicopters. there was no shouting. there were no shots. there were surprisingly few sirens even. 

there were more sirens in the twenty minutes immediately after the verdict in the derek chauvin trial than there were on the day of the insurrection. 

hell, there were more sirens during a phone call i had today than there were on the day of the insurrection. 

i do not want to be raped, i do not want to be touched, i do not want people to put anything in my mouth, i do not want to leave my home but i want to see my parents. 

there's that passage from the john berger book that i always quoted in relation to immigration:

The mouse enters the cage to take a bite. No sooner does he touch the morsel with his teeth, than the trip wire releases the door and it slams shut behind him, before he can turn his head. 
It takes a mouse several hours to realise that he is a prisoner, unhurt, in a cage measuring 18cm. by 9cm. After that, something in him never stops trembling.
i'm wondering more and more though, what if it wasn't just the one box, but a box within a box within a box within a small sound-proof room. how do you even begin to bust yourself out of that? 

the massage therapist says i'm doing so much better. the knots are so much better. still, my left arm hurts. still i have dreams. still i am texting this man. still i see people on the street and i think they are him. still, i tell myself, it is recent and so it is ok, i am not ok but i will be. 

i thought i left him at the old place. this is the thing about the texting. i wanted a clean break. i wanted to leave him there, in the place where he did that. but turns out life doesn't work that way. we bring this bullshit with us when we move. 

but the sun is out and the cicadas are coming and i am going to memphis and claude is producing solid poos and all will be well, all will be well, all matter of things will, ultimately, be well. 


13 May 2021

0 some day we will talk about something else

on tuesday, i went to the dentist. it was the first time something i didn't want went into my mouth since his dick. 

i warned my therapist of my fear last week. i said, my fear is once we get going this is going to be like one of those magicians with the handkerchiefs, on and on pulling them out of their sleeves.

the hits keep coming. 

it was the x-rays that did me in. i already knew i was going to have to tell the dentist that i'd been raped (ie. a man had raped me). i knew i was going to need to do that in order to feel safe. what i didn't factor in was how out of control i was going to feel before doing that, nor how activating it was going to be to endure discomfort. 

to lay there and take it. 

to open up. 

i seriously do not know how i will ever go to the gynecologist again. 

what are you feeling in your body? my therapist asks. 

i wonder if my numbness frustrates her. 

in the moment, after the x-rays and before the arrival of the dentist, i noted the adrenaline was in my torso so that i could tell her later. 

hey, look, i felt something in my body!!! like a cat laying a dead mouse at its owner's feet. 

this is a thread i do not want to pull. it feels like some sort of rape/assault hide-and-go-seek. 

our metaphor was driving around the neighborhood and pulling the car into the driveway of the house of the abusive relationship from college. 

i don't know what the metaphor is that describes how it is that i am actually going about this. 

there are black spots. there are a lot of things i do not remember. 

i'll allow the possibility does exist that some of it was wanted, some of it wasn't coercive, but then again, it seems like you can only be told you're a cocktease so many times before you're totally worn down and all of your decision-making is taken away from you and you have no choices left. 

looking back, there were no choices. only grad school. 

grad school got me out. 

i want so very very hard for it not to count. my brain works overtime for ways to make it not count. because he wanted it so it can't be unwanted, right? even if i wouldn't have done it had i any choices left. 

mercifully, i seem to have edited him (this is "college man"-- not "the date rapist") out of my memories. what i remember is waiting for the adults, bracing for the adults, to come and catch me and blame me and save me. 

the adults never came. 

i do not blame them. 

debo reads my essay and expresses her guilt and i tell her NO. NO. we are not to blame here. in therapy, i say i do not blame myself, i do not feel guilt, but as i tell her this, i'm aware i'm extending to her a generosity unavailable to myself. 

but this man abused our daughter, debo says and i am distraught for debo's daughter. 

how dreadful for this to have happened to debo's daughter. 

that it has happened to me feels less severe. 

but stick it in the constellation of family relationships and i'm all like, omg, debo's daughter has been harmed!!! 

my therapist asks if i want her to investigate whether the statute of limitations is up and i say no. because what even is there to say? how is this a story that can be prosecuted? how is this a story that can even be told? 

there's the time in the lower bunk of the nephew's bed. 

the time in his mother's shower.

the time on the back stairs at my parents house. 

there are all the times i bled. 

there's the way in which he took over my whole life so that i would go to the gym for three hours a day and, junior year of college, claimed wednesday nights as my alone night where i wouldn't be expected to shave my legs or see him. 

this puts that picture from your graduation in a whole new light, debo says. 

and i'm not sure whether it does or if this is something we're imposing upon it. 

i was angry at him, undoubtedly, for showing up to my graduation, uninvited. i was dating donovan (albeit secretly, because we both feared that, if this man knew, he would beat him up). i did not want this man there. i didn't want him talking to me or my family. 

there are actually two pictures. in one, i look fine. 


this is the one debo is thinking of: 

it was an awkward moment. the three of us seem to know it. garebear and i appear similarly alarmed. 

so i don't know. 

it feels like... i don't know... sliding doors... a rorschach... it can equally be a ridiculously awkward moment with an ex-boyfriend or it can be me making eye contact with the man who'd been abusing me for the last 2 1/2 years. 

choose your own adventure. 

so much of this feels like that. so arbitrary. like i actually have a choice to maintain the fiction i've been telling myself for years. that this was just a "bad relationship." 

it is like lifting the train and moving it from the other track, to go back and see it for what it was. to call the harm what it was. to acknowledge how incredibly fucking scared and helpless and hurt i have been for years. 

debo looks beautific in that other picture. proud of my lashes, i lowered my eyes. joe, also, is smiling. but burvil and garebear. they don't even know it, but they sit in judgement. they don't know but they do, right? 

pictures are deceiving. pictures lie. but, across the years, i appreciate their seeming unwillingness to tolerate this bullshit. 

some day we will talk about something else. some day i will write about something else. 

i like control. i am fine to tell the story when it is mine to tell. 

what i resent is the moments, as was the case at the dentist, when it is still mine but i have no choice and i have to tell it. when i have to tell it and then open wide and lay there and take it just as i lay there and took it again and again and again and again for all of those years. 

what i resent is that, let's be real: odds are pretty high both of these men's lives are largely unaffected by what they did to me. yeah, sure, maybe it occurs to them every now and then that they didn't behave great, maybe occasionally they remember and they are ashamed, but i bet you a million bucks neither of these dudes are rocking up to the dentist and saying they raped someone. neither of these men have tears rolling down their cheeks as they're told to open wider so their gums can be critiqued. 

and that, my friends, is fucking unfair. 

04 May 2021

0 elsewhere...

in maybe one of the weirder mother's day tributes ever... 

17 April 2021

0 three months


this is not an anniversary. there's not a word for what this is. 

yesterday, i booked a 60 minute massage, because i'd almost recovered from the last one whilst still not having full feeling in my upper left arm. 

it feels like COVID vaccine. the COVID vaccine felt like someone had punched the fucking shit out of my arm and that is how this feels, not just for a day but for forever. 

zana-- the therapist-- says my neck is loosening. 

she knows what happened. because i walked in all I AM HERE BECAUSE I WAS RAPED, because i didn't know how i'd react and i really need to be in control right now. 

last saturday, when i hung out with a colleague, and he entertained the idea of eating indoors and was all but we're vaxxed, i was like NOPE. it is, in some ways, easier to ask for what one wants now. i do not recommend to anyone that rape is the best way to reach that moment of personal growth. i'm just saying that is where i am. 

yesterday, three months after, zana asked if i was ok to talk about what happened. because she asked, i did. in situations where i have control, i am ok. 

we sensing a theme here? 

after my therapy session after that horrible last friday, when my therapist told me to go do something nice for myself, i snagged a copy of a sweet valley high novel from the little free library over on T street. 

reading that was, quite honestly, granted the most peace i have been able to locate in months. 

i don't want to say that i impulse bought 75+ volumes of the sweet valley high series on ebay. because that would not be accurate. i was very strategic. i researched. i read every listing for bulk buys. i considered the preponderance of sequential volumes. i bid ridiculously high on one set and lost, only to find an almost equally good set for less, which i bought instantly. 

this is probably healthier than drowning myself in wine or clothes. a summer jaunt to sweet valley, some quality time with those silly size six twins and their matching laveliers...  

14 April 2021

0 hard knocks



i wake up and i don't know what i was dreaming but i know i heard a knock. and i know no one was actually knocking on the door at 2 am but then i distinctly remember the knock. the knock is what woke me up, not the dream, and the knock didn't seem to be in the dream. 

i don't recall the dream. but i wake up to the knock and find my right arm is in a triangle, at a 45° angle beside me, hand beside my head, and my left arm is down, head turned skyward.

i went and got a massage the other day and she said you have such a good energy given what happened to you. because i told her what happened to me because she was about to put her hands all over me and i didn't know how i was going to respond to that. and because i was specifically there because my shoulders have been carried in my forehead for the last 2 1/2 weeks. turns out one can only live like that for so long. and so, in the middle of grading all the essays, the pain spread from my shoulders to my neck to my right arm above the elbow. 

there's this book called the body keeps the score and i've been trying to read it in the middle of my panic attacks as i try to remember to lower my shoulders, as i try to remember to relax. 

you have to remember to relax and then you need to remember to lower your shoulders, you have to relax and breathe deeply and lower your shoulders and then you're just living your life and you don't even notice it but your shoulders are back up by your ears again so, again, you have to stop, you have to remember to relax, you have to breathe and relax and lower your shoulders. and there comes a time where your shoulders are actually just more comfortable up by your ears and it hurts to even lower them, because your whole body has realigned itself to accommodate the tension you've been living with. 

when i "relax" my shoulders, so much pressure and effort goes into holding them down that it's actually probably more stressful for the muscles than when they're up by my ears. 

i've been thinking a lot about the past because we're processing it in therapy and because that's what you're supposed to do when you're processing: let the thoughts come, let it intrude. i'm way better at letting my shoulders sit by my ears than i am at allowing the past to intrude. in ways that are constructive, at least-- harmful intrusions are my bread and butter; productive ones, not so much. 

trauma rewires the circuitry, so that you learn to live in a whole different way. you learn to think in a whole different way. debo asks me: is this the goal of therapy? is the goal of therapy to get over that and get back to yourself? and i feel really sad when i tell her that, actually, i don't think that is the goal. 

i think the goal is to learn to navigate and cope with the brain you now have, which is not the brain you were given but the brain that's been made over time.

so i was sleeping and there was a knock and i awoke to find that i was lying in bed as though i were ready to be raped. not the exact position of when i was raped but certainly evocative. in that the major difference was that, when i awoke, i wasn't looking over my left shoulder (as i had been when raped) but up at the ceiling. 

i knew there was a big knot in my back because the whole left side of my body hurt. i've had massages before and they always find the knot on the opposite side of the body so i figured the pain on the left side was criss-crossing from somewhere else. 

what i didn't know what that there were twin knots in each of my forearms. i wasn't pinned down but they were right where one would expect soreness in the arms of one who had been. that i wasn't pinned down is part of the confusion and part of the problem-- physically, i seemed willing enough. in part, because this has happened before and my brain has been rewired such that the way i survive these situations is to roll out the red carpet for them, to not just relent but to seem to welcome it, as a way of denying the horror as it unfolds. 

i don't know how to be right in these situations. i do the right thing to survive and get through, which seems to be the wrong thing in the long term because it just hurts you more maybe. but then you never know. the thing that hurts you can be the thing that keeps you alive. just as the person who hurts you can be someone you know. 

my therapist keeps coming back to this idea that the adaptations we've made and the things that we do that may seem harmful or don't make sense are also the things that protect us. so we can't just throw them out entirely.

the vibe here seems to be very "hotel california"-- where all kinds of shit can come in then never leave. 

my brain has adapted to protect me so when it returns these patterns, it does the things it's done before. it's trying to protect me and, bless its heart, it tries.

this is how i am and this is where we are and i'm very grateful for that and for sunsets and i'm very, very grateful the claude is alive, and i'm very, very grateful that my brain has protected me thus far. 

i don't know what i was dreaming, i remember there was a knock and i woke and i felt the pressure, the soreness, of the knots in my forearms, which was the result of the therapist having worked them over the day before. 

she said that i have have a really high tolerance for pain. and she said that's a good thing. and i liked her and i'm going back to her again on friday, but i'm really starting to be quite skeptical of all these discourses around pain and discomfort. because i think it's an adaptation. i don't think we come equipped with that. just like the therapist who once said that i have an unusually high tolerance for emotional discomfort. that's not a compliment. that's not a skill. i don't know what that is but it's not an inherently good thing and i can see how being able to bear pain to a degree that is not typical suggests one has put up with a hell of a lot of pain along the way. 

i went in for the bodywork (how hilarious that is actually what it is called while also being a term applied to cars) because it became quite clear to me that the pain in my muscles was a symptom of PTSD. 

twice now, in therapy, i've been like i think we can move on from the date rape! twice now, in therapy, i've come back later and said, i think this is still about the date rape

three months. it has not even been three months. soon, it will have been three months. 

i try to minimize it in all sorts of ways, focusing especially on the fact that it was only oral. which, i recognize, is a way of trying to make it ok for myself. but that's also a really fucking awful way of denying one's own experience. which is something at which i excel. 

there was a knock and no dream that i remember, and i woke up entirely aware that i was positioned as though a man were in the middle of raping me, and that the soreness in my forearms felt like the pressure of him holding me down. 

all signs would point to my having been in the middle of a dream about being raped. this was a jarring sequel to the previous night's dream of tom hiddleston unexpectedly having been in my class all semester and asking for an extension on essay #3. 

there's some tiktok going around where you're supposed to focus on a black dot on a tree colored purple and orange. and then when the image shifts to black and white, your brain will supply the colors of green and blue. the moral of the tiktok was basically EVERYTHING IS A LIE. 

watching it, i found myself taking strange pride in my brain's response, as it flipped back and forth between supplying the colors and seeing what was actually there. 

i went to the conference last weekend and delivered my talk. after spending the whole of friday morning right up to the hour before the panel started thinking that i would bail. because i could bail. because i wanted to bail, but ultimately because bailing would mean some metaphorical victory for the man who raped me, i did not. 

this is what we do. a student wrote me that they and their therapist are talking about in-patient care, but they decided to tough it out through the last weeks of the semester. 

reading that email, i thought no no no no no! don't do it! be gentle with yourself!!! whilst realizing what i'm doing to myself-- as my body screams no no no no no! don't do it! be gentle with yourself!!!-- is the exact same thing. 

my shoulders are rising towards my ear lobes as write this. I NEED TO RELAX. I NEED TO BREATHE. I NEED TO CALM DOWN. 

the knock woke me, as i lay there. dreaming i know not what, but physically braced for rape. 

i say i want to learn to be as generous with myself as i am with my students but, frankly, that doesn't really feel possible. my teaching style is, ultimately, self-harming just as my writing practice is, ultimately, self-harming. probably because both have been developed, over time, within situations and institutions that have, ultimately, been abusive. 

that's not my fault. it is what it is, but it's not my fault.  

i don't do endings, as you may recall. and we're obviously not done here anyway. 


06 April 2021

0 there is this conference

all week. 

i have paid admission. 

i have paid admission and i will not go until i am due to present at 9 am on this saturday. 

in part, because i am exhausted. how is this semester even still happening? how are we even still doing this? 

a student emails me at 4:30 am to tell me their sister was shot by her boyfriend so their going to miss class today. 

a student emails me at 5:30 pm to tell me that they have discussed with their therapist the possibility of inpatient care but they think they can power through this semester. 

in the feedback N provided on this paper i'm presenting at this conference, she suggested i talk about how language empowers us. 

reader, it does not. 

it fucking cuts us up!!!!

i say that. i do not believe it. not wholly. 

in today's live classes they were doing research. one student has been writing about ghosting but, in their essay, what they described sounded different. 

today, they found the word for it: orbiting. 

the way their face lit up on camera!!! 

the way we feel when we find the word for the experience we thought we were alone in!!!! 

it matters. 

gravely. 

but also jesus fucking christ. i refuse to be empowered. empowerment blows. it lets the systems and institutions off the hook. i refuse.

this paper i'm delivering is the one about kim kardashian and lost time. the one i spent the whole of the trump presidency working on. i quoted a bit of it in the post-before-the-last-post. maybe you are familiar. 

i seesaw between feeling completely alive and joyous ("delight" was the word i applied when speaking with my parents the other evening, beholding my sunset out my window) and just utterly bombed out. 

this is teaching. this is trauma. this is pandemic. this is rape. this is a whole tangled knot of things. 

so many of my students are writing about sexual violence. which means i cancelled my therapy session this week, wherein we are processing sexual violence, in order to read student essays on sexual violence. 

that isn't irony, but it's something. 

i had the thought today of what if this isn't over? what if we have to do this again in the fall? but then, last night, as i was trying to fall into what would ultimately be my second night in a row of nightmares, i had the potentially even worse thought of what if i'm expected to teach in person next year and i have to go back to not being able to hear my own students??!  

truly, there is no win. 

in my ideal world, i would continue teaching online and they would continue loving me there and i would continuing being able to hear them whilst also not having to fear for anyone's life. 

but nothing about this has ever been easy, so why would we ever expect that to change? 

they really give you so much freedom, debo says when i tell her we're moving to just one live session per week. and i realize i never told her we're actually only required to do one live session per week. 

i have been going above and beyond. 

i have been going above and beyond and yet, still, i always feel guilty. i always feel it is never enough. 

i do it because i think it genuinely makes learning easier on them. but maybe also because it makes life easier on me? as WRB said, they are the totality of our social lives right now

which is maybe 75-83% true for me. because i also have weekly union meetings and therapy and walks with K. 

in april 2015, i came to DC to do research. i stayed in a flat in capitol hill. the cherry trees were close to bloom or just past bloom. i don't know, but i took pictures of them. and i hiked across busses and trains to get out to NARA. and i viewed the collections at the LOC. (the man who raped me works at the LOC, so i will not be going there now.)

in april 2019, i came to DC for a long weekend, for a conference. i stayed in a flat in the neighborhood where i live now. i went to maybe two sessions (including my own) of the conference, in a neighborhood i later house-sat in. i made out in the street with a peruvian one street over from where i would, six months later, live. i bought sushi from the safeway where i bought that same sushi tonight. 

the whole point of this kardashian piece i should be working on right now-- the whole point of everything i write, basically-- is that we do not know what will happen next, we do not know where the story will go and, in that messiness, lay all the beauty. the horror too, but also the beauty and the beauty is what matters most. the beauty is what sustains us as we deconstruct the horror. 

last spring, i told my students how, in the fall of 1999, when i was a freshman in mississippi with no friends, after my grandmother died, i used to sit on a hill every night and watch the sun set. 

in the spring of 2015, having just written the whole of jackie's 64-years-long life in, like, ONE YEAR of mine, i wandered DC somewhat catatonic, in love with a man who did not return that love and did not respond to my letter, consumed by the fact that we will, all of us, one day die, appalled by the evils people do upon others. 

today, 80 days removed from my most recent rape, i walked in the sunshine. later, i watched claude snuggle into a stream of it.  

i've a dim awareness that i am not ok, but i will be. we will be. in the end, inevitably, even as we go forward on the road to imminent disaster, it will all of it-- all of it-- work out ok. 

there is beauty, if not in the disaster then in the mess. 

03 April 2021

0 delight

that is the word i find best describes where i am, though giddy maybe works too. 


which is not to argue that things are perfect. 

i'm recovering from a UTI. there are 85 student essays to be read. in therapy last monday, we drove the car into the burning house of what happened in college and i had a panic attack mid-session. but we are all here and we are alive and we are living in the light. 


i think i repeatedly told debo and garebear that this apartment was west-facing. i thought they knew what that meant. 

but then i never told them about how, in the semester after ruth died, i went and sat on a hill alone outside the dorm and watched the sun set every evening. 

weird that there are things i've told my students and not my parents. 

i feel like that is the one word of the day video from that dreadful spring 2020 semester that garebear didn't watch. which seems about right. 


the class the colleague attended was quite possibly the most powerful class we've ever had in that time slot. 

each class, each show, has its peak. bizarrely, the 2:10, where attendance has been totally abysmal, has had two. the first involved four students; the second involved two. 

i know that what we're doing here matters. so fucking much. even as it feels the wheels are completely coming off the bus-- for them and me. 

it's shocking that we're still even trying to do this, i said aloud to a group of 18 years olds on thursday. the three people on camera nodded their heads; two people off camera gave a thumbs up emoji. 


how is claude? they ask me. is claude ok? in their rants they ask, they tell me they were praying for him and for me. 

there's power in disclosure, in being human. vulnerability as well, but, truly, it opens you up to so, so much love. 

i don't know that it's that i feel i need to be loved by 85 18-year-olds every semester, and i'm sure there are people who don't love me but take my class because it feels easy and i'm a known quantity with nice bookshelves. 

there was a student some weeks ago who, in her rant, said "we know we're your children," and i felt that with every fiber of my being. because, while i've never wanted kids of my own, these people are my people. and i think it's important that, in writing for me, they know that. 


3 1/2 weeks. 2 1/2 maybe even, i lose track. that is what we have left. of their freshman year and, potentially, pandemic teaching. 

it's been, 10000%, the worst of times. but i'm aware a door is shutting. what we've been doing, it's not sustainable. it's special, it's necessary, and it is entirely unsustainable. 

i'll be honest, i have no fucking clue what post-pandemic teaching looks like. i feel as though i was almost built for pandemic teaching. and, also, i'm aware, that the whole rest of my career will be spend with students who have been affected by this thing we've all been through. 

but these kids, my kids of 2020 and 2021, the fucking bullshit we have endured together. they are special, these people i have never met in real life. i tell them, when you see me on campus, you have got to say hello, because you'll know me but i won't recognize you, because, so many of them, i've not seen their faces. i know how they feel about pineapple on pizza and that their friend died last month, but i do not know their face. 



i actually didn't think this post was going to be about teaching. i thought it would be about my view, about living in the light. 

about sun and sunsets and the ending of the day and waking up without bars and always looking at ankles. 

i guess the moral here is we don't truly understanding the dark until we've moved in the light, but that seems cheesy and stupid and not at all reflective of where i am. 

tomorrow is easter. i'm skipping church. because it's going to be all about sin and forgiveness, and that is not where i am. that feels very very dark right now. i do not need to hear how i have been forgiven when what happened to me was not my own sin. 

so K and i are going to go for our weekly walk, around the memorials and the mall, from the red cross to the capital. 

it's funny how you can put down such deep roots in a place without even feeling it. so much of this feels the same as what's come before-- living and renting. and yet, here i am. in a room of my own with a view. 

it is like nothing that has come before. 

we are here, claude and i, and we are ok. continually, throughout the day, following the journey of the sun, we delight in our view. 

27 March 2021

0 claude is home (/texts to my rapist)

i am home. we are home. we all of us, in my tiny family, are home. 

we are both of us housed in a place wherein i have not yet been raped.

the thing that is different between now and the time wherein this happened before-- the whole fucking relationship wherein this happened before-- is that i am aware that this was the last time, as in the most recent. but it may not be the last time. 

what i am aware of now is that this could happen again.

there was a safety in having been raped once, apparently. even if it happened then multiple times. it was one man.

what i now know is that it can be multiple men.

there are men out there who have not yet raped me but they still could.

that is fucking awful.

it is fucking really bad.

***

i am trying to be more open.

i am comforted, this go around, by being more open, less ashamed. my therapist seems confused when i tell her i do not feel shame about this one, that i feel nothing but anger. which is maybe inaccurate-- it seems likely that could be true-- but that is how it feels and i'mma run with it. 

what happened to me was not my fault. that is one of the differences between then and now. i know that now. i did not know it before.   

last tuesday, a colleague wanted to observe my teaching. claude was ill and so i cancelled class, and i texted him that i'd already taught half a semester four days after i was raped, i could not teach a class after my cat had a near death experience.

he wrote back: oof, sorry to hear about all that!

having lived in england, i will take that exclamation point and i will read into it that i have been seen. whilst also feeling that response is wholly inadequate.

this colleague will be attending my class next thursday. we'll be having a do-over. in the class that was cancelled and the one he'll now be attending next week, we'll be talking about profanity. language.

i think the thing that sets this rape apart from the prior rape(s) is that i am fully aware of the inadequacies of language within this moment.

i mentioned i texted him, yes? i've acknowledged that in this venue before, huh?

well, here you go. i have legit no fucks left to give.

1/20:

[blogger will not let me put this text here so i'mma just assume you do not need to behold me trying to make this man comfortable by twice telling him that whatever unfolded between us was "entirely consensual" albeit "icky."]

2/19:

2/25/21:

03/04/21:
03/09/21:
03/19/21:

two weeks ago, i told k i was doing this-- texting him. and she said i should tell my therapist.

i knew when she said this that i would have to. because my therapist is somehow someone i cannot keep anything from. so two mondays ago-- the day after i texted debo and asked her to tell garebear that this had happened-- i told my therapist. and i located this compulsion within having never been able to hold anyone accountable before and also within the fact that i was trapped within the space where this had happened to me.

i lived there.

for 58 days i lived there.

i cannot even begin to tell you how shallow were my breaths that whole time.
 
i no longer live there, and yes, still, it feels like i cannot breathe deeply. 

i think it was the last time in therapy that i talked about foreboding joy. and then i bought an apartment and claude nearly died, so i feel like i'm going into monday's therapy session like SEE!?!?!?!? SEE?!!!!! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS!!! I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG. 

which, i grant you, is maybe not the right attitude. 

***

ten weeks ago today. 

there is a time that this event will come untethered from time. 

that time has not yet arrived. 

because the thing i am struck by this time-- as opposed to the last time, when this was all i knew-- is the banality. how life carries on. how i can teach a class four days after i was raped. how i can tell my mother two weeks after i was raped. how, seven weeks after i was raped, i can write my cousin in prison and tell him i'm sorry to have been so MIA but i was raped on a date seven weeks before. 

he wrote my father he'd not heard from me in awhile. 

our letters crossed in the mail. by the time my father told me he'd written that i'd already written him that i was so terribly sorry that i'd not written but i'd been raped whilst on a date and it'd been really hard to piece myself back together. 

i know he asked his mother for my new address. 

in the informed delivery, i saw a letter from him is coming. but it's being forwarded to my new address-- an address for which the key the seller gave me doesn't work so i had to ask the USPS person to leave the mailbox open so i could have a locksmith come on monday, so god knows when his response will get to me. 

i'm aware this is a thing i never would have told him were he not in prison. 

i'm aware this is a thing i never would have shared with anyone had i not had to go through it alone twenty years ago. 

***

i bled so much then. 

every fucking time. 

i thought something was wrong with me. i thought i couldn't have sex. 

i read all these memoirs now, these stories of women being raped and bleeding, and i cannot even feel who i once was, the woman who bled all of the time, because that was just how it was. that was just how i was. 

we are so quick to blame ourselves. the sentence structures, they work against us. 

jesse called him a "predator" and i felt vindicated. 

jesse called him a "predator" and for the first time i did not have a suspicion that i had, myself, made up what happened to me. 

i bled a lot. until jesse called him a "predator," i honestly did not believe that mattered. 

there was a moment, between the texts of 3/4 and 3/9, the text to the person my therapist now calls "the date rapist" (the only one of these objectionable men i have not called by name in therapy) where i took a breath i felt i had not been previously allowed, a deep breath in the kitchen of my old apartment, upon realizing that i would, very soon, be free of the place where that had happened to me.

truly though, it is so fucking hard, the language. it feels so wrong to say that someone did this to me. as opposed to it having been done to me.

i'm writing about language everywhere, talking about it everywhere. the whole kim kardashian piece i've been working on for years has become a meditation on the inadequacies of language, the failures of words in now time when the words do not yet exist for experience. 

in therapy, i protest, i feel super academic but i nonetheless continually locate my anger in the failures of the language, the words i did not have then for the experience in which i was trapped. 

my therapist says it's like we're in a car, we're circling the block, we're in the neighborhood of what happened to me in college.

she asks when i'd like to meet again, and i say not for two weeks, not until after the move, and she seems surprised-- that i think i can bear (bare?) myself for all of that time, but also maybe because my one other two week break involved a panic attack and a phone call.

because i'd made myself have painful conversations and i'd felt i was circling the block alone, and what i really need right now-- the only thing that is keeping me here right now, the only thing that is keeping me writing right now-- is the fact that i am not alone in this car. she is here too.

and someday really fucking soon we're going to drive this car into the house that is on fire. 

and i will be free.

we've agreed to that.   

but until then what i remember is that i bled so much. like it was normal. and i worked up the courage and i asked the gynecologist if this was normal and she said yes, sometimes that happens.

but what i remember is that that never happened since.

what i remember is laying in his nephew's bunkbed, and being in his mother's shower, and being on my parents' staircase, and faking pleasure and powering through because i just wanted whatever was happening to me to be over, and i wanted to be good, and i wanted it not to be real and not to count and not to be ruined, because it didn't mean anything to me. 

it was done to me. 

a man did that to me. 

i was not... he did. 

the language is inadequate. there is not language for the blood. there is not language for the silence. 

we are circling the neighborhood. i am not alone, i am safe, i am home, and we are both in the car and we are going to drive it into the burning building, and-- godwilling-- no one will ever do this to me again. 

because that is the thing that has, perhaps, most horrified me. 

this was not my first rape. it was the most recent. we do not know that it was the last. 

***

i've such a vivid memory from senior year of college, the english teacher with whom i am still in touch, after i'd already decided to go to chicago for grad school, after i'd already broken up with him, she said this thing-- i'm not entirely certain but i think it was in relation to andrea dworkin-- she made this stray comment about how sometimes there are these relationships where, once you get out of them, you just thank god you survived.

i have no memory of writing that sentiment in my notes but i remember how it hit my heart like a hammer and i felt, for the first time in a long time, like maybe i wasn't alone.

i didn't know whether she's been made to bleed, whether she'd been in a relationship that was abusive, whether she'd been raped, but she said that in class about a book and i sat with it for weeks afterward.

because by that point i felt i was free.

i'd broken up with him. i was (secretly) dating someone else.

often, i wonder what donovan would have made of all of this.

***

the phone call with my therapist was precipitated by two things.

(1) a phone call with jeremy.


(2) a text exchange with jesse.


jesse was there. jesse was his roommate.


i do not remember bleeding until he lived there which means that every time i bled, jesse was in the next room, on the other side of one wall.


this is what he wrote me:

I always felt he had this darkness to him. Always felt a need to ingratiate himself to people, and put on a public show... control everything around him. I honestly hated it. He tried to make us all feel like we should be grateful to have us around. To feel like he was the big man. He would say and do so many infuriating things that I just tuned him out most of the time. As for you, I never understood the relationship, but felt you must have known what you were doing. You were smart, attractive, and came across level-headed. I appreciated the time I spent around you. In terms of the relationship, it never came across as truly loving or as a romantic relationship at all. Now that I am older and wiser, I can look back and see signs, but in the moment it just seemed awkward. It was more of an companionship publicly. I had no idea what happened privately, but it didn’t feel right... but again I was naive. As time went on, I just assumed Clark was going to be a forever predator on college girls or worse so I cut ties completely. I didn’t really want to know or think about him.

***

another disparity i hate in all of this is how much i am reliant upon the impressions of men. 

***

truly, i just cannot do endings. i wasn't good at them before and i cannot handle them now. 

i'm giving a talk on kim kardashian and lost time at a conference next week. nanette's already told me it's got to be but here's the current ending. i'll leave you there...











24 March 2021

0 omg, claude

claude was very, very sick and had to be hospitalized. 

so monday was the first time i took a lyft in the pandemic, the first time i rode the metro in the pandemic, the first time i went to tenleytown since i left school for the last time before the pandemic on march 5, 2020. 

i did all of this thinking he was going to die and crying in public-- in the lyft, on the patio at the hospital, on the metro. 

masks are good for this, turns out. they catch the tears and snot, so it doesn't go dripping all down your chin, but is absorbed in the mask and it's almost like no one knows you're crying. i've never so freely cried in public before. usually, one has to expend so much energy worrying about one's face and the comfort of others. masks spare that. 

there was this moment when i got him on the day after my birthday last may, where i was super panicked and thought i should get rid of him because i didn't know if i was ready to love anyone just yet. cats, man. 

the vet couldn't read my handwriting so they kept calling him clavde, like he was norweigan. 

he returned home drunk as a skunk and in the cone of shame. a toxic combo as it meant that he couldn't get his bearings and, as garebear always says, he didn't know how wide his car was. so he just careened around, trying to transfer his scent but thwarted by his conehead. 

that night, he ate ravenously while i sat on the floor looking at him. 

at the hospital, under sedation, he seemed to have been dipped in dust. too ill to groom himself, he returned home looking scuzzy, like he'd just emerged from a fire only to endure a bar brawl. 

a day later, he's starting to return to his beautiful self and begun to ever so slightly liven up. 

i watch the litterbox with an unbecoming vigilance, waiting for him to shit. because apparently that's the thing that will make me feel like we're ok. 

my left calf aches. i was aware of this every time i paused at a red light or on a train platform or sat down to pee on monday. how my left calf was constantly shaking and i couldn't control it, because of the adrenaline. 

yesterday, i cancelled class. i bang on and on about how everyone should prioritize their mental health, and if this wasn't a moment for that then i don't know what is. 

the kids are amazing. they sent notes wishing claude well, saying they included him in their prayers, saying they were so relieved when they heard he was back home. 

everything is so hard right now. like, everything. even the joyous things. because they're layered with hard things too. 

on monday, before we went to the hospital, after i spent the whole night up with claude throwing up, debo was trying to take my mind off things by talking about the apartment, and we got to talking about how different it would be if there were no pandemic. 

you know, we would have been up there partying with you for a whole week, she said and this completely pierced my heart. because i know it's absolutely true. 

the losses are so vast and varied. i keep returning to the idea of running to stand still, inertia. which was pretty much my whole career in academia, pre-pandemic, so it doesn't feel all that alien except that the whole rest of the world has joined me here. 

when the economic collapse occurred in 2008, us maphers-- with our MAs in humanities-- laughed because it was like suddenly everyone else's prospects had fallen to meet ours. we were young and naive and didn't realize that we too would be knocked down several rungs. 

i've talked about and, i think, even written about here how EL and i have repeatedly felt that we're drawing on past trauma to navigate this one. 

yesterday, someone asked how my life had changed since the pandemic, and i said it actually didn't feel like it had that much. what i remember about january and february 2020 was teaching more than i'd ever taught before and being profoundly exhausted. 

what i feel right now is that i am teaching more than i have ever taught before and i am, still, profoundly exhausted. i'm just maybe also better at the teaching than i've ever been and i'm now a homeowner too. 

but it's moments like debo saying that where i realize how things have changed-- maybe not so much in the taking away of things but more so around the additions. my parents haven't met claude. they haven't seen where i'm going to live. i bought an apartment in a room with one other person whom i'd never met before. time is moving, things are happening, but in this anemic way. 

it's like i'm submerged in petroleum jelly, i told a friend last fall and i'd say that still holds true, mostly. (excepting moments like monday when calamity strikes and it's like you're suddenly, vividly, alive and without skin.) 

it's weird because teaching is like tv now. you watch and then you turn it off. the ending is so abrupt. there's no clatter of chairs as everyone leaves the room. we don't walk out together. i just end the recording and am alone in my home. 

i've always hated endings. i've basically given up on doing them here. 

19 March 2021

0 i'mma be honest

what i did was i woke up at 3 am like it was the first day of school or some such and then i went to the secret closet outside of the liquor store and i lifted a lot of boxes then i went to a row house and i signed a lot of documents and i went to a union meeting then i drank a bottle of cheap champagne bookended by two gin and tonics so that i wept on the floor of this room i was raped in because this is all so fucking ghastly. the things we do to each other. such that i am a woman and women are fucking awesome and yet, as a woman, i need to mix multiple alcohols to access the feelings i need to feel, which is kind of the whole problem of modern womanhood whilst also denying me the joy i should be feeling about getting out of this fucking place where i was raped eight weeks whilst almost all of the feelings i am feeling to day are almost entirely about the man who raped 20 years and one week ago tomorrow. 

life is kinda quite shitty, yeah? 

whilst also being kinda awesome? 

people, i am coming to deeply abhor dissonances, having occupied them for all of these years...

we had this moment, my therapist and i, something like 3 to 4 weeks ago, where she posited as two separate things my sense of foreboding joy and something else quite honestly i do not remember right now. 

she posited them as two separate things and what i remember about the moment just after she did that is how pleased she seemed when i put the two things together. when i brought together the disparate threads to cohere the story. 

i am a writer. i am in therapy. i actively struggle not feel narrative pressure in therapy, when my therapist approves, i feel like i am tonya landing the triple axel. 

i have lucked out. at last, i have found a therapist i do not have to protect. i have a net in all of this

what i realize now, what i did not know before, is that i was flying without a net. i have a net now. and that makes all of the difference. 

i bought a home today. i bought a home in which i have not yet been raped today. today, i bought a home in which i can reestablish the sense of safety that i lost eight weeks ago tomorrow, today. 

dear man people whoever you are reading this: do not rape the women in your life. seriously. listen to your oline. do not do this. it is a really fucking beastly thing to do. especially in their own homes, in the safe spaces where they live. 

in six days, i will be home again. i will be safe again. i will exhale again.