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. 


16 March 2021

0 two months

this is not an anniversary i want nor need, but i am aware of it. 

yesterday, i painted my nails. like, properly. reserving time in the day to paint my nails for myself. 

i knew things were bad when there was a period where i was content to let my nail polish chip and flake off. when the idea of painting my nails sparked no joy. 

that sounds silly, but it is true. 

and that is all i have to say about that. 

11 March 2021

0 where i am right now (as of march 4)

is wanting to speak with men who will not rape me.


men whom i have dated who maybe did me wrong in the past whilst also not being men who are in the tangle of bullshit currently being unwrapped with my therapist.

a weird place to be in, let's just call it that.

j asks how i am and offers to talk.

i respond with a text saying that i would maybe like to chat but also, in order to do that, i need to hold him accountable for having gaslit me 11 years ago.

this is where we are.

it feels healthy, it feels like progress. but also no one ever tells you how really fucking weird progress feels.

my therapist is amazing. we are really unpacking things. we are really getting somewhere.

today, i gave my students a mental health day whilst also taking one for myself.

they emailed me and i have not responded. i will respond tomorrow.

a colleague texted me. i responded that i am taking a mental health day.

and then i wrote in brackets about a specific concern relating to our work but we've scheduled a convo for tomorrow so that doesn't really count.

yesterday, in therapy, i talked about how i'm moving soon and about how i was conflicted about when to give notice on the apartment i currently live in because i did not trust that things would work out and that the apartment i am buying would actually be mine.

late last night, i gave notice on the apartment.

this morning, they acknowledged the receipt of that email.

this afternoon, someone who got the apartment numbers confused, tried to enter mine and i woke up from a nap with claude.

the chain lock was secure, so they did not get in.

i bolted from the bed.

my heart continued to beat double-time for twenty minutes.

the building manager, with whom i've cultivated a strange relationship over the last year largely based on my stress baking and deferrals of his romantic advances, called to make sure i was ok.

i informed him i am moving.

in his text, he used this emoji: 💕

i had previously used this one: 💖

i've not named my latest rapist in therapy.

as of yesterday, i've named everyone else. clark, donovan, alistair.

adam has been mentioned in relation to the ridiculous dinner of lawyers of which i have written but not yet published:

There was this one dinner in a Szechuan restaurant in Chicago’s Chinatown, a whole bunch of lawyers, a lot of laughter. And the man whose date I was declared it one of the most stimulating meals he’d ever enjoyed. He’d not noticed the women, their silence, their refusal to discuss their own interests when I asked them. He’d not noticed how we’d played wallpaper the whole evening. I was there but I wasn’t and I clearly was not missed.

adam has been written but not mentioned because i do not count him among the worst three.

i mean, we all of us only have so much time here.

i realized tonight that there's a bizarre leitmotif of ethiopian food here. (and, full disclosure [because i am all about disclosing these days] writing this already, i have googled "chain lock" and "leit motiv." because i am still learning, as we all of us are.)

oh, but wait, i did not finish that thought.

my therapist, yesterday, when we were talking about the man who raped me most recently, who has not yet been named in therapy, she called him "the date rapist," and then she paused and asked if i was ok with that and i laughed maybe the fullest laugh i've laughed since january 16th, and i said, yes, yes, yes, please, can we call him that.

i told her i went on a date a few weeks ago. with someone inappropriately young. whose communication style i did not love.

his profile identified his love languages.

i am 1000% touch, whilst also being entirely repulsed by people who want to discuss their love languages on the first date.

on this first date, this young man touched me multiple times.

even after i told him i was in a place in life where i was only on tinder to meet men with whom to go on walks.

even after that, still he texted me and said he was open to being friends but would also like more.

i have not responded to that text. because, whilst it feels ok to tweet that i'm not responding to emails because i was recently raped, that feels like a lot to say in an early acquaintance. and, really, why start off a friendship with a whole hell of a lot of unwanted touching and a lie?

i fucking hate that this has happened. i fucking loathe that this is a thing i'mma be talking about on future dates and in future relationships.

i have told the date rapist this.

because, oh yeah, i've not mentioned this here, but yes, i text him.

i text him reading recommendations and thoughts and links and screenshots of relevant passages from books.

because, god bless him, this is the one man out of all of the men whom i feel i can hold accountable.

i assume he has blocked me and draw comfort from that assumption whilst also drawing a hearty dose of release from my texts to nowhere. 

i write, not out of anger, but in search of release.

it helps, sending these texts out into the dark. displacing the horror, shifting it away from my self onto him.

i've not told my therapist about this.

i have told KBG. and she was onboard. which means it's ok. it is all going to be ok.

i wrote this on march 4th. i'm publishing it on march 11 after a terrifically blue week, a week wherein i read everything i could get my hands on and still felt deeply, desperately wounded and alone. 

my therapist always ends our sessions saying i can call her whenever i need to. on monday, after a series of validating yet excruciating conversations with People From the Past, i emailed and asked if we could have a "quick chat." 

by which i think i simply meant that i needed a reminder that i am not alone with this. 

twenty years, ya'll. twenty years somewhere in the week of feb 18-25. twenty years since i was raped for the first time. 7-8 saturdays since i was raped most recently-- which, i would very much like to believe, will be the last time but also that is not something i know for certain. which is a pretty terrifying thing of which to be aware of, a pretty fucking dreadful thing to sit alone with in the apartment where all of this happened. 

this is, again, a post with no ending. i do not do endings at the moment apparently. onwards, onwards, we press! 


27 February 2021

0 ya'll

someone unmuted themselves to laugh out loud in my class on tuesday. true story. 

this may have been the proudest moment of my pandemic teaching career. 



18 February 2021

0 truly, this has been, without a doubt, the strangest 32 day period of my life

on the night of january 16th, i was raped on a date.

on the afternoon of february 14th, my offer on an apartment was accepted. 

on the morning of february 17th, i got shot 1. 


03 February 2021

0 your silence will not protect you

the thing that is so wild about the brain is how hard it works to protect you in ways that can ultimately so badly fuck you up. 

when i was raped in college, i had no framework for identifying what had happened. because it wasn't like in a movie. i knew him. we'd been dating for several months by then. it wasn't intercourse. there was no physical violence. we were at his mother's house, on the lower bunk in his nephew's bedroom. i had pushed him away, gently. he knew i was waiting until marriage to have sex. i did not say no. i did not scream. it was all very, very quiet, frightfully quiet. 

he was my boyfriend. i was 19. and i went on to stay with him for two more years. 

only in the last three years, the last year in particular (the testimonies women have given about harvey weinstein have been particularly helpful), have i come to see how violence pervaded the whole relationship and how deeply afraid i-- and even the men around him-- was of this man at the time. 

in october 2017, when we all started taking these things more seriously and expanding our definitions, when i told the man i was dating then that my first sexual experience had involved unwanted sex (that's what i was calling it then. sexual assault i would call it as recently as three days ago. right here, right now is, in fact, the first time i have ever felt comfortable calling it what it was), that man i was dating then first clarified that the experience i was referring to wasn't one i'd had with him. (if ever there was a red flag, that was one.)

he then asked if i had been naked. like that was the most relevant detail.

i told him i had been. 

i did not think i was lying. i truly thought i had. 

it wasn't until i was raped on a date two and a half weeks ago, that i realized i was wrong.

the man i was on a third date with asked if he could pull off my tights and i said yes. i distinctly remember my own shock when he pulled my underwear off too. i had not expected nor wanted nor thought i would be nor agreed to being naked. 

a third date; the first date where, after extensive discussion, a full debrief on our recent activities, multiple phone conversations and two previous dates freezing our asses off outdoors, we rolled the dice, took off our masks, and went Inside together. 

i had already, verbally, seconds/minutes/hours/? before, made explicitly clear that i did not want to have sex that night. 

again. it wasn't intercourse. there was no physical violence. it was all very quiet, almost normal, the violence was breathtakingly muted and banal. 

but that one moment within the broader events of the evening-- most accurately characterized as date rape-- haunted me for two full weeks, the image of my tights and underwear coming off. it ran through my brain like a movie, until a therapy session yesterday moved it into the past, so it went to being more distant, still, like a painting. 

my memories of that night twenty years ago, in late february 2001 are extremely fragmented and fuzzy. the years of coercive control and sexual violence that followed with that man seem to have erased the tape of that first foray.   

we were in his mother's house, on a lower bunk bed in his nephew's room. all i remember is the darkness but i realize now i would not have been naked then, in that context. i realize now, after having this other man remove my underwear against my wishes, i know i would have, at the very least, spent some amount of time preventing my college boyfriend from pulling my pants down. 

no alcohol or drugs were involved in either of these events. not that that matters. consent is consent. my point is that, even sober, the brain tries to protect you but sometimes it does you no favors. 

the need to remain polite, to support the fragile male ego, to not make a scene, to not escalate, these impulses, they are not great. they ofttimes keep you alive, but they also fucked you up. likewise the compulsion to take back control by whatever means necessary once it has been taken from you. doing whatever one can to make what just happened feel as though it were, in fact, what one wanted, laying a veil of consent over the whole endeavor where consent did not, actually, exist.

after i was raped two saturdays ago, i was struck by the reality that one does not typically feel the need to bang on about how consensual the sex was if it were in fact.  

threatened, the brain-- conditioned by a whole world constructed to accommodate men-- does its damnedest to convince you you're ok with this, it wasn't what you thought it was, and none of the available words apply. 

icky is where i initially landed in the text i later sent him, in my effort to hold him accountable. a text in which i reassured him not once but twice that everything that had happened between us was absolutely consensual. i said this not because it was accurate but because it was a rhetorical move that felt necessary to my being heard by him, the language required to be taken seriously. i felt i had to downplay the severity of what had occurred, to deny it even, in order to hold him to account. in the hopes that he would never do the same thing to someone else. 

icky. and, while i was not wrong, it sorely undersold the matter. 

i feel icky that icky was the best i could do. 

this post is a mess and i have no ending. and there's a lot of shame attached to it. unique to this moment is the question of WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING TRYING TO DATE IN A PANDEMIC?!?! 

yes, i did do that. as safely as i could. and yes, this did happen. and yes, those circumstances are actually unrelated. 

i keep pointing out that hopefully the communication demanded of this moment in regards to health safety will make us better at communicating consent. seems we now have compelling evidence: no, it won't. 

every sermon i've heard at my church since this happened has been on the matter of truth. 

last sunday, as i paged through a copy of audre lorde's your silence will not protect you looking for a passage that had popped to mind to write about for a fellowship application due later that day, rev. gayle looked out of the screen on facebook and said, "it's as the poet audre lorde says... your silence will not protect you."

i teach her in all my classes. i'm teaching her again next week. this is the clip i show, which i've now heard at least twenty times, so that when i read this passage or hear it quoted, in my head, it always plays in her voice. 

this is a post without an ending, so i'll just give you this:

22 January 2021

0 truly, they do not know my life

 


for real. 

have the people producing the curriculum for these courses and fellowships on online teaching ever taught online? are they online right now? is teaching this online course on online teaching the extent of their online teaching experience? is that why all the articles about online teaching in this online teaching course are from 2019? 

because YO. UPDATE YOUR SYLLABUS. THE TIMES, THEY HAVE CHANGED!!!!! THE TIMES, THEY ARE DREADFUL!!!!! 

this is not breaking news! this is like year old news at least. 

i update my syllabus approximately every freaking day. c'mon. 

every class makes one or a number of arguments. these classes make the argument that "we here at [institution X] care so little for your time and your success as a teacher in a crisis attempting to support 100 students from your bedroom four days a week that we're not even going to go through the motions of making this class applicable to the reality of your life." 

people, that is unkind. 

people, i have no patience for unkindness. and carelessness. no patience at all. tbh, i have no patience for much of anything right now. 

i cried today. over annoying, medium-sized beans nonsense that unkindly triggered a parade of past horrors, which was real fun times. 

but the cry was good and necessary. maybe not adequate to meet the needs of the moment and the approximately 19 MAJOR THINGS that have happened in the last three weeks, each of which warranted a proper cry, but it was something-- if not entirely a start. 

burvil is scheduled to get her vaccine today. there were two positives in her facility last week. 

this month has felt like 4,000 years. 

time moves so slowly and yet it's all over so fast. things cannot happen fast enough and then they're over and it feels like they never happened. 

howard started this week. already, it feels like the third week of school. 

there was a tweet that said it's as though we've spent the last four years with the music at high volume and now the music's off but we still hear phantom notes in our heads. 

it is simultaneously so loud and terribly, frighteningly quiet, like just after a snow. 

four times yesterday, i talked with a group of 18 and 19 year olds about the inauguration, anger, and michelle obama. again and again and again and again, each group slightly different, each discussion arriving at different ends. four versions of the same show, each shifting slightly to accommodate the changing audience. 

in the latter half of the last class, claude crawled into my lap and looked at me with WHY O WHY eyes then laid down his head and put his polkadotted paws over his ears.

four years. longer than it took to do my phd. 

four years, three cities, at least ten different homes. an unstable period in more ways than one. 

this was january 2017. my 2017 emphasis on The Peaceful Transition of Power has aged especially well. thank god though, garebear and burvil have both lived to see the end. 

the thing is time is so slow but then things happen so quickly. 

in a two day period last july, multiple jobs-- collectively equating to a livable wage-- fell into my lap. 

the times have changed but they also haven't changed that much. i have now spent the entirety of the trump presidency trying to write an essay about kim kardashian and lost time!! 

wherever you go, there you are

debo's sends me links to op-eds in the new york times that talk about what will happen to our country and don't mention the phrase "white supremacy" once. 

a student makes eye contact with me on her screen and critiques the "uncommented upon nationalistic overtones" of biden's inaugural speech. 

it is the same, but it is flowing forward. the future is coming. 

i've a postcard purchased during a 2017 trip to margate that reads: "MESSAGE FROM THE FUTURE: HAVE FUN NOW." they weren't wrong. 

increasingly though, admittedly, i have no fucking clue how fun looks in 2021. 

for now maybe, it's just a walk with K tomorrow along the mall, seeing the fences come down, the army moving out, and the city putting itself back together, reconstituting itself to bear the awful losses that lay ahead regardless of who's in 1600 penn.

this post has no ending so i'll just leave you here. 

17 January 2021

0 these two sentences are what i have for you:

i went on a date and we had ethiopian, and it was my turn to buy dinner and i gave a $15 tip, which was more than 25% of our bill but also didn't feel like it was that generous, but when we went to pick it up the woman, when she heard my name, she was so visibly and effusively verbally grateful for that $15 in these hard hard times, and, ever since, i cannot block out her face, i cannot stop hearing her voice, as i kissed him i enjoyed it whilst also harboring in my mind that i really would've given more because i knew it mattered but, even though i knew it mattered, i did not know it mattered nearly that much, and if it'd known it mattered that much i would've tipped $50 or maybe even $100 because the world is shit and there are troops in my city and i feel like the only thing we can do in these hard hard times is identify the individuals in our orbit for whom we can do something and to do that very small thing. 

so she felt i did something and i feel like what i did was sorely inadequate, and now i sit here pondering if maybe i can order ethiopian again on the same day of the week in order to figure out who she was because i feel i can't just call the restaurant and ask for her venmo, because even though i don't have a lot of money, i've an unrelenting longing to give.