That awkward moment when a white guy on Facebook says that race has no place in our argument over whether or not equal ‘rights’ equate to equal oppurtunity/access and the “American Dream” (read as: pulling yourself up by your boots straps).
Take in time
A breath of night
Shimmering through hollows
I feel the abyss
that chills the skin
the lack the present
words we wait for
out from the center
time again begins
circles reaching out
touching me from the center
left long ago
washing against me
love against the wind
tells not the wind to ebb
nor the river to stop its flow
TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault, assault, street harassment
Two days ago I was up and out before noon, finishing up some errands for my Valentine’s Day present and enjoying my monday off. I was on a bridge, surrounded by tourists. I didn’t like the song on my iPhone, so I took it out in order to change the song. Didn’t like a few of them. Next thing I know I’m in pain. Physical pain. My right leg - correction - my upper right leg - correction - the right half of my ass is screaming out in pain. I turn in surprise as I yelp out involuntarily.
There he stands. The cause of my pain. An anonymous man, five foot seven wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Smiling at me. Waving at me. With the hand, the one that smacked me hard enough to make my upper thigh hurt for the next fifteen minutes. He makes eye contact with me as my body and mind put the story together. I scream at him. I tell him to get the fuck away from me, I tell him that if he doesn’t I’ll fucking kill him. His smile wavered and he walked away.
What scared me most was that the scene didn’t change. All the tourists were still taking pictures; it was as if they hadn’t heard - for a split second I wondered if it had all been in my head. I regained my external composure and went back to my task, though my hands were shaking and I could feel in my physical pain an emotional uprising of sadness and hurt and anger. I stood there on this bridge in Paris and it occurred to me that nothing would happen to that man for touching me, for hurting me, for dehumanizing me. He had just walked away. And really, I’d been completely thankful he had.
That’s what it means when it’s said that we live in a world where the female form is possessed by the external world. That’s what they’re talking about when they say that women don’t live in as safe and secure a world as men do. That’s what happens when you’re a woman and you’re out at lunchtime on a monday minding your own business. You get grabbed, you get looks, you never get to be alone. Because your body is seen as property, you are uncultivated land ripe for the taking. You are not human; you are not your own; you are his.
I am safe, I am sound, I am secure. I am pissed off. I walked home and in my head I screamed. I avoided touching anyone on the street as if any stray hand could be another attack. I kept glancing over my shoulder, even twenty minutes later when it was clear there was no longer a present danger. This world is not a safe one to be a woman. Paris isn’t the only place you find this; in fact Paris is one of the safer locations. But no one’s safe who lives their life with others believing they’re to be had as opposed to respected.
In the past three years I have taken many a moment to contend with questions of self-sufficiency, to wonder how one recovers from devastation of the body or of the mind, how one comes to remake themselves into a light they can live to see without curtains or shades. I’ve wondered these things as I’ve plodded along, wrapped up so only my smile surfaces, hiding anxiety or worry behind the part of myself I will always love most.
As I’ve aged, as I’ve ‘grown up’ as some people like to call it, I’ve come to see more than my smile, to relove all that I put into the world. I’ve learned to change what shames me, what hurts me, what brings me low. I’ve found a way to take back all that was taken from me and to find what was once lost. Even as I write this, ‘I’ statement after ‘I’ statement, I find myself considering if I truly did it on my own. There were months when I would have looked astonished at this question, there were months I would have felt betrayed to believe I hadn’t come to this place of peace all on my own.
But along the way I’ve learned that peace is a continuous journey, where wars are fought in the back of your throat, in your beating heart, and in how your fingers lock together to hold back the screams. I’ve learned that peace is pain and that wounds don’t always heal up nicely. And I’ve learned that loving others and being loved by them does not come into conflict with your ability to find personal peace with yourself. For there will always be days when your friends, your lovers, your parents can’t come to your rescue. There will be moments when no one will know why you’re sad and there will be no one you wish to tell. For my peace is silent resilience, not one that wishes to be consistently memorialized. My pain and past stand as a testament to myself and to how I view my world, they are not in need of reassurance or recognition anymore.
So when the ones who know you best are not around to see you through those worried moments, those little quiet breaths of anxiety, then you must be there for yourself. You must see in the lack of their presence the existence of their love, you regard yourself through them, you are reminded of the love you have for yourself in the moments where you must contend with the past with the voices of support in your head, not your ear. You must believe in yourself. You must love yourself. For you are everything you need, sometimes it’s just easier to be reminded of this fact through someone else.