Does It Bother You?

“Does it bother you, that you no longer have a hold on me? That on my weakest days I’m still stronger than that shell of a person you chipped away at under the guise of putting me back together? Do you think about the shit you’ve done?”

These thoughts swirled around my being, suffocated me into a heart pounding puddle on the bed when I saw my high school boyfriend on a dating app. My initial reaction was one of disappointment in myself- I thought I was over you, why this reaction? There was still a little nougat inside of me that thought he was handsome, that he had always looked good in navy blue, that those eyes and that half smile still made me think about how his long eyelashes would tickle my face.

No. Nonono. I wouldn’t allow myself to still have feelings for him. I brought myself back to that dark well of a place, a bottomless pit I never imagined escaping. Each bruise and raised abrasion on my back, the clawing and gnawing into that area of thigh nestled under my butt. The raised eyebrow, signaling storms to come, for burnt pancakes, a whispered no to sex, for conversing in Spanish with his step-uncle for too long. The arms around my neck as he dumped himself inside of me. The cacophony of his grunts ricocheting off my ears, beads of sweat hot on my chest.

It was the repeated sexual assaults that tore at me. I was already teetering back and forth about using this dating app, since at the time I had been intentionally celibate for over a year and didn’t really want to deal with bullshit comments about how all I needed was “his good dick” to make me want to have sex again. I made a haste decision to be celibate and relearn myself, what sex looked like for me after assault.

Seeing his profile brought the apprehension back full force. How did I reclaim that part of myself? Did I want to know that part of myself? Sex had often been used as a weapon against me, my clitoris and pelvis attacked and torn.

I barricaded myself inside my apartment for a week during the winter. As it was, our office was closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s, coinciding with when I clicked on his profile. Plans to clean, knit scarves, revel in finding the perfect gifts for folks, it all went out the window. I sat on my couch, ordered takeout for lunch and dinner everyday and bawled.

I screamed for that 15 year old girl. I wasn’t very kind to her, blaming her for not being explicit enough, for not fighting back harder, for not being a “good, understanding girlfriend.” I had labelled myself weak, repugnant, raged a war against that unsightly girl.

I dry heaved for those years I spent confused, assuming anger, vitriol, that general sense of cheerful disorder equaled passion and love. For each pelvic cramp and exam in the doctor’s office, when even with my insides spread open, scraped, analyzed, I couldn’t utter the words rape.

There was no shame in my unabashed grief. I stripped down to my panties and faithful tank top, talking to my past teenaged and young adult self.

I’m sorry I questioned your truth. I’m sorry I took our natural compassion and loyalty, giving it all to him and not leaving any for us. I’m sorry I didn’t fight for you, didn’t prioritize your healing and emotional well-being, never stopped to ask what do you need to feel whole. I’m sorry I spent ten years believing those lost friends and family that pointed the finger back at you, that I spent 10 years hating you because of it.

As I acknowledged and nurtured that teenage survivor inside of me, I still catwalked around my apartment, half crying as I resolved to find parts of my physical appearance that I could take back and hold on to.

Flushing the toilet and washing my hands in the bathroom, I saw the curve of my butt in the mirror. Dayum shawty got back. I looked at the swell of my breasts under my tank. Oh so you got bawdy-awdy-awdy. Starting with the coils crowning my face and ending with my painted toes, I caressed each part of visible flesh. If hands were allowed to touch my flesh, they wouldn’t be used for harm.

Most of the time, my depression felt like I was swimming underwater and operating on foreign land, but not that day. I cracked the windows, watered my long dead lucky bamboo, and thought

Maybe now’s the time to treasure those pieces of myself I felt didn’t deserve love.

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