Time, Untethered

Her hand is in mine; clammy because it is hot on these streets that smell of burgers, oil, and urine. She tries to lace her fingers with mine. I pull away slightly, aware of the implications.

“My mother didn’t like holding my hand,” she tells the therapist casually. “Sweaty palms triggered her.” She is old enough to understand everything now. The therapist is helping her process the hugeness of it all.

We are on a family outing. She skips ahead with her brother as my husband wraps his arm around my waist. We look like an adorable family. I dress casually. My hair is cut short; shaved on one side. My husband’s Batman t-shirt attracts the attention of the crowds of teenagers gathering in the streets for a comic convention. My daughter dances when she walks. There is a constant beat in her head. My son follows her steps like a disciple. He worships her. Today she is 11. He is 8 and 16 hours. His devotion twists me up inside

and I am following him down the steep staircase because I would do anything for his attention. He is my god, and when he throws me aside, I am turned to dust. His love burns through me, shredding my sense of self and every future moment I feel a fragment of this moment poking into the bubble I will have to form around me so that I can breathe.

I love that they love each other. I love that we all love each other. I lean forward a bit so that I can have a lead on the time capsule that forever pursues me. I lean too far 

and I am holding my son in my arms and telling him he is big and strong and capable and it is ok for him to leave me. I am shattering my heart with a mighty hammer of lies. I am pretending I am able to let go. I have made a life of imaginary corridors I conquer with a presumed strength because I could not let the only grounding facts of my life weigh me down, drowning them with me. My home is emptying of the now and I am left without reasons to keep the monster at bay. My husband will feel the wrath of the past. He will welcome it and accept it as he has all the pieces of me throughout our love story.

I lower myself onto the grass, inhaling the end of summer. They are playing, the three parts of my present, while I 

run. He is chasing me with a hairbrush, screaming that I left it and he just wants to talk. I push past my friend and pull the door closed behind me. I bolt it and sink to the floor. I can still smell his desire. I am 15, and I am 8, and I don’t know where I am anymore as I

pull the blades of grass and run my fingers through the earth while my husband stretches out a stable hand to me 

and lifts me onto his lap and opens my mouth with his teeth and demands I learn to kiss because that’s what all brothers do

and I walk along in this postcard of a family full of joy 

and I don’t know how to be a grownup. My children resent me because they found out all the truths I still can’t say and ask me why I never told. My parched lips part

I scream in silence into time

and his tongue is in my mouth, and his hand is clammy, and I hate the body I am in and wander up into the lights where I hide the child I will never be

I am mother, wife, child, sister, friend, and I am worthy

and people are asking questions that confuse me so I stutter and they call me a liar 

and I take her hand in mine. It is clammy. I want to pull away.

My past, present, and future line up to challenge my memory bank. The transactions are mixed up. The numbers are wrong. I can’t find the point that is me on a timeline because once upon a time when time still ran its course, I followed the devil down to a place where time stands still and runs away, always and forevermore.

She is 11 and he is 8 and I am every moment I ever was and ever will be.

 

Curtain Call

My thoughts

running through the maze

I hold inside my pounding skull

keep me company

reminding me

when my eyes search for love

for understanding

for hope

I am not alone.

 

I am tied to the whispers

the whipping post I toss over one shoulder

and the never-ending scorn scraping my open wounds.

 

These traveling thoughts

narrate a dialogue

a screaming silent war of words

I hold in an arena of unfulfilled dreams.

 

I am center stage

front row seat to a sold-out spectacle

spinning wildly in a cold sweat

dripping with resounding applause.

 

Take a bow

draw the curtain

the show has just begun.

The Prison Cells We Hide In

I always struggled to maintain friendships with women. It was easier for me to hang out with men. I knew exactly how to talk to them, how to act around them and was confident in my direct approach.

Women scared me. We always seemed to be hurting each other. The idea of a united front, working to overcome inequality and patriarchy as a tsunami of feminine strength seemed implausible.

Over time, I learned how to approach female relationships. It requires a real effort for me to connect with other women, even though it sometimes seems futile. The few friends I did manage to make are extraordinarily patient with me. I know that I wrap myself in yellow tape and dare them to try.

And then #metoo and #timesup happened, and I saw women emerging from their own prison. I dipped a toe in at first, wanting to test the waters I couldn’t trust. But I fell in hard. I found myself swimming in a school, sometimes wildly as though being chased, but most times with direction and purpose. Every once in a while, coming up for air, I saw some of what I knew deep down was still there; we weren’t all prepared for this.

The other day a woman called out from her prison and she got swarmed. There was a pounding on her door, a demand for her to open up, and I saw that there are cracks that are widening.

We need each other. But we need to tunnel into each prison and sit a moment inside. We need to see her space, feel her boundaries, and hold her hand when she decides she wants it to be held. Then we can be the force that will break us free.

This is what my prison looked like. It’s empty most of the time now. If you ever see me inside, come in through the back door I hide behind my unsmiling eyes. I’ll be waiting for you.

* * * * *

I keep the women in my life at bay.

Held off by my rigid tone, they circle for a moment before wandering away.

I don’t blame them.

The door is bolted and covered in skulls.

I am not very inviting.

I throw a line, teasing it a bit before I reel it in.

My words fall from my tongue with force I don’t even try to control. I am unbridled, wild and free in this prison I have constructed from the rubble of my demolished childhood.

It is warm in here.

I touch the splintering walls, piercing my fingertips with rusting nails. Watching the blood flow, I patch the roof where sunlight dares to shine through.

It is stifling in here.

Betrayals decompose in heaps strewn about the floor. Expectation died here long ago. The stench of rotting dreams reminds me not to close my eyes.

It is burning in here.

The men who knock are well received. I learned to navigate their world the moment I heard one moan. They trip over the warning signs. They don’t understand the game I play. They take me as I am; as I project myself to be.

I host them in the darkness. There is nothing here for them to see.

Lingering outside for a moment, the women stare through the glass walls of my prison where I meet their gaze with my empty plea.

Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford, and me

I was too young then… too small and insignificant to understand what bravery looks like… to know the pain of disbelief…

I was too young to see her… too young to be moved to act on her behalf.

I was not young enough to escape her fate.

9,853 days should be long enough to figure this out.

9,853 days should be time enough to change.

And yet here I am… 9,853 days older and more broken than I ever knew I could be, watching history repeat itself while my heart pounds in fear and my voice falls back into my constricted throat.

I was too young to feel the waves. I was too young to see the rippling effect.

I was not young enough to tell the truth. I was not young enough to report, report, report!

I was too young to find the common thread that wove through our private places in secret spaces where demons like to graze.

9,853 days ago happened again today. Too young then… too scared now to let this moment pass.

I am brave enough to take a stand.

I am strong enough to carry this.

I am weary enough to scream for an end.

I am no longer letting warrior queens fight alone against a revolving world of lines so blurred they turn into laughing devil emojis flying out from the fingertips of some damn internet goblin who hides his masculinity beneath the desperate urges of his groin.

I say enough.

I say it louder and clearer and a hell of a lot meaner than I’ve ever said it before.

I say time’s up, and I mean today because the clock kept ticking for 9,853 days even though the brake was pulled by so many broken bodies and tortured souls.

I say we change our rhetoric and up our ante and refuse to remain the children we were when the alarm bells were ringing, and we went out to play because we were too young to have a say in what our future would bring.

Today I am old enough to know that my children are not too young to add their voices to the scream that will tear down the fabric wrapping the illusion of change these past 9,853 days tricked us into believing was real.

Join me. Stop the clock and reset time. Change the direction this crazy train is on. And let’s see what we can do when we stop holding our breath and rise out of these ashes.

I am Anita Hill.

I am Christine Blasey Ford.

And you will hear me roar.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.

Triggered

Triggered.

You laugh at the word and point out how overused it is these days.

You sit in your leather chairs, backs comfortably reclined as you swivel behind the glossy desk proclaiming your entitlement.

It is so easy for you to roll your eyes and then apologize for your reaction. Your genitalia allows you to retract at will. It hangs between your legs, launching you onto the high horse you barely even know you’re riding.

Yes, yes, she was compelling. Attractive too. Surprisingly believable.

You marvel at this circus and flare your nostrils at the injustice and casually wonder how all the other women are taking this.

You ask them politely, giving them the floor as though they suddenly matter and you are very cautious not to assume you understand, even as your head tilts gently to the side and nods in misplaced solidarity.

You don’t even know what we’re talking about.

Some of you try. There is sincerity in your attempt to open eyes conditioned to see only half the world. The best of you lower your voices and open your ears, acknowledging this moment as the start of change, even as you are reminded that it is deja vu all over again.

Over and over and over again.

Triggered.

One in 5 stare at their screens and watch their personal hell parade in front of their eyes in varying degrees of burning shame. Four in 5 have had their eyes peeled open since they were taught to beware, beware, the beast is always out to get you; your virtue protects you from becoming another statistic. One in 3 tasted it. Two in 3 witnessed it.

Triggered.

You sit with your knees spread, airing out the sword you hold above our heads while our thighs squeeze together and our bodies clench in collective resistance.

Triggered.

We hashtag our anger and air your dirty laundry because we are done.

Triggered.

We march and we stand tall and we proclaim our strength and you pretend to see us.

Triggered.

You laugh at the word and point out how overused it is these days.

Triggered.

Your laugh is uncomfortable because you see us rising up as a solid wall of broken women triggered by memories of generations of your betrayal. The trigger she pulled when she stood before the world and yanked the comfortable rug from under your feet, revealing mountains of naked truths hiding beneath it cleared your vision long enough for you to glimpse the ugliness of your desire.

And you are triggered.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.

#metoo

Trauma follows me wherever I go.

It likes my attention…wants me to let myself get wrapped in its claws…consent to its talons tearing through my skin…participate in the letting of my soul’s blood.

Trauma and I are inseparable.

It likes to stand so close to me that it looks as though we share the same face…and I find it necessary to peer through Trauma’s eyes to see as I filter through Trauma’s noise to hear.

Trauma loves me violently and is quick to remind me of who I really am.

Trauma turns my back for me, just as I am about to let go.

Trauma weighs down my legs with each step.

Trauma seeps into my vocal chords and plays games with words I try to say.

Trauma takes an active role in my relationships.

Trauma guides me in how not to parent.

Trauma even likes to go shopping with me.

Trauma is my everything.

I don’t know how to feel…how to act…how to think…without Trauma’s constant active memory of a past that refuses to remain buried.

I always thought I could live with Trauma forever…accept Trauma as part of me…become stronger with Trauma as my second skin…

Maybe I will, in some ways…

But, today I find a moment where Trauma can be distracted by a feeling I thought I cared about.

I sit down and write

#metoo

Trauma takes a step back in shock…

For a moment…

I am visible.

 

Silence

Silence.

The wind blows wildly around me.

Winds of change…

winds of fear…

I stand tall in the midst of this hurricane of hurt and I am silent.

I used to want to say how I felt.  I used to want to scream and shout.

I used to want to know that I was heard.

But I’ve been silenced…

Silenced by the unwillingness of those who claim to understand…

who claim to be listening…

unwillingness to open up the part of themselves that might churn in discomfort when it receives the message I have been trying to give all these years all the times I have sat to write how I feel and the only response is a sigh and a squirm because I have just put words to feelings you wanted to sweep under a rug…

a rug woven with barbed wire thread coiled tightly around steel rods sharpened to points that pierce my skin when I try desperately to claw my way out from underneath all of your shame…

your shame…

the shame you have carried all of your lives because you can never admit that the face you put on every day before you go out into the world you pretend is untouched by humanity’s sins is a face that you worked so hard to perfect because it was the only protection you ever had from the reflection staring back at you from above the bathroom sink.

And I am still silent.

Nothing I can ever say will sway your view on the world you built to save yourself the trouble of giving a shit.

I have not tried my best…maybe I have not tried at all…but at least I can say that while I stand whip-lashed and  tongue-tied as the raging winds from the past beat into the winds of the future in a spiraling tornado that must now be my present, I have made a conscious decision to allow myself to be silenced.

I will not bow my head in shame for my silence is the only control I have left.

And you will never hear it.

1 in 5

Dear 4 in 5,

I don’t know what I will accomplish by writing this…but I want to be clear that I am not looking for your sympathy…or for you to understand.  You will never understand…that is why you are the 4 in 5.

I am the 1 in 5.  And though I cannot speak for all of us…I will try to break down a bit of the wall that crushes us.

I think what I want to do is explain…answer a few of the whys…

Why I don’t feel comfortable around you…

Why I seem cold when you meet me…

Why I don’t ever join in…

Why I seem…different.

I am different.

I am 1 in 5.

I am the 1 in 5 who didn’t get to be a real child.

I am the 1 in 5 whose trust in the world was shattered.

I am the 1 in 5 whose brain got rewired.

I am the 1 in 5…who sat alone…defiled…afraid…as the realization that you will all move on without me slowly drained my connection with you.

And so we became unable to feel each other…you and I…

Because I will always be that 1 in 5…and no one will ever define you by the 4 in 5 statistic you are.

I want you to know that I get it.  I really do.

You are not immune to feelings…you have deep hearts and souls.  Bad things happened to you too.  You were bullied/rejected/neglected/put down.  You suffered through illness/death/pain/suffering.  You are deep and thoughtful and kind and giving.  As a human, you are extraordinary and unique…an entire world of your own.

And you will still never understand why I, and my fellow 1 in 5s, cannot break through that wall of neatly stacked rows of 4…

We are not behind it…we are buried beneath.

And sometimes…all we want is a bit of room to breath.

Broken Grief

This feeling…this sad feeling…covers me like a blanket…suffocating me slowly.

It is not a new feeling…it is an anticipated one.

Do not project…they told me…do not lose faith in humanity…you can never know the outcome…you can never know for sure.

So I tried not to project…not to expect to be hurt…

But I am not entirely foolish…and I let that part of me that knows better live next to the part of me that pretends risks are worth taking.

I knew.  I always knew…that I would be sitting in this puddle of pain…this dirty pool of sorrow…and there would be no one to pick me up.

This is Grief…this is all the damn stages…when you lose something you loved…or thought you loved…

At first…I kept a quiet Denial.  I was alone and afraid but if I didn’t say a word…it was as if it wasn’t there.

Then I yelled…screamed out the Anger that was consuming me…turning on the world…on myself.

Then I Bargained…for love…for attention…for validation.

And now…I’m sad…it is a different kind of Depression…not one born in my Denial…one that is like taking a deep…long breath…and holding it in for just a second more…

Because I’m ready for Acceptance.

I am ready to calmly walk away from my dying past…calmly acknowledge that I will not have what I deserve…and learn to love all my broken pieces…without the ones I’ve lost.

I am still sitting here…in my sadness…looking for a helping hand.

What I can see though…are all the Broken People…and they are reaching out with hands as filthy as mine…and we are singing our song again…irritating the Unbroken…as we bombard them with the truth of our shattered selves.

The Unbroken will ignore us for as long as they can…because the Unbroken do not like the smell…they do not want to deal with our puddles of shallow shit…they do not want to acknowledge the broken-hearted…they would rather turn us inside out…hang us outside the camp…and pretend they cannot see as we shrivel up and die.

So Broken People…let us become our own Broken Family…let us Accept together…let us finish mourning all the Unbroken who walked out on us…who left us buried in the sand…and let us move on without them.

But you Unbroken People…you don’t know what I know…you don’t know that being Unbroken…just makes you…Breakable.

When you’re sitting under your blankets of pain…I will be there…and I will reach out with a strong…reinforced…and loving hand.

Dear Asshole

(trigger warning – please don’t read if you are not in a safe place)

Dear Asshole,

I wonder, when you kiss your wife, if you remember what it felt like to shove your tongue into my mouth…your teeth hitting mine as you demanded I open my lips more..

I remember.

I can still taste your saliva…I sometimes feel as though my tongue is swelling…as it betrays me when I seal my lips and refuse any entry…even to love.

But you told me you don’t recall…so I imagine you kiss your wife without guilt or shame…

I wonder, when you look at her…if you remember when you stood with me and looked…and looked and looked…while I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath.

I wonder this as I hide under my blanket at night…and shut out any light…as I press my hand against my eyes even if there is no one looking at me.

You remember that one…you told me so…except you told me it was normal and, for a teeny-tiny second, I believed you.

But it’s not normal…for me to hide my body from intimacy…for me to look in the mirror and shudder…no matter how many layers I have on.

So I imagine you feel comfortable in your own skin…after all, you’ve moved on.

I wonder…when your wife touches you…if you remember what you made me do to you…

I remember.

I still smell you.  I can’t get rid of the images of me kneeling at your feet…I can’t stop feeling your breath…I can’t stop all my senses from experiencing what was for you, a minor event…

My senses do not allow me to feel pleasure without fear.

Do you know what it is like to be overcome by fear with any expression of pleasure?

No, you wouldn’t know.

I imagine you let yourself experience pleasure because you think you deserve it.

I really wonder though…if you remember how I turned you down…and how you didn’t seem to care…

I wonder…if I had known it was because you no longer needed me…because there were others who could take my place…if I would have been so quick to stand up for myself.

Because now I feel guilty.

I feel guilty that I didn’t protect others…that I didn’t tell.  That I let you go on…

And that guilt makes me that crazy, obsessed person who can’t stop talking now.

I’m practically screaming it from the rooftops…twenty goddamn years later…when it can no longer do anything to stop the fucked up life I was forced to lead.

Oh I know you think I am crazy…I know you think I shouldn’t hold on to this…

I know you think you couldn’t possibly have screwed up everything for me.

But you’re wrong, Asshole.

You’re wrong about everything.

See, I lost my childhood because of you.

I lost my ability to trust.

I lost my ability to connect.

I lost my ability to live free.

I continue to suffer…every fucking day.

The worst part is that you took them away from me…

You made them have to choose a side…and they did choose…you.

So damn you, Asshole.

And damn the wife you never told.

Because I have nothing left to lose.

You do.

And if I sign this letter…the way I should sign it…

You will.