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.

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.

Dear Spouses,

Dear, dear spouses

of victims

of survivors

of the broken people…

Thank you.

Thank you for not letting us push you away.

Thank you for seeing past the desperate facade we thought was infallible.

Thank you for understanding that not everyone wants to be touched…or can be touched…and adjusting your needs accordingly.

Thank you for remembering not to ask about it.

Thank you for listening to all of it and accepting it

even though you want to kill someone

even though you want to let anger take over and justice prevail.

Thank you for knowing that you just have to embrace it.

Thank you for sleeping on the floor when the bed becomes a trap.

Thank you for letting irrational behaviors slide…

because they make sense…because you get it.

Thank you for never attempting to relate to it.

Thank you for teaching us that we can be loved despite…

in spite…

because.

Thank you for always, always standing by…

through panic…

anxiety…

fear…

shame…

confusion…

delusion…

and hope.

Thank you for waiting for us to come to you.

Thank you for knowing when we are ready.

Thank you for knowing when we aren’t.

Thank you for agreeing to take part in a union we believed we could never deserve.

Thank you so very much…dear, dear spouses…

for loving people…who sometimes doubt the love they are in.

We are grateful for your patience.

We are overwhelmed by your strength.

And we believe in the salvation you offer when you look into our eyes

and show us who we are.