I rose early and anxious. I was reading my work at a Salon Series and though I knew it would be a casual, nurturing environment, I had the performer’s pit in my stomach. I scrolled through Instagram to calm my nerves. I threw on some Radiohead and texted the coven and the harem. One emoji, two emoji, three emoji, four. I felt kittenish and open. I’d had a very romantic night alone and I was craving body heat. One of the auxiliary members of the harem called and volunteered as tribute. I was hesitant. This man is not my intellectual equal. He’s barely sentient. But, as gardening tools go, he is relentless, reliable and he delivers in 30 minutes or less. Still, I was hesitant.
Dum Dum: Let me come over and get you ready for your performance.
Sexually Liberated Woman: No. I need to be responsible. I need to figure out what I’m reading and I have to go shower, change and clean this room.
Dum Dum: Come on. You know I’m not hanging up until you say yes. I’m right by you. You know I’m fast. You know you can kick me out right after. You know I’m gonna beg. Come on.
Sexually Liberated Woman: I’ll think about it. Let me text you back in 5 minutes.
Dum Dum: That means no. I’m not hanging up until you say yes.
Sexually Liberated Woman: No really. I have shit to do and I wasn’t expecting company and I don’t feel like showering and shaving and primping and shit.
Dum Dum: You know I don’t care about that shit. I’m not hanging up until you say yes.
Sexually Liberated Woman: Ugh. Ok fine. You got condoms, right? Make sure you bring them. I’m ovulating so you might have to wear two.
Dum Dum: I got them. Don’t worry.
He arrived less than 15 minutes later and we skipped the pleasantries. That’s one of those words that would make him call me “dictionary”. When I asked him to show me the box he smiled a familiar smile. It’s the smile of the male relatives who touch your ass when they hug you in front of the family. It’s the smile of the pastor whose hand always finds your breast. It’s the smile of coworkers who reach over you and cloak you in their heat. Fight. Flight. Freeze. I smiled the smile I use to distill “no” into a smooth tonic. I told him he was the worst and that he’d have to run downstairs. I told him there was a bodega across the street. I chastised him for wasting more time.
He kissed me in an attempt to light my fire and change my mind. I kissed him in an attempt to turn “no” into “later” and remind him that I was worth the trip. He pushed me toward the bed and I locked my knees and eyes. Packed subway stance. I shall not be moved. I told him I’d still be there when he got back and reminded him that he was wasting time. He unbuttoned his pants. I told him he was wasting time. He walked toward me and I sat on the edge of the bed and crossed my legs and my arms. I told him he was wasting time. He pushed me back on the bed and I pushed my hands towards his chest. He attempted to pry my knees open with his legs so I turned on my side. I told him to just go downstairs and we wouldn’t have to do this. He flipped me over and pulled off my pants. I pushed him off. I sat up again and started trying to write a new end to the story. I recognized the look in his eyes and I knew that he wasn’t going downstairs. I knew I was just wasting time.
I pushed. He pulled. I struggled. He persisted. I said no. He said yes. As he entered, I whimpered despite myself. As he reveled in the warm slick, I arched my back to expel him. I slide up the bed and repeated no. He put his hand around my throat. He smiled so I would feel less threatened and he would feel less predatory. I pushed him off with my foot. I stood and headed for the door. I didn’t want to waste time. If I could make it to the front door and get it open, he’d have to leave. Wouldn’t he? Before I could get the bedroom door open, he pinned me. He pushed himself against me so I couldn’t turn around I push my hands against the door to push against him with my bodyweight, but my pushback only gave him a clearer pathway. He entered again. Again, I whimpered. I pushed myself toward the door so that he was once again ejected. As I reached for the doorknob he grabbed my wrist. I can’t recall how he managed to get both in his hands. He was relentless.
Rapist: Stop fighting what you know you need.
It clicked. I had been given direction and I knew my motivation. I could get through this scene. I stopped fighting and squeezed my muscles tight. I peaked over my shoulder to see if he was close and I caught a glimpse of him watching himself in the mirror. I watched as the thought crossed his mind and I braced as he slapped my ass. I clenched my muscles again and his name formed in my mouth like bile. He sprayed me with his spoiled milk and I watched as it dripped on the floor in tiny little splotches.
Rapist: That was so hot. You know that was hot. You loved it.
He wanted to write a different end to the story. I watched him weave the tale that would keep him warm and me silent.
The Salon Series was a blessing. A beacon. I could not crumble. I had some place to be. I could not waste time. After reading a couple of my pieces, an audience member remarked that my work was deeply rooted in pain and loss and she asked what work I might produce devoid of those things. But I can’t say who I would be devoid of those things. They are family. Loss was one of the first things to tuck me in at night. Pain walked me to school and set next to me at lunch.
So as I stared into the eyes of a man hellbent on pillage, I was greeted as a regular. My psyche dusted off my barstool and slid me a glass of survival. 2 parts detachment, 1 part rebranding, top with a dash of performance. Squeeze eyes shut. Squeeze muscles tight. Moan for good measure.
I watch him walk into the bathroom to wash me down the drain. I stand stock still and my eyes blur as my tears mix with the tiny little splotches of him. When he asks for a towel, I keep my voice cheerful. I can still feel his fingers on my throat and I think about catching him off guard and running him through. Frightening him enough that he slips and hits his head and no one is to blame. But then I think about all the questions and the answers and the perceptions and I remember that I have shit to do. Then I think about Cyntoia Brown and remember that in a matter of moments, I will be free.
I put a smile in my voice and direct him cheerfully. When he exits the bathroom, I strike a pose with my body so that he won’t notice that he’s erased my face. There is no need. He tosses “bye” over his shoulder like miscreants toss trash in the streets. I follow him to the door, naked and dripping, lock the door and start to suture. I run my hands over my neck and wonder if the tenderness will form a bruise. I jump in the shower and as I wash away his scent and his seed, I wonder how long I will be this sore. I wonder how deep this wound will go. I wonder where the lost “no’s” go.
I spend a few minutes on the shoulds and shouldn’ts. I spend a few minutes on admonishment. I spend several minutes on tears. I scrub him from the floor and the sheets and I set out on quest for brunch and Plan B. I don’t want to waste any time.