I’ve always loved Weeping Willows. They are an elegant blend of weary and woeful. They sag under the weight of their beauty, yet remain unbroken. They are reflections of everything I’ve come to know about the shape of womanhood.
Today I woke up before my alarm. It was not a peaceful awakening. It was uneasy and lite blue. I turned over to check the time and my news app opened to “Kavanaugh panel derails: Stop interrupting me.” I have been intentional in my distance from the hearing. Not because I’m apathetic. But because I am empathic. I absorb. I collect. I…took the bait. I watched as this man got increasingly hysterical as he shadowboxed himself into his own worst nightmare. A scenario in which “we are now in a place where we have to worry about our sons” because they could be smeared and wrongfully accused and have their reputations ruined. His hysteria was highlighted by the cool, collected tone of the women he was screaming over.
My heart began to race. It thumped with “Bitch, you should ALREADY be worried about your sons. You should be worried you’re raising fucking rapists. You should be worried about raising rapists who don’t know what rape is. You should be worried that YOU don’t know what rape is.” I tried to shake it off and meditate, but as I concentrated on my breath I couldn’t stop my heart from thumping “Bitch. Gold Digging Bitch.”
I was 11 years old when Anita Hill testified. Those were the words that most of the adults around me used to describe who she was. I should say that most of these adults were women. I was old enough to understand what sexual harassment was. In fact, at the time, I was being harassed and assaulted on my school bus. I didn’t know exactly what Clarence Thomas had done, but I did know that whatever it was didn’t matter. i did know that she shouldn’t have said anything because once you say something you can’t take it back. Once you say something Attorney is replaced with “Bitch. Gold Digging Bitch.” In fact, at the time, I didn’t know she was an attorney, I just knew she “worked for him”.
Anita should have been my idol. She was from a small town, like me. She’d had twelve siblings and still managed to graduate from Yale Law School. I know what that means. I feel it in my bones and it’s coats like sap. Anita Faye Hill should be hanging on black folks walls next to Malcolm and Martin and Obama and..oh wait, right. Whenever I hear her name it’s hard wired to his. After all this time? Always.
I attempted to cleanse my palate by seeking the comfort of my podcasts. I was excited to see that a new episode of Serial had downloaded and I hopped on that shit immediately. Unfortunately, the episode was focused on police brutality and the challenges of reform. I listened as Samira Rice took the police to task for murdering her son and I then I listened to a cop call Tamir Rice “a boy in a man’s body” who was raised by “the streets” instead of a loving home. I listened as this cop became increasingly hysterical when challenged with even his own words. It did not cleanse my palate. It made my branches bend a bit lower.
I decided to focus on work. Today was my co-worker’s 25th birthday. We discussed her plans for the evening and the weekend. She got flower deliveries and cake. We talked about her move on Monday and how much she loves her new building. I couldn’t help but get a little weepy as I thought about my birthday this weekend and how I can’t make any plans because I don’t know where I’ll be or if I’ll be moving. I’m waiting for board approval on an apartment and the President of Board has just gotten in a heated debate with my landlord. Long story, very short, my female landlord had the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to email the President twice over a two week period to ask him if he could speed my application process. The company’s new application system was flawed and had caused a delay in my submission.
Mr. President told her he didn’t know what she expected of him, that she was rude for “continuously” emailing him and when she challenged him and demanded he claim the responsibility of his title, he told her he was going to have to block her. True story. I have receipts. So, in short, I don’t know where I live next week and my future is held in this delicate creature’s hand. I had to excuse myself and cry in the bathroom stall, like I did when they put their hands up my skirt. Like I did when they put their hands up my shirt. Like I did when they huddled and laughed. Like I did when they told everyone I “let” them touch me. Like I did after I told the bus driver and she rolled her eyes and bullied me for the rest of the year.
It’s funny when people ask why a women didn’t come forward. It’s funny when they ask why it took so long. Because we all know the answer. Because you all know someone this has happened to. Because you might be that person. Because you have seen someone turn from her to “Bitch.” Because you may have helped turn her. We aren’t blind, but we pretend to be.
It’s amazing how the closer some folk get to truth the more they decide to cling “proof”. A transcript doesn’t tell you the officer was staring at her nipples as she gave her statement. It doesn’t tell you that he offered to drive her home and stared deeply into her eyes as he gave her his card if she needed anything. A court document doesn’t tell you the part about how she did remember more details but she’d already told herself she’d never go back there again.
Prosecutors might dispute the fact that it took so long, because she told the people closest to her and they pretended like she’d never spoken, at all. It’s hard to find tangible proof that she vanished that day and you’re not even talking to her. Maybe she doesn’t remember if it was dark or light out when her mother made her apologize to her abuser’s family for telling lies. Maybe it had been dark so long she couldn’t tell the difference. Maybe she was weary and woeful and sagging under the weight of her beauty, trying to remain unbroken.
I still love Weeping Willows.