by Moriah Claud
It seems that quite a lot of my writing lately can be filed under “fits of anger,” but where I would usually drag and drop it to the untitled folder where I keep all of my emotionally reactive ramblings, now is time for me to speak up. We all have a lot of emotional and challenging conversations ahead of us. I mean, we always have, but we haven’t been having them and right now the absence of these challenging conversations is regressive, hateful behavior. This is a way for me to not stand idly by and let violent words and actions perpetuate.
Peace to You
I’m at my neighborhood bar watching the World Series with my girlfriend and some co-workers. It’s the third inning or the second or fifth or…it doesn’t matter. Baseball is a slow game. I’m watching the bartender mix a drink and remember that I had agreed to design a cocktail with a friend on Facebook, so I open the app to let him know that I haven’t forgotten––at the top of the page I see a name that makes me nearly drop my phone.
Waiting at the top of the screen is a message request from the man who assaulted me nearly six years ago:
I can block him and this can be over again. Just how I left it when I finished therapy and took my life back. The visceral need I felt to punish him has faded in the years since. Everything I’ve gained since that day is his punishment. He no longer stalks my nightmares or the corners of my vision. He doesn’t win anymore.
Or, I tell myself, I can reply. Not to call down hellfire, but to tell the truth––to do for my younger self now what I was not brave enough to do then.
So I reply.
It felt incredible. I knew all along that he didn’t think what he did to me had changed the course of my entire life. I knew that that night was just another night for him. He was 26 at the time, former military, with a reputation as a charmer. I was 19, a virgin, living on a futon in the corner of my best friend’s room, generally naïve about anything and everything. So when I tried hunch-punch for the first time and drunkenly responded to his text at 1 a.m. asking if he could come over, I didn’t assume that things would move so quickly and that saying “stop it” would only distract him for a moment. I knew he meant it afterward when he told me I was slutty while I lay flat on my back on my pebblestone porch, numb and vacant. I knew he never thought of that night again.
Hours later, I am sufficiently drunk and scream-crying after the adrenaline has worn off. The reality of what has occurred washes over me all at once. I had imagined what this would feel like a million times before––the thrill of the doing: the heat in my face, the tightening muscles in my back and arms. In one dream I remember vividly, I ran him down with a motorcycle and screamed every curse for every ounce of pain he caused me. I wrote countless letters that I never got around to sending. But in all that rehearsal, I never imagined the part that would come after––the flood of emotion caused by his doubt and the realization of a dream I never really let myself have.
I finally manage to catch my breath and pick up my phone. Waiting for me is this:
I take a day to collect myself, shake off the hangover, and write an articulate and informative response. Or at the very least, I can send him a link to the Wikipedia page for “victim blaming” from which he plagiarized much of his response.
I sat down just now to respond, and it seems I’m too late––he’s blocked me. Which is fine. I don’t owe him anything, certainly not an explanation of why what he did was wrong. Maybe I could have told him how consent works, or described how my endocrine system chose flight, shutting my brain off like a muted TV, or how I had to delete my Facebook for 3 years because his face kept popping up in the “People You May Know” feed, or why the police were never an option because he would have just blamed me. But I don’t owe him any of that. I don’t owe him anything at all.
I understand that I am not alone in this. I was given an opportunity to say what so many of us never get to say. And while I’ll likely never get the chance to change his perception of me, his victim, I will remain in control of the conversation.
And to the man about whom this article is written: you can keep your peace. I don’t need it.
“To You, Dark Woman”
by Robyn Leigh Lear
I admire you for the transcendental
perspective that you choose to have
on the world;
despite your body being
the silver screen upon which
many different versions of you
You are the whore
You are the virgin
You are the dark continent
You are the uncharted, but concurred land
You are the depths of the ocean
You are the insurmountable hill
You are the shallow plains
Wandering and wading through rivers, springs, salt lakes, and bathtubs
You are the looking glass magnified ten times your size
You are the stick against which all images are measured and oppressed
You are the documentary imitating truth
You are everything at once
All encompassed and designed and manipulated
You are the constructed identity, but mostly you
the image we see of you
the beautiful, uncharted suffrage of duality
you are the depicted reality you choose
fuck art and video;
fuck rape and sexual invasion––
you are my tender moments;
you are my friend.