Tag Archives: trigger warning

How to Fix Your Face

I was eight when I first discover how to close the gap between my private and public face.

It started with cold, damp paper towels pressed against my eyes in the school bathroom. I sat on the toilet, face to the sky, letting the water pool along the swollen skin. It stung. By the time I can leave the stall, most signs of my panic attack had slipped into my normal features – save the swollen, cherry-colored downward crescent of my mouth. I quickly learned how to escape from rooms while drawing the least attention possible as I ran away – to bathrooms, to empty classrooms, to my mother who had to rearrange her life and work in the school office for my health.

From there, it became an art. I prided myself in putting everything back together – in rearranging my face to hide the roaring distress – in settling the surface of the water and allowing the piranhas, with their snapping jaws and glassy eyes, their freedom beneath the stillness.

But fuck if it doesn’t get harder. Maybe it’s that the wounds got worse, the damage more visible.

A bad hookup led to covering bruises, hiding burst blood vessels along and inside my eyes. It looked like someone had thrown paint in my corneas. When I caught others looking, despite the hours I had spent with ice packs over my eyes, I tried to smile. I can’t remember if my lip was split or if something else made my mouth ache. No one asked about the red-tinged bruises lining my throat. But I remembered them every time I swallowed.

I covered the raised, patchy mess of my face with plain Greek yogurt. I left metal spoons in my freezer, then pressed them against my eyelids. I wish I could say I had seen stars – instead I saw nothing.

When I opened my eyes, the room struggled to take shape before me.


I’m older now.

My private face has shifted almost entirely inward – the river has frozen over just enough to allow safe passage. I swallow panic and it is sharp against my tongue. But sometimes I find myself locked in a bathroom stall, chin tilted skyward, cleaning the saltwater from my cheeks – reducing the swelling with paper towels as cold as I can handle. I feel so small in these moments… as if I’ve stepped out of time and I’m eight again, somehow equally privy to the horrors to come and surprised when they arise.

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Look ma, no hands.

don’t touch me. please.

stop.

but you won’t stop. I know that about people like you. Rarely do I even get a chance to say anything before your hand is grating against my body – unwanted, unwelcome.

I don’t know why it keeps happening. I don’t know what about my body makes it seem like communal property. I just don’t understand. But it always hurts, it aches, I feel every single goddamn hand from every motherfucker who violated me before you. I don’t sleep for awhile. I leave a little too often to get sick in the bathroom. I cry in my boyfriend’s arms and try to piece the night together.

Maybe it’s time for a change.

Maybe this time, when you touch me and my skin burns and my mind goes blank, maybe this time I’ll repay violence with violence. I’m granting myself permission.

If your hands are on my body without consent, I will take them. I will unhinge my jaw and swallow you whole, I will yank you into the nightmares that keep me up at night – of hands and loss and fear.  I will take no prisoners. And then, when I have made myself unforgettable, I will fucking leave. Let me crawl the road to your childhood home with your hands in tow. I will bring them home to your mother, all skin and tendons and blood, and I will tell her about the monster she has raised – that she will bury. And I will go home and I’ll sleep soundly at night.

let this be your only warning.

don’t

fucking 

touch me.

 

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Relational Definition

The idea of relational definitions has comforted me for years, ever since I came across it in my literary structures class in college.

There’s something beautiful in being able to define something by everything it isn’t – dark would be less meaningful without light. Comparison as a tool for understanding, for communicating, for building! That is when language is most open to me. It allows me to restructure the world, organizing it in my head by the comparable textures of each moment.

I’ve never appreciated that as much as I do now.

I can only explain how happy I am by comparing myself to the girl I used to be. Then and only then do I see my development, the remarkable little miracles that led me exactly where I am and who I love. It’s so odd to me, the thought that I used to be insurmountably lonely – that I thought there was an incurable darkness inside me that made me unworthy of care and affection.

After I met my boyfriend, I wrote a few pieces about him (and about me, about the type of woman I saw myself becoming with him). I gave him two of those poems for his birthday yesterday. The third poem is a little more selfish. When we started talking, I was terrified of the idea that he could make me happy. I was scared I couldn’t sustain happiness, that my hands would break every beautiful thing that passed between them. Here’s that piece.

Disordered

What if my heart is like
my stomach?

don’t laugh

what if both shrink when I
starve for affection? What if the walls
have caved in, what if acid has swallowed the floor
and settled in every chamber, what if
the valves roar in protest when I pass
couples on the street,
what if I can’t remember the last time
I was full?

It took three months
to train my body to receive anything stronger
than eye contact – to relearn how it feels
to taste something so vulnerable and soft
without vomiting.

 

So I wrote the above about being afraid and ill-equipped and only now, with comparison and reflection, can I understand just how lucky I am to have Joey.

Happy birthday, bee. ❤

joey and mee

 

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To My Family Who’s Still Voting Trump

It is time we had a chat.

This election is no longer about politics – it is disturbingly personal as we watch a rape-supporting bully claw his way toward the Oval Office.

Trump reminds me of Niko.

You should know who Niko is, right? You’re my family. You know he’s the man who pinned me to his bed when I was 18 years old, who asked me to stay after he finished, who drove past my dorm multiple times in the weeks after as I ignored his countless messages? I still have nightmares about him –  I still wake up crying.

Trump is Niko on a grand stage. I saw a post comparing Trump’s comments about grabbing a woman’s pussy to the Fifty Shades series – and I was disgusted. Absolutely, completely horrified. Fifty Shades is terrible, yes, and it is problematic in terms of BDSM and consent but to set the Republican nominee’s hateful, misogynistic talk of rape and compare it to a fictional narrative?

And make no mistake – he is talking about rape. When someone holds power over another person and the victim feels like they can’t say no, that’s rape. Condoning Trump’s comments is condoning rape. It’s condoning Niko and his hands on every inch of my skin.

Niko told me women deserved to be preyed upon and, just like Trump, he had more money and power than I did. He decided he could do whatever he wanted to me, so he did. And now you want to put a rapist in the White House because, like you said, if women are willing to buy Fifty Shades of Grey, how can we be horrified when a presidential candidate says he’s entitled to rape us?

Following that logic, what did I do to deserve to be assaulted? What book did I read, what website did I visit, that labeled me as ‘rape-able?’ No, really. Feel free to get back to me on that.

I wish you could understand how terrifying this is. To hear your family agree with – and applaud! – a man who sounds eerily close to a rapist. And yes, the only people who are comfortable making ‘jokes’ about rape have either considered or committed rape.

When you justify Trump’s comments, you are justifying Niko’s actions. You are telling me that you do not care about survivors of assault, that you don’t care about me – and you’re telling me you want to give Trump the power to hurt more women. Because, when you think about it, there’s no more powerful position in government than that of the President… and if Trump is comfortable raping women while he’s a floundering businessman, what exactly do you think is going to happen when he’s the leader of the free world?

On election day, you will be asked to make a choice. I would like to remind you who you’re voting against when you vote Trump. You are voting against survivors of assault. You are voting against people with PTSD. You are voting against every minority. You are voting against people with disabilities. You are voting against the LGBT community.

You are voting against me, as a survivor of assault, as a person with PTSD, as a disabled woman. You are voting against my sister and her girlfriend. You are actively voting against your family, your flesh and blood, and for what?

Why would you want to hurt us this way?

 

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A Letter to Fort Collins

In the end, I didn’t hate you – or, to paraphrase,

it is the end and I am amazed.

You almost swallowed me whole, you know. And I was so angry because of it, so inwardly vicious, so poisonous. How else do you kill a thing with teeth?

Anyway.

Fort Collins, I met you at seventeen, pursuing you with hazy determination. I had chosen you at eight years old, promised to find your soil beneath my feet, planted myself amongst the mountains and trees and waited to feel… something. And I did.

I lost my friends here. I was stalked and lied to and assaulted here, twice. I was shamed and humiliated here. I hurt so badly here.

For the longest time, it felt like you hated me. Imagine that – a little girl dreams of escaping to a bustling town for nine years, only to have the city spit in her face. Only to be ripped apart and rearranged, to be called a whore and a liar, to be turned inside out by those she considered friends.

But change is always painful.

So maybe you didn’t hate me. Maybe you loved me like I loved loose teeth as a child – I yanked the teeth from my mouth, swallowing the blood as my tongue traced its old permiter. You ripped at my edges until it ached, yeah, but there was something stronger underneath. Or maybe you didn’t think of me at all and this story is one more broken narrative I’ll have to revisit later.

Maybe.

Just to be safe: thank you for what you gave me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to build myself time and time again. Thank you for teaching me every lesson, especially the ones that ended poorly. Thank you for letting me leave with my dignity, my humor, my words. Thank you for the professors who changed my life. Thank you for letting me live. Thank you for my beautiful, strong friends who found me here, who kept me here – thank you for housing the man I love, thank you for bringing us all together. Thank you for being the last place I knew Mani alive. We used to conpare our mountain towns and I think she would’ve found so many places to love here.

Fort Collins, this is the first thing I remember writing about you:

“Temporary girl in a temporary town –
someday I’ll run away and burn it all down.”

It’s almost funny to read that couplet now. Neither of us is running, you’re still standing, and I’ve never felt more permanent.

Thank you.

xoxox

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