Monday, December 22, 2008
Here's the first part of the Iowa Review essay as published. I'll be posting it all week as I'm still recovering. Thanks so much for all your prayers, love and support. It's been rough, but as RIP Hamilton of the Pistons says, If it ain't rough, it ain't right.
The Ceiling or the Floor
As an undergraduate in a modern dance class, I had to watch my
rapist perform a solo dance number to the sound of dolphins crying.
He himself was portraying a dying dolphin, and the idea, if you
will, was that the other dolphins were trying to save him but he
could only save himself and he did not and instead screamed the
last minute of the performance, a minute being a very long time
under such circumstances. This is the kind of bizarre scenario that
people mean when they say You can’t make this shit up or It’s a small
world after all. The other students gazed in a state of shock and/or
awe and wondered if they were witnessing genius or lunacy. Most of
the students in the class had chosen to work in groups for the final,
dancing to painful medleys off of tapes like The Very Best of Kenny G.
I had signed up for the modern dance class because it would fulfill
my physical education requirement, and I thought it might be fun in
that Martha Graham/Twyla Tharp sort of way. As they say, it’s a free
country, and my rapist must have thought the same thing.
My mother referred to my rapist, a man she never knew raped me,
as the politician. He acts, she said, as if he’s running for office.
If there was a baby around, he’d kiss it before dropping it on its
head. I knew my mother was right, even then. She knew things, like
when I was about to dump someone, and she’d start to enjoy that
person, the way you cheer up when an annoying guest edges toward
the door. I watched her with great interest, if only to predict
what I was going to do next.
One person knew about my rape before it happened. My rapist
bragged about his plan to a mutual friend, a shy, timid man who
thought he might be kidding. Or so he says. We’re still friends,
this man and I. We never talk about what happened. My friend has
a dog whom he calls Dog, and Dog can do one trick: roll over and
play dead. I once spent the night at his and his sister’s house in the
guest room. Sister had decorated the guest room with unicorns and
clowns. Outside the door, Dog slept. She looked like she did when
she played dead. But I knew she wasn’t dead.