Friday, December 26, 2008
Hi readers! Thanks again for all well wishes. I'm still recovering as I will be for a LONG time. But for now, I'm going to keep posting the essay. Thanks for reading!
A few years after the rape, I bought a pistol and loaded it with hollow-tipped bullets. My then-husband sewed a purse for it, and I
kept it under my bed, safety off. We lived in an apartment named
after a tree and the walls were so thin at The Maple you could feel
the wind blow through them. From time to time, a roach would
drop from the ceiling onto my head, sending me into a panic. Once
a cop broke down a locked door with a mere push of his hip. When
my husband was gone, I carried the gun around with me in the
apartment, all two rooms of it, and laid it on the back of the toilet
whenever I took a bath. Showers, for all intents and purposes,
were out. Shower people don’t understand this preference for lying
around in your own filth. They think you can wash everything off of
yourself if you scrub hard enough.
I started seeing a therapist at the college who gave me to her supervisor. I’m a little out of my league, she said. I mostly just help students who can’t manage time. Her supervisor said things like, I don’t see taking your gun to the bathroom as a problem. I looked at him with a get real expression as my mind flashed ahead to years and years ofrelaxing bubble baths with a loaded pistol in plain view. Do you have any Valium? I asked. I can’t prescribe anything, he said. I’m not that kind of doctor.
So what was your childhood like? he asked. He was, unfortunately, that kind of a doctor. What could I do? I’d already paid for the session. When I was a child, I used to play a game with my stuffed animals, the same ones for which I would write the occasional suicide notes, notes that said things like Chatty Cathy has grown tired of life, or Mr. Teddy Bear no longer wishes to live on this earth. The game consisted of you pretending you were paralyzed and on a Stryker frame, a torturous device used in the ’70s to stabilize injured patients and prevent bedsores. If this was your fate, you’d be sandwiched between strips of canvas and flipped every few hours. The only choice in this gamewas whether you’d want to look at the ceiling or the floor. The stuffed animal was my nurse. I’d pretend to think hard about my decision -- after all, I’d be there for a long time. But I knew what I would choose. The floor. Always.
For years after the rape, the world became my own personal Tailhook, a never-ending gauntlet like the one that some of the female Naval officers experienced during an annual conference where they were thrown down, stripped, and attacked in one particular hallway of the Las Vegas Hilton. Warnings that I had ignored for years rang in my head, all the tips to fend off attackers, too little, too late, but still, I tried. I carried mace, carried handfuls of gravel to throw, carried lemon juice to squirt in their eyes. All the books said to aim for the weak spots, the windows to the soul. I suppose the idea is that you can’t hurt what you can’t see. All my energy went into not being alone. I never was, of course. I had a little bit of death around my eyes from all the anxiety and bloody red circles under them from rubbing them so hard. That drew men to me, all that brokenness. My godmother used to say, You’ll have to beat the men off with sticks when you get older. I’m sure this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. I lived in a loft apartment in my mind, a high rise where no one could touch me, the perfect panic room, no windows, no doors. No matter where I was, I was loathe to part with a loft, any loft, my loft.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions." Eartha Kitt
Drinking novel suggestion: The Abstinence Teacher Tom Perotta
Benedictions and Maledictions