Every great story starts with the word it and mine will be no exception.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …
It was a dark and stormy night …
My story will be one of truth, and of pain, and with every ounce of emotion poured on to the pages I will punctuate my words and I will begin my syntax with it. My readers will question my validity and I will answer by showing them it.
“It does not lie,” I will say. “It is the truth.”
It is as clear as yesterday. I remember being sexually assaulted, and I remember I had my eyes open the entire time. But I do not remember seeing anything or anyone around me, around us.
I can still feel my fingers sticking together as the dried maple syrup reminded me it was there and I can still smell the pancakes that were just barely above room temperature, sitting soggy on a paper plate. I can still hear my own vocal cords reverberating in my tight throat as I pushed out the words “Please stop.”
It is not something I think about often. I am only reminded of the incident when it’s late and I find myself alone with my thoughts in a cold dark room, or when I see it.
It is shapeless and lurking, obnoxiously ubiquitous, the loudest shadow that has ever existed. It snakes around my mind, it leeches off my energy, it plucks my skin from my bones piece by piece. It is a headache and a bad dream and a sore neck and chunky gravel under bare feet.
My forehead sweats hot sweat when I see it. My spine stiffens, my knees press hard against one another.
I have chosen to not internalize it, to not box it in my brain to bubble and brew, because I have seen what that does. I see it in my boyfriend’s eyes when someone makes a joke with the R word and someone else laughs, assuming that none of us have had to deal with such a thing, because it only happens to women, it only happens to thin women with long hair on dark streets when they “should have been” walking with a friend and carrying pepper spray but instead they were thinking about Tomorrow but then Tomorrow becomes one million Tomorrows because they will have to struggle to pull themselves out from under their sheets Tomorrow. That’s who it is supposed to happen to, not to an eighteen-year-old boy who reads trilogies, not to a nineteen-year-old girl who still sleeps with stuffed animals.
I see its face in the humid nighttime air and I hear its shriek in the sirens blaring past my window. Its visage is ferociously intrusive, brassy and impudent.
I remember sitting there after it was over, my heart beating audibly to the people around me and my eyelids pulled wide apart by fear. Two people had seen the whole thing, had sat there awkwardly while it snaked its cold hand up my leg, and two people had said nothing, deer caught in headlights of mortification. It took me a while to stop lying to myself, to tell myself that it really happened, to make myself believe myself.
I was quiet for six months and I was naked for six months in front of everyone I met, exposed and covered in bad words etched in my blistered skin. But I realized this mistake when, on a night where the sound of rain pounded through the windows, it grabbed my shoulder and its slimy hand made contact with my skin. The hair on my neck went on high alert, goosebumps prickled my skin, a high-pitched wail darted in my brain.
I sat with my head rested on my knees, wearing only my underwear but feeling so safe as my spine rested against the cold cinderblock wall as I told him, told him about it. I knew I was reminding him of his it, and I felt selfish because I knew his it was a dark monster ten times as intrusive as mine, but I still smelt his sympathy flooding my direction and I watched his eyes grow salty when our its were introduced to one another.
I have stood in front of it and I have screamed in its face that I am no longer afraid, I no longer shake and sweat when I see it. I have ripened and I have seen that everyone has an it and every it is very real. Every it is just as versatile and malleable as the next it.
Roads and rivers and could separate us physically, but my it will always be in my periphery, always in my vicinity.
Why is this great? This is my it and now that it is written, it stares back at me as I stare at a blinking cursor. It is written, it is a diary entry, I have unearthed the heaviest stone and my fingers bleed as I inspect the aftermath. I have torn myself apart because of it and I piece myself back together with an it-shaped brand burned into each of my stitched joints. I have lost and regained my vulnerability and I have created a culinary masterpiece that is my evolution.
For posterity, for their prosperity, I document it. I will not selfishly lie and say that my journey here was easy or that it isn’t still at the forefront of my phobias from time to time.
I have seen broken people, and I have looked in the mirror, and we are not the same thing. I have traveled to the split seams of my mind and I have sewn my splintered spirit to become raggedy yet whole again. I have woken up with blood on my hands, and I am not the same.