ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for essays, poetry, fiction, comics, and artwork by women and non-binary people that engage with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
The series will run every Tuesday afternoon. Each week we will highlight different voices and stories.
I open up the front door and get the paper, make a cup of coffee and sit down to read. It starts out innocently enough, but it starts feeling like a zombie movie. The news stories become green-tinged bloated corpses of dead dreams, surfacing and bursting open one by one, leaking putrid gasses and noxious fumes into the air. It makes me feel nauseous, sick. My hand unconsciously covers my mouth and nose as I read. It’s making all of us sick.
It smells like shit, bile, powerlessness, hopelessness. An interconnected toxic sludge of bad decisions, self-interest, fear and unintended consequences. An invasive touch, a racial slur, a hate crime, a gerrymander. A polluted river, a deforestation, a rhino horn ground into dust for a hangover cure. It’s a formula:
The predatory [pick one]:
studio head president dictator CEO colleague employer artist athlete teacher doctor coach boss priest family “friend” grandfather father uncle brother husband boyfriend
[choose all that apply:]
humiliating harassing degrading devaluing invading using abusing neglecting violating attacking exploiting
[choose all that apply]:
colleagues employees artists students patients athletes children grandchildren spouses lovers relatives humans animals plants minerals nature Earth space other planets the universe
I see my own life story from the very beginning, my own childhood and teenage-hood and womanhood wound of these same blood-red threads: you weren’t born male and white so you are disgusting and unworthy. You can’t do math, science, computers, medicine, business, leadership, sports, law, media, academia, art, finance, [fill in the blank] because you weren’t born male and white. Your dreams don’t matter, your thoughts and perspectives don’t matter, you’re just here for fucking and owning and using and degrading because you weren’t born male and white. We get to inhabit you like a zombie ant. We get to erase you. We get to eclipse you. We get to exploit you, take from you whatever we want. You’re not real because you weren’t born male and white.
This applies to everything else on Earth, too. Plants, Animals, Minerals, Water, Air.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
– Genesis 1:26-28
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
– Genesis 3:16
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.”
– Donald Trump, President of the United States
I leave the paper and coffee on the dining room table and climb back into bed. I’m a mess today. I have a terrible cold and a heavy period and I can’t stop crying. I am drowning in this relentless tsunami of bad news. I am weeping, snotty, drowning in my own face, drowning in myself. I can hardly see, hardly breathe. I am water and underwater at the same time. I try to fight it off for a while, and then I get too exhausted. I surrender. I quit fighting. I just let go.
Lying in my bed on my back, face swollen, I imagine myself as an ancient bronzed statue of some long-forgotten goddess thrown overboard from a pirate ship, frozen in gesture, slowly sinking, abandoned, stolen, discarded, alone.
Into the darkness of the ocean. I land on the sea floor with a soft thud, kick up the dust where all the dead things fall. The only light I see is the flickering red and green and blue phosphoresce of those mysterious sea creatures with huge teeth and sightless eyes that live in the blue-black undersea.
It is quiet down there. Like night. Cold.
It feels good to surrender for a minute.
To be safe, quiet, and alone.
I feel the cold salt water gently dissolve my patina. As each small brown green flake of rust begins to loosen and drift away, I say to myself, I know what it’s like.
I know what it’s like to be grabbed, trapped, pinned, pithed.
I know what it’s like to get rammed against my will with a hot beef introjection.
I know what it’s like to be a pressure cooker filled with rage.
I know what it’s like to fall through a trap door into a bottomless well.
I know what it’s like to be bitter as earwax, as soap, as biting on lemon peel.
I know what it’s like to be arid and dry, drained dry, a mud cracked desert with nothing left to give and nothing left to take.
I know what it’s like to be an appliance. Property. Game. A twisty-horned antelope, adrenaline in your mouth, stalked by five lions. A house mouse, tiny heart beating too fast, stalked by two predatory house cats. A headless sex doll stored in the closet on a hook. An endangered ebony pipe packed too tight with African tobacco. A river polluted with stockyard blood and adrenaline. An oil slick. A coal mine. A nuclear test aimed into the earth. A child with no voice. A broken inside out thing.
I know what it’s like to become invisible.
Sometimes, you get erased in clap of chalk dust, a stick figure on a chalkboard, gone. Sometimes, you get harvested for the parts they like the best, but they don’t kill you. They just leave a big hole in the center where the You used to be. At first, it’s hard to walk around like that. You hunch over and you just don’t feel right, but eventually you get used to this new hole in the center of you. Sometimes, becoming invisible is subtler than that. Your opacity slowly fades away, one gentle nudge of the slider at a time. So subtle you barely notice it until one day you can see the wall through your hand.
I wipe my nose, roll over on my side. The phone rings and I don’t answer it. I just keep crying, roll with it.
Sometimes you are a lost ghost. A faint outline, a blurry center, a trace of salt, a faint breeze. You do not (cannot?) meet your eyes in the mirror so you aim them somewhere up above your eyebrows as you brush your ghost teeth and wash your ghost face. You have no voice, or a very faint whisper of one. People ask you to speak up sometimes, but your volume knob is broken and trying to be heard strains, burns your throat. Public speaking is out of the question, and besides, they couldn’t see you anyway. You’d just be a floating glass of water on a stage. So your ideas go nowhere. Your messages go out into void. No one hears you when you say no or ask why. So, eventually, you stop trying. You sigh and accept your fate, holding the silver sliver of what’s left in your see-through fist.
I hear all the beings with something to take
across time and space and color and shape
I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like.
Something breaks inside me and I scream ENOUGH so loud that it boils the water, huge bubbles breaking on the surface, each one releasing a pissed off goddess ready to go.
An oily grey bubble releases the
terrifying earsplitting wail of countless
banshees mourning all the
suffering across Time.
__________________________A red-tinged bubble carries Ixchel,
__________________________the ancient Mayan goddess of
__________________________childbirth and war, all fired up and
__________________________ready to destroy misogyny,
__________________________racism, gender traps.
A blue bubble holds Tiamat,
the feathered dragon
Babylonian goddess of saltwater,
Mother of earth and sky,
AKA Chaos Monster,
ready to defend the natural world.
A pink bubble carries Ma’at, the Egyptian
goddess of truth, holding a heart in one
hand and a feather in the other,
preparing to lay down some justice.
__________________________Another releases Kali, Mother of the Whole Universe,
__________________________her deep red enraged eyes and lolling blue tongue,
__________________________skirt of human arms and garland of human heads,
__________________________holds a sword, a trident, a severed head and a
__________________________bowl to catch the blood, on a mission to kill anything
__________________________that gets in the way of Love.
I unfreeze myself from the bottom of the ocean. I’m DONE with this. I’m done holding this shame. I’m done being infected with this sickness. I close my eyes, swim around in my deep dark sea looking for what is missing. I find my Core made of untouchable glittering gold, wound up like a ball in some long strands of kelp. I cut myself free, scoop myself up, hold myself close and kiss myself with the kiss of perpetual love and no-matter-what forgiveness.
I recognize my Self.
I stop crying. I break through the surface and swim back to the shore of my life. I drink a glass of water, dry my face, blow my nose. I am walking around the room, invigorated now. I am not a victim now.
I reorganize my Self.
I go about building the boundaries. I protect myself. I find the food, stoke the fire, and watch over the family of myself. I give myself kindness, pay attention to what I need. I protect space for the young and the real parts of me to breathe.
And then I cast a poem, a hex, a prayer to end the suffering everywhere:
Repeat after me.
I am real.
I am meant to be.
This world is a sacred place.
I belong here.
My differences, our sameness, our needs, our dreams, our fears are real.
I are going to heal. I am healing. I am healed.
I am going to evolve. I am evolving. I am evolved.
I am real.
I am Thou.
And everyone and everything else is too.
Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.
ENOUGH is a Rumpus original series devoted to creating a dedicated space for work by women and non-binary people that engages with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence. We believe that while this subject matter is especially timely now, it is also timeless. We want to make sure that this conversation doesn’t stop—not until our laws and societal norms reflect real change. You can submit to ENOUGH here.
Many names appearing in these stories have been changed.
Visit the archives here.