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.
When Your Rapist Gets Married
I’m at work when I find out that he is able to form meaningful intimate relationships despite what he did to me.
I feel it in the familiar places:
______where my arm was pinned,
______the curve of my knuckles as I tried to claw free,
and my vagina shuts.
I still had his skin under my nails in the morning when the fog drowned the ocean, and he called me tiger. I wanted to bathe in the sand, use the grains to scrub clean. Wash him out of my vagina with mud, to be naked with the earth.
My underwear was white cotton with orange trim, stolen from American Eagle. I packed them to every city and told myself lies that they were my most comfortable pair, but I always bled when I wore them. Washed them in the sink for three years before I could throw them away, left behind with the plastic cutlery in the Baltimore apartment.
Ten years later there is no sand where I live now. Last week a small child tried to shoot me with his umbrella at a taco stand. It was green and tiny and the boy did his best gun noises as I walked past. Today I discovered that for ten years my rapist was growing the way people are meant to grow but I still look at my body damaged and remember him.
Now others touch me as I look away so they won’t see me wince. I practice breathing to open my vagina because the Internet said it would fix me. Sometimes it works and when it doesn’t, I force a laugh and apologize and take their dicks in my mouth to distract from my broken parts.
The best times I am the ocean: open and constant and pouring pulsing waves. Ten years ago is gone and I can live this moment. Some moments wrap me after so close there is no room for memories. I hold my breath to keep my face pressed against their chests as long as possible, creating a less broken version of me in this airless space. But others move away to the edge of the bed through the panting and ten years ago fills the space between our bodies.
I am pinned. I am trying to claw free. I am searching for sand to clean me.
What We Say When We Can’t Speak
1. After the Weinstein story broke I finally got up the courage to google the man who sexually assaulted me.
2. The assault happened last century.
I have pushed it as far away into the past as I possibly can
I have shrunk it down to the size of an acorn kicked
it along the sidewalk under gas lit lamps
the final kick sent it under the bushes
where it will make a nice meal
for a squirrel.
3. In the fourth grade, a boy I had a crush on tried to convince me to cheat on a geography test. He hid the answers on a shelf next to our desks, wedged between encyclopedias, angling the answers so we could both see them. I got the highest grade despite never once looking at them. On the playground afterward I thanked him because I wanted him to think I cheated—because I wanted to be the kind of girl he liked, not the kind of girl I liked.
4. My attacker had blond hair.
I can’t stop seeing the color of hair he did have.
in my mind
a vast sea of men
crowns the same exact shade
bob along a crowded sidewalk in unison
at the intersection, they pause and glance back to see if I’m still watching.
5. I will tell my three daughters my #metoo story tomorrow, or the next day, or next year, or in two years when my oldest goes off to college or maybe I will just write about it in my will and they’ll learn what happened in the event of my death… if I tell them when I’m alive they’ll feel the shame I still carry… they’ll know I’m weak and vulnerable even though I want them to know I’m weak and vulnerable but not the kind of weak and vulnerable that’s shameful… they’ll know through my shaky voice and poker face that I still think it was my fault even though it wasn’t…
they will smell the alcohol on my breath all these years later
6. ellipses (n): a grammatical symbol that indicates an omission or a trailing off
Examples of omissions:
I should have known better
how could I be so naïve
my mother warned me
what was I thinking
Examples of trailing off:
if only I didn’t enjoy spiced rum
if only my legs weren’t jelly
if only I hadn’t passed out
if only I weren’t me
7. I wish my children already knew in the same way they already know how much I love them by the way I excise the soft, brown spots from their strawberries so that what touches their tongues is only whole, firm, sweet fruit.
8. I will “like” your social media #metoo posts but what I really want to do is hold your heart in my hands, keep it warm between my palms, and whisper:
I’m here I’m here I’m here
let’s build a room out of tissue paper and cotton
so it’s soft wherever we land.
WHITE NOISE WHITE NOISE WHITE NOISE WHITE NOISE
9. I was wearing a skirt. I haven’t worn a skirt since.
WHITE NOISE WHITE NOISE WHITE NOISE WHITE NOISE
10. I’m not submitting this piece for publication. If I do submit it, I don’t want anyone to publish it. If it gets published, I don’t want it shared on social media. If it is shared, I will ignore or unfollow anyone who posts it.
I will do this unfollowing
hidden in the corner
of my closet
11. I want the world to know but I want to hide from a world that knows. I want everyone to pretend everything is exactly the way it was but now slightly different, as if I just got my got my bangs trimmed and no one can pinpoint exactly what looks different about me because for the most part I look the same so instead they ask,
Did you do something with your hair?
12. My sixteen-year-old impatiently flips through the hangers in my closet.
Mom, how come you don’t ever wear skirts?
13. I will write down what happened on a tiny sliver of paper, roll it up, seal it with my spit, deposit it in the mouth of a wine bottle which once contained a woody kind of merlot and now has sticky red remnants trapped in the seams, and pitch the bottle out into the sea at low tide so that it won’t wash back on the shore near the feet of a child who will pull out the paper, decipher the smeared ink, and show her mother, who, upon reading, will realize that a complete stranger has written about the exact same thing that once happened to her. I don’t want that mother to cry in front of her child about the secret pain she’d been keeping to herself all these years, pain that some days felt as if it might crack her open like an oyster being shucked, when all she wanted to do was spend a relaxing day at the beach.
14. In the grand scheme of things I’m fine. I’m perfectly fine.
grand scheme of things:
a common phrase used to
erase survivors’ actual, lived trauma
see also: “not that bad” “considering everything” “it’s in the past.”
a four-letter word
meaning some days the agoraphobia was
so bad I couldn’t leave my room to get the mail.
A long, long time ago I did not understand.
When we ran into each other, there was an awkwardness I couldn’t define—false starts of conversations, stuttering, pauses that went on too long. My scalp felt prickly, my feet numb.
16. One year later, a friend relayed she was going on a date with him. We were in a cafeteria. Over greasy French fries doused in ketchup, the memory returned like a cyclone. I stared at my friend’s freckles, her eyes, wondered how they could be both green and blue at the same time, wondered how I could protect those green-blue eyes when I couldn’t even protect myself.
“Anjali, why are you shaking?”
17. Neuroscience exam question: In what ways do the hippocampus, neocortex, and amygdala conspire to keep secrets from the body?
if you run out of space, please use the back of this sheet
18. Recurring dream: I am standing outside his door holding a purple ribbon in my right hand. I want to tie it on the knob and run far away.
shadows of movements slice
the light under the door. I am rooted
to the earth, heels worn leaden like anvils
my head so light, so buoyant it floats high above
with only a single piece of twine attaching it to my body
19. He called me beautiful. Why did he have to call me beautiful?
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.