ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for essays, poetry, fiction, comics, and artwork by women, trans, and nonbinary people that engage with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
The series runs weekly, most often on Tuesday afternoons. Each week, we will highlight different voices and stories.
a man and woman who claim to love each other anyway talk about rape
he says, a lie that leads to an unjust conviction is worse than rape. he says, long-term consequences on the job market. she says, rape is worse than a lie that leads to an unjust conviction. the argument is bleak. it spreads them thin, like months of overdue bills and ought-to presence at weddings as popular math. she says, I live in a woman’s body and in you, a man’s. we’ll never agree. she’s speaking from her fears and he, from his. she looks at the stabbing chimney that eyes her bedroom window like a slimy bus driver eyeing a sleeping passenger. it is a grave and the smoke, the ghost of an object rising into blue fields ready for harvest. her childhood bedroom is L-shaped, so she’s listening to his disembodied nasal whistle as she writes her thesis at her desk. she’s back for a visit where he’s chosen to stay: a city both malicious and effervescent—she rakes its memory with a pitchfork. but her parents have never called him anything but a “guest” in another language. her body eventually understands.
Questions I Can’t Get to the End of Without Bleeding Out
how did they take you / weren’t you asking / begging / was your no really a no / or / an invite / didn’t you ask them over / didn’t you say / you loved him / weren’t you together / was the age gap really that big / hadn’t ya’ll done this before / why this time / how can you remember from so long ago / is it possible you’re confused / or / you sent the wrong signal / what proof do you have / used goods / dirty girl / endless tunnel / through your center / i mean your body isn’t / a stop sign / a red light / with those hips / that mouth /why are you crying now / why didn’t you tell anybody then / why didn’t you report / are you sure you’re sure you’re sure you’re sure / because / this is the kind of thing that could ruin a man / what do you mean / you’re in ruins / do you have any proof / are you sure you’re sure / how do you love now / hasn’t this happened before & after him / how many men / how do you know you aren’t projecting / or / influenced by the culture / mob mentality is a thing you know / & witch hunts / why didn’t you tell your dad / you don’t seem so damaged / didn’t you write him poems / didn’t you say yes sometimes / didn’t he love you back he wanted to marry you I heard / seriously this kind of thing really can ruin a man / what if he’s matured / did you cum / were you injured / did it go all the way or was it just a small incident / he doesn’t seem like the type / if the police didn’t call back after saying they would investigate maybe there was nothing to find / weren’t your lips red as sin that night / weren’t you in his house / are you sure you’re sure you’re sure you’re sure / what proof do you have—
other than the blood
memories laced in his would be ghost
& the night terrors he haunts
until paralysis is dream wine
& the way the air in your chest
is a constant fish
hook mouthed & flopping
until it’s dragged out
The university health services doctor
scrapes the soft of me
Asks, have you experienced sexual trauma?
As if she’s asking when I learned to ride a bike
or what diseases run in my family.
I say, yes.
Open legged. Speculum ready.
Pussy filling the room.
She says, oh honey. That’s why
Begins about treatment.
I’m just here for a birth control refill. And somehow,
I’m hiding my panties under my pants on the chair.
She suggests a follow up appointment and I stare thinking,
Leave the rest alone.
Apron bow tied tight on broken rib,
neither house, nor wife,
with my one unsprained wrist,
I unflip the couch and arrange it
like a trimmed flower delivery
on the unvacuumed carpet
before the rescue friends arrive
to the He Finally Went Too Far Party.
They pass by the doorbell
and the bouquets of finger in the drywall,
the blood petals that lead up the aisle of stairs
and the sharp smile of the knife
that pirouetted on the floor
last night, a mouthy ballerina,
her braced teeth kiss, the worst game
of spin the bottle ever played,
and with their arms full of sympathy
casseroles they say, It’s a new recipe,
so sorry if it sucks. What
do you bring to a party like this?
I greet them at the table and guide them
with my swollen lips into champagne
laughter at how fucking stereotypical it is
that I defended myself with a frying pan,
how his skull grew a clementine,
how I bent backwards like an elbow,
how he told me that he would tell the police that I was the menace,
how he said that I spread my thighs like free breakfast,
how I believed every rabid hiss,
how when he said it like a secret, his eyes were bigger than his own face,
how I tried to call 9-1-1,
how he shoved the phone in my mouth like a battered spoon,
how it silenced my wild howl and I tasted blood,
how they tell you to scream fire instead of help but that doesn’t work either,
how if a tree falls in a cul de sac of run down duplexes and yells rape
no one even comes to the window,
how the sliding glass door locked me out until I could calm the fuck down,
how my bones would have splintered if I had jumped off the balcony,
how I considered it still.
I notice my own echo in the halls
of their pity and origami a napkin
into an apology on my plate: So anyway,
I take a sip, He owes me a new frying pan.
And we have to laugh.
But when the silence sets back in
and the rescue friends
have all gone home,
I lose count
of how many times
I’ve checked the locks.
I ice my aching swell,
hang up my apron,
wipe down the table,
and with the last shred
of woman left in me,
in what a good hostess
Pops, love from you was fists
against my ribs, you called it discipline,
initiation, like your father did to you.
Outside our home was a ten-foot fence
for me to punch, kick, shake, scream
but I leaned my face into rows of rust,
its mesh held me, & I began to sing
the only song I knew, de colores,
de colores es el arco iris que vemos lucir.
In my room I looked at myself in the mirror,
the word comes from the Latin, Mirari, to wonder,
to miracle from self, my first lesson:
look at everything, how it guides me
to remember how the body keeps the score,
like earth’s crust keeps the records of history:
the bones of all that lived, weapons
we used on ourselves, the plastic that’ll take years
& years to decompose, your gold tooth,
your Levi’s 501 jeans, your muscle t-shirts,
your hands finally open, quiet
from all the noise they caused
I hear stucco ceiling scream
like an accordion stretching a note
pops holds her on the floor
her hands trying to fly
but limp they become brushes
soaking up carpet
swollen in red
he throws her outside
all I see is a blur
the way a comet screeches
he slams doors shut
his eyes solo cups collecting rain
he says if you let her in
you’ll be turned off like a flashlight
in bed with eyes closed
I dream of a piñata’s candies
cascading from its chest I know
to wake up & slide
the doors open amá
my right ear to her back
with both of my arms drag
her inside the living room
click on the t.v. hold her
like fire does to wood
This body is an instrument.
You told me to be loud as clouds,
to learn how to be a name that rises
like steam from chilaquiles,
& once the body is all gone,
sing, “que lindo esta la mañana
cuando te fuistes.” I understand
the word last: a verb, to continue
in time, to remain, the Don Pedro,
you remember how it poured
out onto the floor, the smell
of carnitas, a song:
“llego borracho el borracho,”
is playing the soundtrack to that time,
when pops finally left, 25 years
cried out, I thought I shouldn’t
tear so long, it doesn’t go away,
it’s those spaces on the walls
that’ve been plastered & painted ripe mango,
your eyes looking outside that day:
two butterflies eating
a half-cut orange. Your hands
are smaller than mine, darker
at the ridges of the knuckles,
I hold them between mine,
it opens an ending
My grandfather set down a cooler of beers by the river and taught you to cast a rod.
He made it so easy to distrust your memories of who came before,
the other father who hit you beyond the clairvoyance of your mother,
whom you greeted with flattened affect, stilted speech. Nothing is wrong.
This father at the river was so real, you recognized him from television.
He insisted he never said that. He insisted he was never even gone.
Each time you caught your palm with the wormed
hook, he wiggled the metal out until your memories of the blistering past erased
unevenly across a white page. You found in him the good man
of my childhood. You told me my father was a hero.
Inside us both huddles a child lost at the fairgrounds.
They await a small god of their own making to arrive.
With my first rod, you gifted me his photograph. He holds the biggest fish I’ve seen.
Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.
ENOUGH is a Rumpus original series devoted to creating a dedicated space for work by women, trans, and nonbinary 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.
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