“But there were times where you’ve offered your consent with other men. Older men. They did not love you. And you enjoyed those times. You chose them. You were not afraid.”
You don’t know the true success of survival til’ you’ve experienced the adrenaline of a too-close death. What is there to fear when you’ve licked the edge of it? It is going to be an oppressively hot summer, the New York Post says, but I’ve got a few of my own stowed away, enough to occupy a southern desert.
There was one summer, his name was Tito and my sisters still say his name just like that, “Tee-toww” the O a benchmark in the bottom of the jaw. I was just 12 but the gaze itself made me a flame, so no one could tell, I guess,
or no one would tell. He was the kind of heavy swelter that had the whole block at mercy, everyone’s connect to whatever they needed, which was much and in bulk. Power is a switch that yokes me up at the waist - I was young & enamored by this pattern of men who shouldn’t want me risking tickets to touch the stark chant of me. Each time, I imagine a witchcraft enveloping the bone. I remember,
once, at some low hour in the trough of that summer, my mouth a voyaging boat, Tito’s spine a current of illicit knots, his hand a spindle on the back of my course head — he looks down at me, & moans out “Who the fuck are you?”
I say, and the answer is always the same thereafter: I’m nobody,
who are you?
“Why do you think it takes more than forgiveness? What is stopping you from just letting go?”
The therapist asks,
How can I explain the kind of love that this kind of land breeds?
I was eight and thought he’d materialized from the classroom rafters, shrieked and hid and really believed he was hovering over me again, palms abash with sharp things, anything that could waste through me. My mother was called, the ambulance too - it was a short lived hallucination, but anxiety of that kind chalks over some segments of the psyche and the whole system tails down, burning. My whole life depends on the myth of permission.
Where do I begin? At the fierce defiance violation stones in the pitted belly? Desire is a small toy in the mouth of something sleeping, but this is not that kind of love, this is sheer obligation playing nice in the cold. Everything true and light about me is inextricably born to something perpetually dead. Every time I love someone/thing with a part of me that is not tainted by the lax hands of a traitor, I revel in the autonomy, in the possibility of it. How can I love so fully with all of this ugly traveling alongside my body? That’s why I have to love him. Does that make sense? Because I’m walking with him everyday, daring to cross the road even and all you’ve gotta do is help me look at him, locate him, what is left of him that is not sewn through me. I can’t say that I can really explain it to you, but can you fix it, can you fix me without a mouth wet in one language?
“Did you love him?”
The therapist asks.
I pause in my breath, make it short and listen to what the circulation is telling me. “Yes,” I say, “I think I did.” And how could I not? He was the stuff of the big boy universe, a monument of what it meant to
have a big brother. He was annoying, and picked on me, but made me meals and helped me learn how
to recognize unfamiliar humor and when to laugh. We laughed some afternoons, the house thick with
summer sweat, our joy deep portals, the television a frigid murmur in the rooms. All day, we’d disobey
the rules and be glittered about it, waiting for our grandmother to come home and dial through the
“So, you loved him.” She says, and sure, yes, what does it really take to admit it, the moon is full tonight, anyway.
Sure, I loved him, because I was made to. But things got weird and the body holds a lot of what does not belong to it. I carry him in ways I’d wish away, but here we are.
“Most women cannot say the person by name or even a pronoun. You take this on well.”
That’s what you all call it. Is there ever a living, perforated thing that can escape a bleed? I’m not dealing, I’m not dealing with it, I’m not accepting it as mine but I talk about it, shoot at it, take
all the right medication. Is that enough? Sometimes. Today.
There is no
Resolution to missing you.
Each day travels in
and out of itself
My bold name falling
in and out of
Any stranger’s mouth.
These days I
look perfection in the face
with each lie. I was
Beautiful once. I was a bloom for time’s eye.
I was an allergen,
a schism of breath’s sake.
I loom through these sordid yellow rooms, teething with
deep misuse, your name starving me out. Absence is the heart’s dying muse.