An open letter to my future lovers,
You need to know that I can’t count the number of times he raped me. My memories of the abuse sort of blur together- fuzzy, the way my vision clouded when he slammed my head into that rock the first time, so I couldn’t fight back. I can still picture some specific images. I can hear his voice. I specifically remember the first and last times it happened. And the one time he used a condom. To write my whole story would take more pages than you want to hear right know, I know. But I need you to understand. So I will tell you about one night, the final time he assaulted me, the straw that broke my back. Through old journals, flashbacks, and bad dreams I’ve collected all the events of that night. It’s not the censored story I told at 15. It’s not the confused story I told at 17. It’s not the vague one I told at 19. It’s the gritty, bloody, violent, accurate truth at 20. Five years later- cleared from a post-traumatic haze. Lucid, thorough, and intact.
We went to a dance, the first one we’d been to where he wore civilian clothes. His commanders threw this party to reward the unit for passing inspection from the big important Air Force guy who flew in from New Orleans or Atlanta or some other big Southern city. The night of the dance, December 14th, I had an unholy migraine- as I imagine most people do when they don’t eat, sleep, or smile. This was one of those migraines that scratches downward from the backs of your eyes, into your jaws, your neck, your shoulders, and finally lands in your spirit. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled about sitting in a room with five foot speakers blasting techno, hip hop, and the occasional slow country song. So he got all mad. He danced dirty with a few other girls just to prove that he could. But, as one song ended, he walked toward my table slowly and deliberately, leaned down, kissed my neck, and whispered in my ear, “Let’s get some fresh air.” I followed him outside and the cold hit like a wall of ice. He wrapped me in his arms and guided me through the parking lot to his friend’s pickup truck. He lowered the gate and we sat on the edge of the truck bed. I laid my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes. He rubbed my head and, as I relaxed into him, the pain began to fade. These moments of peace were rare, precious- but only moments.
He leaned down his head and kissed me, long and deep. I smiled obediently and lay my head back down, trying to delay the inevitable. But he put a finger under my chin and lifted my mouth to his. He laid me down slowly. He pushed one arm up my blouse, the blouse I borrowed from my friend just for that night. I laced my fingers in his big military hands and pushed them away from me with all my pathetic strength. I said things. Things like his name, like “not tonight,” and then “please.” And then finally a desperate, pleading, and defeated cry, “No.” He grabbed at my breasts and twisted them left and right, chaffing them with his calloused palms. Then he ran his teeth down my stomach as he unbuttoned my jeans. I counted stars and allowed my consciousness to fade as his face lie between my thighs. Suddenly, acute and horrifying pain reunited my mind with my body as I realized he’d bitten down on a delicate layer of flesh. I felt warm, sticky blood begin to flood in and around me. He lifted his head and smiled at me with bloody teeth, then spat out a piece of my skin. A piece of me. I tried to refocus my mind and ignore the pain. I contemplated screaming as he shoved his fist inside of me and I felt the tissue continue to tear. I pictured the blissful young couples just fifty feet away, kissing and dancing in a room with loud music that would muffle my cries. I drifted in and out of awareness as he pulled down his jeans and I felt his weight on top of me. Three thousand hours later, when he finished, I unconsciously pulled up my jeans and lay back down next to him where he whispered in my ear, “No one’s gonna’ love you after what I’ve done to you.” And I laid there and I believed him.
So, to my future lovers, I told you this story to help you understand where I’m coming from. So you’ll remember I have at least a hundred other memories like this one.
So you might understand that sometimes I don’t sleep. And, yes, sometimes I miss class.
I told you this story so you’ll start connecting the dots that even though I’m too scared to tell you yet, I really like you and want to kiss you. So you’ll know that I already want you because you make me feel safe.
So you’ll know that reading bell hooks and Jackson Katz are prerequisites to making love with me.
So you might get why sometimes I hate my body and why I’m scared to show my body to you. So you know why I need you to be tender, slow, and communicative with me. So that you’ll know I’ll be tender, communicative, and grateful to you. So you’ll know it’s not your fault when I pull away.
But mostly I told you because I’m still pretty sure he was right, that I’m unlovable. I really told you my story in the hopes that you can love me past that pain.