Hey, Chris, can I talk to you about something?
Usually, when someone writes that to me, I tend to be filled with a feeling of dread. People don’t premodify their conversations with the explicit declaration that they want to have a conversation, unless that conversation is going to hurt. So I stopped, and sat myself down on the low wall outside King’s College, crossed my legs, and wrote:
Sure, what’s on your mind? Everything ok? x
I puffed on my e-cigarette, and watched the little ellipsis at the bottom left corner of the screen bob pregnantly as she wrote her response.
Do you remember when we were sleeping together?
I did. In the months since my partner had ended our relationship, I’d drifted in and out of sexual relationships. Many of these had been quite painful. I’d cared deeply for all of the people who’d shared my bed, and more importantly, I’d trusted them. That trust had often been abused. That morning, I had awoken, and found myself thinking about one person, who’d come into my life, stayed in my house, listened to my experience of my last relationship, and then left, telling me they would love to see me again soon. A few weeks later they unfriended me on Facebook, without explanation, and now spoke about me with underided contempt. I still, to this day, don’t understand why, and knew that speculating would get me nowhere, or nowhere positive at least. Speculating when you have trust issues tends to lead you down a winding path, and dumps you unexpectedly with the overwhelming question of “can you ever trust anyone?”
Yes, I do. Why?
None of it really helped with my sexual anxieties. I found myself at the apex of sexual contradiction. I academically studied sex but found myself afraid of it. I have a high sex drive but have significant emotional trauma linked to desiring anyone. It’s what you get for being an ex-Catholic and a two times rape survivor. That this message was linked to sex brought a new dimension to my apprehension.
I need to tell you about something.
I’m not proud of it.
Okay…can you just tell me?
That bobbing ellipsis again, jauntily skipping.
I fucked you in your sleep.
I stopped puffing on my e-cigarette. Around me, groups of tourists stumbled, unspokenly fighting for good spots to take photos of Kings’ Chapel. I wonder how I looked in those photos – a painfully thin, hunched figure, wrapped rightly in an oversized greatcoat, on hand resting on a crutch, limply holding an e-cigarette, the other wrapped around a phone. I wonder what expression was on my face.
You may remember…You thought you’d dreamt it. It was when I was sleeping at yours but you didn’t want to have sex because of your ex.
I saw, rather distantly, my fingers skip lightly across the keypad on the screen.
You told me it was a dream.
Yeah, I did.
I’m guessing you didn’t use protection.
(Only I could, at this incident, with the ever logical, ever practical, ever thorough, part of my mind suddenly leaping into action, with an oddly dull sense of glee at finally getting one up on the more emotional side me, want to know about the practicalities.)
No, of course not.
No, of course not. When you fuck someone against their will in their sleep, why care about being safe?
I waited for her to say something else. The ellipsis didn’t appear. So I asked the only thing I could, really.
Logical me – who really deserves more credit than I give him – speculated whether any answer she gave would be acceptable. Unlikely. What about an answer that made sense? What did I even mean by “make sense”? Could there be an answer that justified what she had done? Emotional me, meanwhile, was screaming soundlessly a four letter word, written in red. A word beginning with R. I could see it mouthing the word over and over again, but without breath or force. I couldn’t bring myself to lip read, even though I knew, I had always known, what that word was.
I just wanted you to feel loved.
Throughout this encounter, my headphones had remained on my head. The Ghost Inside bellowed into my ears. I can’t stop screaming these words over again/Until breath is gone and my chest caves in/It doesn’t matter where I’ve been/Can’t give in and shut down, just breath in and breath out and begin.
You’d just had your heart broken…I wanted you to know someone loved you. Because people do. 🙂
(I shook the hand of Death/So I could sever the lies that he spits from his mouth)
You wanted me to feel loved.
(And now/It’s time to pull through/Something I must do/With or without you).
Online communication has no tone, save that what we give it with over compensation. The two x’s at the end of a text from a loved one. Key words like love, or matter, or the like. Else everything we write online sounds as warm and caring as a thrown knife. It’s why I still handwrite letters to the people I love.
Yeah. I’m sorry.
Are we okay?
Can I come over for dinner next week? I miss your cooking 🙂
(Count the clock till the overhaul./You built a bomb inside my walls./Count the clock till we’re out of hand./You build, build now we’re caught in the avalanche.)
I put my phone back in my pocket. There wasn’t a response to what had happened. It began to rain lightly, and the tourists and punt touts, as if by some secret cue, drew umbrellas and Kings Parade because a sea of colour, a shifting roof slithering incoherently, directionless. And in the midst of it, I sat, in the dull knowledge that once again I was a survivor.
I had been on my way to visit a lover when my phone had first buzzed. I doubted I would complete my visit. So instead I sat and as the rain grew heavier, tried to work out what I was feeling. It amounted to a grand total of nothing. In the last five months alone, I had been assaulted in the street three times, harassed online, had someone try to coerce me into suicide, blamed by people once close to me for all manner of sins, and now, to top it off, I had once again been raped. Yet I felt nothing. I was angry at the way I had been told, but my feelings towards the girl in question were neutral.
Perhaps this was my new way of processing trauma. It just happened. I no longer got surprised when I got threats online, or when someone kicked my crutch out from under me and screamed abuse. I found I no longer cared when I heard, on the grape vine, that I was responsible for some unspeakable act or another. It didn’t move me at all.
The Ghost Inside continued to scream away in my ears. I recalled that the band had been involved in a terrible bus accident and that I had donated towards the cost of their medical bills. It was half past eleven in the morning, and I was getting steadily wetter. I needed to buy paint. It was my turn to cook dinner. I had to sort out some legal paperwork this weekend. And I’d also been raped.
Third time’s a charm, I suppose.