Here comes the babysitter. You’re pumped. His appearance promises a night of board games, TV, living room dance parties. He’ll make mac & cheese for dinner and skip the broccoli entirely. Turn up the volume on bands you’ve never heard of. Dress up like a Sith Lord and let you annihilate him after a protracted battle that covers every floor of the house.
You may pass several hours draped in sequins and spiked on sugar. Playing, yes. But for show, not for keeps. Playing for this night only. Playing with the door closed.
The babysitter has one job: keeping you safe until your parents get home.
My friend and I walk through a spice shop. We pull corks from jars and hold them up to our noses, gasping with delight, recoiling in alarm. Paprika, ginger, barbeque rub. The woody sawdust of galangal. Tarragon’s foresty tang.
She tells me about last weekend’s terrible date. The fellow kept fishing for a flirt and grabbing at her hand. She didn’t push the hand away. Didn’t tell him no. She is young. She is still worried about being alone forever.
I wonder when she’ll figure out that fear of the unknown far outstrips the actual miseries we meet? That the ways we guard ourselves becomes our true devastation?
Picture the vines creeping from his collar.
The stem snaking.
The petal pink and thick as a human ear unfurling from the place his cheek should be.
Pollen-pouched bees yellowing as they gather
what he was always bound to become.
What comes next.
This is our revenge.
Those of us he mounts to build the crystal barricade,
its pearled locks and curtains
thin as whispers and thick
as what stands between dimensions.
He designed it all to let in the curated glow
and keep out everything that makes the light.
He twines black ribbon around his wrist. With a yellow strand, I mirror him. Weave slips around the thumb and passes through open channels between fingers stretched wide. Twice around and across, the dressing lays itself over the bumps of knuckles where once we counted days of the month. He is finished with both of his before I am even halfway around the first. His fingers turn my hand and graze my left palm just before mummifying its living flesh beneath warped satin dressing.
Knee deep in it. Gold like sable, like suede.
Like the silk edge of the blanket that held infant you.
A mermaid’s tail, the otter’s fur slipping past
and churning against your calf
a strand of stars and all the fire they contain,
the heat they release.
At your feet this river
“What would you do if all men had a 9pm curfew?” She asks the world.
The world responds.
I would walk at night with music in my ears.
I would shop for groceries after my kids are in bed.
I would stay late in the lab.
Lay on the grass and see all the stars.
Lay across the warm hood of my car.
Sleep in my front yard all summer long.
I would not carry my keys like claws.
I would pitch a tent beside my favorite waterfall.
Run on the trail until my legs give out.
Sleep where I land. Continue reading “9pm Curfew”
“But it’s no use now,” thought poor Alice, “to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!”
I was 14. He was 19. I didn’t know him before that weekend. The boys who took me to the party at his house went somewhere and left me with him. He had a reputation, I later learned, for getting girls drunk and raping them. He added pure grain alcohol, I later learned, to whatever he was serving me.
He told me he was someone else. He locked me in his room. He took off everything but my shirt. He raped me. It was my first sexual encounter. I didn’t report because I was scared my dad would be mad at me for drinking at a party. That’s the kind of worry a 14-year-old brain can understand. I couldn’t yet grasp the enduring shame of staying quiet when I could have helped stop him from hurting other girls.
This happened in Bethesda, Maryland in July, 1988. Everyone at the party knew what he did, including the boys who brought me and the one I had to beg to take me home. I wonder how they might they tell their #WhyIDidntReport stories about that night?