Some days I remember my last relationship like all I have left from it isn’t one Polaroid picture and PTSD that makes my days turn to weeks. I hate the word trigger. I hate the word trigger, it’s a trigger in itself. My abuser and I. Honey and vinegar. How I learned to wash my clothes on specific days at a specific time and hang my memories clothespin by clothespin on the line in the backyard to try to dry them out. How I follow a specified schedule so that I don’t end up falling asleep mid panic attack nightly because I have to have control over each minute. How I keep every flower petal from every bouquet of flowers any man has bothered to send to me and a lock of my hair in different jars to remember what color my hair was when men seemed kind and I felt soft. Now I buy myself flowers every week and my hair has been pink for five months. I slept for twenty hours straight last week. I keep trying to maintain control. Every coping mechanism stopped working when Spring came.
The thing about trauma is it doesn’t give a fuck about how you plan your days or if you wake up in a pleasant mood. The thing about trauma is, if your mother says the wrong word in a thirty minute span of you getting out of bed, you will go back to that bed and stay there for the rest of the day. Trauma doesn’t give a fuck about how soft your lover speaks, how consciously your lover touches you, how thought out you are, or how much you have to do today. Trauma is that Polaroid picture, but every time I take a photo of myself this is all that comes out. Trauma is the fear that I can’t get past this. Trauma is the night terror I can’t wake up from.
Saturday night I had a panic attack, drunk at three a.m., because my partner lovingly kissed my neck in the place my brain said was wrong in that moment and I was reminded of how easily someone that claims to love you can take your clothes off and your pride away in seconds. How they can take your confidence away in restaurant bathrooms and their parents backyard. How they can take your pale white skin and turn it fifty different shades in three different cities during three different summers, consistently. How they can almost take your life away on your living room floor. The response is now my body against a wall, sheets as my shield and my inability to breathe or speak for a seven minute span. Panic attacks too late in the game that leave week long hangovers of the evening that encapsulated a feeling that I never have and never will feel again.
Gut feelings. A responsible girl. I thought I saw my mom for the last time. Man swings metal at girl’s head. Man hits home run straight to a jail cell. Girl bleeds out on the carpet of the apartment they lived in. Girl never sees man again except on rustic roads in passing. Exhale.
How do you speak about trauma? I feel guilty for writing about it and you want me to speak on it? Fuck, I feel guilty for feeling it. A paper weight for my transgressions and the audience makes up the printer. I hate being called a survivor and I hate being called victim, both feel weak, and on most days I still feel victim. I hate how dirty this makes me feel, it makes it sound like I deserve a medal for trying not to die. I still disregard the trauma of others because I am yet to fully understand my own. I feel too honest too often and that all I write about is this thing, but we write what we know, right? Three years of knowing.
I read The Color Purple five times in one month and manifested his destiny in my palms. A lineage of women who have been abused. The first to be removed from those who couldn’t do anything. The first to send their abuser to a jail cell, make them a felon, but try to empathize and not have the energy for court and let them off with a couple of Alcoholics Anonymous and Domestic Abuse classes.
Empathy is a mistake and it’s all my mother ever taught me. It’s been seven months. It’s been seven months of me once removed and five months of me with the softest lover in existence by my side. I still cry every day. I still cry every day. I still cry everyday. It’s been seven months and it’s still easy for him to find me.
The people who want to call me their friend are abuse apologists and these same people wanna call themselves a feminist as if my experiences are invalid and as if their mothers never held them while their fathers were out drinking and some of them never came home. These people let the word feminist roll off of their tongue, yet they have rape accusations against them, accusations of abuse, accusations of assault, accusations of being an impossible person. Some of these people want to call themselves a feminist and look a feminist in the eye and tell her they like her dress, tell her they’re “sorry” they keep talking about how dirty they feel for being an accused rapist and how they are thankful she believes their side of their abuse story. They wanna call themselves a feminist and have a rapist and a top tier abuser living in their apartment for free, my rapist and abuser, and invite me over for their benefit without giving me the most important doubt. Place my physicality and sanity in harm’s way and show me that if you are an abuse apologist, the accusations against you are more than likely fact. Call yourself a feminist one more time as you call your ex girlfriend a crazy bitch in the same sentence. Tell a rape joke. Insult me a little more, as if you allowing my abuser into your home isn’t insult enough. Fuck your feminism.
I say nothing. I plan ahead. I am too kind. My mother only taught me empathy. I try to be soft, but I’m beginning to harden under all of this pressure. Until they do right by me, everything they even think about will crumble.
Grace Farmer is currently a student at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith working on a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and Creative Writing. She has previously been published in her schools literary journal, Applause.