Morning is Broken

{I was searching for the sketch I did of the nightmare I recalled in my last post when I came across some assignments I saved from college. This one was supposed to be recounting part of a normal day in the minutiaist style of James Joyce’s  Ulysses. It gave me the most powerful flashback to the morning I recounted that I thought I’d share it here.}

The mirror bids me good morning as usual. Nightshirt off. Panties on. Good morning to the closet of a bedroom and ugly white walls covered in black and white photos of other people kissing. Good morning to the spots on my face, too small breasts, too wide hips. And now a head of hair that’s about eight colors because I can’t leave it alone. Idiot.

     …ugly. Say it, say you’re not good enough. 

     I’m not good enough. 

     That’s right. You’re lucky, aren’t you? So lucky I keep you. 

Stop it. Stop.

A shake of the head. Hands ball into fists far too late to act as any real defense.

     Don’t think of him. 

A sigh. Stomach flat. Edge of a hip. Okay. Better. A turn. Cellulite.

…not good enough….not good enough….not good-STOP! 

Debating breakfast. I run hands over the straight lines of my collarbones, down arms, almost skinny enough. Grip breasts. Fuck it. Shower.

After the shower, it’s quiet. Anna is asleep still. Elyssa gone. Dance probably. Theatre major. Daisy… probably upstairs in her boyfriend’s bed.

Lonely. Still and lonely.

There’s a tiny patch of sunlight that hits the corner of the living room. It glints off the edge of a bit of fingernail clipping, caught in the buzzcut carpet. Silver polish. Not mine. Should vacuum. Swear I’m the only one that cleans. But that’s all right.

I don’t mind. Keeps my mind busy.

     You’re everyone’s mum then. 

     Not really. 

     You are. But it’s endearing. 

THERE’S a happy thought. Daniel. Lips. Hair. Eyes. Voice. Accent. Hair on his chest. Man. Man. Love. Eyes. So new.

     They’re hazel. That’s what you were wondering. I saw it. 

Movie theater. Valentines Day. Walking home. Hollywood after dark. Down those streets a thousand times but not with him. Hands, laced in the dark. Lips. Chest. The curl of brown hair, chest, stomach, lower. God, how I love…

   …the way “Robo-Cop” sounds with an English accent. 

I sit in the patch of sun. Wedge in next to the sliding glass door, press my back against the wall, heartened by the feeling of my vertebrae pricking my skin from the inside against the plaster and at the same time hating that the feeling cheers me up slightly. I brush my hair, eyes closed. Copper tipped bristles scrape my scalp. The sun’s glowing warmth hits a shoulder and a hip first. Spreads from the points. It’s the wrong angle to be hot, just the sensation of being touched by light. A hum starts in my throat.

No one’s around to hear. Lonely and still. Quiet, so quiet. It’s not that bad.

Two sips of whisky in the flash but I’m not gonna drink it

Swear I’ll make it last til we’re

Drinking out of the same glass again

The rythm of my brushing keeps time to Passenger tunes.

Ahhh Passenger. 

Daniel, Daniel. Where’s my phone? Eyes open. Done with the brush. I stretch in the sun. Curl my toes like tender leaves of grass in a breeze.

My legs are skinny at least, thought they look sickly and pale in the direct sunlight. I can see every tiny blue vein through the vellum I’m made of. Blue. Wormlike. No one will love you. My skin is so easily broken. I’m made of tissue paper.

I’m still in my towel. And I’m sure I should getting off to somewhere. Class perhaps.

Who am I kidding, of course class. I’ve missed far too many days already.

Dress. Leggings. Shoes. Eyeliner. Halfassed and smudged. Powder. Nothing else. I might have a date tonight and that calls for the full nine. Though I get the impression that this one wouldn’t mind if I skipped the makeup. Simplify simplify. Maybe that’s why I l-ike being around him.

Though the sand may be washed by the sea.

The old may be lost in the new

Four will not wait for three

I like my voice at least. Soft, husky, good ear for pitch.

Class. Too hot. Took the stairs and am out of breath. Sitting against the wall, my own misshapen citadel, I fan myself  with the yellow legal pad I keep with me for my lists. And the letters.

Daniel: I miss you. Is that selfish? Very well then, it’s selfish. You’ll never read this. 

     You’ll never know…

     I love him, I love him. It’s pointless. He’ll just go back to England. But I love him. 

Check the ipod, finally. I have to wait. Can’t just check it constantly. Have to have some boundaries. Inbox. Empty. Refreshrefreshrefresh. One message. Not him. Leave it. Glance up. Professor’s chatting. Down again, reach for the watch I left on the bathroom countrer. Stupid. I crane at the clock and feel hideously rude. Two minutes left.

Refreshrefreshrefresh.

Nothing.

     Three never waited for two. 

     Though you will not wait for me

Scratching a heart on the corner of one yellow sheet in pencil. Graphite smudged on my fingertips. Scratching it out again.

     I’ll wait for you. 

Stomach growls. I pretend it’s upset. It is, but for the lack of foord, rather than what sort. Tap my foot, tap the tip of my pencil against the desk. Tap the toes inside my shoe. The usual anxiety building. I should focus on something else.

     I can’t take this deep slow panic. 

     Teach me, teach me not to dream

     Dream deeply

Tap in time to the shift in soundtrack.

Professor. Erin. I call her Erin. Even when I’m not in class. Hands me something. Journal. Never know if I’m doing these right. Wish I could compare with other people. But I don’t talk to them.

What? My hair. I touch it.

It doesn’t look bad.

A grin.

Thanks. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

I cling to the wall. I needed that. Shouldn’t have dyed it. Shouldn’t mess with it. Why do I bother trying to be pretty? Why. But she was kind.

She’s always kind. I wonder if she knows.

Orientation. 3? 4 years? English advising. Saw the tattoo on her wrist. Her smile the first that didn’t make me want to hide under a table. Or run. No more school. Please no more people.

I sat to her right. Or left? So long ago. Only her face left, her wrist. It’s the little things that stick. Most important.

Maybe I won’t be weird here. Maybe… 

She’s my favorite. Role model. Something. Has been since day one. Never told. How would I even go about doing that? So infinitely awkward. I don’t keep my mouth shut enough as is. Maybe at graduation.

You kept me here. 

     I just wanted to be like you. 

Erin, green gem of the silver sea, or at least hope for a place where I’d be comfortable in my skin.

One minute to class time. Attendance poll. The routine.

Blergh

I like class. What I don’t like is leaving my closet of a room. The bathtub, no water, knees to chest, huddled. It’ll be okay. It’s okay. I’m okay. Class is great. Rooms are too big. The walk there too open. Too many people. Like cattle lowing and ambling from one pen to another.

Let the day begin.

Refresh the inbox one last time. One message. Him. Wrong him.

Subject: YOU

Body: need to get back to me. You don’t get to do this. YOU are MINE. Call me. NOW.

-M

And this routine’s back.

 No one else will want you, say it, say it. 

Don’t think of him. Don’t. Don’t. Ipod away. Hiding. Routine. Fear. Loathing. Also routine.

Face in hands. Phone lights up.

New message from: Daniel

Temptation. Class has technically started. But I need this. I need this.

I can resist anything but temptation. Just a peek.

Morning angel. Walk with me tonight? It might rain : ) xx

Worth it. I do love walking in the rain. So does he. And his umbrella’s a perfect fit for two.

Nobody else will want you, say it, say it SAY IT you are MINE….

Morning angel…

I’m nobody who are you? Are you nobody too? Well there’s a pair of us, don’t tell…

Phone away. NOW the day can start.

Damselling

This weekend is a great one for dancing but something happened that was worrying and needs to be discussed.

Now I’ve mentioned that there are a lot of things about dancing that are triggering for me. Going outside for one. Letting people touch me. Talking to people. Dancing with people. Now those are normal things that stress me an okay amount.

If its a good night and I’m in high spirits, a couple laps to my car and I’m good to go. I can shake off or at least postpone an anxiety attack. Ever so often, though, someone will do something that triggers something OTHER than my agoraphobia, and that’s when we have a problem.

Once upon a time I was a battered woman. I don’t mean to belittle anyone else who might have a similar experience by being so flip about it here, but that’s how I manage to get by it every day. Brush it off. Move forward. Live in the now.

Sometimes in the now, though, people grab you unnecessarily hard by the upper arm. Sometimes in dancing they might jerk you into weird positions to get leverage. Some Leads (not all, and certainly in my opinion not GOOD Leads) who are at a certain skill level will swing less experienced dancers around like a rag doll, mistaking puppetry for a firm lead.

This happened this weekend.

Now I’m still new at Blues and social dancing in general, so I’ve had my share of men (and I don’t say this to be gender biased, women do lead as well, it’s just that I’ve never been rag-dolled by a woman, so I say men)  toss me around like this instead of just leading me. If you’ve never danced before, the best analogy I can make is to compare it to leading a child (or anyone really) by the hand. You can hold their hand and walk in whatever direction you want and they will be able to toddle along after you; if they want to go slow or fast or walk alongside you or behind you they can do it. You’re both connected and going the same way, they just have some amount of independence.

Someone rag-dolling you is like jerking a child by the hand; it’s putting force behind the guidance. Like jerking a kid out of the street or frog marching them out of a store post or mid-tantrum. They don’t have an option. Their pace and direction are set through force and momentum. There’s less ‘give’ in the guiding hand and with the wrong attitude it can turn into something quite different. Something threatening.

In dance when you are being rag-dolled by someone threatening, it’s bad.

For me, it’s often traumatic.

Now, this weekend a man asked me to dance. I don’t recall his name. We’re going to call him Meathead. He walks up and asks me to dance, stretches out his hand and I smile, hop up, acquiesce, the whole nine. He’s not much taller than me, would be slight of build, but the way his tee shirt falls you can tell he’s actually pretty muscular. He’s handsome, I suppose, objectively speaking, though his nose is a bit crooked (found out later it’d been broken fighting).

His smile may have been crooked as well. But who knows. That’s probably some sort of bias I’ve tacked on subconsciously in hindsight.

One bar in to the dance it was clear he has an elevated level of skill. Two bars and I accepted I was going to get jerked around if I didn’t take some initiative.

So I took some initiative. He jerked my hand into an awkward position to try to muscle me through a step and I snaked under and stepped behind him. I dropped his hand and circled him with a cheeky smile.

He snatched me back to him and fairly crushed me to his chest. He then used his knees to knock my legs wider apart and then forced a sort of jerky side to side action that I suppose would have looked seductive and serpentine if I hadn’t just been deliberately thrown off balance and allowed no space to follow willingly or add my own style.

The next time he turned me, I slipped him again and that was the last time I had my freedom. He snagged me by the wrist instead of the hand and yanked, saying “C’mere” with this sick smile. He crushed my chest back into his and I could feel his fingertips hook up UNDER the cup of my shoulder blade, digging into my back. The fingers of his other hand dug between the delicate bones in the back of my hand. His thumb pinched mine, deliberately gripping too tightly for me to slip away again. “You have to do what I want: I’m Lead.”

When he turned me after that he would grab my elbow or force my arm around to his other hand behind me.

Being pinned is triggering for me. Fingers digging into my torso is triggering. The lazy, arrogant, self-satisfied way he was looking at me was triggering. It was proprietary. Smug and later this unhurried sort of lust.

I mentioned after he dipped me, too fast because everything he did was force and momentum, that dips worry me. He laughed and started doing them on purpose. Faster and harder and lower to the ground.

The worst was when he deliberately swept my legs and tripped me into a dip.He mouthed “sorry” after he did it but it was a leg sweep; clean and intentional. I flew towards the floor and he caught me just in time, but the momentum meant the arm/shoulder he grabbed, and then my spine at the point he snagged around my waist protested (and had my chiropractor asking questions). My hair brushed the floor. My hair is bobbed.

At the end of the song, he ordered me to dance with him again. There was no way to say no without causing a scene. And at that point I had shrunk into the far corner of my mind where I peer out and look for a coward’s exit, or some way to de-escalate or make him lose interest.

I spent another song trying not to twist an ankle and keep from giving him another opportunity to deliberately trip me. I tried again and again to make eye contact with Kay and a male friend of ours in the corner. Help me, help me, help me. A mantra in my mind in time to whatever song played.

He was talking, too. I was having that tunnel moment in panic where everything’s weird and you can hear your pulse and all the words sound like they’re in slow motion or under water.

Things I remember:

He said that I’m strong, and that most guys don’t like that, but he does. “You’re strong here… and here and in your legs…” Digging his fingers into my upper back, then stroking the back of a finger down the line between my ribs and over my stomach, drawing up just before my navel. It’s not an overtly inappropriate touch, but still intimate and it makes me feel dirty. He repeated that I’m strong a lot of times.

He said he used to do martial arts. “Now instead of beating people up, I dance with them.” It was a joke but it had an edge to it. When he said this, I had a flash of heat followed by a chill that hurt my skin followed by a rush of fear sweat that soaked my dress. He then said he traded getting sweated on by men for getting sweated on by women, which he doesn’t mind. He actually kind of likes it.

“I really, kind of like it.” His face went into my hair and his breath touched my ear. “Really…. kind of…. like it.” It dwindled into more of a growl than words.

At this point I was nauseous from anxiety, dizzy and sore from being jerked around to hard and fast. I wanted to go home, or lock myself in the bathroom for a while and cry on the floor. I wanted someone to rescue me but also didn’t want anyone to see me unable to take care of myself.

All things end, though. If you wait long enough. When the song ended. I let the fear slide off my face. I made myself take my teeth out of my cheek and lower lip. I gave him a tight, fake smile, and an empty gaze. I thanked him quickly, spun a quick about-face, and beelined to the corner with my friends.

Now, I didn’t let it ruin my evening, but it needed to be addressed.

 

It doesn’t happen often, and for the most part the Blues scene is a safe, nonthreatening, environment but things like this do happen and not just to me. It happens outside of the Blues scene as well. There are men out there that use public situations and social norms to prey on women while everyone watches.

I read an article on how we’re conditioned to “de-escalate” situations instead of calling people on their BS. I’m certainly guilty of it, but it’s a complex thing.

I thought of 3 different ways I could have hurt the Meathead to get him off me. I almost hit him when he was in my ear about liking sweat but I didn’t. I dug my nails into the palm of the hand resting on his shoulder, I bit my lip. I didn’t hurt him.

I AM strong in ways he wouldn’t understand. I have a lot of self control. But I also am weak, I’d rather de-escalate than drag other people into my drama.  Or make him angry and have him follow me to my car when there are less witnesses around.

It was less risky to just swallow the fear and be afraid for a few minutes.

I wanted help, but I didn’t want help. I looked for anyone to come save me, but when someone said I should bring it up publicly, I said I didn’t want to be a damsel.

And I don’t. I want to save my own goddamn self.

But sometimes I don’t know if I can.

Its a very confusing thing.

And scary.

Fortunately, Meathead didn’t ruin my night. Like every other injury dealt me by idiot men my hyperextended elbow will heal and my chiropractor knocked everything else back into place today.

And if nothing else, it made me appreciate every other dance all the more.

Two of which were with the Viking.

But that’s another story, one that has no business sharing space with a post on anxiety and panic.

Leave Brittaney Alone!

Screen-Shot-2016-01-26-at-32
This came up in my feed today on Facebook.
(If you don’t feel like reading: her bf controlled her and told her what she should look like until he left her and she wrote an open letter reclaiming herself. Seriously, just go read the article.)
More than one person I know, a couple I’m related to, posted it along with something about how it’s terrible but WHY would she even STAY with someone like that. WHY would she try?
Let me tell you a story (wrought with oversharing -you have been warned).
Once upon a time a man I was in a relationship with a man who said the following things to me:
“You’re cute, but you could be thinner. You’ve got fat here, here, there…”
While I was consuming 700-1000 calories a day and working out a minimum of 2 hours a day to be skinnier for him. “Your shoulders are so wide, you REALLY don’t want to get too much muscle in your upper body.” Laughter “I don’t want to be dating a MAN!”
“I don’t like your hair so short, but there’s not really anything we can do about THAT right now, so I guess it’ll do. Just don’t cut it.”
“A couple implants and you’d be PERFECT.” Followed by many separate instances where he tried to convince me I could swing plastic surgery and it was going to change my life and his. He might MARRY me if I had tits.
Scathing tone. “You don’t wear, like ANY makeup, do you?”
“Not too late for Invisalign” Because MY slightly recessed right lateral incisor is so much worse than his crooked smile and skewed values.
“You’re wearing THAT to dinner? Wear this instead.” Followed by the makeup critique.
“You love when I help you.”
In the end he cheated and I was left with an eating disorder exacerbated to extreme proportions and the entirely irrational, unreasonable, conviction that if I had just put more effort into looking how he wanted, lost a few more pounds, taken more supplements to grow my hair, got more creative with my push up bra game, that I could have kept him.
I could fit my hand up under my ribs when I scooped my stomach with how thin I was. I’d go out with friends and never pay for a drink from other men vying for my attention. I could have had ANYONE. But I wanted him and tried to be better for him. I was SO focused on being better, I didn’t notice how absolutely sh*t HE was in general.
He HIT ME and I stayed. He tore my calf muscle with his TEETH and I stayed. Telling me he’d leave me if I got fat was just the baco-bits on top of the sh*t salad of that relationship.
Staying with someone who thinks you’re ugly is easy. Especially if you believe it.
Brittaney is SO MUCH STRONGER than me. She got out while the getting was good. She reclaimed herself. And she’s strong enough to tell the world. I can’t post this on Facebook because my mom might see.
An ugly little part of me is still ashamed that I stayed.
The very few times I’ve spoken about my past in relation to domestic violence, bullying, body shame, and other related campaigns there is ALWAYS someone who says something truly hideous to me about how what was done to me was my fault.
A woman on twitter once tweeted me this gem in regards to the same relationship: Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 12.32.44 AM
I couldn’t bear if one of my friends or family responded like this.
So I’ll say my bit here, anonymously for the most part.
I’m willing to stake lives on the fact that most victims feel like they’re at fault for their own situation without anyone else shaming them. So if we could stop saying things like “why did she stay?” that would be great. Obviously there were reasons.
I had my reasons.
I was sad.
I hated myself.
I thought if someone else was hurting me and hating me, I could stop doing it to myself.
I was wrong.
If you know where to look, the ringed scar on my calf muscle is still visible under the skin where his teeth went in like a shark’s. It’s never going to heal completely. It seizes in the cold. I will NEVER be free of the decisions that linked up my life and that assh*le’s. I don’t need anyone else reminding me how bad I screwed up.
Neither do people like Brittaney. No one who has been abused, physically or emotionally, needs an extra “how could you” in their life.  We’ve got enough of our own.
Brittaney we’ll probably never meet, but I think you’re awesome. Your red hair is hot! That Shakespeare tattoo is poppin’! I want to high five and hug you. If I could I’d punch every idiot disparaging you of social media STRAIGHT in the junk, I would.
My idiot family members included.