photo courtesy of the author
Eyes feeling tired? Take a listen to the full essay below. I'd love to read it to you.*
*I hope you'll excuse the few, minor flubs. What can I say, sometimes the truth is imperfect.
I have no idea what possessed you to show up at my screen door, uninvited and unannounced, at dusk, with a gift I didn’t ask for and didn’t want. I have no idea why you felt it necessary to take it upon yourself to tell me how to live my life or train my dog. I don’t remember asking for your advice. I don’t remember asking for your help. I don’t remember showing you where I live and I certainly don’t remember inviting you over.
I remember walking my dog. I remember living my life. I remember being kind. I remember smiling. I remember engaging in polite conversation. But I don’t remember an invitation.
Because there was no invitation.
So what was it about me walking, living, being, smiling and engaging in my own life, that led you to believe what was rightfully mine was yours for the taking? What part of me existing made you think that existence was there for your consumption? For your manipulation. For your use. For your pleasure. For your want. For your desire. What part of me walking down the street made you think I was there for you?
I don’t want your gifts. I don’t want your advice. I don’t want your looks and your stares. I don’t want your conversation. I don’t want your help. I don’t want your attention. I don’t want to come over. I don’t want to hear you tell me how pretty you think I am. I don’t want to ride in your car. I don’t give a shit about your fucking car. And I especially don’t want you at my door with your expectations and your implications and your insinuations.
Did I smile too much? Was I too nice? Was I wearing the wrong thing? Was my hair too long? Was I walking somewhere I shouldn’t be walking? Was I living my life too far out in the open? Was I breathing too much? Was I standing too still? Was I asking for it?
Who the fuck told you you and your opinions and your advice and your presence matter in my life? Who told you I need your goddam help? Who told you I care what you think? Who asked you? Who invited you? Who the fuck do you think you are coming to my house?
I stood there, scared and uncomfortable, staring at you through the screen door and becoming aware for the first time how flimsy screen door material is and how little was separating you from me. And I nodded as you told me how you were waiting for me to walk by. And I smiled as you detailed the benefits of a choke collar. And when you were done, I thanked you, I actually thanked you as I slid the door open just enough to reach my hand through it to take the collar I didn’t want and would never in a fucking million years put around my dog’s neck, into my home.
And then, as if smiling at you and nodding in agreement to statements I didn't agree with and thanking you for something I didn't want wasn’t humiliating enough, after you left, I locked myself in my apartment, heart beating and mind reeling, and thought, “What did I do to make him think I wanted this attention? I must have done something, right?”
Did I smile too much? Was I too nice? Was I wearing the wrong thing? Was my hair too long? Was I walking somewhere I shouldn’t be walking? Was I living my life too far out in the open? Was I breathing too much? Was I standing too still?
Was I asking for it?
I stared at the collar on top of my microwave, as it leaked your bullshit all over my personal space. How something so small could make me feel so violated, I’ll never understand. It was like you jizzed all over my home and then left me to clean it all up.
And I immediately began to normalize. I’ll just walk him somewhere else. I’ll just make sure not to leave my screen door open. I'll keep the blinds shut. I’ll figure out a new route to take in the afternoons. I’ll get a new apartment on a different floor. I’ll wear longer sleeves and cut my hair and never wear makeup or a skirt above the knees or look up or look down or walk places or eat places or run places or talk to anyone or make eye contact or live alone or stand up for myself or laugh or cry or open my door or go outside or...
I look around at the small corner you’ve pissed me into and I feel scared, and I feel angry and I feel ashamed because at the exact same moment I wanted to tell you to fuck off, this sad and programmed part of me told me to be grateful you thought I was pretty.
And I hate myself for that. I hate myself for thinking your disgusting behavior, your bullshit, your misplaced masculinity, your projections, your sadness, your anger, your shit had anything at all to do with me.
...because at the exact same moment I wanted to tell you to fuck off, this sad and programmed part of me told me to be grateful you thought I was pretty.
And it makes me want to scream. Low at first. A low rumble deep from my soul. Then louder. Louder. Louder. So loud I scare myself. I want to scream somewhere it’s safe, because it’s not. I want to scream out your presence. Your expectations, your hate, your greed, your cruelty, your cunning, your violence. I want to scream out my mouth and through my eyes and in my heart until it all goes black and I can’t see you or hear you or remember you or feel you. I want to scream the idea of your hands on my body out of my mind. I want scream away what you told me to be. I want to scream in my room, on my run, in my car.
I want to scream because you keep changing the rules and I don’t know how to play.
I want to scream because in less than five minutes you took away the safety and sanctuary of my home. I want to scream so I can finally hear my own voice. I want to scream so loud and wild it’ll make you shudder. I want to scream, but there’s nowhere to release it. I want to scream because I can’t anymore. Because you said that sound doesn’t work for you. I want to scream to remember and I want to scream to forget. I want to scream until my chest bursts. I want to scream because it’s the only sound I can make. I want to scream because there is nothing left to say. I want to scream because I can’t find my own breath. And I want to scream because you told me not to. Because I want my power back. I want to scream at a frequency you can’t hear, with sounds you’re afraid of. I want to scream in a voice I’ve never heard. I want to scream like I used to. I want to scream until you cry and then I want to scream some more. I want to scream because you thought I wouldn’t. I want to scream back all you attempted to take from me. And I want to scream away my helplessness, my fear, my anger and my rage.
And I carry with me the shame of doing nothing, saying nothing,
But I don’t. Instead, I change my afternoon route. And I throw away the collar. And I walk back out into the world, wondering what bush you’ll jump out from next.
And I carry with me the shame of doing nothing, saying nothing, screaming nothing. I carry the shame of being nice, when I should have been anything but. I carry the shame of saying yes, when I should have said no. I carry the shame of changing the route when I should have walked it twice as much. I carry the shame of doing what it took to survive, rather than demanding my right to thrive.