I Was Told.
I was told she could smell the blood on me, as she circled like a wolf, sniffing out the weak bite of tired iron, the thrill of the hunt cloaked in concern. “You should change your pad more often.” I’m just telling you as a friend, she said. People might notice, she said. The gym lights glinted like twin moons in her eyes and the clanging of feet on the bleachers sprung like a trap in my ears.
I was told to go back to sleep, the monsters aren’t real. But we’re the thing hiding under the bed, we are the thing peeking out of the closet. We are the human faces of the longest fall from grace. We’re still haunting ourselves. We’re still falling.
I was told to smile, you’re such a pretty girl, smile, it’s not that bad, smile, it wouldn’t kill you to try, would it? Smile for me I’m not ready to look under the veil I’m not ready to pull back the curtain I’m not ready to face the full reality of your aching humanity. Smile my illusions back into their place.
I was told to stop: stop calling me I’ll call you, stop calling me can’t you see I’m busy, stop calling me don’t you understand my whole life isn’t you. Stop acting like I did something wrong. Stop acting like I hurt you. Stop acting like you own me. Stop acting like a person who feels things. Stop acting like a person.
I was told my body belonged not to me but to the hands that cupped my ass in a crowded subway train, to the pelvis pushed against me on a crowded dance floor, to the eyes slowly sliding my clothes off from across the room, to the honking horn of a passing truck at 2:45 on a school day.
I was told to stop crying, it’s just a book, stop crying, it’s just a movie, stop crying, it’s not you kids it’s just that we need a break, stop crying, it doesn’t mean I love you any less, stop crying, you deserve somebody better than me, stop crying, you’re such a goddamn baby nutcase lunatic psycho drama queen attention whore manipulator.
I was told my consent meant nothing by the neat parting of my thighs by knees like knives, by the hot breath on the back of my neck, by the short sharp fury of his fucking, by the whispered pleading he left hanging unheard over my head, by the way he never said a single word.
I was told to be quiet by a boy who was almost a man, his breath like beer and barbecue, his weight looming over me like an asteroid, shhh, he said, shhh, what is wrong with you, why are you crying like that, why do you keep saying his name?
I was told I was so beautiful by the light of my own crazy moon, so beautiful in the shine of my submission, so beautiful in the way I just lay there and let them do things. So beautiful in my desperate need to be divorced from my own body. So beautiful in the separated way of a refugee.
I was told to get on my knees, to wash the feet of Jesus with the tears of spent virginity, to set the altar on fire with atonement for Eve, to leave humanity on the floor in search of the Holy Spirit, to swallow the blood and eat the body, to pray away my own purpose, my own person.
I was told there was nothing there, which I already knew, because I knew my womb. In between the bathroom and the waiting room, before the pamphlets but after the blind eye of the ultrasound wand, it had transformed into an empty tomb, from which nothing would rise from the dead, nothing would rise from the ashes.
I was told I didn’t need second helpings.
I was told to shake it, baby, work that ass, but I was only working that ass down the street to my minimum wage job, or to the bodega to buy bananas, or to the free clinic that told me there was nothing they could do, but work it girl, went the words from the men in the stained undershirts in the folding chairs, work it girl, you slut you dyke you bitch you don’t ignore me I’m talking to you.
I was told I couldn’t go to the funeral.
I was told to breathe into a paper bag.
I was told withholding nourishment was a kindness, a killing made soft by its compassionate corners, but our instinct is to feed and water, and watching her die by the smallest degrees forged a steeliness in my spine, made molten rock of my heart.
I was told “I’m okay” in the last lucid moments.
I was told she didn’t suffer.
I was told to hold my keys between my fingers, don’t take candy drinks rides from strangers, never walk alone at night, keep your skirt below the knee, but no one ever told me how to protect me from myself.
I was told it wasn’t my fault.
I was told you can never come back, but I did, again and again, I stood in collapsing doorways, crawled through open windows, curled up in empty beds inside emptier rooms because there is never really anywhere that closes itself off completely. Someone always leaves a way in, if you know what you’re looking for.
I was told I would be left behind.
I was told I talked to angels.
I was told I had a crooked nose and flat lips but I could still smell lies and speak the truth.
I was told to close my mouth but this stubborn mouth stays wide open.