Ok but imagine not being touched in 3 years except for 2 instances of violence. That the last time someone put their hand on you, their hand was a balled up fist, that the other was wrapped around your throat, lifting you off of your feet & making the drywall sprinkle down in a fine white powder. When you cleaned it up with a broom the next day you thought, “it’s been so long since it snowed in Texas”. You didn’t even think about his fist.
Imagine taking 2 years to realize that you’ve been alone this whole time, so you can actually sleep in the middle of your bed now, that the person who took the other side of your bed has been gone, the person you once couldn’t sleep without, the person who raised his hand to you, who made you bleed, & with that blood, erased all memory of 18,000 tender touches with the 40 or so violent ones. Imagine not being able to recall what skin feels like on your skin unless it’s breaking blood vessels.
Ok but Imagine those orphan infants who literally die without human touch & wonder why you haven’t. Imagine feeling something with your body - I can’t. I place my hand on my chest & feel absolutely nothing. I imagine paying someone to hold me while I cry. I imagine paying someone to hold my face in their hands. I imagine paying someone to tell me that I will be okay.
Imagine being trapped inside of a body that is incapable of compelling human touch without violence.
Ok but Imagine wading through a crowd, wishing you could disappear, heart racing, inexplicably anticipating violence because that’s just what muscle memory conjures up in response to tall men, Then accidentally meeting eyes with some kind of Fuckin Bradley fresh out of grad school who wrinkles up his nose at the sight of your body, daring to exist in a sea of thin young professionals, trying to disappear, just trying to get by, so offensive for being a size 12. If I can’t feel anything when I touch myself, am I even still alive? I know for a fact that I have been touched with tenderness but my body only remembers the bruises. I lay my hand on my chest & feel nothing. I fall down the stairs & in a ball at the bottom, I think, “God, it feels good to be touched again”.
Imagine having nightmares where you run into old friends.
See, it’s not the old friends that I’m scared of. Seeing their faces fills me up with warmth like feeling whiskey settle in your belly, like being covered up by a blanket after falling asleep on a couch in a city that isn’t yours. What scares me is that they look at my face & instead of recognizing me, they only see The Change.
Imagine that you’re stuck in your head peering out, forced to watch the look on people’s faces when they see all the bad things that have happened to you.
I’m scared that I’m just a ghost, that I’m a long-dead bride in an old photograph, that I just look like someone they used to know, that I’m familiar but not me. I’m scared that I might have to explain all that’s changed to prove that it’s really me, to explain I’m different because of the bad things, but I’m still in here, even if they can’t see it, even if I can’t see it. I worry that as I stand in front of someone who knew me before, that his bruises will slowly appear on my face like they once had, that they will bloom & unfold like a time-lapse video of a rose bud opening or a storm rolling in, as I watch someone I actually give a shit about recoil away from me like it’s contagious. I’m scared that they will know just by looking at me that I never called the police because I was too scared.
Ok but Imagine being scared that if you hug someone too closely, that they can overhear your thoughts like a whisper through the dim screen of a confessional booth saying, “sometimes I wonder if my rapist ever misses me”.