Weighed Down — a piece about sexual violence
Trigger warning for r*pe, sexual assault and violence.
Her skin was pale, her knuckles white as she clutched her keys, as she clutched onto the thought. She wasn't a fool, she could hear the footsteps behind her, has heard them for three right turns now. She thinks there are two of them. Their footsteps quicken and she instinctively breaks into a run, but they saw it coming and easily catch her. Their hands catch her coat, a scream catches in her throat. Her skin was so pale. Trembling. Her heart pulsed in her ears and she could feel it beneath her ribs. Beating and beating as she looks frantically into her attackers face. His skin was old and worn, his eyes hungry. She was frighteningly reminded of a dog. His friend grinned and pushed her to the ground. She willed her limbs to move, to fight, to gouge, to strike, to protect— to do anything at all. But fear shut down her muscles and her legs would not carry her safely away. Pain sears through her as they savagely take what they want. Her vision begins to fade, blacking out and in. Her body contorted painfully for their enjoyment. She closes her eyes and sheds a tear before blacking out.
Light on her eyelids wakes her up. Her fingers curl around the remains of her clothing, all she remembers is a person pulling the man off her, shouting at them that they have called the police. She would call that person her saviour, but she doesn't feel very saved. Her body feels different. Like she doesn't know her curves and lines anymore. Like everything she knew about herself was torn away. She brushes her hair out of her eyes and stands up, pain shoots through her legs and purple marks scatter her skin. She doesn't notice the journey home, her mind locked in a battle with everything that happened. Using her key to open her door brings flashes of things through her mind, the action hurting her even though it was soft. Unlike what they did. Her appearance was different too, her skin was no longer pristine and undamaged. The bruises on her shoulder look like teeth marks from a dog, the ones on her throat look like she hanged for what she did. But she didn't do anything wrong, she repeats the phrase to herself as she stands under the shower. Imagining the dark stains melting and washing away, she drags her fingers over them, hissing at the pain.
Later she sits in front of a burning fire. Drying off her hair, her leg is curled beneath her, and her arms hug her knee. Even being bare skinned with the heat rolling off the dull flames, she could still feel his hands on her. Still feel the mockery shouts of his friend hitting her. Still feel like her skin is too tight to be hers. Still feel the shadow bite of a long-gone dog. Flashes of the time runs through her head, her hands itching to pick up the phone and speak to anyone about it. She hasn't showered enough. The feelings weren't melted or washed away, or, gone. She was smart though, she knew that she’d have to report it, she knew his face. She could identify him from a crowd. God knows she would never forget it.
Her mind wanders through the flames in front of her. Red and oranges all dancing around each other, they blend and blur. They twist then, turning blue and bright. A stinging grows beneath her skin, something so persistent, an itching that she knows won't go away until she claws the feeling of his skin on hers away. A memory of her grandma flashes before her. Her eyes were soft and warm, her white hair long and plaited. Beautiful and pure.
Next thing she is aware of is standing in front of an open freezer. Goosebumps rippling over her skin from the icy air. Food lines the shelves and people walk past in a hurry, but her appetite has vanished. A growling monster lays in her stomach, never satisfied yet it rejects every morsel of sustenance. She feels empty. Like a shadow of what she was. Just an imprint left in her place. The girl she used to be died in that alleyway. She died the second his hand caught her coat.
A woman's face swims into her sight. Photos of some bodies wounds laying on the metal table. They look painful and she hisses at them. Who would do that to someone? That poor girl, her hips have angry purple lines streaking them.
"Do you know who this is?"
The woman pointed to the photos. Her expression was sober, eyebrows slightly pinched and lips set in a faint smile that probably sits there for the majority of her working hours. Does she fake it? Or does she feel those emotions? Feel them like fear coursing through your body, running rampant in your nervous system pulling any and all alarms it can find. Until you're sitting there with three eyes on the exits and three eyes on the people around you just waiting til something goes wrong.
"This is you. Your skin." The women speaks again. Her lips twitch downwards. A fresh glass of water along with a box of cream tissues appears.
But that room, that women, those tissues all swim away until the girl is back in her house. Dazed from the sudden shift of places. She stands in front of the mirror. Delicate blue driftwood frames the surface and then sweeps to the floor in a curve. The details had made her fall in love when she saw it in the shop. She knew it was her mirror at first sight. But now the blue paint is flaked and worn, peeling off slowly and leaving bits on the floor, and she's tried to brush them up, but they never seem to go away. She stares at her legs. Eyes unfocused and thoughts outside her body. She hovers in the air, looking at herself, her body. It doesn't sound right anymore. She's lost weight, the change in her appetite not sitting well. How long has it been? HAs she always looked like that? Now she is just bones and angles and shadows, her once hidden features shoved to the front. All the curves she had spent years learning to love have dropped away, heaved into the toilet in the middle of the night. Her throat raw from muttering in her sleep, the marks have faded. The memories too, though flashes of it still give her whiplash. The itch is still there. Her head snaps up and she is in her body again.
She's back in that alleyway. Running. Lungs burning. Out of the shadows a thousand hands reach for her. Tearing claws ripping at her clothing. Her breath not entering her lungs. Her legs feel like lead. She can't run fast enough and the hands are slowing her down. Fear searing through her body creates hot flashes and sweat runs down her forehead. Thoughts all strung up around her mind like cobwebs. And she is stuck in the web. Two figures approach. When their mouths open voices do not surround her, but rather a crackling broken sound tumbles from their lips. Halfway between static and screaming. Between a blazing fire and tearing skin. Tears run down her face. Skin ripping when she tries to fight her way off the cobweb. The figures reach her. Her lips part. A scream leaves her throat like no other sound, it blasts past the figures, flinging them to the ground, clearing the alley of the cobwebs. But when she goes to inhale again, fire barrels down into her lungs. Choking on hot air and smoke and tar and all things burning her lungs start to shrivel and her throat starts to close the figures come closer—
Her eyes open. Cool sheets against her skin. She stumbles out of bed and runs to the bathroom. When she returns to her room she sits lightly on the edge of the bed, almost as though she is afraid to take up space. She rests her elbows on her knees. A few wisps escape a messy hairstyle and hang in front of her eyes, but she doesn't have the spare energy to fix them. She inhales, letting the cold air sooth her lungs, right now she doesn't feel scared. She doesn't feel that itch under her skin, she isn't painfully aware of her surroundings but she is not uncomfortably numb and distant either. This is the first motionless moment in— She couldn't be sure, days all blending together and hours missing. Sudden jumping to different places dazing her, not remembering how she got there. A women had told her it was the brains response to trauma, that the chopping and hovering above feelings are called— a word she does not remember.
She slowly moves back into bed, treasuring the calm moment as if it's her last. Staring at the ceiling, she concentrates on her breathing, the rise and fall of her stomach. Thoughts bombard her but she shoves them away, careful to be gentle, and bring her attention back to the cold room, the way her soft sheets feel holding her body and how the bed supports her. He is not here. They are not here. She has checked the fire escape a thousand times, locking the window as if she would rather burn than give him a way in. She keeps breathing and eventually loses consciousness.
The building had deep red supports that hurt her eyes. Dashed walls that poke a bit too much, and the glass door was half closed. The walk up the door was hit by a climax of hesitation while reaching for the door. She pulls the door open and walks in. A man at the counter turns and walks past her, his face shape was too much and reminded her of what happened. The dam breaks and thoughts rush in, the dream of being back there, his face, his smell, the feeling and his friend and the pain and. She drops to the floor, feet and hands tingling, vision going watery and blurry, there is not enough oxygen in this building why did she come here. Confusion starts to pick away at her but panic saves her and irrational thoughts consume her.
Is she dying?
Did he kill her?
A woman's voice breaks the waters surface and reaches her ears. She listens to the words but does not hear them. A hand clasps hers and helps her over to a seat, the figure in front of her motions for deep breaths. She tries to inhale but it catches- his hand catching her coat- she tries again- his friend laughing- until she takes a full breath and it starts to even out. The black spots in her vision edge away and the bright lights come back into focus. The women is wearing a blue suit, and dark lipstick, and her hair is perfect. Her hair wasn't perfect, she needed it gone after he had touched it, she had blunted the kitchen scissors. Looking around she sees her bag on the floor where she had fallen. The woman scoops it up and hands it to her.
The person behind the counter asks why she is here. She glances at the words across the wall. Glances at her legs where she can see the bruises through the fabric, glances back at the person. She clears her throat and raises her chin.
"I'm here to report a case of rape.”
My father and I spend the afternoon rolling the waves up
My father and I spend the afternoon rolling the waves up
Our feet sore from the broken seashells and crushed sand, our hands tired from the work
We have walked for miles, each step making our backs ache
Our hands gather up the shoreline, the foamy broken waves sighing as it relaxes against our touch
Finally letting itself still, ceasing its constant journey
My father looks at the end of our roll, the layers of sea and foam and sand
All curled around and around until it looks as if it were a portal
If we jumped through, we would land somewhere warm and safe
His smile is the warmest feeling, his sparkling eyes the safest
He nods and we continue walking, wrapping the waves into a giant rug
I don’t know where he plans to place this rug, but I know the waves will bring comfort
The drawl of the crashing and the retracting, the foaming up and the crawling away
The entering and the leaving, the hellos and the goodbyes
My father and I spend the afternoon packing his tools up
Our feet sore from the broken glass and crushed hearts, our hands tired from making fists
We have talked for miles, each word making our chests ache
Our hands gather up the memories, the metal cold tools sighing as they realise they are leaving
Finally letting themselves just be tools, ceasing their torment of listening
My father looks at the packed bags, the spanners and the drills and the clothes
All folded so neatly that it looks as if it were a portal
If we jumped through, we would land somewhere warm and safe
His smile is the warmest feeling, his sparking eyes the safest
He nods and we continue packing, tucking away memories
I don’t know where he plans to unpack, but I know his presence will bring comfort
The drawl of the crashing and retracting, the tearing up and storming away
The entering and the leaving, the hellos and the goodbyes
Red wrapped present
Her eyes flicked down to the red floor. Sadness skittered across her face like beetles, covering the stark confusion and leaving only disappointment when the insects crawl back into her cracks and shadows.
But there were no beetles, only her small voice as she asks me, "do you not like your present? I picked it specially for you."
"I know you did honey, but this isn't a present and you realise that, don't you?"
"I picked it for you, you used to love these you told me so yourself. You said you said you said you-"
"I know, I know, it's alright, take a deep breath with me okay? Just try to calm down yeah? I love my present very much honey thank you for it."
"You said you love these ones."
I look down at the man, dried blood running from his ears and mouth, the way his legs are bent at odd angles and how his chest barely moved. But when I look back at her, her grin is so wide and her eyes so bright that my own chest caves. I pull her into a tight hug and thank her again. But with my face concealed from her view I let my frown crinkle at the pool of blood seeping from the man.
Ice for years
He is trapped behind ice
Been this way for so long
His muscles finally work up the strength to raise a fist
A signal of drowning but a cry for help
He pounds against the ice, a single crack shows
Lips parted in a silent scream for years
Frozen in that permanent state of icy disposition
Passerbys see the crack but claim it is not big enough
But what is?
Does he have to shatter before they take out the glue?
He saves his strength
To warm him and keep him alive
But with no new cracks being made the passerbys say he's fine
So he is frozen still, under ice and under warmth
That place between death and life
Weeks and weeks between the passerby who holds a flame
That gentle heat giving him hope
Maybe if he takes it, holds onto each lick of warmth
It will build up in his mind enough that he can melt the ice
But for now, he is trapped behind ice
He grew flowers whenever she was around, the flowers blooming into colours that made her smile. She was flame itself, her passion for life burned and flared when he was with her. When he'd make her laugh, his skin dotted with daisies and sunflowers, the colours becoming more vibrant than ever before. When she'd make him smile and she saw how he'd look down at the floor grinning, she'd burn brighter than any supernova. They had nothing in the world, called freaks and insults that made them feel so lonely. But they had each other, and they told everything to one another, grew closer and closer. The best of friends. But they loved the way they were, he took pride in being able to create a child's favourite flower in his palm, she loved the way she could give a warm flame to a homeless family that wouldn't go out until they wished it to. But life isn't fair to freaks, and she wasn't in complete control of the fire, the warmth singing his petals. If they ever got too close then her fire would kill his flowers, hurting his sheltered skin, she once tried to wipe away his tears but instead burnt his cheek. She cried so hard she extinguished her flames for a while. He kept repeating that they'd find a way but she turned away, hating herself for hurting him.
After half a year of isolation, he found a way to help her. They'd both be accepted into the world and they'd be able to be near each other. Hug each other. She agreed immediately. He checked if she was sure four times, but eventually, the pair went to the garden of the woman who promised could help them. She came out the house in a white flowing dress, her dark skin practically glowing under the sun, and her hair left loose in an afro. She brought them to a fountain and told them to give their power into the water like a seed. And so they did.
The girl opened her palm, willing her flame to leave her body and gather there, then she dropped it into the water where it shimmered in the light. The boy had more trouble, his flowers had become part of his daily image, in every mirror he saw them, but he willed it so. He plucked each petal from his skin, pinpricks of blood welling to the surface. She covered her eyes and turned away. He reassured her this is what he wanted. Each petal and stalk fell into the pool, floating on the surface. Drained and hurting, they finally fell into each other's arms.
Two years later and they're living together, they still feel the empty hole inside them where their power should be, but they both prefer to be with each other. To comfort each other. Curled up on a couch watching an old movie, suddenly their eyes are full of an image. No explanation or reasoning. It shows the fountain again, the white marble sparkling and the water crystal blue. Beside the water, nestled in the green grass grows a flower. Its petals pink and red with the flame dancing over it. The fire did not burn the flower, it seemed to give it life. Five words echoed through their minds, this is the fire flower.
The longest three minutes of my life wasn't a boring math class or an awkward silence. It wasn't a piece of unbroken silence leaving the leaves of the conversation drifting down through air. The longest three minutes was the time where the coffin lowered down through the wood into the fire. Three minutes and one song. The church was silent and the music was pouring through the rivers on peoples cheeks. The song I chose had perfect lyrics, the highs and the lows were exactly how I felt. I was the only one not crying, I don't say that to be brave. The seconds that passed seem to be ten memories all hitting my stomach in a flurry of pain.
But I held my own and kept watching as the coffin lowered. I knew this was a sight I'd never forget, I wouldn't have to stop to remember every piece of this image. Burned in the back of my eyelids. The atmosphere surrounding me was strange, my family were all grieving, some people were unknown to me. Some I knew too well to believe their dry eyes. Bubbles of colour encased the people sitting around me, each one had a different shade. The colours correctly corresponding to how they felt, but the bubbles didn't touch me. Cowered away from my skin. I was an outsider in my own bubble, I didn't want to be there. I'd rather be on top of the mountains, singing the song at the top of my voice. Instead of trapped between bubbles in a wooden room watching a wooden box slowly sink through a wooden floor. The song sounded like hollow wood too. If I knocked on the air then, I wouldn't be surprised to hear an echoing knock, as if I had knocked on a hospital door. The only door I had wanted to open, it would never open again. If I could change the smallest thing about those three minutes, I'd add more green to that room. I knew the man trapped in that wooden box wouldn't have liken the stark paleness. Unnerved by the lack of texture in the invisible bark, by the lack of bird songs and insects muttering, by the lack of soft moss underfoot. By the lack of sunlight peeking between green leaves way above. By the sharp cut edges of the people in the room, they'd have been softened by nature yet they shut themselves up in a pale wooden room.
The silence after the song was deafening. It rang in my ears like the sound of metal against metal, lowering a wooden box, down through the wooden floor.
Pure white bones that blind us
Grasping at words like the last rope
Bones stick out but we cover them with cloth
Please, we plead, don't look at me don't see me
Bones carved with tiny words, inscribed
All along our arm and our cheek bones
All down our spine, the tiny words form a story
Our story is carved on our bones
On show for those around us
They shout, hey! Look at me! Look at my story!
We cover them with cloth
Cover them with fabric and steal the spotlight
Skeleton? We ask. I don't know what you mean
I'm whole, full, complete,
don't need another layer
What are we but bones?
Bones knitted together in a simple yet artist way
My words may be sad, they may tell a tale that makes you want to say, I'm sorry for you,
But I'm going to take my fabric away, and hand it
To you, you, the only one I trust.
I'll let you see my words, read my bones,
Read my essence
So hold my shirt and grab your glasses,
I'm not hiding my bones anymore
I won't hide what
Keeps me upright
Won't hide what keeps me solid
Yes. I am just a skeleton,
but my words I am proud of
"Colour was indeed the first thing to register with me. Then the sweeping carved stone pillars and the grand checked tiles. The windows criss-crossed with metal, stain glass between them and the light filtering through. The ceiling far up and again carved from stone, detailed and more beautiful than any I'd seen. When you got past the beauty of the decor and architecture, you properly saw the people in their attire. Ball gowns in all their glory, headpieces carefully balanced and hands poised. Gentle music played from somewhere to my left, and the wine was rich and bitter sweet, it left my senses a little hazy. Adding to the beauty nonetheless.
Men had coats of red and black, golden masks of foxes. But the women, they had ball gowns that trailed the floor, all the colours in every shade. Their masks were cats and eagles, mountain lions and sharks. Cunning goats and clever hyenas. It was glorious.
A deep undersea shade of blue darted past my eye, snagging my attention and making me twirl as if in a love sick dance. The material of this particular dress was fine silk under a blue velvet layer, cut to show the silk in designs of flowers and swirls that cascaded down to the floor. Sliver thread running through the dress accented the curves and lines. Like sliver bubbles underwater. Startling grey eyes hid beneath the mask, fascinating and alluring. Yet somehow my feet did not take hold of my mind, I found myself instead stumbling for more wine. My tongue missing the taste.
And so the night wore on, my ears grew accustomed to the clatter and drowned it out, my mind grew more and more foggy with the wine. The music turned faster, and less gentle, and people had taken to the dance floor, the colours of the dresses blending with the blunt coloured suits. Of course I had not come with anyone so I was free to dance between the crowd, stepping lightly past the circles of laughing people. They laughed and smiled, moved with the heavy beat of the music.
The mosaic floor and the pillars of stone, this music did not fit the setting. The people were old, not in mentality or physically, but their attitudes. Their dress sense and how they acted, it didn't fit the music. Everything else was old and elegant. Defined and proper. But a heavy industrial beat rumbled the floor, the singer's words almost drowned out by instruments. Yet still the dancers danced and the drinkers drank. The wine intoxicated me, I was enveloped in its soft embrace. I didn't see anything wrong. Through the crowd I spotted that dark blue again. My legs brought me closer and then all of a sudden the crowds seemed smaller. The music slower and the colours brighter.
The owner of the blue dress had her mask off. Her brown hair fell around her shoulders and gleamed in the light. Her skin was dewy and smooth, tanned like she spent every waking minute in an olive garden. When she turned my way I saw her eyes, grey and sliver, like a sliver penny on a sunny windowsill. So full of hope. The blue complimented her skin, and her soft hands clutched a small purse. She smiled at a joke and her eyes sparkled, then she resumed her dancing. Swaying in time with the mechanical beat, her bare arms moved in a captivating way. I don't know how long I stood there, just watching her. The only word I could use for her is entrancing. The way she moved, laughed, smiled, breathed. She was spectacular. And I wanted to dance with her. I made my way through the crowd, cought in a spiders web, the tangy wine only adding to her effects on me. When I was beside her I didn't say a word, only took her hand and lead her to the middle of the dance floor. She went along with me, smiling to show her perfect teeth. Her perfect everything. She danced in a circle around me, moving to the now fitting music, her heartbeat echoed in the drums. Her smile the climax of the musical notes, and the low of the song was how she twirled. Brown hair flowing out. Her blue dress swishing around her legs and her hands over my shoulders. She was glorious.
Then, like all things must, the song ended. The blue thunderstorm in my arms twisted away. Seeking another dance partner. She slipped through the crowd, throwing one last, perfect smile my way. Leaving me standing still, staring after her. Strange and foreign. Exciting and mysterious. My Cinderella. Words dripped through my mind. Maybe my hazy senses weren't just from the wine."
I sit back in my chair, twisting the ring around my finger after accounting that night. The night that had started it all. My mouth a little dry from such a speech. Beautiful hands reach forward and grip mine. A blue thunderstorm sits in front of me.
Rain marks on a lake. Picture this, picture that. Ripples taking a stroll down the water. Find an old white garden bench, marvel for just a second at the talent in the twisted metal, then sit. Stare at the lily pads and wonder how they keep anchored at the lakes bottom. Rain starts to break through your umbrella of leaves overhead, run to the house. Past the Japanese bridge painted a bright red. Over the stepping stones and past the bamboo, through the shōji and into the clear space where her craft is the only thing filling the space.
Skin clothed in white silk and the faint blue glow on the walls. Long violin notes draw on from the back, step towards the stand in the middle of the room. Black wood carved to sweep upwards, intricate swirls like waves flow up from the floor and hold up a white dish. The water is perfectly still. Yet it crashes up against its limits, the glow emitted is unnatural but the closest thing to the sky in the natural world. Let me speak more about the wood stand. This is something that you must imagine, picture it in your mind, as clear as day. The contrasting white almost leaks into the dark wood in your vision. The blue water as still as you want your mind.
Then imagine the woman. The dancer. She represents your thoughts when you can control them. The silk flows around her body like it's disobeying gravity, her arms move with an agile strength that you crave so dearly. Her legs set up the spins that she gracefully falls into. Her body moves like liquid, nothing looks out of place. All smooth pieces linked together so much that you couldn't separate them if you knew the dance yourself. This is a dance that gives you goosebumps down your arms. She flourishes her arms over her head, bringing the silk in tight to a twirl and then she releases it slowly like the air rippling around her. Her dark hair loose, moving as a part of the dance, everything she is, pouring into these movements. Around and around, the dancer dances. This is what she does best.
He reaches out his hand to the mirror and blue paint drips from his fingers
Holding hands his skin is painted orange, leaving a stain on his lover
His pencil covered with a million different colours that he has tried to wash off
He wears all the negative shades, concealing the paint on his skin behind a mask of black
The eyes of blue change every day, he hates it
He hates the way he leaves an imprint of colour on everything he touches
He hates the way he spreads the colour the more he tries to scrub it away
He hates having colour all around him, from him,
Everything is blue and red
His face, his eyes, his hair, his jeans, the sunset he stops to admire
He scrubs and scrubs trying to at least dull the colours
His skin red and raw, they grasp his hands, stopping them in place
His breath coming in quick gasps
Let your colours paint the world blue and red
Paint my skin purple and orange
The words entered his mind with searing visions of drawings
He'll paint the world with his colours
Showing everyone how he sees the world
Streetlamps bath the concrete in green so that grass appears
Don't hate your colours, they are as much as a part of you than your skin, the way you see things isn't wrong nor tainted
The only thing you truly hate is the people who refuse to understand you
The next day he presses his fingertips to a canvas and paints the world