a Martyr’s memoir
a bronze ashen curve
unlike caramelized hush of lullaby
lamenting the tales
of warriors and chevaliers;
Like a roar it swirls -
at odds with her sealed smile,
Frigid, numb and metaphorically iced.
I peek in her eyes,
Those honey sweetened blend
but coated with blemishes,
lashing the rays
of unfathomable hives.
drumming my pulse less beats
unlike the past
striking me mildly for my playful deeds.
I witness a rally of vermillion red
railing in the ducts of bitumen,
Flecks of argon mingled -
with infinite globin chains.
And hence I recite my farewell’s hymn
“In the depth of your matrix,
I grasped to breath
Under your benign stitched shawl,
I fed my feed
Today in your lap,
I mastered to sleep.”
Boys will be Boys
The first time I was catcalled I was 13. It was a Saturday. It was my birthday. I was at the Edison mall with my older sibling, shopping for a dress to wear to my birthday dinner. As we approached a kiosk selling custom phone cases, it happened.
The kiosk worker was a large man wearing a grey cotton t-shirt. He had shoulder-length hair tied back in a loose ponytail. He was sweating. It was clear he had sweat through his shirt, so I looked away, embarrassed for him. When I looked back, he was looking at me with a greasy smile on his face. I looked away again. As we walked past the man and his kiosk, I heard a much deeper voice than I was expecting call after me.
He asked me why I was ignoring him. He told me not to be like that. He called me baby. He was salivating over my just developing curves. I walked faster. Tears stinging my eyes. My sibling grabbed my hand and pulled me faster away from the man, from the kiosk, and from my shame.
I was confused. I was mad. I was scared.
I didn’t know this happened to girls so young. I wasn’t even done going through puberty yet and I had already been looked at as an object of sexual gratification. It wasn’t long before I was catcalled again.
My mom leases office space in the yellow building across the street from my school. Before I could drive, it was my responsibility to walk from school to her work after soccer practice so she could take us home. Not that it matters, but I was wearing black soccer shorts, an athletic tank top, and a neon sports bra. As I passed the button at the College Parkway crosswalk, a man rolled down his window and whistled at me. I looked around, confused, unsure if it was me who was being whistled at. To get my attention, the man yelled a comment about my exposed legs. Our eyes locked. He was grinning. Drooling. His eyes left mine and I could feel his gaze travel all over my body.
I was only thirteen. My body in that weird stage between girl and woman.
I don’t remember the second time or the third time, or the tenth or the twentieth. But I know they happened. Again and again, men took it upon themselves to violate me with words or tell me what they would do to me. Once a construction worker offered me money to perform a sexual act on him and his friends. I was only 15 or 16.
As objectifying as it was, words are just words. I can live with words. But one-day words changed to actions.
Junior year, a Model United Nations conference in Washington D.C. The conference had been going great. I had made friends in committee and was looking forward to hanging out with them at the delegate dance, which was in the same hotel as the conference. At the dance, I was talking with a delegate I had met. I won’t say his name. He was my age. Tall. Blonde hair. Dark blue eyes. Over the loud music, he asked me if I wanted to go talk outside and find some water. I naively said yes. We went outside and found an empty hallway. It started innocently enough. He told me he thought I was smart and funny. He stepped closer. He told me he thought I was pretty. He stepped closer. Sensing my discomfort, he closed the remaining distance between us. He asked me if I wanted to go up to his hotel room with him. My cheeks burned, and I mumbled something about having to get back to the dance. I stepped back. He advanced towards me again, but this time grabbed my arm, moving his hand up my shoulders. I was frozen. I said no. He started to drag me towards the elevator, presumably to take me to his room. I tried to yank my arm away but his grip was iron. With his free hand, he groped my chest, squeezing my breasts over my shirt. Tears poured down my cheeks. I yanked again, much harder this time, and I was free. But I didn’t run. I made up an excuse about having to leave, apologized, and went back to the dance.
I always wanted to believe that if placed in a situation like this, I would be brave. I would scream or run or hit the person, but I didn’t. I apologized.
When I told my teacher a modified version of what happened, excluding him touching my chest, she asked me, “How loudly did you say no?” My cheeks burned. My eyes stung with tears. I hadn’t said no loudly enough. I had mumbled it and apologized for leaving. It must’ve been my fault for leading him on or for sending him mixed signals. I racked my brain and replayed every interaction I had with him. Had I been flirting? I had passed notes with him, joking about stupid things I can’t remember now, but my intentions were never romantic. At that point in my life, I had a boyfriend, but I never wanted to be that girl who out of nowhere announces that she has a boyfriend the second a guy starts talking to her. If I had mentioned that I had a boyfriend, the whole thing probably never would’ve happened. I felt physically sick.
The next day was our last committee session. He was there. He smiled at me and waved. Me, hating myself, smiled and waved back. We pretended that last night hadn’t happened. When committee ended, everyone started saying goodbye and exchanging social medias to stay in touch. I turned around to leave, and there he was. Almost in slow motion, I saw him leaning in for a hug. The voice in my head was screaming at me to run. To back away. To do something.
I hugged him back.
It was only a second, but I had betrayed myself. I never ended up reporting him. I didn’t scream. I didn’t hit him. I hugged him goodbye and apologized for making last night weird.
Fact. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. I am one in four.
Fact. Sexual assault is the most underreported crime in America, 63% of assaults go unreported. I didn’t report him.
I want to live in a world where a 13-year-old girl can cross the street without being objectified. I want to live in a world where things aren’t brushed under the rug because “boys will be boys”. I want to live in a world where people can wear whatever the hell they want without fear or judgment because no outfit is an invitation for comments about their body or an excuse for violence.
Since the MUN incident, I haven’t been the same. I was fundamentally changed that day. I’m much more cautious around unfamiliar men. I used to only be wary of men older than me, but now I feel like I can’t trust guys my age either. This is not okay. If you take anything away from reading this, please let it be that things need to change.
I challenge you to be the change. Speak up if you hear something not okay. Don’t catcall anyone, man, woman, or any other gender. Try to reprogram your brain to not make assumptions about a person based on how much skin they show. Try to be better. We deserve better.
Crisis of faith.
When all that you once believed shatters,
pillars of faith,
turning to rubble evermore.
When the identity you once wore proudly,
slips off the hanger,
into a heap on the bedroom floor.
Where do you go for stability
if rock solid certainties are undermined?
Where do you turn for comforting
if faith is just blanketing for the mind?
I have a Heart of Glass
You wouldn't want to break a heart made of glass because they break easily. That's the first thing anyone would think when I tell them this. They would always be oh-so solicitous, not to break my heart because they are so afraid of hurting me. Guilt will hit them so hard they crumble. That's what most people thought, at least. Because in reality, they should be doing it for themselves.
What people don't realise is that when glass shatters on the ground, the pieces that are left are dangerous as a poisoned knife. Pain like no other will be inflicted upon those who are careless. Whatever that happens to me when my heart shatters doesn't matter any more than their pain and absolute betrayal in their eyes. But they're the ones that got careless.
What happens next is simple. They will, somehow or another, get those sharp, fine grains of glass in their foot as a reminder for their carelessness. Little shiny glass shards that go deeper the more they try to get back on their feet and walk away from me. As if I ever wanted to be associated with such vile creatures.
After they manage to crawl away from me, usually from desperation and fear, I start to pick fragments of my heart once again. Nothing changes as blood trickles from my fingers and the palms of my hand. I will endeavor to fix it and eventually, it will look the same as it always does: perfect and delicate. Then the process will start all over again: I would warn them of my heart of glass and they would be oh-so cautious not to break it...
But what people don't realise is that my broken heart causes as much damage to them as it does to me.
being at now where I feel it
unmarked by your hot breaths, but felt within my heart
under my skin
vibrating in my rivers
strange, isn’t it?
sometimes I wonder if I fear to comprehend it fully
because then it would become real_ even more real
I could touch it... and what if I won’t be able to take care of it the right way?
what if I misplace it?
but I could never be without parts of you
they are mine now_ even if my hands still shake
trembling because of you
in my long forgotten foundations
Why is it
that the man who bought me two books
on our first date,
saying that it was the price of two drinks anyway
Is the same man who pressured me on the second date?
Why is it
that the best men
are always the inconsistent ones?
Why do women have to
for mediocre men?
I told a man I didn’t want to sleep with him
and now I’m getting the silent treatment.
Is this just
immaturity? Or my destiny?
I just want to be normal
Is that so hard? Is it really such a huge thing to ask for? Is it really that difficult to achieve?
Apparently, it is. Because I can’t find it, no matter how hard I try. Normalcy is a far-off dream, a wish vanishing into the mist. A fairy-tale. A nice thought.
Don’t strive for mediocrity, go beyond that, they say.
Don’t settle for being ordinary, be extraordinary.
But what if...what if I’m tired of being different, notable, “special”?
What if I’m tired of being noticed for the wrong reasons?
Because, goodness knows, I’m not the kind of extraordinary
that I’d like to be.
There’s a difference between being truly extraordinary,
and simply being...
c o n s p i c u o u s .
Special is not always a good thing.
It can imply a lot of things.
I don’t want to draw attention.
I don’t want to turn heads.
I want to blend in.
I just want to be...
Another face on the street
One of many
Noticed, but not notorious
Unique, but not unusual
with the powers to be...
People say, You’re different. You must be destined for greatness.
People say, Your unique qualities made me a better person.
But what if...
I just want to be normal
Is that really too much to ask for?
The Eyes Behind the Bars of a Cage
Her tiger face is majestic even as her body contorts in agony,
as she labors on the floor of a cage.
Panting, hurting, not knowing there is more pain and
ruthless torment yet to come.
Black velvet stripes on vibrant orange and white fur,
graceful limbs and an abundance of thick white whiskers,
just some of the elements of her stunning beauty, of
the magnificent splendor that’s reflected in her eyes.
Almond-shaped orbs of sage green, pierced with hurt
when the lives she brought into this cruel world,
are ripped from her.
A tearing that reverberates throughout her body,
like a chainsaw, to her very soul.
Her babies are roughly hauled away by a cold metal pole,
dragged forcibly through dirt and under a fence,
and far away from their grieving mother.
The desperate loss she feels when there are no little ones for
her to nurse, to gently and lovingly clean with her feline tongue,
to protect and nurture, is like a slow torture.
Her tiger eyes behind the bars of a cage hold deep her anguish,
the radiance, that emerald shine and sparkle they used to hold,
has been hammered out of them.
In the fading silvery light, they are shadowy and haunted,
saturated with all of the secrets that cause her suffering.
The abrasive dirt scratches his tender newborn belly as he’s
pulled like a piece of garbage through it.
His tiger cub instincts tell him to search for the source of
his mother’s nutrient-rich and nourishing milk.
But try as he might, it’s nowhere to be found.
Neither is the warm furry loving embrace and comforting
touch of her body, her skin, her tongue, her everything.
His mother should be his entire world right now.
His mother should be there, right there, for him.
But she’s not.
Greed and evil have taken him away from her.
He cries as he crawls around an unfamiliar surface of cold vinyl,
some kind of strange plastic cage with netting around the sides.
His stomach grumbles with hunger until liquid through
a foreign smelling and vile tasting rubber apparatus
is provided– though it’s nothing like his mother’s milk at all.
Even though he’s too young and small and new to understand
and realize it completely, he misses her and all the love
she should have been able to give him.
Instead his cries of distress are met with angry shouts, an ugly,
unfamiliar voice hollering beyond the perimeters of his prison cell,
twangy, irritable, frightening and, above all… careless.