I never told anyone what happened, but today I’m telling you. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldn’t be enough. I spent more energy running from it than I did living.
After he raped me, he told me I had to return the next day or I would be “in trouble.”And because I was terrified, and confused, I went back the next day and was raped again. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me.
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My whole life, as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of dying.
One person might find cause through religion, while others find comfort in trying to understand as much as possible of the science we use to try to explain this phenomenon we refer to as life.
But almost everyone seems to strive for an answer, a reason, a motivation to keep going. I can’t even begin to fathom that my life will end, that my body will stop functioning and that all the thoughts, love and sorrows I bear with me will vanish.
For a few weeks my gloom lifted, and I became utterly convinced that if this girl went out with me, if she fucked me, I’d be cured of all that ailed me. I’d been watching “Excalibur” on heavy rotation, so I was all about miraculous regeneration. Rutgers, only an hour from my home by bus, was so far from my old life and so alive with possibility that for the first time in the longest I felt something approaching safety, something approximating hope. I was hiding, I was drinking, I was at the gym; I was running around with other women. I tried to use sex to fill the hole I’d just blown through my heart, but it didn’t work. An archipelago of grief was on me, a wine-dark sea of pain. And when I was finally ready to return to that place where I was unmade she stood by my side, she held my hand, and never let go. I don’t hurt people with my lies or my choices, and wherever I can I make amends; I take responsibility. I’m even in a relationship, and she knows everything about my past. During the public talks I’ve given at universities and conferences, I’ve sometimes commented on the intergenerational harm that systemic sexual violence has inflicted on African diasporic communities, on my community. And what it feels like to say the words here, where the whole world—and maybe you—might hear.
When I finally got up the nerve to ask her out and she said nope, it felt as though the world had finally closed the door on me. Because my one and only college acceptance arrived in the mail. And, whether it was that distance or my bottomless self-loathing or some desperate post-suicide urge to live, that first year I remade myself completely. I was creating model homes, and then, just as soon as they were up, abandoning them. I was the Dominican nerdo she’d always dreamed about. In a drunken fit I tried to jump from my friend’s rooftop apartment in the D. He grabbed me before I could get my foot on a nearby stool and didn’t let go until I stopped shaking. I’d always assumed that if I ever returned to that place, that island where I’d been shipwrecked, I would never escape; I’d be dragged down and destroyed. This line in particular I circled at least a dozen times: “Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.”And then there was this section from my own novel: Before all hope died I used to have this stupid dream that shit could be saved, that we would be in bed together like the old times, with the fan on, the smoke from our weed drifting above us, and I’d finally try to say words that could have saved us.——— ——— ———. My face is wet, and that’s how you know it’s never going to come true. But have I ever actually come out and said that I was the victim of sexual violence? Toni Morrison wrote, “Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” In Spanish we say that when a child is born it is given the light.
Some think about it while lying in their beds at night staring out into the darkness, some share it with friends when drunk and some just try to suppress these thoughts as soon as they surface.
What almost every person seems to have in common with each other, though, is that we desperately try to find a reason for living, a meaning with our existence.