The ghost of a flashback

top of chain link fenceLately I’ve been plagued by a repeating image. More than an image, it’s a whole-body sense thing. It’s a man hitting me with a stick.

It’s actually been with me for years, it just took me this long to realize it. Doing zazen, as I’ve said, means all kinds of day-to-day junk precipitates out (thank you, high school chemistry) and lets me see clearly what I’m really thinking. It was during zazen that I really started to see this little film clip, and afterwards I realized that it’s popping up quite often lately. It plays many times a day.

I don’t really know if it’s only because of my mind clearing. I think it’s because of what this image represents, and what I’ve been going through for the past year.

I hate talking about this, because no one wants to hear complaining, but I really have been in constant pain for a year now, from this thing that’s going on with my feet, and having to work on my feet all the time. Equally painful is having to say to people, look, I need to sit down. I need the day off. I need help.

I need.

I can’t tell someone what I need without getting distressed. And then to accept help? Oy. Yet I have to.

The other day I had to tell the manager at the bookstore, after they had me at the cash register for a while, that I can’t stand still for more than about ten minutes without serious agony. She, busy, nodded and said “Okay – learn to speak up.”

Oh my god. Learn to speak up. So, I’m in pain because of my feet. I’m distressed because of having to speak up. And now she’s criticizing me for not speaking up sooner.

I know she has no idea what goes on in my head (god, I hope not) and only meant, just let us know and don’t suffer next time, it’s not necessary. They’ve been so accommodating at work, as much as they can be. This whole thing is hard, and the constant pain and stress has brought on all this depression, and that makes everything, everything, so much harder.

Man with a stick, hitting me.

So I know this image comes from somewhere. It didn’t take long to recognize it, once I let myself see it. He’s standing in front of me, slightly to the right. He’s right handed and I’m putting up my left hand to defend myself. It’s cold.

This is a moment from when I was raped.

It’s not a stick, it’s an ice scraper. Not the little plastic kind, but the kind that’s a long wooden dowel, with a scraper on one end and a brush on the other for the snow.

He and I are in a vacant lot in Detroit. It’s January. He’s ordered me to get into the back seat. It’s my father’s car, which I’d driven to work.

I get out and scan my surroundings. I have seconds to decide. Try to run through the foot of untouched snow to the twelve foot chain link fence? Can I scale it before he catches up with me? Then what? I can see cars, maybe six city blocks distant. There’s no way I can outrun him, in my stupid girl boots. I’m 16. He is a grown man over six feet tall and in very good condition.

I am numb. I open the back door. I’m not thinking anything when I see the stick in the back seat and grab it. I try to whack him in the head with it as he approaches.

A friend took a women’s self defense course. She told me that the hardest thing about the class was retraining herself to hurt someone. Even if she thinks her life is threatened, a woman is so socialized not to hurt anyone that it’s almost impossible for her to defend herself. Yet another way we are crippled by the world we live in.

Needless to say, I am ineffectual. He whips the stick out of my hands and starts hitting me with it.

And… scene.

What does it mean? It’s obvious, and it’s about more than just that one incident. I don’t dare try to defend myself. I feel I have no right to assert my will on my own behalf. And when I make the effort, against all those bad instincts, I am instantly punished. I’ve only made it worse.

I can’t even begin to describe how this was so much more true of my relationship with my father, though he was not physically abusive to me. You’re just going to have to take my word for it.

I had a few flashbacks in the months after the rape, the really intense kind where the real world disappears and you see this kind of 3D movie instead. This is like that, only less intense. I can sort of feel the blows, but I don’t lose the world around me. I just space out for a second.

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow evening.

2 Responses to “The ghost of a flashback”

  1. absurdbeats Says:

    Goddammit. God. Damn. It.

    That fucker. I don’t really believe in karma, but I hope it got him.

    For you, my dear friend, I hope you get you.

    Take whatever you need; it’s already yours.

  2. Jenn H Says:

    Such difficult words so beautifully written.

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