Hope Can Be A Funny Thing

Have you ever been through an experience that made you feel like trash afterward? You feel like nobody would want you and being tossed away is the inevitable outcome. I absolutely hate to see trash laying on the ground. If I see it, I immediately need to pick it up and dispose of it properly. I'm no eco-warrior, though I do my best. It isn't an environmental issue to me. It took me a long time to realize exactly why garbage on the floor bothered me so much. I recall being brought to tears at a bus stop; the ground and bench so littered with trash. I frantically tried to pick it up. I then found myself clutching garbage in my hands and sobbing uncontrollably at a bus stop, on the ground, like a fucking lunatic. Kneeling on the floor, makeup running down my face, I was crying like I had lost someone close to me. At the time, I didn’t understand why that was happening; but I do now. I did lose someone. Myself.

It took years of being alone with myself, answering really hard questions, and a lot of self-destructive behavior, but I finally admitted it to myself. I knew why trash bothered me so much and why I looked like a nutcase crying over garbage at a bus stop. I was raped. No, not at the bus stop, although maybe that would make more sense to people. I was broken and, once you break, you can never be put back together the same way. One in five women will be raped, or the target of an attempted rape. I am a statistic. So now I cry at trash on the ground and I pull away if my husband touches my neck. I hate wearing jewelry and I always have to wear shirts with a deep scoop cut, because I don’t like things close to my neck. I’m irreparably broken. After years of pain and crying at trash, I am okay with being broken. Maybe I am just not one of those people that ever get to be whole. But I didn’t always feel okay to be broken. I recently read a study describing how victims of sexual assault experience a temporary paralysis that keeps them from fighting back or screaming. What follows is part of my story and my life; and I'm not alone.

It started with a fucking, crunched-up can of Arizona Iced Tea on the ground. I remember the exact moment when I entered that parking garage. I knew where my car was, I was clutching my purse close to me and I normally walked pretty fast. As always, I had pepper spray on my key chain and a stun gun in my purse, just in case. Then, as I turned the corner, I saw it. The Arizona can. I could tell it was empty because it was crunched in the middle. A wet substance covered the ground around the can; so the asshole obviously launched it. The trash can wasn’t far, and I thought to myself, “what kind of a dickhead couldn’t carry his can a couple of more feet to throw it away.” I always wished that wasn’t the last thing that I was thinking about before it happened. I began to make my way through the rows of parked cars, heading toward mine. That's when I saw him. I don’t know if he was hiding or if I just missed him, but either way this was happening and I never saw it coming. He was bigger than me, with a hood on and looking down; I barely caught his face. I froze, hoping to God he was just in a rush to get to where he was going. I pressed myself up against a car to let him pass. Please fucking pass. But he didn’t.

He quickly put his hand on my stomach, pinning me to the car. I reflexively took a swing, and as I did, I dropped my purse. I also left myself open. As I turned to hit him, I was immediately taken down to the ground. That was the only opportunity I had to throw a punch, and I wished I was able to hit him harder. I had already lost. He did it effortlessly. I felt my head hit the pavement and I pulled my hands up toward my face. I don’t know why, but I think it was a natural reaction. I started screaming and kicking, thrusting up and down, and pleading with him to stop. I could feel him on me; his weight was overwhelming. I could feel one of his hands on my neck and I couldn’t move him. Panic sunk in and I began to pull more violently, trying to wiggle down as I could feel myself get weaker. He repeatedly told me to shut up and would squeeze my neck harder. He said it so calmly. Nothing that I was doing was working. I had never lost my voice before, but every word was getting more and more faint and painful, and I was already exhausted. At first, I kept screaming as he tried to take my pants off, but that stopped working as he squeezed harder on my neck. With so little effort, he was in complete control; and he knew it. He wasn’t panicking, or hurried, because he knew I was powerless. I don’t think he ever thought I could get away, but stupidly, I still thought I could.

I remember saying I was sorry, over and over, and begging him to stop. I said no, and even tried telling him I would forgive him if he stopped now. As he let go of my neck, I thought, maybe he would. Hope can be a funny thing like that. Instead, he grabbed me, flipped me over quickly, and I hit the cement even harder. My head was killing me. I started screaming again as he placed his hand over my mouth and pushed the side of my face into the ground. The concrete was cold and I could feel each pebble and imperfection press into my cheek. I began crying uncontrollably and through my tears, I saw my purse. I attempted, for a brief moment, to wiggle toward it, thinking maybe I could reach it; but every time I tried to move, he applied more force on me.

He worked my pants down now and was completely on top of me. I couldn’t even lift my hips off the ground. I had no strength left. His weight was paralyzing. I couldn’t move and I was powerless. In a last second attempt, I remember saying "please, no" over and over again. Each time I pleaded, he just drove my face harder into the concrete. I opened my eyes, and that’s when I caught it. Out of the corner of one eye, the fucking Arizona iced tea. I wish I had the good sense to keep my eyes closed. I went silent as he took full control over me. I was a rag doll and he had accomplished his goal. I was gone. He was able to take everything from me and have full control of me. I had nothing and I was on the ground with trash and that horrible can of iced tea.

I had no voice anymore. All I could do was cry. It was one of those silent, heavy-breathing, ugly cries. The kind of crying that comes from a deep place of pain. The only other time I would cry like this in my life would be at the bus stop months later. As I kept my eyes open, I could feel the tears leave my eyes and land on his hand. My head continued to hit the cold concrete with every push, but I was frozen and I stopped feeling the gravel cut my skin. It didn’t matter. I said no, one last time, through his hand, but then my voice was gone completely. I just laid there, my eyes open, and all I could see was the empty can.

Why I froze, why it happened and why I cry over garbage are all clear to me now, but this conclusion didn’t come easy. Like I said, I am still a broken, wreck at times. I cry for no reason, I keep people from getting too close and physical contact didn’t come easy. It has taken time, a lot of time, to find my voice again. I try not to think about that day and, believe it or not, after some time, things do begin to fade. I don’t remember what the weather was that day, or what shoes I was wearing, but I will always remember laying on the ground with the crunched up Arizona can, among the trash.

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