Before there was the sound of trying not to scream, I wore my hair short and I wore blue. After that, I threw away all my colours and grew my hair. If I could have, I would have worn it like a shroud. I wanted my body to disappear.
When you are raped, it’s as though your skin has a memory, as though its very cells change in every fold that was touched by your rapist. I’d changed my skin several times since I was raped, but I couldn’t get rid of the sense that his fingers were still on my body even though years had passed since that day. That skin cells are replaced didn’t cure that feeling–it didn’t come from my rational mind. I thought that if I destroyed my body, I could get rid of its memory.
The odd thing about trauma is that men will fall in love with it. It’s their chance to swoop down and rescue you from evil. After I grew my hair and stopped wearing blue, men forgot how to love me because they were so much in love with the image of themselves loving a person like me. In all the years I was with H, he couldn’t divorce his feelings about me from his attraction to my vulnerability.
The scars I wear are no longer reminders of trauma, but scent brings it back every time. My nose can trace the smell of my rape as well as a bat can trace the distance of a rock and the height of it even through blindness.
Rape does not appeal to rationality. The experience is so far beyond tolerable that your responses become primal. The only rational way to take away their power is to unpack all those irrational thoughts, lay them in front of you, and acknowledge them in words.
The dead parts rotted. They were the things about my rape that I couldn’t remember, the things that I’d left in dark corners for somebody else to find. I couldn’t extract them into consciousness. I only know that once there was something and now there was something dead.
When I cut my hair and rediscovered all my colours, it was like feeling vitality for the first time. Blood leaked back into my cells and decay fell away. The first man to fall in love with me instead of my trauma liked me to dress in front of the window and go out in sheer clothes. He made sure I was always aware of my body. That is how the dead parts disappeared: he replaced them with life. He loved me, and in doing so, he taught me I was worthy of love.