CONTENT WARNING: Sexual assault
Feet to concrete. A thin layer of shoe between me and the cement.
Deep breaths. Cold crisp air fills my lungs. The sting of freedom.
Running gives me clarity. I feel the strength in my calves pulse as I put one foot in front of the other.
Then the thought of you snakes into my mind the way you slithered into my sanctuary.
I try to push it away and keep running but it’s too late now.
My chest tightens. I try to keep going. Keep my breathing controlled. Inhale 1,2. Exhale 3,4. Inhale 1,2. It’s not working. Internal self dialogue kicks in. “I’m okay. Just breath. Don’t think about it. I’m okay. Just keep going.”
It’s too late now. You’re playing in a loop in my head. I feel pain in all the places of my body I wish you’d never known. I think of pushing you off. You’re heavy body. THUD as you hit the floor. The same adrenaline I felt then now fills me again. I think of you standing between me and the door. I think of the walls of your apartment shrinking around me. I think of how you slid my phone across the room. How it hit me like a train that this was not the first time you did this.
I’ve stopped running at this point. Hands on my head. Trying to breath. Pacing in a circle. I can’t shake the memory of you.
I think of how fucking afraid I was. How I looked you dead in the eye, poker faced, fearing for my life. I think of how I trembled with anger that filled every cell of my body. I think of how you got in my face. I think of how I heard my dad’s voice so clearly: ‘Mija, you don’t ever make anyone look like a fool and you don’t ever let anyone make you look like a fool.’ He said that the night he taught me how to fight. Don’t worry poppa. I’ll go out swinging. I think of how I was ready to defend myself even if it was the last thing I ever did. I think of how I argued with you for two hours but it felt like forever. It was 1am and then it was 3am. I think of how I wanted to be anywhere and anyone and anytime but there and me and then. I think of how I stayed up until 6 and watched you watch me. I remember thinking ‘don’t fall asleep he could kill you.’
I’m on the ground now. Sitting in between bushes next to the sidewalk. My back pushed up against the wall of this gated neighbprhood behind me. Grabbing at dirt. Feeling the cool earth in my hands. Trying desperately to fight the panic attack. Name all the people in your first grade class, stay distracted. Steven S Steven G Hannah Hannah Han —
I remember racing out at 6am. I remember I couldn’t get home fast enough. I argued with you the whole way home. I got ready for work in utter shock. Adrenaline still high. I walked in and saw my colleagues. Part of my support system. I crumbled. Grief shook me as I sobbed, washing away my fear and anger momentarily. Reeling from the feeling of terror and pure agony of feeling trapped and unsafe for so long. Holy shit. I’m alive I’m alive. I remember thinking holy shit I’m alive. Everything feels surreal. This can’t be happening to me. Not again.
And yet a reminder all damn day that what happened was real my phone dings from constant messages. Your name appears on my screen sending the adrenaline back up every time. I sat in a fucking meeting with lawyers while you blew up my phone. You don’t win this one. You cannot take me down. My family raised a fighter. I watched you walk from A to Z of text book abusive tactics as grey bubbles filled our conversations. Monologues. My short blue sentences speckled in the text history. Standing my ground. I guess this is what happens when you stay firm against abusive people: they short circuit and malfunction, spazzing out as they try to regain control. You’re not in control. I am.
I’m back on my feet. Trying to prepare to start running again. No dice. My chest tightens as I keel over, hands on my knees. Dizzy.
I remember how my sobs shook my whole body. I remember how my rage felt like it would destroy me inside out. I remember the fear I felt as deep as my bones. I remember how I had to buck up and keep fighting, marching my ass to the doctor the next morning. Getting a medical exam and preventative mesures. Lying to the clinician because I didn’t want to make a police report. Crying because she knew the elephant in the room. My phone still ringing with your fucking name. You don’t know where I live but you’ve threatened to show up. I don’t feel safe in my home. I don’t feel safe in my own body.
Tears streaming down my face. I just wanted to go for a fucking run. But you’re never over. It’s been a month and a half. Here I am. Finally safe in my own body. It’s been 6 weeks and somehow you still have power over me. Fuck you.
I think of how off track you threw me. The amalgam of emotions of sorrow and anger and fear from the memories of sleepless nights and paranoia walking home and bathroom breaks to splash water on my face and slept away days and procrastination and missed classes and missed work outs and missed meals and too much food and all of the breakdowns hit me in one moment.
Triggered from seeing you in my city two weeks ago. My illusion of safety shattered. Fear that it can happen again. Fear of the unknown. I sit and think of how far I’ve come. Wiping tears from my face I take off running. I feel the strength in my calves. I feel the crisp cold air in my lungs with the sting of freedom. I feel alive. Holy shit I’m alive.