Sunday, September 30, 2018

Those things I say and those things I don't say

I haven't been writing. Not because I have nothing to say. Everything, everywhere, feels so bad. So monumentally awful. I want to check out, do something else, have been someone else.

There is a trail of memories leading up to the moment that I am. I am now. I am the memories that have made me.

Part of the lack of writing is using every single waking moment to learn Spanish. I have decided to learn Spanish. I am proud of taking on the challenge. I am terrified by what it will make me. No me veo como una ciudadana de los Estados Unidos. No soy de Corena. No soy de Puerto Rican. ¿Quién soy?

That is the thing. Speaking Korean has just always made me somewhat other. Being other I always understood. I will never really understand being a latina, I was not raised latina, I have no history or culture to call on there, but still...I am. I am undeniably other because I cannot wake up any day and look like anything other than I am. I embody difference. I always have. The last few years in America have only made it worse.

And yet...

I haven't been writing for so many reasons. Then, just when you think it's safe, let's have a fun public slog down the depths of teenage "maybe" assault. What a good time. What a wonderful thing.

Let's knock some dust of the rape apologists and give them some new talking points. Among my favorites the: if it was rape, not raping and just trying to rape is not rape...of course the old 'boys will be boys'...

Funny thing: I grew up in the 80s, I was a pre-teen, but still, the 85-95 pretty much encapsulated most of my adolescence so I came of age and watched the weird transition happen between "he didn't mean that" and "date rape". I watched the entire national confusion as all of that went down. I even fully understand why so many older white people are freaked the fuck out about 80s date rape because, for them, that was normal society. The fear that no one seems to want to really talk about is not that these things didn't happen, not that the experiences aren't valid, not that drunken teenage assault, attempted assault, and full on rape were not okay! Of course they were not okay, just, you see, the standard was different. In the 80s the passed out drunk girl in your room, as long as they were in your friend circle, was totally open season as long as you were friends. What's a little sexual assault between friends! But you see, it wasn't assault, it was just high jinks, people!? Why does the modern area have to rob those innocents of everything?!

The thing is, for everyone defending this and down right terrified by this, especially those in their fifties and sixties, the real question is: what are you so afraid of? The truth, if you boil it down, is they are afraid of the fact that if they knew then what they know now they would know they were so far out of line it was beyond the pale. And the even greater fear: acceptance and humility. "Why should I have to feel sorry for something that, in that time, wasn't really that bad?"

Reality check. You can't change the past. I am fully aware.

I look at the long rope of history that weaves together and creates me as who I am now. I am willing to accept I made a great number of mistakes along that line. I own all of them. From misunderstanding, to awkwardness, to trying to figure out belonging, to miscommunication, all of it. I have been both demon and angel, predator and victim. Yes, I was too young and too naive to know. The difference between me now and much of the popular narrative is that I'm willing to accept that I've hurt people.

Any living, breathing, human being should be willing to accept that they have hurt people. None of us are perfect and that thing you said one time, in passing, that immediately left your mind never to grace the doorstep of your memories again? Someone, somewhere was crushed by it.

The thing I see most palpably is an unwillingness to accept that maybe, just maybe, there is a place for humility and a willingness to accept that our intersection in the lives of others may not always be a shining golden, gleaming light. This is truth.

This is all, of course, a torrent of words to think through a thing that bothers me most of all. The whole, "if it was that bad, you should have said something then?"

Here is my redacted story: When I was 16 years old my mother paid someone 20 dollars to come to my room and sexually assault me.

When he was in my room, I did not know this.

When I unlocked my door, I did not know this.

I cannot tell you much about the day before or after, only that I know it was a weekend or a holiday because I was home in my room, with a locked door, reading. Or watching stolen HBO. Or masturbating, who knows...I was sixteen fucking years old and more than anything else I wanted to be alone.

I can't tell you what happened the rest of the day. It's a total blank, if the rest of the day even happened. If the rest of the year even happened. I can barely recall with any kind of clarity any of the other days when I was 16 years old.

I can tell you I know the name he went by.

I can tell you I know what he looked like.

I can tell you he was muscular and thin and strong. But not nearly as strong or practiced as I was in wrestling and fighting. Part instinct. Part siblings.

I can tell you what his face looked like as I fought him out of my room and to the stairs, where I eventually pushed him down.

I can tell you I went back to my bedroom and locked the door and listened to my heart beat for a long time.

I love to read. I can't even tell you what I was reading when all this happened.

It did happen.

I found out weeks later from the siblings how it happened. That my mother had paid him, that she was pissed her money was wasted and I hadn't been raped. There was a level of amusement from the siblings in how I had thwarted my mother. As the oldest, I was the only one who was even remotely aware of how fucked up the entire thing was.

In all the years since it has happened it is a story I have told. My emotional detachment from this story is a weird thing. I have almost no feelings. I have so many feelings, but they aren't really there. On occasion, I have told this as a winning story in a contest of "how bad were your parents" with almost a point of pride at just how fucked up my childhood was. I have told this story enough to worry, and rightly so, that people believe I am making it up and this is a lie. No one, surely, has become who I am and yet come from so much malice.

And yet, here I am.

And yet, this is still true.

This week, I listen as a bunch of people demand to know why, if something was so bad, they didn't tell someone 30 years ago.

Who am I? ¿Quién soy? Esta es mi historia, pero ¿qué significa? Why didn't I say anything then?

Why do I even bother saying anything now.

I'm on a precipice of in-between of who I have been and who I am becoming and the world keeps pushing me to confront the narrative of who made me. Mi historia. My story.  Soy es...

It's all awful and I keep holding out hope. Tengo la esperanza.

Some days, that is all I have. Perhaps, I shall find that "Soy latina, Soy de Puerto Rican, Soy de hispanic, Soy un sobreviviente" those things won't hurt. Maybe they hurt less in another language. Maybe the new stories do conquer the old.

Maybe high jinks were just high jinks.

Or maybe we have cold realities we have to face about ourselves, our lives and our histories and we must be prepared to answer to them, and for them, for both who were were and who we are.

I'm not sorry. I am sorry.

Yo vivo.