blossoming in the dark
So sleepy, she thought, I’m so tired. The medications that help lull her to bed were full strength in her bloodstream. The mattress was soft under her body, it cradled it, it soothed it. She’s found a home and and a loving man, God-fearing and kind and strong in that true, right way. She flipped off the lamplight and put the covers over her. So soft, warm: her own bed. Not a cot or sofa, no strange pillows below her head.
Even after eleven years of pulling herself as far as she could away from painful traumas, her mind retreated into its usual nighttime place. It was very used to taking comfort in this disturbing place, eleven years of nights with this same thought. She caught it, she wanted to capture it and slaughter whatever was left of it.
Those years before, she spent her first night in the psychiatric hospital. Just a little girl with budding interest in more womanly things, she was at that age after all during that time. There were a lot of things she recalled but she hated to even admit it to herself. As she settled into bed to sleep that long time ago, the image of one of the men who worked there entered her mind. Being young, confused, and frightened, she kind of just asked herself why in the world she was thinking this. She couldn’t sleep, at least not yet, so she just thought of him. She hated herself for thinking he was good-looking, not giving herself any kind of slack because she was a so young, newly confined, and absolutely terrified more so then than any other point in her life.
The hospitalizations continued and it was within those walls where her sexuality, as puberty set it, inevitably blossomed. But because it grew from it’s pure state in those kinds of places, the vines of even her subconscious desires were slightly twisted. The leaves were darker, the flowers more devious somehow. Red roses with heavy, thorn-covered stems.
But now...now that she had this love, this peace, she wanted to let go of all of that. To re-purify. To be reborn within her own womanhood. She knew it would be a battle in her mind. She had to fight it every night now to keep the past away until it stopped trying to visit for good. She is embarrassed to admit how the aggressiveness of certain men could set off such a powerful arousal effect in her body. When her boyfriend, who was too kind for words, would deepen and sharpen his voice, almost as if giving orders, her body turned limp with need. The need was what she wanted to kill off. It was torture to love tenderness and deep down crave near-mistreatment to get the rush.
Unfortunately, in or out of the hospitals (whatever her memory could preserve), she was eventually violated in some way, and then raped as a teenager while out with some friends. Violation continued on and off, she felt shameful and somehow she attracted those men who hurt her in that way. She knew that fighting the terror she felt in herself the nights as a young girl in those places would involve a certain amount of acceptance. Acceptance, that she will never fully know why or what exactly happened to her--mentally or physically--in most of the situations she was in at those ages. To accept the feelings, that it is all in fact just a blur of very sick things. It’s not a mystery to be solved, searching nightmares for clues. There were pieces, but no puzzle, no closure. That was the first thing. She’d accepted that.
But she was sleeping now. And in her sleep her nightmares brought horrible images sexual violation and rape. It was only starting to get better. There was a lot of running, crying, feeling trapped. Screaming in her sleep and waking herself up with a scream, crying out, tossing and turning. That was the second part of the acceptance. That no matter what, no matter what the nightmares “mean”, she couldn’t ever allow herself to start assuming things she could not prove. If I don’t fully remember it, she’d tell herself, then I can’t place blame anywhere on anyone, even myself. To chalk a lot of it up to the churning pool of sickness she was exposed to that young what what made it all make more sense. This part was fully accepted as well.
The desires and needs were where the war was being fought.
She fell, deeper, deeper into sleep. The nightmare started. Oddly, very vividly in the beginning but without any noise, it was very quiet. As she entered the dream itself she found herself walking deep into what was like a cavern, but of course unlike anything that really existed. An odd thought came to her, like she’d walked past all of this already. So there was little fear in mind. But then, it got darker, colder. Unfamiliar.
In a room furnished with the platform wooden beds, squat chests of drawers, and very empty walls, the window was open. It’s screen, a heavy grate that locked from the inside, hung there. It was instinctual to walk over and close it, where it clicked back in place but must still have stayed unlocked.
She turned around, and was startled. She gasped, her heart feeling like someone put their hand in her chest and just squeezed it, jumped even while dreaming. Her eyes widened, the room remained the same. The image, however less vivid, was still one she could only recognize too well.
He stood, ordinary face, large in size, large hands, plain and pressed clothing with a belt and some kind of identification. He was smiling. She didn’t freeze. Her body didn’t lock up. It was like they knew one another previously.
By now this ceased to be a dream. She was there. She could feel the sheer mass of his body. She tried to step sideways and walk passed him. He moved, with such ease, to block her. She tried again, still not too afraid. He repeated that action.
“I came to close the window,” she told him sheepishly. And then, more firmly: “I want to go now.”
His smile continued. He didn’t have much in the way of eyes. They were blurry pools of blue-green, he was more of a structure. A part of the room. Stark and bolted to the floor. Like the furniture.
But he wasn’t furniture. In that moment she accepted that a man like him, probably, throughout her life, would make her heart race. He could give that feeling of unpleasantness and pleasant feelings. The acceptance came then, it filled her soul even while sleeping like the light of a sunrise. When she’d look at her love while awake, she realized that maybe because of what used to be messy feelings, would keep her heart pounding for the man she loved each moment he came close, and that could last for the rest of her life. She could look up sweetly at him when he sweeps his arms around her, and feel so much peace when the thought of someday marrying him would cross her mind.
“I don’t feel like trying to fight you, or run from you anymore. I’m tired. I’m tired of you, whoever you are, just get out of my way, please.”
He looked downward at her. “You’re not going anywhere right now, all right? Nowhere.”
“I’ve already had a thousand nightmares where I begged to get out. I’m not begging you for anything.”
He closed the door to the room. “What’s there to be worried about,” he said mockingly. “You don’t have anything that you could clearly remember enough to be afraid of. No...not much but your own fear. Maybe it just was fear. Maybe...you’re just sick, you made it up in your head. Sick even for a 12 year old girl.”
He was wrong, and she knew he was messing with her mind. He prayed on the idea that she used to worry over, that she was sick, everything was her fault, and she brought God knew what upon herself. He was trying to make her release logic and faith, to only listen to the damage, to think like a child. So she said nothing. And he stood firm.
“True or not, not one bit of it matters now. Not to my life now, the present. I don’t care, I really don‘t care.”
He grabbed her and threw his massive body weight into her, pinning her against the wall, wrists under his hands. He forced her to be trapped between himself and the wall, she turned away, he turned her back toward his eyes.
His hardness pressed into her thigh. She tried not to make a sound, but still remain unafraid. Not letting him trigger any emotion. She ignored the warm tingle she got from when he did that. The man brought his mouth close to her neck and breathed hard, mumbling. She moved her eyes to look at him, for just a few seconds she arched her back and let out the smallest moan. She couldn’t shame herself for that moan. Not anymore. So she lightly resisted against him, he pinned her more tightly, she let out a louder moan and let herself accept that in this sort of position, it induces pleasure. And it’s not sick, or rooted in pain if she didn’t allow it to be.
Then he slapped her, hard, across the face.
“I have nothing to say to you...” she told him as he touched her cheek. “What is there to say, after all this time, in this room? I’ve been here a thousand times. In some nightmares I let you do what you’d wanted out of fear. Other times, I begged and pleaded and fought. Sometimes I’ve tried to run. I’ve called out for help. But it just makes you more powerful to do that.”
“Admit that you’ve moaned to a man,” he started to hiss in her ear. “For him to take his rage out on your body. For him to hurt you, him to humiliate and violate you. Triggering his aggression on purpose. Trying to measure how sick he really was, what he was hiding. You’d bring it out. And you’d ask to see it.” He looked around the room. “And that you hate yourself because you believe it all started here.”
“I have done and felt that, yes. I think a small part of me will always be that way sexually But I don’t hate myself, I don’t hate anything. I don’t even hate you.”
He plunged his hand down into her underwear and drove his fingers into her. He became frustrated when she didn’t react. He threw her onto the bed, pressing her face into the fabric of the sheets, forcing her face away from him. She gasped for breath and let fear run through and out of her.
“Don’t you want to know why, exactly, why...every detail?”
There was a silence. She smelled the room, the sheets...him. She looked at the unlocked screen, the open glass window behind it, seeming to lead nowhere. It all really was terrifying. A haze of more of him yelling down at her, pulling at her body, trying...trying so hard for a reaction. Trapped her again against the wall and himself, forcing her to be fully aware that he could take her body at any time, and trying to force her to as well feel guilty about any arousal she might experience.
The thought of pushing him somehow out the window crossed her mind. But he wanted the fight. He wanted her to try. He provoked her, and when she said nothing, he resorted to pulling her up and, through the touch of his hand, forcing her to remember one painful experience after another, one worse than the next.
She didn’t stay still out of fear. Or to prove a point. There was just no reason to be afraid.
“Now you pray, you pray for help...that’s what you’ve always done. Pray for help,” he barked, pulling her back up and throwing her like a rag doll against the bathroom door. “I took your clothes, your possessions, your privacy...your innocence. You wanted me and hated me the same way you knew I did what I did with a smirk on my face. That means you’re as twisted as me.”
She took a deep breath. “There was no ‘one’ of you. There was no sudden moment where I ‘became’ the kind of woman you say I am. There was life, and life was what it was at the time. You are not anyone, not a man. You’re just a loose idea, a mess of thoughts created by everything from biology to emotional turmoil.”
His rage burned through the room. He dragged her to the window and held her out of it. She was afraid, yes...of the sounds, the height. But not of falling. Even if she didn’t fly, or get to the ground without being harmed.
The man took off the screen with his bare hands, he shattered the glass with his fist before sending the entire structure of the window crashing to the ground below, leaving only room to throw her out.
His frustration could not stop spiraling out of control. He pulled her back in, dangled her over the edge. He slapped her over and over, took her clothes, left her naked and dangling out the window. He threatened her again by using his fingers inside of her, hinting at what he could do, at any moment, and inferring that she should be afraid.
“I’m not scared of making the devil angry,” she said softly, even gently.
“I will haunt you, over and over, I will keep haunting your mind, your thoughts, your needs. I will make you feel shame, I will make you hate yourself. I will make you scream.”
As she drew her legs closer to her naked body, back against the wall, her serenity enraged him so much that he plunged needles into her skin, shoved pills down her throat. He tried to force her to relive everything that she’d suffered with nightmares about for years.
Then finally, in the kind of slow motion that only comes with the inner calm of not fearing evil, she felt the motion of him pick her up again and bring her to the window.
“Maybe if you call for help,” he laughed. “Someone will come to your rescue! Your family, the doctors, the other people here...friends, all you have to do is cry out, tell me no, then they can hear you.”
“I only need one being to hear me. No one but Him.”
“Then look for a weapon to kill me so you can get away. Try as you have so many times to appeal to what you believe to be the better angels of my nature, that I’ll pity you, feel badly for hurting you. Ask for me to show mercy, to show kindness. Try to see the good in me! ” He was laughing madly now. “Oh, c’mon, be all sweet to me, don’t let yourself see the reality. Just youir own fantasy, that you can turn a bad man good.”
“That was something I believed at one time. And it’s untrue. You’re untrue, a vapor of evil that fills up my head, that clouds me from seeing all the light around me. Just a vapor...a ghost. Lost in the abyss of my mind now because there’s not many more places for you to go that are left. You control nothing but these little doors and windows, just this little room.”
She closed her eyes and felt him loosen his grip as she hung from the window. He was still in a rage, trying to break her by making her dangle there, letting go little by little. With everything he had a tried endlessly to induce fear in her. He shook her, he mocked her, he laughed and then screamed again.
The air was crisp in her lungs as she took a breath when she felt him let go, and she began to fall.
She placed her hand on her chest and expected to feel like her heartbeat was out of control. But she fell, almost gracefully, for what felt like forever, that time stopped existing, and there was only that moment and nothing else.
When she hit the pavement sounds from the waking world hit her mind.
She opened her eyes and felt the bed underneath her, she was warm and clothed and blessed to be as such.
Cars were driving by on their way to work, someone padded around making noise in the apartment above her.
She let out the breath.