“No” And The Dragon That Could Not Be Slain
Your vocabulary was so lacking in reality and nuance you didn’t even know you had been abused. You didn’t have the words to say, “No. I don’t like it.” “Go away.” “Stop.” Even when you appeared to give consent, your quiet acquiescence was fed by ignorance. You didn’t know you were agreeing to cut your own veins and drink your own blood. You gave yourself to everyone who asked, tired and weary, trying to be a good girl. “Yes, auntie. Yes, mummy. Yes, Pastor.”
You remember once saying, “No, my mom is not home”. Everything else was yes. “Yes, I’ll sweep. I’ll cook. I’ll wash.” “Yes, the food is ready.” “Yes, I’m ready. Yes.”
You realise, in writing this, in speaking with others, pushing friendships beyond those silly conversations about boys, and slightly more serious conversations about careers, that there is a world of pain to be uncovered, and we felt it. Not the royal “we”, but the plural, in which we are many, covering vast amounts of land, we, the forgotten. We who were discarded the moment we learned the forbidden word, and through stuttering lips, shutting out cacophonous dissenting voices, entered the unpromised land, and said, “No”, for the first time. Most likely as adults.
There is a lagoon lurking beneath the surface of your smiles, in which your childish self, though long a phantom still lingers, hoping for a chance to be reborn. To find her would mean diving deep into the cold, greasy waters, but you are tired, and surely, it is better off forgotten? After all, you are not special, you are legion who were numb and dumb. Who set aside your hurts, and pain, your hopes, and dreams, never knowing that it was an option to say, “No, I need this”. “I can’t do it”. “This is mine”.
You are many who did not even know that your bodies were your own, when they were being taken from you by force and manipulation. You did not know that you could say, “don’t touch me there”, “don’t look at me that way”.
How though? How could you not know that your body, in which you lived every single cursed day was yours? How could you allow that foolishness to happen? The rage builds up, and it threatens to overwhelm you. You are bathed in a hot flood of shame and warm salty water escapes your eyes in twin waterfalls. What were you thinking? What were you doing? Who were you? How could you have been so compliant, so timid, so submissive as to give in to your own death, your own misery? Why did you not wrestle, and fight, scream, punch, and bite your way out of those shackles, that cage? But therein lies the rub.
To fight, you would have needed to know that fighting was possible, and that fights could be won. More importantly, you would need to know that there was a problem, that it wasn’t just you, it was not just in your head, you were not stupid, or wicked, or rebellious. You did not know how to distinguish between light and dark for yourself. You did not have the words to put a label on what was happening, so you could not even decide whether you liked it or not. You could not tell anyone what had happened, what was happening, because you did not know the words.
Your vocabulary was so lacking in reality and nuance, you didn’t even know you had been abused.
Photo: Fernando Rodrigues Unsplash cropped