I live in a transient city. For those of us who hail from other parts of the country and the world, this city is a place where many come for a brief or more extended stint before they move on to something else. This time of year, everyone is interested in the holiday parties and receptions. It is a time for one last hurrah before we go home and return rejuvenated and with an even longer list of how we plan to change the world. I still feel this way. But the cheerful season also marks a year since my sexual assault.
It was after one of these nights of networking and holiday parties that I woke up in a place to be greeted by someone I had only spoken to briefly the night before. I spent the day trying to piece together the events of the night before realizing that the flashes of memory after a certain point did not amount to ten or twenty seconds. And what I did recall was not reassuring, leaving me disturbed and in a daze. I confided in one colleague who took me to the doctor that day. “Was their alcohol involved?” my ob/gyn asked, her skepticism punctuating her words.
“Yes, there was,” I responded. In my head, I was so busy trying to understand what happened that I forgot to say, ‘but there were only three drinks and I had eaten a full meal and it was over the course of a few hours and I didn’t know him and I don’t know how I got to the apartment and…” Instead I underwent tests and answered her questions all while trying to piece together the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, why’s and how’s.
The next day, I spent with my cousin, who is more like a big sister. She offered me a bracelet that belonged to our great-grandmother and great-aunt. “You probably need this more than I do. I always wear it when I am going through a tough time.” She was speaking of her two major surgeries and cancer scare that happened within the past year.
That day she also asked me a very important question, “Can you live with knowing that you will never have answers about what happened? Is that something you can manage?” I am not sure what my response was in that moment but her message was clear. I had to figure out how I was going to cope from that moment on.
Well I haven’t taken off my bracelet since then. When I look at it, I think about the women in my family and their strength. I go to weekly counseling sessions at the rape crisis center where I used to volunteer. I go to spinning classes and pretend to be a runner and a yogi. For the most part, I pretend it never happened.
One close friend, in particular, came to visit and wouldn’t accept my “I am doing really well, things are great” lie. He was persistent, “I don’t know, you seem a little different, like something is wrong.” And so I told him.
The writer (“Kaya”) works in international affairs and is originally from an island in the West Indies. She enjoys the outdoors, spending time with friends and reading and writing in coffee shops around town.