So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

20 May, 2009

Scenes from a Life, Trauma Ward Edition

The fingers of my left hand grip the edge of the sink because my balance rocks back and forth with the sobs; I am trying to brush my teeth, a process rendered notably more complicated by the way the crying keeps bringing up washes of bile for me to strangle on.

I hear his voice in the hall, asking me what's wrong, asking me if I'm all right, and I don't have enough leftover breath after the tears to make any voluntary sounds. I spit into the sink, still clutching it for stability. There is a tap at the door; eventually it opens and he winds an arm around me, holding me as I sniffle into his shoulder.

Another round of bile comes up; I turn and spit it into the sink. "Is that blood?" he asks, concerned. I cough. "Yes. I'm pregnant. My gums bleed." The bleeding doesn't have anything to do with the trigger, it's just normal, unremarkable. The tears are something else. He holds the hair back from my face in case I have something else to spit up.

I cling to him a little longer, and then lurch out of the bathroom. "Since I'm awake..." he gestures into the bathroom, and I nod and crawl into bed, slowly strip off my clothes and fling them into the closet where I'll need to sort them into the laundry later, and take a sip of water from one of the mugs there. Then the nausea comes again in earnest, bringing with it panic: the bathroom is still shut. I grab the other mug, the empty one that needs to go down to be washed, and throw up in that.

When he gets out of the loo, I lurch back, dump the contents of the mug into the toilet, rinse it out. "We need to remember that," I mumble as I slump back into the bed. He holds me a while, I forget how long, whether there was any talking, any explaining of the ripped-open space in me, the way I was thrown back to old thoughts, old patterns, back to fighting for the mental space to actually blame the one who tried to rape me for the assault rather than letting the responsibility dissolve in a wind of excuses.

"Do you want me to take the mug downstairs?" I shrug. "It's on the bathroom, uh. Thing." "I'll rinse it out." "I did that, it just needs to go down." He takes it down and, I presume, puts it in the dishwasher; I curl up in a kind of null space and snivel.

He settles back next to me, strokes my skin gently. We talk, curled up together; the cat climbs up on the bed, walks up the length of my body, wanders off again. His questions bring me out of shaking trauma reaction and into analysis, taking apart my responses, working through where it came from; making me realise what, precisely, triggered my meltdown, what bit of damage needs washing clean and sewing up so it can mend a little. I track it back, thinking of all the ways I have blamed myself for the assault, the ways I made excuses for my attacker, the ways I let him off the hook, cut the slack: remembered that every time I've told a part of that story, every single person has been harsher about him than I have ever been willing to be. I remember that I have never been able to forgive myself for being fourteen, for not knowing how to take up the responsibility to police some dumb boy's penis and thus being - in that defective image - entirely to blame for the consequences of his erection.

I remember identifying the colonists in my mind, and the way that lanced the rotten wound, oozing out pus and blood, and I can feel its ragged edges and know that it has still not healed. It is an old wound, old and familiar and unscarred and suddenly torn deeper and sharper and bleeding fresh.

I am shaking, spent, wracked with pain and memory; even my own room, my own space, does not manage to give me shelter.

"Could you take me down a little and hold me?"

He strokes my neck, gently. "I'm surprised you're not down a little already, after--"

After earlier, when he had told me that he was going to bed, fingers laced into my hair and sending me into half-dreamspace with a perfect touch, earlier when I had looked up into his eyes and told him, wonderingly, how gorgeous he is. Earlier, when he said he was too tired for anything now, but a few hours of sleep and he'd probably be happy with whatever inclinations I had.

Earlier, when I had anticipated crawling into bed for the love and comfort that I got, but without the raked-open heart needing emergency sutures, when I might have been able to bury my face in his chest and feel his hand on the back of my neck and just feel the joy of it. When it might have been possible to make love in the gentle warmth of the dark, rather than just cling and claw to presence, too fragile, too brittle, to be able to accept the comfort of anything other than the burying my face against his skin and shaking.

"There's been a bit of an emotional interruption," I say, trying to say it lightly, with that lilt of understatement, and failing.

Another future speared through with reality. Too much lost opportunity, too much lost time, with one thing and another; my distraction or his, my medical needs, his schoolwork, now this quaking betrayal of savage memories and old wounds. By this point, the birds are starting to greet the sun, a fact which I greet with bitter sarcasm that makes him smile gently and cradle me close. I will need to be awake in a few hours, at this point, and I cannot imagine sleeping well.

He held me, and I felt the tickling, teasing tears roll down my cheeks.


Graydon said...


It sounds, to me, from the limited bandwidth perspective of what you've written about this that I have read (which is certainly not all of it), that it's not so much that you need to forgive yourself for being 14 as you need to forgive yourself for, when you were 14, hoping so much that the thing you had would turn into the good thing you needed.

violet said...

This post is so beautiful and so full of pain and strength. So much accuracy and awareness and resilience - it affected me deeply.

Deoridhe said...

*offers gentle hugs and comfort*

I'm so glad a wonderful person like you has this fantastic man.