aftermath

content warning for discussion of sexual assault



it is the height of summer now. the whole world is heating up quick, flush with green, and i can feel brooklyn shudder. we are busted up and breaking, on the verge of being reduced to ground. nothing feels right here. each day is a deluge.

****

aftermath is derived from an old germanic term. it means the grass that grows after the initial crop of hay is harvested. it marks the life, weak yet aspirational, that subtends the wreckage of reaping. at some point we must have realized that pulling plants from the ground was its own sort of violence and that the flora that survives the devastation is never quite the same. that’s when we forgot what aftermath really meant, when it became what it is now.

we humans are good at tearing even fallow ground to pieces.

****

it was also summer when i finally realized i had been raped.

chris was charming and fifteen years older than me. chris was the first man i’d ever slept with.

one day when the fresh, thin red scars across my chest were in the height of their healing, he invited me over to watch a movie. it seemed like a caring gesture, the kind i hadn’t seen from him yet. i told him i was still tender and sore. i told him i was still immobilized and raw and he saw an opportunity to take advantage. he plowed past my boundaries again, each time leaving a little less and a little less and a little less. he told me he missed my breasts.

i was already moving to new york, and it seemed like the only way out. on my last day in boston he told me he was moving to new york too, and we went on like this until the season changed to fall, and i finally gathered up enough strength to tell him to never come back.

it was a year later, a new and first summer in the city when a sick feeling in my stomach evolved into a revelation. i did not know how to say no; i was devastated, i was plucked clean off the stem.

and, how do i make myself grow, flourish again when i have been reduced to chaff?

****

i want to be made of stone, but i also i want to be porous.
i want to be rock, but i also want to be soil.
i want to be a volcano erupting spewing noxious gas into the atmosphere, but i also want to be a tree that grows tall and breathes life back into the lungs of the world.
these desires are hard to reconcile.

****

the world is a constant state of aftermath now. the devastation is daily, it is micro and macro, global and local, pointed and extended in time. there is no end to the wreckage, and thus no end to the grieving half-lives that supersede it.

the mass shooting is the suicide bombing is the police brutality is the ecological devastation of our planet is the hit and run is the most recent in a long line of men who have violated my body because they see me as the commons, as ground to lay claim to.

****

i end each night with a prayer for it to crumble so something fresh and vibrant and untamed can grow again. it is a prayer for the end of the aftermath.

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