absolute dogshit, part 2

tw: The first part of this is posted over here, from July 2015. This is about losing friends and yourself after an abusive relationship, in case that’s not something you want to be reading about.

If you leave shuffle on long enough, it’s going to happen. Between the same punk mixes that got me through writing not one, but three poorly cited papers on Andy Warhol in college, there are audio clips of things that have happened to me, little documents. Most of them are standup sets, a few of them are asinine arguments between my roommate and her boyfriend ostensibly about Palestine but actually about their impending breakup, and one of them is ninety seconds long. That’s the one I still think about, and this is what it says:

A: It’s not about the very last offense. You’ve got to look at the big picture, and I’ve been looking at it more and more. I don’t want to look at it, though.

B: What are you saying?

A: I’m saying that you’re an unhappy person, and it has been affecting me in a negative way.

B: I was trying to be a happy person when you-

A: When what?

B: I was trying to have a whole life separate from you.

A: Okay…if that’s what you think will make you happy, then by all means. Do what makes you happy.

B: It was for a while. It was for a while.

A: I think that you crave unhappiness, and that’s why you’re fighting so hard to date a guy who raped you. How little self-respect must you have?

Far be it for me to write myself as a b-character in my own narrative, but I am not the A in this clip. A, if you haven’t pieced it together, is the ‘guy’ who raped me.

I don’t like listening to it, knowing where the distant sirens come in and where the creak of the mattress indicates the conversation is over and how I brought it back to the therapist who suggested I record a short clip of how I was spoken to, and listen back later. But it’s the only record I have that my rapist, ex-boyfriend, partner, however the fuck you spin it, admitted what he did, and so I keep it, and it pops up sometimes.

All of the friends I was close with during this time are no longer in my life. Most of them made through or with my rapist, and after a year of trying to understand what I had done wrong to make them not believe what I knew to be so true and painful. It had never occurred to me that it would be a question. It still is, and is still avoided, and is still something nobody talks about.

It’s not the sort of thing that you want to tell your friends. Here is a list, in descending order, of things I like to talk about with my friends:

  1. Talking about throwing your pubes at a wall like spaghetti to see if they’re ‘cooked’? Good friend talk.
  2. Speculating on whether your behavior is indicative of season three Rory Gilmore (good) or season six Rory Gilmore (bad)? Very good friend talk.
  3. Hi, did you know that the person I live with raped me and I’m scared but I don’t know what to do and I’m pretty sure I’m still in love and we work together so I’m not going to do anything about it and I know I filed a police report about him but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this won’t work out, right? Very bad friend talk.

But you have to, because there are only so many pubes to throw before you need to buckle down and explain your emotional baggage in egregious detail. After months of subpar school counseling that encouraged me to ‘see it through’ and fear of telling my family left me working ninety hours a week and singlehandedly caused one of my kidneys to stop working, I began to talk to friends about what had happened. Many were kind and empathetic, and others disappeared. It never occurred to me that some would not want to believe what I was telling them.

Then there were people who gave a shit. Friends who would reach out and talk and listen, and a therapist who was helpful and a family that couldn’t fully wrap their heads around the reality but always tried to. I was lucky to not be alone in getting through it, but the doubt instilled by the few that didn’t want to deal with it, who took the word from the person who’d done it, stuck. I felt myself caring about what other people thought was true instead of what I knew was. Because I had it, and I could listen to it, and I still had dreams about it, and there wasn’t a day I didn’t think about it.

Recently, I was contacted by someone close to my rapist’s new partner with concern, because nobody would talk about the ‘rumors’ about his past history. I cleared up what I could, then disconnected. It doesn’t go away. It leaves you with a specific set of thoughts that don’t resolve themselves, and I’ve let the fear of belief seep in and wreck how I think about myself, wreck how I think about other people, and wreck relationships that I didn’t want or need to wreck. You can build a better version of yourself in spite of it, but it doesn’t go away. It’s right there, wedged between the Hives and a lukewarm open mic set.

By the time this ninety-second clip was recorded, the friends I’d had were gone. The people we were close with in school had slowly let staying in touch drizzle and lapse, picked up with my rapist after he moved, and the extenuating circumstances were either denied or never spoken of again. After years, I stopped trying, and I’m happier not knowing what the extent of the remaining friendship is.

Sometimes I think that this sticks with me more than anything — you can know, really know, and let that knowledge color everything you do and how you see yourself and how you see other people, but you can’t always change someone’s mind. You can have it on tape, and you can get scared, you can have confessions and indisputable proof and there can be others in danger, but you can’t change someone’s mind. It’s been three years since I started dealing with it and still it’s the thing no one will talk about, confirm or rationalize, even when someone else could be in danger.

I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I keep having this dream where the president of the United States invites me to the White House and makes me a thousand cupcakes but the picture I take on my phone is too blurry and none of my friends believe that I ever went, even though I did and it was delicious. It’s an overly cutesy feat of the subconscious and kind of makes me laugh.

If your friend is hurt, believe them. If the picture is blurred, talk to them. If the evidence is there, you don’t need to understand it, but you need to see it.

Shortly after I moved for some of the right reasons and a lot of the wrong ones, I saw my old group of friends. We caught up from the nearly two years of separation in drunk-ish, staccato sentences. Inserted into conversation at someone’s terrible party, I mentioned that the beer was gone and there it was, muttered beneath someone’s breath: “What, are you gonna write about it or something?”

Write about it? How little self-respect must I have?

by Sami Martasian