“four assorted candies on top of white surface” by Ilinca Roman on Unsplash

A New State

10 years ago I became 1 in 4.

Joining these ranks is like being driven across state lines. Sometimes there’s a big welcome sign, maybe a toll booth, you can’t miss it. Other times there’s no real indication that anything has changed. The same cornfield stretches out and shrinks on the horizon, the white lines on the highway flash and flash, and flash for miles. And yet, there you are in another state. Utterly transported, “Welcome to 1 in 4.”

Of course, you know how you got there, by train, bus or automobile, there’s no mistaking the mode of transportation. But you get there, and a hollow voice rumbles like thunder in the distance, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.” There’s no little dog, no witches, and no magic shoes to carry you home.

1 in 4 women are sexually abused in their lifetime.

Today I left the office as usual. My boot heels clicked against the tile stairs near the exit. It’s a sonic treat I look forward to each day; hard work echoes behind, and with one last step into open air I am homeward bound. I reached into my plain black handbag and removed my keys before I arrived at the secured parking lot. As I walked along I began thinking through my tasks for tomorrow. A gust of drizzled air chilled my throat, so I buttoned up my pea-coat, and then remembered, “I must visit the polls tomorrow. It’s voting day.”

I lifted my eyes skyward as I recounted the most efficient route to take and the best time to set my alarm. Then, much like a dream, or a page from a photo album, the hazy shade of gray in the clouds transported me across state lines. Ten years ago.

I am up at dawn. I am teary eyed, coat-less and leaned with bent knee against the concrete facade of the police station. I’m smoking a cigarette while I wait for my father to park the car.
 — 
I am dizzy, 19 and speechless at the freshman fraternity brother standing in my doorway. With a nasty smile he delivers the message, tells me they’ll sue me for slander and calls me a whore. He says I’d better shut up, because there’s proof that I said yes once before, and it would be enough, and they’d take my family for every penny they owned. I walked away.
 — 
I am wearing patchouli oil, and the world is turning with the victory of our new president. He kisses me; I don’t want to. He tells me I’m pretty; I don’t want to. I tell him three times, but I’m alone... I can’t stop him…
I freeze, and I focus my eyes the little blue light from his x-box or computer until he’s tired and I can go. I told him, “no”
 — 
The floorboards creak in my bones and the door thuds in my pulse. The sounds of his teasing rings my ears dull after far too many years. 
 —

Traffic is a bit unforgiving, the roads are wet and the “fall-back” has everyone muddled. We had plans to take the cat to the vet tonight. His front paw might be infected. My husbands birthday is tomorrow. There’s time to get to the store to buy him a birthday card, but a cold steady rain falls all around. When it rains like this I try to remember what they say — about how some people feel the rain and others just get wet. I try my best to feel the rain. I got my husband a beautiful winter coat for his birthday and no card, but he knows how much I love him.

1 is not a lonely number in 1 in 4.

I arrived in 1 in 4, and walked for miles. For ten years I’ve carried this thing in my pocket like an old candy bar. As the decade passed I’ve peeled back the wrapper here and there. Glancing in silent waiting rooms through a ripped corner, first dates — a tiny tear at the edge. I tried to share it a time or two among friends, and my husband carries a large piece of it for me, pocket lint and all.

For ten years I’ve carried it. Sometimes I’d try to wrap it back up, other times it moved with each current event; a television scene, a name, a phone call, or the words of a reckless new leader would drum up gusts that blew off whole sections of the wrapper. Each time, I’d examine the newly exposed layer underneath. The paper is delicate now, the wrapper nearly gone and cotton-soft with wear, but its okay. 10 years is a long time.