BY ANNIE VIRGINIA
In the way you would tense your muscles to hold your bones as the train comes towards you, you tried to keep her inside the devout armor of you. But she had her own. You are just as a woman and susceptible, anyway.
At night, she shifts from your arms because she is too hot and needs sleep. You have learned to go back to sleep instead of wishing your body were something smaller, less thick with need and brutish molecules.
She takes her shirt off over you like a beacon, and a lynx moves in the forest, crusted with weeks of snow. There are children or her gut she protects. You are honored, the snow from which she rises, the prey to which she carries her teeth. She eats breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. Usually.
Only open your mouth to offer the soft idea room of your tongue when she opens her legs. Last month in the middle of H&M where she shopped for a dress to fit her curves she can’t love, she realized there is something about your mouth when you smirk in this certain way that reminds her of him. But at your ugliest, you are nothing like him. You wonder sometimes if you would be a better person if you’d find something in him that is like you.
When she drinks too much, it is not because of him. It is because she is alive, and brightly. When she drinks too much and can’t stop repeating, "he raped me," it is because of him. There is a reason she gets sick when she’s going to see you; her body has not yet imagined gentle, so it hopes he will have mercy if it whimpers.
Her parents didn’t do their job. You must speak kindly to them anyway. They will look him in the eye, but not you. You must keep your eyes anyway. As much as can be, they are for her.
Her story is hers, but you will carry it with her now. There are specific times for tears. Don’t make her keep you as you sink for her. Don’t let your face lean too close to pity. You can you should hold her. You should ask what she needs and plan ahead for harder dates. There will be harder dates and harder days. She will brush her teeth, greet strangers, blend in with everyone.
Years later, she tells you she dissociated the first time you fingered her. You hated your hands, their being built of substance, how they connect you to him through hurting her. Years later, and you have not forgotten that you did that. You watch for signs in your lover’s face and body that you are giving her anything but safety.
You love that she cries openly after orgasm, since it lets you see what she is holding, what company you keep. She is a museum open only nights and odd noons. Often, she asks you questions around her tears. Your answers are a way you bond with them: No, you have never thought of him while having sex with her.
Yes, you know she is asking because she has thought of him. Here, this is why you can’t hear the word "condom." Yes, he went inside you that night. This is why you can’t hear that phrase she just said without knowing. It’s ok. Yes, you hate him, too. It’s ok.
You learn what a kill list really looks like. Not a written one these are names you can’t even bear to write down but a list of promise written in your body and impossible because you’ve refused to look at photos of any of them. Not to protect them, but to protect your lovers, who left pieces of themselves with these men.
What you meant when you told her you were special was that your eyes are September 11th sky blue. That if the feeling of skin on hers hurt too much, you’d strip yours off and show up born and red for her. That you know she isn’t broken because you’ve been loving like this since you were 16, and then you entered this sisterhood, too, and you’re not broken either. Do not make her keep you as she sinks for you. "Remember that night, we bonded over our rape stories?" she says.
You meant that you will listen and hear without jumping. That you are raging, screaming angry and that you should be, and you won’t ever stop until men do. But that you are also lynx fursoft, snowsoft, yessoft. That you know how to make her come for the first time without fear and you will stay that way.
You learn, the very first time a woman lets you love her, what an honor it is to touch her. You learn what power you share in asking and what holiness in answering. You learn to love her without his name a carousel spinning between you. You learn what we should be taught, that if we were, none of this would ever happen. You learn that you are good, and meant for this. You learn love, only better, since it’s not a nightmare.
Annie Virginia is a Southern runaway with a BA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. She is known for her vigilante justice and resilience. Annie marks in her memory the cities of Italy and eastern Europe by the falls she took in each and their accompanying scars. Her plan is to earn an MFA in poetry, become a professor, and live in the woods with her partner and two dogs. Her work may be found in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Literary Bohemian, Broad!magazine, the first ever queer South anthology by Sibling Rivalry Press, and Cactus Heart magazine.