Butterflies

Content Warning: Sexual Violence

butterflies

are never what i expect to find in my stomach

when i see hIS face,

hear hIS voice,

hIS laugh,

pick out hIS distinctive crew cut

from among a crowd of hundreds of others,

one that i can’t help but notice.

i see hIM;

our eyes meet for a second, if even,

and suddenly

even though i avert my gaze,

my mind is alive,

my gut is alight,

aflutter with millions of tiny insects

that the bile in my stomach

can’t,

won’t

digest.

it threatens to rise through my esophagus,

exit through my mouth,

a liquid unwilling to be confined

to the shape of its container.

the butterflies

however

remain;

they flit about,

organizedly entropic,

their impetus one i suppose i’ll never know.

maybe the bile is working,

its acid slowly eroding their wings and bodies;

perhaps their flight is one of agony,

writhing silently,

sightlessly in painful blindness,

melted eyes unable to see the walls of their cage

into which they bump.

or perhaps one of agitation at their inability to escape,

of anxiety,

afraid of the dark,

longing for light,

even the slightest taste of it,

anything but vomit to cleanse their palate.

or maybe they too

remember what it felt like to have hIM force hIS tongue down their throat

when they can’t even tell you what it felt like to kiss hIM;

remember what it felt to have hIS hands touch all the places on their body

that they wish hE hadn’t

but couldn’t for the life of them

tell you what it felt like to hold them.

or maybe i’m just projecting.

butterflies

are the last thing i expect to find in my stomach

when i’m sitting at a table with friends,

and i see hIM enter from across the room

and in a fraction of a second,

a line of sight,

in spite of its continued vocalization

my composure is compromised.

or when i come in on any other day,

look to find the same table, the same friends,

but find hIM looking back at me,

and i wonder why i bothered wasting a meal swipe

when the butterflies have already sated my appetite.

but i have no right to complain

because isn’t that what i had asked for?

because in a single day, a few hours,

wasn’t it that the deed to my body,

my house, my sanctuary,

had been signed over to hIM;

holding hIS hand, hE slipped me the pen,

my signature on the dotted line,

sealed with the first kiss?

hE made hIMself a key with which to open any door hE pleased,

to inject hIMself wherever hE saw fit,

to empty,

to evacuate,

to take

without permission.

but i have no right to complain

because isn’t that what i had asked for?

because the silence

was clearly not a clear enough signal

that i wasn’t willing to give,

because the hands that tried and failed

to force away what was being forced upon them

clearly signaled my consent.

but i have no right to complain

because isn’t that what i had asked for?

because countless weeks in an office

sitting across from someone

who promised me compassion

but provided me only with platitude

after heartless platitude

reminded me that it didn’t matter what i thought

unless what i thought aligned with what she thought,

what they thought,

what hE thought,

my thoughts – they were nothing,

insignificant,

insects,

butterflies

weren’t made to have their wings plucked off.

they grow from caterpillars,

metamorphosize, fly away.

they take to the skies

but how can i fly with no wings?

how can i shoot for the moon

when i can’t even see the stars

behind clouds

of depression,

emotions i’ve repressed,

that are so far out of reach?

with no cocoon to retreat to,

to protect me and shelter me until my wings grow back.

because wings don’t grow back.

because even though butterflies are the last thing i expect to find in my own room,

i find them anyway,

because anxiety’s lessoned me on what it truly means

to feel helpless in a space you’re supposed to feel safe in,

because swatties don’t know shit about the swat swivel

until they’ve been told that their assaulter just sat down at the table behind them

and every second they spend in the same location

risks a second or third or fourth or fifth retraumatization

and you just can’t sit there anymore

so you leave.

you let hIM win,

because every day you keep yourself from going fucking crazy

is a victory in and of itself.

and every second you don’t spend trying not to think about hIM,

every minute you allow yourself to feel anything but numb,

every hour you find yourself sitting with people who make you happy

and you genuinely smile

for the first time in a long time

is another second

or minute

or hour

where your assault doesn’t define you,

where you can’t possibly be a survivor

when you’re thriving,

living,

breathing,

feeling,

being.

just being.

but you don’t get that often.

you get

to tell your mother you’ve been exercising

because sulking exercises more muscles than smiling does;

you get

to tell your friends how much it hurts to see them talk to hIM

you get

hurt every time you see them talk to hIM

you get

tired of it

you get

maybe four or five hours of sleep a night

you get

to sleep maybe only after you’ve relived your assault two or three times

you get

too much of everything you don’t need

you get

not nearly enough of what you do

you get

butterflies

are never what i expect to find in my stomach

when i see hIS face,

hear hIS voice,

hIS laugh,

pick out hIS distinctive crew cut

from among a crowd of hundreds of others,

one that i can’t help but notice.

one that i can’t seem to remember to forget.

but i find them anyway,

and even though i leave,

the butterflies never do.