by Shana Shippee
When he was on top of me, I would think of refrigerators. Cleaning them, more specifically.
I still remember the odyssey of cleaning out the refrigerator when the stench became unbearable. Finding sticky, dark, foreign substances on the shelves. A pool of unknown goop that caused my fingers to stick together when I accidently touched it. Not being able to wash it off, no matter how hard I tried.
He made me feel sick that same way, in a sticky, disgusting feeling way that I couldn’t get rid of. He crushed me when he was on top of me and he smelled like old, lost food.
Sometimes things hurt so much they stop hurting. A dull and present ache. A pain you didn’t know existed but eventually, it seeps into your skin, becomes a part of you. A pain waiting to be discovered.
Like the time I tripped running up the front concrete steps leading to our apartment and landed on my chest. I remember thinking maybe I’d died because I couldn’t breathe. I thought I must have knocked my heart out of its socket from landing so hard. Now it was floating away from where it belonged, lost somewhere inside me and searching for its intended spot.
When I could breathe again, my mom informed me I’d simply gotten the wind knocked out of me. She said it happens sometimes. I remember thinking it strange; people everywhere were walking around with wind inside of them, a small tornado, helping them to breathe and talk. I never knew people had wind in them, a big whirling storm that could be knocked out, disrupting the body’s normal functioning.
Sometimes when he was on top of me, the hurt was so intense I thought maybe the wind got knocked out of me, for when he was finished I could breathe again.
He warned me before, to never, ever, play inside of empty refrigerators.
That kids could die from getting stuck inside of them. He said they would crawl in to hide or explore and shut the door, searching for solitude or adventure. That the door couldn’t be opened once it was closed. That children could be trapped inside. They would scream and kick and punch from within that infantile, empty, cold space and nobody could hear them. They would keep screaming and crying and begging for help until eventually they suffocated, slowly running out of air.
I thought that must be the absolute worst way to die, screaming as loud as you could and crying and trying to get somebody to hear you but nobody could. Knowing that a second before you were outside of that space, but now you are in it and that it was your own fault for crawling inside.
For thinking such a small choice couldn’t have everlasting consequences.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends It Wasn’t Your Fault: Freeing Yourself from the Shame of Childhood Abuse with the Power of Self-Compassion.
Shana is an activist and advocate for
Awareness Of Childhood Sexual Abuse.