- Rescue Me
A friend whom I adore posts on social media: “‘Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.’—Pema Chodron.”
I fight the ensuing, engulfing urge to delete him.
I am tired of being annihilated.
At the end of his novel, Nadja, André Breton writes, “Beauty will be convulsive or it will not be at all,” issuing an ultimatum for an aesthetics of subversive awe. The beauty of upset, the shock of meeting oneself anew. It is telling that the novel begins by asking, “Who am I?”
At the end of a 30 Rock episode, Jack Donaghy, Republican CEO, yells angrily at Liz Lemon, head writer for a weekly TV comedy called The Girlie Show, “We know what art is! It’s paintings of horses!” Jack’s art is boring. Jack’s art exists not to gallop, not to trample or stampede, but to trot, politely.
To soothe. [End Page 45]
Every one who sleeps is beautiful.—Walt Whitman, “The Sleepers”
They fall asleep. Two boys drifting off, one on either side of the classroom. One with his head on the desk. The other’s head dips toward his chest, his arms crossed. The symmetry of them pleases me: a pair of somnolent gargoyles, guarding the temple’s entrance. Praying. Dreaming of a heaven in which I am not visiting their class to read from my book of essays. As if to emphasize their point, one of them begins lightly snoring.
I am reading about the time I was raped by a man.
How in the overwhelm, I wanted the man to love me, even—especially— after the rape. To erase what he’d done, as sleep erases the previous day, eases all deeds, consigns them to the realm of the unreal.
The boys are maybe 19 years old. One’s hair sweeps overlong across his forehead and down onto his folded arms. The other sports a close-cropped cut that blends down his sideburns into a modest beard. Their faces hide under a privacy curtain of hair.
My rapist could never admit his real age to me. He couldn’t face time’s fracturing fact.
Are they boys? They’re old enough to drive, to vote, to buy guns, to be drafted into a military conflict with any number of countries.
If two boys fall asleep in public, are they telling a story as well? About their confidence that their belongings will not be taken? That their bodies will not be violated, trespassed upon?
Would it be a violence to picture these boys enchorused in a fraternity? To see them as part of a whole?
Who has assured, lullabied them?
Whence comes safety?
Every man is a rapist.
The classroom is overcold and dimly lit. Perhaps they’ve simply reacted to their environment as would any trapped wasp, trying to escape.
I am describing now the part when, in the middle of consensual sex in his bed in his apartment, the man turns his body into a weapon that first nullifies and then hurts mine. [End Page 46]
Maybe they’ve just eaten lunch and fallen sleep-victim to digestion, all those tater tots and chicken tenders and hushpuppies turning to sugar, lading down the blood.
How I wished to, but could not say no. How I carry that always.
When I look again, one of them has his mouth open, dreaming maybe of grapes being lowered onto his waiting tongue.
How it was over quickly.
How it was never over.
Perhaps violence is by now redundant, since it is so omnipresent in what passes for the social imaginary: in our movies, our games, our porn, our news. Perhaps we have inoculated ourselves, made ourselves inured to cruelty.
Made it boring.
How in the morning, he asked me if he’d hurt me, lightly grinning.
Is rape the bedtime story that tucks men in at night?
Perhaps rape is not “relatable” to men.
Maybe sleep-deprived undergraduates everywhere in the world will slumber through history, criminology, sexual development.
How soundly my rapist rested that night, exhausted...