Ashley, Jessica and I fly home to Port Elizabeth for Easter weekend. At the airport, my blood sugar drops until I am pale, sweaty and shaking. Ashley makes me drink a Coke. On the plane, Ashley and Jessica talk about going out but I don’t join them, I don’t think I’m up to it. I’m tired. While I’m standing at the baggage carousel, I see my mom and stepdad waiting for me. It’s when I see my mom that I realise how much energy I have been using to keep it together. I grab my bag from the rotating grid and walk to my mom without saying goodbye to my friends. I throw my arms around my mom and she holds me.
I feel control leaving me, evaporating into thin air. All that is left is raw emotion. The dogs are waiting in the car. When she sees me, Piccadilly starts to cry and then she attacks me with love. She jumps on me and bites, licks and scratches me with her little paws.
When I get home, my mom leads me to my room.
“I hid Easter eggs in your room!” she tells me, her hair bobbing up and down with excitement. “You have to find all thirteen of them before you can start eating.”
We drink red wine while I search for them.
I spend the entire rest of Easter weekend in bed. It has been five months since I was raped. And still I have this bleeding shadow tied to my back. Everyone can see it, and I can see everyone looking at it. I can see their shocked and sad expressions, but they never mention it. The ones who stay, forget. They get so used to the shadow that they are surprised when I get tired of carrying it. They are surprised when the shadow carves into my flesh or when I don’t have the strength to drag it with me every day. When I can no longer disguise it with pretty clothes and make-up. When it crawls onto my back and wraps its grotesque arms around my neck, when it pulls and pulls and pulls until I have no choice but to lie down with it, wrap myself in this bleeding shadow and find comfort in its emptiness.
That’s what I do.
You might think that that long after I was raped I would start to be a bit over it. Apparently not. Because I sleep. And eat. I eat until my stomach is cramping and sore, finding consolation in physical pain that forces my stomach into a hard, unforgiving bulge of unhappiness. Food gives me comfort. I eat until I no longer taste anything. I eat not for the sake of eating but for the sake of forcing every one of my emotions into the pain of binging. Or not feeling. I eat to punish myself, to remind myself that I don’t deserve to be beautiful and happy.
My bed suffocates me, forcing me to sleep and dream and dream and sleep almost against my will. I sweat and wake up with soaking sheets and clothes, freezing cold where the sweat had dried.
I lie completely still on that bed and know, without a doubt, that no matter what I do, no matter how far I run, the darkness will always find me.
And yet, being able to rip open the sores that had been forming is nurturing in a way, kind of like letting the puss drip out of an infection. Before this weekend, I couldn’t deal with the puss. I was just ignoring it and letting it build until only a layer of strained skin was left. Seeing my mom is like poking it with a sharp, disinfected needle. The next three days, all I do is let it drain.
My mom lets me sleep and showers me with love. Oom Theunis is on call the whole weekend. I see him twice, at the airport and for dinner Thursday evening and again quickly on Saturday for an early dinner. At one stage the phone rings and as he hangs up, he says, “That man is as good as dead.”
He gets his plate and starts dishing up a second helping of my mom’s special pap en wors.
“Which man? The drunk driver?” My mother asks.
I feel sick.
“Is he black?”