Rape, slowly, became the foundation on which I build my life.

Slippery motherfucker.

I slowly start to realise the other ways I’ve changed. I realise that people will always be able to hurt me with their words. One of the worst things that someone close to my family said after I was raped was: “Maybe this will teach her to be more careful.”

This, more than anything else, makes me feel that the rape was my fault. It was said behind my back, a cavalier statement never intended for the ears of the one it cut down. Lots of people are brave like that. It steals what fighting spirit I had built up at that point and tears me down, leaving me in a heap. I feel like I’m a stupid little girl who had “gotten herself raped” and now needs to be shunned by the community for her sins.

But no, I will never turn down a friend who needs to talk. I will never stop living my life. I will never lock myself in my house. I will never stop going out with my friends. I will never stop being me. I will never live a shadow of my life because some men out there choose to be rapists. And if you choose to blame me for living my life, that is your prerogative.
It’s hard to forgive people for saying stuff like this. I do for-give them. But I never want them to be part of my life ever again.

In the midst of the monotony of day-to-day life, I try to be good to myself. I have one particularly memorable weekend. On Friday night I watch The Bachelorette with my housemates, a household tradition. We get into our pyjamas, make dinner, drink wine and completely and irrationally dissect the contestants’ lives.

“He looks poor, he shouldn’t win.” “But he’s got such a good heart!”

I stay at home on Saturday night when everyone else goes out. I make myself an ostrich steak with a pepper sauce and drink red wine while I watch a French DVD. When my friends ask me to go out, I don’t suffer from my usual dread that I am missing out on life, or that I am punishing myself because of what I’ve been through and because I have no idea how to handle myself. Instead, I feel nurtured, like I am looking after myself. The silence starts to seep into my skin, the worms in my head lie down to sleep for a while. My emotions take a break from scraping against my flesh like sandpaper.
That Sunday morning it’s grey, my favourite kind of day. I take my camera and my notebook with a pen and walk to the park. I love walking in winter. I feel like it brings out my true colours and agrees with me.

In the park, I am the only person who came alone with absolutely no purpose other than to be. Everyone else is there with a kid on the playground, walking their dogs through the trees, a partner, exercising, doing something. I amble around. Grey clouds tumble above, the brisk air cleaning me from the inside out. I have black hair, quite a big bag and a ridiculous smile on my face. I am not offended when a yummy mommy takes her little boy’s hand and walks a safe distance away from me.

I sit down on the bench in the park. That’s when I see the squirrel, not even two meters away from me. Squirrels have always been significant in my life. When I was in Stellenbosch, I once asked God, if He loved me and was there for me, I wanted to see a squirrel. Blind ignorance and youth. But I saw four squirrels that day and, for me, that was enough.

I didn’t know, now, if it was God who sent this squirrel to me. I look at the little guy. His dark eyes inspect me. I am over-whelmed with wonder and happiness. He runs away. His tiny body makes this rad Mexican wave as he moves. I take out my notepad and write a poem. I haven’t written a poem in a long time.

I am crying at the amazement of being able to feel something other than heartbreak. When I finally walk home, I thank whatever God there is for the wonder and magic that still exists in this world. And that I am still able to find pieces of it.