I come back to Cape Town with three bags, four boxes and a whole lot of anger. It is seething inside of me, ready to boil over at the slightest provocation. I am angry and I am finally ready to talk about it to anyone who will listen. In fact, I fight the urge to shout at everyone who walks past me on the street, to yell into their faces that I was raped. But not everybody in my life can understand it – or me.
Some people I know stop contacting me after they find out that I was raped. Others never talk to me about it at all. And I am mad about it. What is it about my rape that has inconvenienced you? That makes your life hard? All those thoughts about not wanting to ‘burden’ people are gone.
I’m angry at everyone who ignores what happened to me. I am angry at the way the people at the hospital and police station treated me. I’m angry because I don’t know what I’m supposed to do or feel. And I’m also angry because a couple of months after I was raped, people start to move on. The power of the mind and its adaptability allowed them to file me under, “the girl who was raped but now does other things.” They have integrated it into part of who I am and what I stand for. It isn’t on their radar 24/7. And why should it be? They have lives to live and things to do.
The girl who was raped is still stuck on, “Are you fucking kidding me?” and wants to shout it at people all the time.
Sometimes when you tell someone you were raped, they’ll say, “I won’t tell anyone!” While this would have been a relief to me in the first couple of weeks after I was raped, now it just pisses me off. Who was I protecting by keeping what happened to me a secret? I don’t need to do that anymore, but sometimes I feel like it makes others more comfortable if I contain it.
One day I get home from writing at a coffee shop. As I throw my things down on the floor of my room, my eye catches my teddy bear, sitting on top of my bed. I am so mad that I decide to murder him. The world is no longer making any sense and I can’t breathe and everyone is wrong and irritating and it’s like everyone is trying to hurt me and my blood is trying to escape, it is gnawing at my arms, my feet, my face, just eating away at me so I take my teddy bear and I tear at him, I smack him against the wall. I throw him down and jump on him. I tear off his jean jacket and bite him. After a while I stop. I sink down onto my bed, curl up and lie there. I can’t remember why I was mad.
Before I can go properly, stark raving mad, I hear that I have a job. A real job – well, internship – at a huge journalism corporation. I try to get it together, I can’t afford to fuck this up. This is good. This is moving me forward. It’s strange because journalism is a dream that I gave up in order to pursue Psychology after I realised in university that my depression and anxiety might make it difficult for me to handle the pressure, and here I was, stepping back into that world.
The people at my work are friendly. When I arrive on the first day, I am greeted with a big cappuccino and my own workspace. My own work computer! My own work desk with drawers! It even has keys! I get to keep the keys! Look, windows! There are people walking around, being all officious and doing jobs and typing on their keyboards to earn money! I hunch over my computer, hoping that no one will notice me, trying to blend in with the blue wall behind me.
Eventually, however, I realise that I have to go to the bathroom.
An hour later, I build up the courage to ask where it is.
“Pass the lifts, down the stairs to your left,” they tell me.
I nod. This sounds simple enough. Even someone like me with no sense of direction shouldn’t be able to mess it up. I walk out of the office. The lifts are on my right, so I keep walking straight past them, into an empty office space. At the end of this office space is a big “EXIT” sign. This must be where the stairs are.
I push open the door. Stairs! I sigh a breath of relief as the door closes behind me. It is a dark, empty and slightly damp stairwell that is badly lit.
I walk down the stairs. For a while. After about three flights I realise that this might not be the bathrooms. I ponder this as I walk back up. How could I have misinterpreted the directions? Where did I go wrong?
I get to the door and push. It doesn’t open.
I push harder. Nothing.