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I saw him again, once,
briefly, years later,
the man who raped me.

I was looking at scarves
at the women’s section
of the department store,
making stream-of-consciousness
fabrics with light,
colors with moods,
prints with voices,
trying on new layers
with which to define myself,
not thinking about unmade beds
or untended corners
of the past,

when he found me.
He was cocky as he’d always been,
coming up within a yard of me
and calling my name out loud,
flashing a smug, macho smile
like maybe he expected me to
salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
I froze
and stared at him for a while,
not remembering who he was.
It came back to me all jagged
and contaminated,
like fistfuls of dirt, suffocated
by a slow-moving anger
and a helplessness that
for a while used to
give a monstrous form
to my inner darkness,
and that I was only able
to crawl away from
by closing my eyes
and waiting for it to be over
and pretending it didn’t happen.
Not out of shame;
no, I have learned that
shame is too simple,
and too big a word.
I did it just so I could recognize
my body in the mirror again.

He was already far away
by the time I had dug up
all the bruised and bloodied details
of the old nightmare that
contained his face and his name.
By then, the scarves
had become crows
and rattlesnakes had started
spilling from inside the shoes that
were on display two aisles down.
And I felt violated all over again.

“Michelle” by photographer Ana Lora


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