|uprooted tree trunk with bits of dirt clinging to its' roots and rootlets.|
The woman approaches the stage. Her cheeks are painted red and her eyes are glowing with something other-worldly. I hold my breath. I know this is going to hit me right in the gut. Give it to me, sister. I am ready.
She warms up to her subject. The re-telling of her life gets more and more sordid and convoluted. The dam breaks and the lights shatter. "I was the one who decided to get into that van with those men," she said. "No one forced me to do that. I was responsible for my rape that night."
Already I can feel myself collapsing inwardly. This I was not expecting. I was not ready. No one should have to be that brave. That strong. That needy.
I stare at the other members of the audience. I am the Other. Everyone else is nodding in approval. Some are clapping. I want to vomit. A guy passes me a piece of cake. Stuff the emotions downward. Something else to focus on. I lift up the sugary fakeness with a plastic fork. I don't enjoy the taste of it at all.
Nine more minutes. People are smiling. Laughing. How could they? Let them who have the ears hear. I groan inwardly. Ain't nuthin' going to fix this. I focus on my breathing. On the walk I took with my dog and her doggie friend today in the woods. A purple trillium was blooming and the mayapples were busting out all over.
Seven minutes. A friend leaves. He is wiser than I am. I stay to witness the debacle. Why do I do this to myself?
A woman walks over to me and gives me her phone number. I glance at the name on the paper. She seems to think that I ought to remember her. "I'm working now," she says. "Odd hours. Call me." I stuff the paper into the pocket of my hoodie. "Sure." I glance at the name she has written down. Sheila. At her face. Never seen this woman before in my life. I will have to ask someone later. I am face-blind. My prosopagnopia seems to bother others a lot more than it bothers me. I've gotten used to it. It hasn't gotten any better but it hasn't gotten any worse either.
Three more minutes left in the performance. I know full well that there are people who are capable of manufacturing rape incidents out of their imaginations for their own twisted satisfaction or monetary gain. I have seen the results of such machinations up close. I despise people who manufacture their own victim-hoods. They are scum. They make a mockery of the human beings who are real victims. The woman up on the stage is not making it up. What kind of society allows victims to claim responsibility for the actions of their predators?
She spends her last minute talking about her triumphs. But it is too late. I am fried. Is that someone crying? I cannot tell in the profound darkness. The woman exits the stage. The applause is thunderous. I cannot join in. Broken, I sing my way home.