It’s a filthy place, the inside of his mind, but I’ve ruthlessly forced myself to wade through the sewage of his thoughts.
He followed me for a block, waiting until we were somewhere with less traffic.
I am cerebral person, I have to think about things, rationalize them, untangle them, for a long time after they happen. Even if it’s torture. Even if it’s pointless.
He spent that time strategizing, taking in the pattern of my robe and the curve of my figure and how exactly to, with efficiency, weave his fist under the hem and stick his hand in between my legs, tug at my clothes to try to trip me. Then he sprinted away when he noticed other people were standing at the end of the block. All of this, before I have time to formulate a thought and execute a proper defense.
Through agonizingly playing the moments in my head over and over again, I realize now how much planning it took. He was a pro.
Everyone’s advice starts with don’t. Don’t wear… don’t go…. don’t be…. don’t let…. Don’t exit the confines they generously drew for us. As if those confines ever protected us in the first place. As if rape and assault are new inventions, crystallized alongside the emergence of bikinis and mini skirts, sidewalks and bicycles.
In his language, in the network of his rationalizations, I acquiesced to this. By being outside, which is his realm. Not ours. Men still own the streets, which is why they punctuate the ethos with their cat calls, shouts, and obscenities to bring attention to our existence. He’ll read consent wherever he wants. Eye contact means I want him. No eye contact means I want him so bad, it makes me shy. If I don’t see him in my peripheral vision and ignore him, it means I’m asking for it. If I pay him attention and tell him to fuck off, this, too, means I want him. I’m just being “feisty.”
See? Here I am, still wading through the sewage of his thoughts. I have to accept that there is no right answer.
I am sitting at home, trying to forget it happened, reading Simone Weil and her manifestos about love and God. But even the word “God” makes me feel queasy all over again, tenses up the muscles in my legs. The word “God” and the accompanying male pronoun, “Him,” makes me feel like a stranger’s hand is violently shoved between my thighs again.
My throat hurts from screaming. I screamed at him until he ran out of my sight, my voice echoed against the walls of the bridge he ran under. I screamed so that the old men at the end of the street could bear witness. I screamed so the world would bear witness to what man does to woman. I screamed as my scarf slipped off and fell into a pile at my feet.
I screamed until my voice ran out of all its power and soon I was just standing there, with sweat and tears streaming down my face. Taking that first step — after I realized there was nothing else I could do — took more resolve, more grit, more energy than anything I can remember doing recently.
Imagine being violated and having to watch the man run away into safety outside of your vision while you’re standing there, shame crawling along your skin. Having to walk back into the banal reality that nothing will happen to him over this. He will be sitting comfortably at the lunch table half an hour later. Imagine that by the time you’ve realized it’s happened, it’s too late and your only weapon is the screaming that scratches your throat and leaves him unscathed.
I can’t help but think of well meaning, but syrupy advice I’ve been given in the past (did you think this was the first time?):
Forgive them. Feel sorry for them.
But all I want to feel is nothing. All I want to feel is his skull cracking under my shoe. The blade of a knife plunging into his flesh. My teeth breaking skin. All I want to feel is nothing. I will forgive nothing.
You want to tell me this is not the way to fix the problem. Be calm. Let it go. Let me stop you right there: Don’t.
-Mina Mina Nilchian
Mina was born in Iran, raised in the Bay Area, and is now a social worker living in San Diego. Most of her recent writing are personal essays. You find more writing at medium.com/@minani. You can also follow her on instagram.com/minamator