The lies we were told. The mascara that bled. The faces that watched us, loathing, from our mirrors.
The coercion, the shape that we twisted ourselves into that didn’t quite fit, that didn’t feel quite right. But we believed it. We did what we were told.
Now we count them in the shower, on the bus, in the car at traffic lights, by the kettle in the kitchen. The one, and his friend, that I escaped from when I was twenty. When I was too drunk.
The list stacks up.
Why is it so long, this list? This must say something. About me. I must have invited it. I know now, at forty-four, that I am not to blame but misogyny sits so deep in my pores that it is hard to question.
A cup of tea cradled in my hand, my bottom lip chewed. A sliver of skin shredded from it. Still I am counting, checking. I am pierced by the memory of an almost-comic holiday flasher: ha, no way that was my fault.
The time at work, around a table in a meeting. I was younger, and unwell, he was powerful and kept his hand on my chair a palm’s breadth from my vagina for almost an hour.
The family member. A close relative of my partner. The slow run of his eyes up and down my body in his son’s bedroom as we tucked him in. His unflinching gaze, just because he could.
Anger. A flash in my clenched jaw.
Relief. As I remember another, twenty years before, whispered to a friend whom I didn’t really know. Her response: he had tried to do it to her too. I remember the sting of my judgement, my unspoken, ‘but I’m not like you!’ The blame in my righteousness.
Now I know these are normal, the fingerprints of the deft, accomplished, repeat offender.
Now we are all counting. On buses, in kitchens, in traffic jams, when we wash ourselves a little longer in the shower because, perhaps, we are unclean.
A Twitter friend: You have a list too? I’m sorry.
We are all sorry.
Let there be rage.