Friday, February 1, 2013

This was one of the hardest pieces I've ever written

Disclaimer: This is long, intense, graphic, and difficult. Also, out of context and chronology of the other pieces. It's finally ready to be posted, although it still needs a lot of revisiting before it's complete. Self-therapy in progress.

Untitled.


Eyes are windows
They are open.
Blue like rain
Streaming and dancing and washing it all away
They are honest.
Brown and deep
Stable and certain and anxious to speak
Green emeralds
That sparkle.
Grey skies
That cry.
Red blood
That smokes too much.
Black eyes
That die.

August 2, 2006 Early Morning
      I haven't slept. I slap the mattress and throw my head into the pillow. The empty beer bottle next to me is steaming and I can the feel the stink crawling all over me. My mouth is crusted with the morning air and there’s black soot and cigarette ash trapped in my fingernails. Mascara is smudged down my cheeks and my dark hair is matted to the side. It’s been two weeks since it happened, but it’s only 11:30am, and too early in the day to call the day quits.
      I roll over and grab my morning coffee off the nightstand, which usually consists of three shots of whiskey and a cigarette. It’s never about the taste when it comes to whiskey. I wash it down with my cigarette anyway.

     The mornings are clockwork hell. Get up from bed, brush my teeth, stare out myself in the mirror for about 30 seconds, and pick at the little scar on my chin. I have to be at the office by 1pm, but lately I’ve been showing up around 2:30pm, lost in wasteful time and disorganized thoughts.
                I stopped picking up the phone, and my friends stopped calling. When the last drop of the bottle wets the glass and my head stops spinning from the night before, I’m barely breathing.

13 days and counting since I’ve recognized the attack. 13 more days and I go home. Back to reality. Back in the arms of comfort, even amidst this black soot covering my openness to live, whiskey and blood mixed in my veins, drowning me in guilt.  I finally pick up the phone and apologize to my mom, because she worries and knows I’m alone, and she hears it in my voice and she misses me and wants to hug me and tell me I’m strong and will survive this. She speaks gently because I’m fragile. I’ll smash in a million pieces, like glass, razor sharp, and shattered all over the floor. Hi honey, how is it today? You want to come home yet?  I tell her I don’t know what I want to do. I know, Baby. She says softly. Well, your flight to come home is in less than two weeks from now  at JFK Airport. You can call them and get a sooner one if you want.

I hear her, but I’m still too defiant to be defeated. The scene just replays in my head. It was one single moment that stole my strength, and my courage. Still, there’s no way I could leave sooner.

I walk to work with my head down and sunglasses on. The sidewalks are all cracked and uneven. The sunlight is glaring, bouncing the midday reflection back into my eyes. I'm cautious, careful, and aware; peeping over the lenses every couple minutes just to be sure that I am alone. But I’m not. I yearn for peace, closure, solitude. Everyone can sense I’m broken. This anxiety that just won’t go away. Even when I close my eyes, its ravenous beam is still there.

  ***


MixxLounge Bar had a savage smell. It was a mixture of perfume and sweat. The floors were slick from spilled beer and the air was intoxicating. Elvis, the owner, would ask me to hike it up, or let my cleavage show. It’s the Manhattan high class, you sell it and the drinks come with it, he would tell me.. I move around the bar and start setting up the bottles. The cheeky old men, sit across from me all night, watch me bend over to pull the glasses from the rack. Their sports jackets reek of cigars and expensive cologne hanging over the bar stools, creating an aroma that only swanky businessmen can produce.  At around 2:15am every Saturday night, Elvis would disappear into the backroom, assisting the boys to end their night with a fine white powder that covered up anything that money could not. I would watch them walk out, ten minutes later and $300 dollars less, with a little baggy and an unstable swagger. 

Ruggiero, the kitchen manager was an addict. He waited around for the shake at the bottom of the bag, or the crumbs that spilled across the table, scanning the residue with a straw, slurping it into his nose. I remember his eagerness. He never talked much, stayed to himself in the back, frying up chicken skewers and spring rolls, and remained a slave to the men who have it all. He’s worked here for years, Elvis told me. Don’t worry about Ruggiero, he won’t bother you. But I could see him by the corner of the bar. His black eyes swollen with misery, lips pressed tightly, head held low. I never had anything bad to say to him, in fact, I barely spoke to him at all. I made sure to smile back though. After all, what’s the point in making matters worse for someone who scrapes the leftovers.
****

Earlier in July 28, 2006
I tell Ruggiero one last time I do not want to snort a line. He wipes his nose off with his apron. I tell him to shut the bar down, Elvis is gone, I’ll see you at work tomorrow, I say with a deep and hopeful smile. Have a good night okay? I reach over, pull my purse off the counter, and turn towards the door. He moves around the bar and stops me in front of him. His black eyes are bullet holes, deep and fierce and destructive. I pull the strap over my shoulder, and check for my wallet. Take a shot, he says again and reaches for the tequila. I’m already sickened by the smell. His accent thickens as he raises his voice. TAKE A SHOT! He makes a quick move, and two shot glasses hit the floor by my feet. He growls and stumbles around the bar. I feel my heart plunge into my stomach, a force reaction to an instinctive premonition that something terrible was about to happen. I back away from the spill. The floor smells of old Cuervo and rotten limes. He drags his feet through the glass, and I turn my head, but his hands are already on my waist.
His strength holds me hard. He presses his lips against my ear, Permanezca aquí, stay here, he whispers. I can’t release myself from his grip. He leans into my neck, spins my body and throws me face first against the bar stools. He thrusts his hips towards mine and heaves me forward. I’m bent over as he digs me into the bar and I anchor my fingernails into the seat backs. He rips my straps and grabs my shoulders. I can’t speak. I can’t think. I push against the counter trying to free myself from him, but his body is suffocating. I inhale, but it feels like I’m only sucking air, gasping, panting… He grabs a fistful of my hair and throws me to the ground. His grip tightens and I want to cry but, I can’t. I squeeze my eyes, hard enough so that any emotion inside me would come out. But there was nothing. Not even a sound. Barely a wimper. Black out.
     I come to.  The tile is cold and wet. He rips off his belt and holds me down. My heels clatter like hail. My shorts are soaked in beer and my palms are cut with glass. He towers on top of me. I look at the spotlights on the ceiling. His silhouette is a black shadow. I can feel his hand on my thigh and his big black eyes are all over my body. His fingers are rough like splintered wood. I kick him as hard as I can and he doesn’t stop. I roll onto my stomach and grab the leg of one of the bar stools. He slaps it out of my hands. I thrust my back into his chest and slip my legs underneath me. The broken beer bottles cut my shins and palms. He grabs my shoulders and pulls me close to him. I fight him. He wraps one arm around them and pushes his other hand down my throat. I make a fist with my left hand and bang the side of his face. His fingers taste like iron and lime juice. I bite down. I am an animal. Clawing and scratching and biting for safety. His blood seeps into my mouth. And I finally begin to cry.
      There’s no conviction in his eyes. He stares at my chest and moves like a machine. He rips my shirt open. I hit him again and crawl towards the back door of the kitchen. He grabs the back of my neck with both hands and flings me towards the basement. The doorway to the office down below is a gaping pit with concrete steps right in the middle of the kitchen floor. He pushes me headfirst towards the hole. The pit opens its mouth before me, its fatal lair beckons me to just give in to him, and give up the fight.
I dig my fists into the floor and arch back against his body again. I hold steady. Still. His hands are still all over me. Time stops. He reaches and rips my shorts from the back. I hit the floor. He turns me over. I start kicking him again. I shove my heels into his groin, but there’s no pain. He wraps both hands around my neck.

I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.

Please don’t do this! A surge of energy suddenly barreled out of me. I scream. I finally scream again and again and again, desperate for someone would hear me. Anyone! No. This is not where it ends for me. Not here.

Not now.

A power takes over me with indisposed defences, blinded by survival. I grab a metal rod lying underneath the sink next to the door. Next thing I know, his head gushes with blood. His big black eyes looked deep into me, and rolled into the back of his head as he hit the floor.. I get up from the ground and turn my back on him; hurl my bloody legs one right after each other, running as fast as I could towards the front door. My feet stop moving as soon as I get to the street corner. I just stop, and fall to the ground on my knees. The tears fall down my face, soaking my face, and washing the blood off my mouth.  I can’t believe that happened. Did that just really happen? What just happened to me? My shorts are shredded and my whole body is shivering.

                A couple walking their dog across the street run over to me. The woman pulls her jacket off and throws it over my shoulders. Without asking any questions, they tell me it’s going to be okay, and call 911.

***
I’m a case number.
I’m a file.
I’m a statistic.

I am completely fucked.
                My body is shaking uncontrollably. The paramedics tell me I am okay but I need to come in for questioning. They tell me that I need to try and remember everything. I could barely get the words out. I’m not even sure if I am saying the right things. Three police officers climb into the ambulance with me and drilled me with questions, screwing  into the painful pockets of my memory.

We arrive at the hospital. Mascara is running down my face. I am still hysterical in my tiny black shorts and  high heels. I am holding my purse against my chest and rocking back and forth in the wheelchair as they veer me into the ER waiting room. The patient rooms are draped in green plastic and the nurses are just shadows moving against them. My stomach is empty and the smell of latex is stale and completely uninviting. The psychologist comes in and tells me I am going be okay even though the nurse in the room is sticking me with tetanus needles and drawing blood. Protocol, she says. She tells me to stop moving, but I can’t. Every nerve in my body is trembling. The blood stained my face and legs, so she grabs a towel and solution to clean the wounds. The peroxide sizzles on my skin. I just can’t stop crying now. You’re safe here, Ms. Belfiore, you were attacked, but you’re alive and you weren’t raped, right? Just relax now.


They've seen all this before. It happens all the time. I was an obvious case. The nurse put my file into the drawer and two more officers come in to wrap up my statement.
Name:                                       Erica Jean Belfiore
Age:                                                           20
Offense:                                                   Sexual assault and battery
Location:                                              MixxLounge corner of Bleeker and 7th Ave South
Injuries:                    Lacerations and bruises on knees, back, and arms.
Rape Kit:                                     Negative
Offender:                                    Ruggiero last name unknown
Nature of attack:    sexually driven; influenced by narcotics, cocaine, and alcohol.
Investigation:          In progress.

****
August 2, 2006
It's 12:30 am and I'm already late for my internship. But, I don’t care. My mind is elsewhere. Like today, for instance, rather than calculating the amount of time I need to be punctual, I am counting the amount of cigarettes I can smoke from the time I leave until the time I arrive at work. I realize it usually takes me four cigarettes along the way, but today, let’s shoot for five. One on the way to the train, and three in between bus stops in midtown. Maybe I'll find an empty bench with an empty seat big enough for me and my emotional volcano. My feelings spewing out and covering everything around in a thick molten lava of insecurity, smothering all that comes close and killing off any positive energy that could possibly survive the blast.

The bus is three minutes early today. Any other day I would have been happy the bus was early, but today, I’d rather have my fifth cigarette. There’s something about the smoke and how it enters my mouth. It’s the control. Inhale. Exhale and six minutes later, it is gone.

August 2, 2006 12:59pm

I have one minute to get to work. Whatever.
 I climb off the bus at 53rd street with one more block to walk towards my office. I walked passed a group of construction men carrying large concrete blocks towards the building. I can’t even close my eyes to keep my head from spinning without seeing them looking at me again through dark eyes on the scaffolds. Workers like beasts, hanging off the railing, hounding iron and metal but ravenous for attention. My head drops down and I swerve to the inside of the sidewalk. Don’t look, don’t listen. Don’t look into their eyes. Just keep walking. “Oye mami!” A zealous brute whistles at me as one of the others jumps off the platform and waves his hands. I walk straight and let them bark. I feel my legs and arms swing mechanically down the concrete.  Their eyes spear me, like sharp teeth tearing into me. They are dripping from the mouth and sizing up their prey.
I walk quickly and duck into the nearest convenience store around the corner. The clerk smiles at me and I don’t even lift my head. I grab The New York Times and throw down two dollars without change.

  Monday Evening News Report:
NEW YORK -- A subway train strikes an unidentified man at the Christopher Street and 7 Ave South station in Manhattan 3am in the morning on July 28th. The accident affected subway service on the 2 and 3 subway lines, but service is now back to normal. The man was taken by ambulance to nearby St. Vincent's hospital and died early that following morning. Police said he was heavily intoxicated but it's unclear if the man committed suicide or if he just fell on the tracks.


I rip out the article and fold it up into my hoodie pocket.
I count another one and a half puffs of another cigarette on the corner until the construction workers leave for lunch and I finally can walk upstairs into work, 2 hours late.

I slip into the main lobby, and pass three execs standing in the hallway, sucking on each other’s words, wishing their lives weren’t so uncomfortable. They discuss Hilary Clinton and distract themselves with collared shirts and business plans. Their desks are a row of urinals. Eggshell walls separate nine to five workhorses shitting and pissing their lives away. Vagrant Records office is the last door on the right. Musty, gold colored linoleum wrap either side of the walls and seven separate mirrors spot the hallway. The mirrors bounce their reflection off of each other. I stare at myself as I pass each one of them and there’s seven million of me staring back.
***
The guilt.                                                           
It’s burning a hole. Spinning around me and swimming in my stomach. I try to swallow it down. I walk over to the vending machines for a bottle of soda or some animal crackers to soak up my disgust. Eddie, my internship boss, finds me and tells me he’s disappointed I’m late. I know you’re going through a hard time right now Erica but I need you. This job is why you’re here isn’t it? Snap out of it. He asks me to type up the Saves the Day press release. It all comes up now. I push him out of the way and bolt toward the bathroom. I grab the toilet and shove my face into the bowl. I wish all of this emotional shit would come out with my puke. I sit next to the toilet bowl, and close my eyes.
I slam my fist against the stall and get up to look in the mirror. I look really ugly. My eyes are blood shot and soaked with tears. I smug the mascara some more and give up trying to clean up. I throw water on my face and watch the black tears roll down my cheeks.
I don’t want to talk about it, but Eddie is making me take an hour long lunch break for some time to think. It’s been too long for it to still be smoldering like this. How does this disgust linger so long? Why can’t I just let it go?!  I wander down 42th street amidst the busy worker bees. Everyone is the center of their own worlds; indulgent but content and completely unaware of their surroundings. Like me, for example, who is deathly afraid of every one of them.

My parents say that they’re happy the fucker is dead. The police called me last night and confirmed it. And when they did, I cried a lot. But I don’t even know why I was crying. I woke up today, numb and empty and scared and then it occurred to me why. It’s because I want something. I want answers, or closure, or anything better than that! I want my life back.” My breath shortens. “No trial. No investigation. No closure!” I lean in and write down the last thoughts I hope to ever write again. That bar was his life and once he knew that was over, he jumped in front of a train. ...And that was after he tried to kill me first. I drew a heart, bleeding, and then closed the page.


THIS WAS NEVER THE PERSON I AM TO BECOME.
Too early to call it quits.


***

August 4th, 2006
I walk down to Tompkins Park with my suitcase and sit with my journal.  It’s been two weeks since I’ve written, but this is the last day before this chapter of my life is closed. The pages are anxious and bare. I stare up into the sunlight for clarity to collect my words, dusting off the cover and opening to the end of the story, to restart it with a new perspective.. I look down across the park bench that I'm on to see a man with red eyes glaring in the sun. His body is hunched over the bench. I’m sitting on the end. Legs crossed with my sandals on the ground in front of me. I pull my sunglasses off my face. He spins around to snatch my stare. Hello, he says. I set the journal on my lap. The sunlight catches his blonde hair and his face is illuminated. I figure he’s 24 years old. Lost and stoned. Hi, I say back with a deep exhale. I light a cigarette and offer him one. I feel him watch my breathing. He slides down the bench so his leg touches mine. He smells of hempseed and sweat. He is restless. He is natural. I know this stranger very well. I recognize his big naïve grin as it was my own. And, I smile.
2nd Journal Entry, August 4th 2007
Today, I didn’t force myself to smile. I’m confident to recover.

Fill me up
Rapture of certainty
My fear drowning confidence
When stitches tear at the seams
Be my refuge for loneliness
Tell me how these wounds will heal


This wound will heal..

1 comment:

  1. Kyle O'BrienJune 13, 2012 at 2:17 AM

    how are there no comments to this...im stunned. at this story, at your eloquence and your brutal honesty, at how strong you are. it is such a gift to share your experience with the world, and we are grateful. stay unstoppable erica. you are forever inspiring.

    ReplyDelete