Albatross Part 1

22:44




Trigger Warning. This short story contains information about violence, sexual assault that may be triggering to survivors.
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I add a charm to my charmbracelet for every life that I take. Each charm represents something about my victims to some degree. I’d be lying if I said I chose a charm intentionally. For example, the hammer. The series of events that led to that kill had been interesting. I had had nothing else to use and I was pressed for time. I’d reached for the closest thing to me.

“Here’s your hot chocolate.” I released my charms and took the mug out of my friend’s hand and carefully set it on the coaster. Fall had descended on the city weeks prior and had brought with it a wind chill that numbed your bones. It held the promise of an unrelentingly frigid winter. It would probably be long too.

She situated herself back on the love seat adjacent from me. “Ok, continue.”

I continued my story. I told her what had happened, how our mutual acquaintance had inched so close to me, and every part of my body had frozen. I didn’t understand it at the time. I’m always quick, always alert, but my guard had been down, and I had not expected this. I’d gotten up, shaken, trying to put some distance between us, trying to process why my head was woozy and my body was starting to feel numb. He stood close to me, so close I could feel his erection. And instead of pushing back, I shrank. I felt every part of me deteriorate, as though someone had vacuumed every ounce of strength.  I couldn’t think.  Blood was rushing to my brain, my heart was beating so fast, I could feel my body trembling. I told myself to move away, move quickly, to get away. If I lingered something horrible would happen. And so I left. And I shut myself away. And I paced, and paced, and could barely comprehend what had just taken place.

She shrugged. “Men are like that. You can’t be friends with them, not really anyway. You should always know they will be attracted to you.”

I looked at her. She had beautiful hair, thick, long, lustrous. I loved it best when she tied it in a high ponytail, gathering it in a glorious puff on her head. She looked majestic. She rarely gelled her edges, just brushed them neatly back. She had it tied like that right now. I looked at my charmbracelet. Wouldn’t it be something if I added an afro-puff charm? I brushed the thought away.

“I don’t accept that,” I responded. “I don’t go around pressing my body on someone just because I like him. I didn’t do anything to give him the green light to express himself like that.”

“You were too friendly with him…all those dates you went on with him…”

I rolled my eyes. “Those were not dates. There was never an agreement that they were dates. We were hanging out, getting to know one another.  People can’t be friends and enjoy doing things outside of the house together?”
“They can. I’m saying you should not have been doing all of that. It’s ok to chat, but that’s where it should have ended. He got the impression that it was more.” She looked me in the eye with a smirk. “You know how you are.”

I laughed humorlessly. I could ask for clarification but we were going to go around in circles. “I disagree with you,” I countered. “What he did was unacceptable.”

“I’m not saying it’s your fault,” she said quickly.

“Ok.”

She sighed. I remained quiet. I began fingering my bracelet, not looking at anything in particular.
I thought back to that evening, recalling how I’d been so unassuming, naïve. How I’d sat down, chatting like it was any other evening. How confusion settled and numbed my reflexes to react quickly. How I’d become disoriented and yet still so aware. How half of me attempted to maintain normalcy whilst conscious of the loud sirens of panic, of fear, of discomfort screeching, alerting me that this wasn’t ok. I was a deer caught in headlights.

Why had I been caught off guard?  I thought there was mutual respect between us. At one point before all this I was certain of it. 

She was talking, and I looked up but I wasn’t paying attention. The thing about people who feel entitled to others’ bodies is that they hide the fact that deep down, they feel ownership of you. They possess the correct vernacular and perform the right actions, lulling you into a false sense of security. What you perceive as shared camaraderie is something more sinister. It’s disorienting when it comes from a person you least expect. And then the apologies come. Apologies that are only apologetic because their wicked hearts have been exposed. They don’t intend to do better. You ask why they’ve done this wicked, cruel thing.  I suppose there can never be a satisfactory answer.  I sought an answer regardless, and received none. Just apologies. Certainly, these apologies won’t heal the irreparable breach, nor the fracture within myself. The blame will always fall to me. I am forced to be statuesque and diplomatic, shouldering this albatross with grace.

I stand up, smiling. “I feel so much better after talking to you,” I tell her.

She looks at me strangely. “Ok…” she says slowly, as she gets up and walks me to the door. “I hope you understand where I’m coming from. I’m not saying it’s your fault. I’m just saying you can’t be naïve about how men are.”

I looked her in the eyes, still smiling. “I understand completely.”

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