color key — blue: mental health; yellow: relationships. contrast of light and dark correlates with bright and somber tones of voice.

Nothing Gets Past 17

Nothing Gets Past 17

Nothing Gets Past 17

Nothing Gets Past 17

I have never talked about this, not with my friends, my mom, not even myself. I never said it aloud, never wrote it down. I deleted every photograph and blacked out every memory hoping that doing these things would make it less real. Like, if I didn’t acknowledge it, it never happened and I’d be okay. But I don’t think that I am. Really, truly, as often and as hard as I try, everything in my life is affected by these few key moments. Things that happened at such a pivotal age. Nothing gets past 17, I guess. I have never been more than a convenience. I’m here, you’re alone. I’m willing…I think. Nothing about me is important to any of these men, except something explicit that I can half offer. I feel like everything is ruined. I used to tell them, “But you don’t like me, you like that I’m here.” I don’t remember a real rebuttal, ever. No one denied it, no one admitted it. It just hung in the air, and I knew what that meant. If it hadn’t been me, it would’ve been someone else — it’s all the same and I don’t matter, they just need somebody’s company. Something to have, someone to have. And that hurts. It hurts to be a body. It hurts to not be wanted for anything other than something physical. To know there is better and better, to be treated like there is someone better and better. To be a ‘just for now’ because now needs someone. One of them said to me once, “I wish you had more confidence,” and I asked why.

No one had ever tried to seriously tell me to believe in myself, that I was worth believing in myself. It’s been said matter-of-factly between groups of friends, or sometimes family, but no one had ever done it in a way that matters. And I hoped, maybe this time someone sees value, like that would take back every awful thing he said to me. But he responded with, “You know, for like, when we do stuff.” And that was what he valued. I can’t bring myself to be confident now. Not when this word has become so dirty for me. Not when it makes me feel used and sad and anything but. Intimacy is like a swear word to me now; physical intimacy makes me wish I was dead. When I try for something more, something meaningful it’s met with, “But we talk all the time,” as we sit there with our shirts off and I ask for a break. “I’m done, I don’t want to do this” is followed by, “Please, please, please,” and “Just for a second.” Continuing because I’ll change my mind when the mood is back and “No,” feels too harsh, or I fear it wouldn’t be heard so I stay quiet. I’ve been told he would’ve stayed longer if he’d known he’d get lucky, because what’s the point of hanging out if he won’t get off, right? I can’t bear the thought of having a body. I don’t let people I love look at it, comment on it, photograph it. As far as I’m concerned, my material self doesn’t exist because for too long it’s existed for the convenience and pleasure of others. I flinch like I’ve been struck when a friend tells me I’m hot, or tries to build me up. I panic when someone touches me, and then feel guilty for it. These men, they didn’t care about my credentials, my aspirations, my intellect, my sense of humor, my passions, my anything. So, I killed nearly every part of myself. If no one cares to see what I have to offer, why offer it at all? Seen as nothing, so be nothing. I think that’s the worst part about it all. There’s so much control there still. I can cut them all out, I can move as much as I want, I can stay busy and preoccupy myself until I drop but at the end of the day, when it really counts, I’m not real anymore. These men didn’t hurt me in the way men can really hurt women, but they killed the desire for life; the excitement to be and to grow, to trust and to love. Maybe this is really just word vomit at two in the morning, but here it is in writing. I don’t have a life or a self and I don’t know if I’ll ever get them back.

© Midnight Woman 2021