When I see those brightly coloured signs on the lawns and alongside the streets, I can’t help but see the bodies, lined in ditches beside those promotions that far outlasted the election period. They stayed in place for nearly a year, until the streets were safe to roam, and in the piles of rubbish that grew ever larger until “society” resumed once again.
The one visible from my window, brandying slogans of peace amongst the desolate killing field, smattered with blood and flesh from machete blows.
When I see the signs, my brain loses all reality, and blood begins to drip along their glossy sides, as opened bodies, their flesh a mix of red blood and the yellow fatty tissue from the layers deep below, spilling out as if demonstrating human anatomy, but devoid of any humanity, an abstract left by brutal predators, stalking the street for prey and leaving the remains as a warning to others who dare cross this path. The flies and vermin pecking at the savoury buffet left for them in the slaughter.
By the end of the war, the bodies were degraded beyond recognition so that no one could or was left to claim them. Static in their place months after ‘normalcy’ had returned. A cold shudder on the morning commute, remembered only by the tattered remains of their clothes and bones hung with dried meat.
When I see the signs, my bowels refuse to let me on the streets, telling me to hide from the brutality outside. An anxious reaction devoid of any rationality. My heart flutters and considers those who waited on line for a vote that left them as little more than roadkill.
When I see the signs, I hide and plan my escape. Because I know that one day, it’s coming again and this time, I will not be caught unaware. I will not let pieces of my flesh be sacrificed to the blade or degraded for another’s enjoyment. I will run this time and not submit to another’s joyful torture for the sake of my own survival.
When I see the signs, I die a little more inside. Knowing that I will submit again, because the hero I imagined in my mind’s eye is not reality when the militias come rolling, and despite the death wish of my brain reliving that experience over and over again, my instinct to survive outweighs my desire to end it all, and I’m left wishing I had the courage to just end it, but I know I’m not courageous. I know that one of those remnants of bodies at the end of my street was partly the result of my own fearfulness, hiding in shame and silencing the tears so that I could live another day. That my scars have faded as their flesh degraded, a memory embellished within my skin, unable to be excised.
When I see the signs, my life shuts down to basic needs and heightened security. Every noise is a threat on my very person, necessitating an immediate response.
When I see the signs, I wish it was me rotting away on the side of the road, a faded memory of a life that once was, because at least this hell would be over.
Each night is a fresh hell brought forth by memories I can never erase.
Since the war, my life has become a monotony of misery. My sheets soaked in sweat each night from panic, tangled and shredded at my feet from the struggle.
I’ve gone through five sets this year alone. And it’s only April.
Palms sweating. Heart racing. Numbness in every extremity. Unexplained, excruciating and near constant pain. Hot then instantly cold, unable to regulate my own internal thermostat. Racing thoughts of worthlessness and suicide. Rocking in my bed, unable to lift my head or even leave the safety of my sheets some days. The constant invisible agony that no one sees.
Each quick turn of the head gives me glimpses of gore. Hacked bodies lying on city streets, machetes headed in my direction. Flashbacks that can over take my whole reality and leave me in psychosis hell in an instant with terror in every direction. You see to me a trigger is only the small part of the gun staring in my face. It has no relation to the things it “should” and people’s coddled affection for my ailment only leaves me pitied and alone in my misery. There is no amount of shielding that will lessen my fate. You see, the smell of cooked bacon, reminds me of their burning flesh, but I can read about rape until the cows come home. I can explore gore without emotion, but spending joyful times with my nieces and nephews leaves me paralysed with dread for days.
You see, my brain has learned to interpret success and joy as pain and trauma. Permenantly etched as the new reality, each new bliss follows hours or days or even weeks of panic and intense urges to flee, run away, hide, or die. Just stop the pain that follows. I can’t go through it all again. Afraid to be happy, feeling underserving, it has transformed my life into a sad misery where every joy is literally pain. Pure torture.
When people laugh and joke that they have “PTSD” after something minorly annoying happens to them, I feel like they have just punched me in the gut and left me breathless, keeling over from worthlessness. Diminished. Like my struggle is worthy of their laughter, and that I am somehow weak for having this viseral physical reaction to the protracted trauma I experienced. I consider if for just one moment they could reach inside my head and feel this type of terror face to face if they’d ever make that joke again. But then, I wouldn’t wish that horror on anyone. Not even for a moment.
My reality looks bleak. There’s a 70% chance I’ll suffer from this trauma for the rest of my existence. You see, I’m a prisoner of war, trapped forever in the hell my own brain has created to compensate for the horrors it could not explain. It’s no wonder most of us just decide to end it. There are enemies all among us, politely ensuring we survive only to endure more horror and there is no one ever coming to rescue us. We are in this all alone, forever.
The blood runs down my legs
drip, drip, drip
it fills the crevice in my buttocks
and pools there slightly
before it falls.
He knocks my head into the ground
with his boot,
as if my head were a cigarette to be
before it lights the whole world aflame.
but I’m the devil.
His eyes stare through me,
as if he wasn’t really seeing the
horror before him.
I’m a figment of his imagination,
a bad dream he can not escape from.
like flashes of the rain
falling softly on a black night.
I seep through his outer layer
and dampen his soul.
Did I even cry out?
Or just take it?
Just let them abuse me for their own purposes.
Just let them do it all in front of him.
Without a word,
I’m just as at fault.
Always have a spare.
I learned this in the months in hiding, wishing I had thought to stock certain things that could have made life easier. Bouillon cubes. Would have made the constant rice more palatable. We had to always keep it with us, ready to run, so the more portable the better. And cigarettes. We had plenty to start and didn’t ration them well for constant chain smoking; but when they ran out after two months, we dared to go on the street in search of more when we really shouldn’t have.
If only the house had been a drinking house, I would have loved some whisky or some wine. But alas, J, a strict Muslim, didn’t allow it in his home. He could have used some then too. He told me as much.
Now I stock in excess.
If shit hit the fan tomorrow, I would be able to eat for months if not years, with proper rationing.
I even keep extra bottles, filling some with water to keep in my cabinets. My dirty little secret, hidden away in shame. I’ve tried to part with most of them, but I can’t yet part with them all. I may need them.
I sometimes imagine civil war breaking out here, and what I would do. Where I would go. How I would protect and fend for myself. I’m fairly skilled in the woods, so I think that’s where I would head. Just get outta ‘Dodge, and head for the hills.
Hide in the bushes, and don’t come out.
The woods would be a sanctuary compared to the closet in G.
I just told my mom I was gangraped during the war.
Well, more I yelled it at her and then hung up the phone on her.
Maybe not the best way to express that, but she was severely pissing me off. She kept saying, maybe it’s not from the war, maybe you’re just depressed because you’re not with J anymore. As if, all the trauma I have experienced were nothing. As if, I didn’t live through a war and have constant nightmares because of it now. As if, all this was over some fucking boy and I’m just a little sad because we’re not together anymore.
I felt like saying, go to hell.
Instead, I screamed, “Ya, ma, it’s over fucking J. You know, this is all because of a boy. I fucking hate him and can’t even think about him anymore. I’m just so upset about it because I WAS FUCKING GANGRAPED IN FRONT OF HIM AT GUNPOINT!! MAYBE THAT’S FUCKING WHY??? JESUS!”
Then I hung up.
I did it. Finally. Nearly a year later.
I sent them the letter I had been meaning to send. Telling them of their betrayal, their deception, their greed.
They stole from him, my husband, so callously, ripped from him all he had, all his inheritance, all his properties, all his assets, so that they could do more shopping. Travel more. Get more bling. Fuck them.
It’s time they finally know how I feel. It’s time to broadcast their shame in public, for all to see. Everyone in that city should know what scum that family is.
J’ai attendu pendant longtemps pour envoyer cette lettre car je ne savais pas comment exprimer mon indignation. Je voulais que ça soit concis et bref, et ensuite vous oublier pour le reste de ma vie.
Oublier que pour un temps, j’ai cru que vous étiez ma famille loin de chez moi ; parce que le faite de vous connaitre ou d’être vu en public avec n’importe qui de votre famille me révolte.
Dounia, tu es une excuse dégoutante d’un être humain. Je ne veux même pas vous qualifier comme telle.
D’amener une personne vulnérable comme J, qui venait de perdre son père et était sous le danger de perdre tout, dans ta maison. De l’accueillir comme protecteur, en tant que deuxième mère ; le nourrir, le traiter comme un membre de la famille, l’inviter pour les fêtes et célébrations, prendre soin de lui avec tendresse ; tandis que tous ce temps, tu étais réellement un serpent dans l’herbe, attendant de le dévorer en entier.
De voler sous lui son héritage, son usine, tout les terrains et actifs de sa famille ainsi que leur dignité.
Les laisser sans rien. De mentir carrément en face de nos visages pour ton propre gain. De forcer ta famille de mentir en justice. D’utiliser DIEU pour manipuler, en vous jouant une femme/famille craignant Dieu.
C’est absolument méprisable. Ça rend malade. C’est inhumain. C’est la cupidité égoïste pure. Tu ne connais pas la honte.
Si j’étais à ta place, je ne saurais pas comment tenir ma tète sur les épaules, ravagées dans la culpabilité de ce que j’aurais fais. Tu dois être rempli de culpabilité, mais je doute fort que tu sens même la moindre culpabilité, parce que tu es trop intitulé pour ca. Tu crois que tu MERITE tout.
Habits de luxe. Jolie voitures. Bijoux. Vacances. Je me rappelle avoir eu un sentiment de honte car toutes tes filles s’habiller en vêtements de marque quand on sortait la nuit, que je n’étais pas assez bon pour sortir avec elles. Mais finalement, ce n’est pas moi qui devrais avoir honte. Ce n’est pas moi qui ne suis pas assez bon. Je vie selon mes moyens ; je ne vole pas des autres. Je ne mens pas aux gens en prétendant de me soucier d’eux. C’est vous. Vous devriez tous avoir honte.
Je vous ais remis l’argent, maintes et maintes fois, sous le prétexte de nécessité du procès, et tu l’as volé, si froidement, de J. Il t’a remis de l’argent. Des millions de dollars. Je l’aidé à compter l’argent chaque nuit et je m’inquiéter d’où viendra la prochaine somme. Empruntant de l’argent de tout le monde. Brader tout ce qu’on posséder. Je l’ai personnellement prêté de l’argent, et ma famille aussi. Et oui, tu as volé de moi ainsi. Et tu nous as tout arraché dans un réseau complexe de mensonges tout en prétendant nous aider.
Le pire de tout cela pour moi, c’est de savoir que si tu avais réellement pris la peine de gagner le procès – il allait te donner encore PLUS comme récompense. Il allait toujours être endetté envers toi, et chanter vos louanges devant tout le monde. Il m’avait même parlé de te donner la moitie des pénalités que vous lui avais promis. Il était tellement content que tu étais à ses côtés pour l’aider pendant ce temps le plus difficile de sa vie. En faite, il ne savait rien du système judiciaire, et il était perdu, sur le point de tout perdre. Pour lui, ce n’était pas à cause de l’argent, mais plutôt pour l’assurance de sa famille. C’était à cause de l’usine de son père. Celle que son père a construite à partir d’un petit magasin, en une usine prospère, pour l’assurance et la sécurité de sa famille.
C’était le dernier morceau que sont père lui a laissé sur terre qui avait un lien avec lui. Mais tu a était gourmande et bête. Tu as pris un morceau de son esprit pour toujours, and lui a fait perdre toute confiance en l‘humanité jusqu’à jamais, et jamais je te pardonnerais pour cela.
Que Dieu ai pitié de toutes vos âmes, parce que je ne vous vois pas ailleurs, si ce n’est pas en train de brûler en Enfer.
I’ve waited to send you this letter for so long because I did not know how to express my outrage. I wanted it to be succinct and clear and then forget about you for the rest of my life. Forget that for a time, I thought of you as my family away from home; because it revolts me that I have ever even known you or been seen in public with any of you.
Dounia, you are a disgusting excuse of a human being. I don’t even want to classify you as such. To bring a vulnerable person such as J, who has just lost his father and is in danger of losing everything, into your home, as a protector, as if a second mother; feed him, treat him as family, invite him for holidays and celebrations, take care of him with tenderness; while all the time really a snake in the grass, waiting to devour him whole. Steal out from under him his inheritance, his factory, all his family properties and assets, their dignity, and leave them with nothing. To outright lie straight to our faces for your own gain. To force your family to lie for you in court. To use God to manipulate, playing yourself as a God-fearing woman/family. It is absolutely despicable. It is sickening. It is inhuman. It is pure selfish greed. You have no shame.
If I were you, I would not be able to hold my head up, wracked with guilt over what I have done. You should be filled with guilt, but I doubt you feel even the slightest bit guilty, because you are far too entitled for that. You think you DESERVE everything. Fancy clothes. Nice cars. Jewelry. Vacations. I remember feeling ashamed that your daughters all had designer outfits when we went to the club, that I was not good enough to hang out with them. But I am not the one who should be ashamed. I am not the one who is not good enough. I live within my own means; I don’t steal it from others. I don’t lie to people I pretend to care about.
It is you. All of you who should be ashamed. I handed you money, time and time again, under the guise of necessities for the trial, and you stole it, so callously, from J. He handed you money. Millions of dollars. I helped him count it each night and worried with him over where the next would come. Borrowing from everyone. Selling off everything we had. I personally lent him money, and so did my family. And so, you stole from me as well. And you ripped it from us all in a complicated web of lies while pretending to help us. The worst part of it all for me is knowing that if you had actually even bothered to win the case—he would have handed you more as a reward. Been forever in your debt, and singing your praises for all to see. He had even talked about giving you half of the settlement you promised him was coming, he was soo happy you were there to help him through the most difficult time in his life. He knew nothing of the system and was lost, about to lose everything. It wasn’t about the money for him. It was about security for his family. It was about his father’s factory. The one that his father built up from a tiny stall that sold textiles, into a thriving factory and business, on his own, for the security of his family. The last piece of his father left on this earth that has a real connection to him. But you got greedy and stupid. You took a piece of his soul forever and made him lose all trust in humanity ever again and I will never forgive you for that.
May God have mercy on all your souls, because I can’t imagine you anywhere else but burning in Hell.
I feel like a failure with each and every move. Like my life is meaningless, and that if I died tomorrow, it really wouldn’t matter any. I try endlessly to fix myself. To heal the pain I feel in my heart like a dagger, each and every day. To heal the pain in my body that matches that pain and keeps me from living.
I stay cocooned up in my little hole, afraid to do anything. I’ve lost all passion for my passions. Food no longer tastes like it should. I just drift endlessly into each new day as if it were a continuation of the last. Another wasted time for me to stay wrapped in my sheets in bed, contemplating any way out.
But there is no escape from the endless monotony. From the drain of each day on my soul. For knowing the things I have done and the pain I have caused is irreversible. Knowing that if my friends could see what had really happened, they would run screaming from me.
I lie, each and every day, mostly to myself, but to all those around me too. I tell them I’m good. I tell myself, tomorrow will be better. That this next treatment will help me. Soothe my aching brain of the trauma it can no longer shed. It is etched forever now on my DNA, like a scar of the past that I’m itching to laser off my body.
It’s like this heavy weight, on top of the continually increasing physical weight I carry each and every day. I keep trying to fatten my soul, as if fatness would mean they don’t want me anymore. That I could be free from the burden of sexual attention. That I could never be raped again. That they would have never done what they did, if I had only been fat. That it will be an extra cushion away from pain.
But it’s not. My soul bleeds. It drips out of my body in gigantic drops that erase what I once was.
I can never go back. I shouldn’t even try.
This endless time I fall, and there is no picking up the pieces anymore.
This time, it’s over.
Please rescue me from myself. I’m drowning in my own sorrows, my head barely bobbing to the surface anymore for air. Soon I will just slide under, and no one will see me again.