The glass of water, sitting on the coffee table between us, may as well have been poison. It throbbed with malice; I could feel its corrosive nature, the hate packed into it, without even looking at it. I looked down at my lap instead, wringing my hands, biting my nails down to the quick. This was yet another inquisition, though we both knew I'd already been found guilty. I don't recall my transgression, that time. As is common with trauma, my brain has locked away large pieces of scenarios such as this one. Those damn water glasses, however...they'll be seared into my memory, like a brand, until the day I die. Because of course there were many - this wasn't the first one, nor would it be the last. He wielded them like knives, and they cut just as deep. If I said the right thing, humbled myself sufficiently and to his satisfaction, I would escape. If I didn't - and I rarely did, couldn't seem to get the atonement just right - I'd end up sputtering and drenched. It doesn't sound that bad, does it? Splashing someone in the face with a beverage? Indignant ladies in the movies do it all the time to the scoundrelly men who've scorned them. Shut the fuck up. Don't be a drama queen. It's just water. In every girl’s life, there comes a time when she learns that even the most benign things can become weapons.
In the midst of the judicial hearing for Brett Kavanaugh, I saw television footage of two women, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, who followed senator Jeff Flake into an elevator after Kavanaugh's testimony. They were pleading with Flake, demanding that he see them and listen to them, refusing to leave him with any other option than to consider their humanity and their struggles.
It was a stunning display of strength and courage.
The man who calls himself the leader of my country, however, disagreed. He described the women as "rude" - "elevator screamers." He laughed at Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, mocked her openly, belittled her, and invalidated not only her pain, but the pain of all survivors - as though our lived experiences were the dead animal and he the butcher, ready to cut us open and cleave away all the parts that inconvenienced him.
Shut the fuck up, elevator screamers. Your pain doesn't matter.
The glass was empty. I'd done it again - fought back, when I should have acquiesced.
My soaked shirt clung to me, freezing my neck, my shoulders, my breasts. I shivered, a mixture of cold and fear. My hair was plastered to my head, droplets trembling on the strands, on my eyelashes. I was on the floor, dehumanized once again, and I felt the injustice in every fiber of my being. He loomed over me, menacing, spewing the verbal equivalent of hate, vitriol, arsenic. The kinds of things that hurt much worse than a kick in the ribs. Bruises fade. Broken bones heal. These sorts of words weave themselves into the very fabric of a person's soul.
I remember howling like an animal. I felt like something worse than dead - something damned. Something destroyed.
Shut the fuck up.
I looked up at him, looked into his eyes. There was a person in there, I knew. I'd fallen in love with that person. He must still be in there, somewhere. I looked into his eyes, and I pleaded. I begged. I sobbed. Please. You're hurting me. Stop this. Please. I'm a human being.
I looked into his eyes as they crinkled at the corners, as he let out a belly laugh, like I'd just told a good joke. I looked into his eyes as he appraised me with a mixture of amusement and pitying disgust, as though he found me, and my pain, hilarious.
Jesus, stop being such a drama queen.
I suppose you could call me an elevator screamer. It's not the location that matters, you know - just the inconveniencing of a white man by yet another crazy, overly dramatic bitch, being all hysterical, acting as though her experiences actually - can you believe it? - matter.
This, more than anything else during the stain on America's history that was the Kavanaugh debacle, felt like a bullet in my gut. I felt it primally, viscerally.
I felt it because I've been the elevator screamer, pleading for my rights, my autonomy, my life.
And that day, the man who calls himself president of my country became my abuser. Laughing at them, laughing at me, belittling them, looming over me, amused, repulsed, disgusted, a glass of water at the ready to douse my fire - probably, on hindsight, because he knew the flame, if left to rage, would be powerful enough to destroy him.
Shut the fuck up. Don't be a drama queen.