I haven’t had a lot of words lately. I’ve had plenty of experiences to talk about: a rollercoaster-like ferry ride to a tiny island in post-typhoon winds, a photo shoot for a friend’s birthday at all the famous places in the city, even the first in a card-deck full of before-you-leave-Japan challenges. I just don’t have the words to write them down adequately. I guess it’s kind of like writer’s block, but instead of not knowing what to write, it’s not knowing how. I’ve been feeling pretty guilty about it, actually. “Come on, Kita, you have to start writing again. What kind of writer are you, that you haven’t even touched your laptop in days?” But just recently, I realized that’s okay. It’s okay to not write sometimes. It’s okay to just live for a while. And then, when you’re ready, you can write it down.
They say girls give sex to get love,
and boys give love to get sex.
I always thought that was weird, though,
because most of the boys I know
just skip the love part.
They go right to the fuck part.
And then I wonder, what does that say about me,
that that is my experience with boys?
I just fell into what society teaches,
what a conservative preaches,
like blood-sucking leeches
taking the souls out of people like me.
Making me think I had anything to do with their actions,
that it was me who caused it,
that’s bullshit, so toss it.
But… wasn’t it?
I was the girl who said yes to a near stranger,
I’m the one who likes a little danger,
the one who said, “Hey, I’ll do you a favor
if you just do me one back and promise to call me later.”
That was me, right?
So maybe it’s my fault that he didn’t hear “no,”
maybe it’s my fault that he didn’t let me go,
maybe it’s my fault…
Shit. I don’t know.
I’m not the one who held me down,
I’m not the one who took me out,
who spiked my drink,
who promised to help when I lost control of myself.
If what he did was help, I’m better off on my own.
You are the one who made me feel worthless.
You are the one who did it on purpose.
You are the one…
I ran to when I needed help.
When I was going through hell,
when I just wanted to be held.
And I am the one…
Who said, “Yes, we can fuck.”
Who thought that would be enough.
Except for that one time when I didn’t.
That one time when I said, “Don’t.”
That one time when I trusted you
And you hurt me.
You broke me.
You made me fell like I’d never be worthy
of someone who loved me.
Because everything I was,
everything I thought I was,
Or was that me?
See, because I’m so confused.
It’s not like what you see on the news.
He’s just an ordinary guy.
And I was just an ordinary girl,
before I became another kind of ordinary.
Because “1 in 4” means my story isn’t extraordinary,
I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s horrible.
It wasn’t my fault, but I’m not sure it was his. Entirely.
Because when I say “he,” I mean “they,”
more than one, plural.
with certain complications,
rolled into a compilation in my mind.
I wasn’t asking for it.
I said “no,”
And there was fear on my face.
It wasn’t a misunderstanding.
It was a loss of consciousness on his side.
Because he started as Jekyll
And ended up Mr. Hyde.
But “no” still means no. Right?
And that starts with parents meaning it
when you say “no” to your sons.
You can’t let them talk you out of it, because
if your “no” doesn’t really mean no,
how is he supposed to know that mine does?
“No” still means no.
“Don’t” is not an invitation,
“Stop” does not mean I like it.
Sex should not be something that is feared.
His hands on my body should not bring me to tears.
So I’m asking you, right here:
Is it my fault?
Is it his?
Sex should be an agreement, at least for one night,
not a competition to see who is stronger.
It shouldn’t be a fight for dominance.
I didn’t mean for this to be a rant,
but that’s what happens
when you hold it inside,
thinking you can’t tell anyone.
When you realize it shouldn’t be a secret.
The discussion of sex should not be taboo.
It’s been my secret,
but I don’t want to keep it,
and that’s why I’m telling you.
We should not have to stay silent.
And this is what happens when we finally get a chance to speak.
It’s not a simple issue.
But it shouldn’t be that complicated.
My “no” sure as hell wasn’t.
I have a big family. As the last of four siblings, I’m the “baby,” though it’s been a long time since I actually felt like the youngest. We have lots of aunts, u cles, and cousins, a big circle that seems to grow bigger every year. We always get together for Christmas, Labor Day weekend, and – my favorite – Thanksgiving. There’s always too much food and at least one or two card games going. If there’s football on, we’ll watch it, but it’s usually overcome by chatter, jokes, and friendly arguments. I love that atmosphere. And I love my family.
Which is why it took me completely by surprise when I realized I don’t miss them. I knew that things would be different when I left my home country. But I didn’t think I’d go six months without hearing my mom’s voice. I didn’t think I’d find out from Facebook that my brother got engaged. I didn’t think that when my oldest sister came to visit she’d treat me like the owner of a B&B. I didn’t think my friends would feel more like my family than my family does. But they do.
My body is confined within itself. I can hear the music, feel the beat, but my hands stay clasped together, my hips only sway in easy, tiny movements. I’m standing on the dance floor but all I can do is tap my foot, and smile when someone moves to grab my hand and spin me around. I can feel it for a moment in that spin, the freedom waiting on just the other side of the mountain that is my newfound reserve. I want to move. But I can’t.
We know better. There will be no black streaks down our cheeks like the scars on our hearts that are sliced and carefully healed, just to be reopened.
And that is why I do not cry today. Because I’ve already put my makeup on. I spread foundation on my skin like armor, a layer of protection that temporarily makes me more than myself. I dab on eyeshadow, a glittery pink beacon announcing that no one, not even you, can dull my radiance. My lips I ring in deep red, drawing attention to my mouth and the words that it emits, words that should be considered, cared about, held in your mind as carefully as your hands hold your Stratocaster, but they never were. You were too focused on my legs to meet my eyes, too enthralled by my waist to learn my story, too stuck on my lips to hear my soul as it reached out to you.
That is why I do not cry today.
Because anyone who makes a woman cry in mascara is not worth the time it takes to reapply it.
Do you have an iPad?” His voice is a ghost of gravel, softly echoing the strength it used to have. Ebony eyes look at me over the golden-wired rim of thick reading glasses.
“I do,” I nod. “But it’s pretty old, so I don’t use it very often.”
His shaky hands, weary after so many decades, set down his pencil and I’m struck by the meaning of my words. I hope he doesn’t catch the parallel and suddenly my chest tightens.
I don’t mean you, my heart whispers, urging the words toward 80 years of love and despair seated on the other side of the table.
But he is already turning the next page, the topic forgotten, the meaning lost in translation and left tumbling in the washing drum of my mind.
It’s something I have to remind myself of every day. It doesn’t matter how many likes I get on Instagram, or if that guy replies to my Snapchat. It doesn’t even matter that my ex called us soulmates, then proposed to another woman.
I’m awesome. I have an uncontrollable impulse to make faces at myself in the mirror. I get angry quickly but can never stay mad for more than two minutes. I can do a back flip and walk on my hands and say hello in seven languages. I’m often too honest for my own good. I feel equally comfortable in a miniskirt or running shorts, but my favorite outfit is jeans and a hoodie. I eat all the time. I’m always worried about the horses in battle scenes and I want to cuddle every dog I see. I can read in Japanese, and I’ve climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji in the middle of the night. I have this ridiculous need to stay friends with my exes, but I have no problem cutting off friends who stop being friendly. I will stand up for the people I love – to a fault – but also won’t hesitate to call them on their shit. I have two college degrees because just switching from one to the other felt like giving up. Sometimes I feel like I’m plain but other times I know that I’m beautiful, in my way and to myself, with no care to the thoughts of others because their opinions don’t matter and I am enough.
And it has taken me way too long to understand that.