Lowercase v-a-g-i. Capital N. Lowercase a.
“Can she read?” The policeman asks.
He asks it like I can’t hear, like I’m not right there, sitting on my father’s lap. I want to tell the policeman that there is no time in my memory when I could not read, that there was never a time when I couldn’t put the letters together and throw myself into any world offered to me and disappear, but I stay quiet.
“Yes, she can read,” my father answers.
The policeman slides the report across the kitchen table and hands me a pen.
Outside is ten thousand kinds of white. Snow hasn’t fallen for two or three days, so it's a tough kind of white with pale blue beneath. Granular. Bad for packing. The surface breaks beneath your feet.
I shift my weight and focus on the paper.
Reading is the same as thinking. There are no words, just ideas that feel the same as knowing someone else’s thoughts. As I start reading, I think maybe I’ll move on from this place to nine, ten, eleven and football, to hot box and hockey, to water fights and skateboards soaring over gasoline-lit, plywood ramps of fire, to clotheslined, whitesheeted, bloodykneed backyard green running,
as rabbits do to throw off the hunt.
Twelve is a boy yelling “BITCH!” and my hand raised SMACK! red handprint across his face.
Thirteen is three thousand meters of lean-muscled flip turns and swimmers get ready, take your mark, fourteen! and the wolves begin to circle. Fifteen better hurry up and tell her what to do, because by the time sixteen raises her hand, the teacher says, "Why don’t you raise that skirt a little higher and I’ll think about raising those grades." Sixteen is the first time she’ll hear “whore!” and "slut!" for being a woman with a body in the world, so don’t be surprised when seventeen is parking lot drinking cigarette burns waking up at the bottom of a rabbit hole, so maybe eighteen, nineteen and twenty set the stage for twenty-six and marriage and divorce and marriage and divorce and thirty-four and longing and finally, something that feels like love.
Here is a truth. When a woman tells you she wants to be touched, when she tells you how she wants to be touched and why and where and when, when you tell her how you want to be touched, you can do anything she wants. She can be soft and shy, slippery or dry, closed-off or commando, bushed-out, waxed, shaved, pierced or tattooed, briny or bloody with a tricked-out xixota, an OM-chanting yoni, a surgically-created hoo-ha, honeypot or twat. She might even be the owner of a Grade A, gold star C to the u-n-t.
When I return to the report, it tells the story of a snowy day and a bright red snowsuit with white fringe around the hood, of a backyard playdate with the pastor’s daughter – and a neighbor. It tells the story of hands. And then it uses that word.
The policeman writes it with a lowercase v-a-g-i and a capital N. Lowercase a.
There, at my kitchen table.
A little girl’s vagina. Delicate, quiet and curved.
There, where anyone can see it.
When I’ve read the whole report, I print my name at the bottom. My name tells everyone, “Yes, this is true. This happened.”
Here is another truth. When you’re a man with a big black beard and you outweigh a girl by one-hundred and sixty pounds and you put her on your lap and you touch her even if she squirms, if you threaten her and force your hands on her tiny girl parts no matter how many times she screams “STOP!!!!” she’ll let you do it.
You can do anything.
You can touch her wherever you want.
You can do anything.
“NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2017 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, because when you’re President, they’ll let you do it. You can do anything. You can grab ‘em by the pussy, you can do anything. I urge all Americans, families, law enforcement, health care providers, community and faith-based organizations, and private organizations to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities."
Leigh Hopkins' featured column Secret Circus is a 6-month series on Corporeal Clamor. At a time when government secrets can be revealed in 140 characters and our nation loves a show, Secret Circus blends personal essay with political commentary.
In 2010, Leigh left a 20-year career in social policy and education reform to move to Brazil, where she ran a retreat center and founded Viva Institute by rigging a satellite dish to a boulder in a banana field.
Her writing can be found in Elephant Journal, ENTROPY Magazine, The Manifest-Station, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Viva Institute, and at LeighHereNow. Leigh lives in Philadelphia with her wife, a painter, and their jittery Jack Russell Terrier.