I write to survive. Or writing has been a coping mechanism. Or writing has given me a way to tell my story over and over because parts of my body story will never leave me. I have come to terms with the fact that if I live to be seventy years old, there may be something in the air to give me a flashback into the portal of trauma. The portal could begin with an image or a name or the way my eyes look deeper when I am sad. Anything can transport me back. A flash of light behind my eyes and then the shock. My body will freeze all the same. I will be back in my child body, trying to remember how to breathe. Until I hear crows calling each other in the empty branches of the trees in my backyard or until my graying dog licks the tops of my hands. It’s not that I feel dead in these moments, or even more alive, I exist in between spaces during these moments. I feel real and then I do not. A shadow fills the veins in my body, flourishing and then released as the salty sweat spilling out of me. My body crawls toward any light. If the sun is hidden behind grey, I turn on all the lights in the apartment and I pretend I am on the surface of a spinning, violent star. Being in light reminds me I cannot disappear. I cannot disappear because I am stubborn. I cannot disappear because this body story within me is alive.
A woman named Rita babysat me and my little sister. She fed us spaghetti with sweet corn and a side of meat. It was cow liver. The smoke from the meat made me gag. It smelled like what I imagined the depths of a bellybutton stunk of. Undigested food and shit becoming stale inside the slosh of our bellies. The meat smelled wrong but I ate it anyway. Later that night, as my family slept inside our very first house in the desert, I bolted out of my bed and ran for the bathroom. Sour bile, spaghetti strings, chunks of meat, and bright yellow corn poured out of me. The pain in my belly brought me to my knees. On all fours, I thought about the trust we place into adults. Children aren’t necessarily born with this trust, but it is demanded of them. Trust this human who may hurt you. Trust this human who may hurt you. Trust this human who will sometimes act as though they own your little body.
Spanish was my first tongue. In Spanish “molestar” means to bother. The word “molestation” has never sat right in my gut. It doesn’t feel like the right description for what happened to me. The violence started with a man named Luis. The violence that happened to my body felt like my small frame was flung into the ceiling, bursting out and into the sky, grabbed by veins of lightning, boiling me alive into nothing but organs and splattered crimson chunks. The violence felt like my skin was peeling off so I could leave remains of myself behind because I was not the same person when he was done. I did not feel like the same child. I was not the same child. Luis damaged my child body, he saw it as his property, it was his plaything, it was his receptacle, it was his small ear to whisper into, to tell it to be quiet, to tell it stop trying to escape, I know you are pretending to sleep, I know you can feel what I’m doing to you.
Sometimes, I lick itching spots instead of scratching them. I like to pull out strands of hair and inspect them, one by one, then say goodbye to each part of me floating away onto a sidewalk or into mossy trees. I like to dance alone fully clothed and then shed my clothes and try the same moves in the nude. I like to smack myself on my thighs and watch the pink spread into hand prints. These are little sensory reminders. Reminders to forgive myself and be gentle with this body.
I didn’t think of my body as my own for a very long time. It was separate from the nebulous colorful mess swirling inside my head. My thoughts, my anxiety, my resilience, equated to stardust and the skin and bones of my physical existence simply held these elements together. I was ocean waves becoming sea foam. I was the empty space between blades of chunky grass. I was the sound fireflies make when they die. It didn’t occur to me until later in my life, but I was also the bruises from clumsy feet, I was the mustache and the hairy knuckles and the musk after a sweaty day. I was the burning tears and the loss of breath. I was the heavy breathing and the orgasms and the cramps and the lactic acid spreading in my leg muscles. It sounds simple, but it took a long time to realize I was so much more than the trauma at the hands of a man. We are so much more than the trauma of this common fucked up story.
This is just a reminder.
This is just another reminder.
You are a light.
You are never alone in this story.
Your body belongs to you.
Rios de La Luz's series, Liminal Bruja is a blend of fiction and nonfiction inspired by her life as a queer brown woman and proudly claiming the space her body exists in as she navigates under white supremacist patriarchy. She is the author of The Pulse Between Dimensions and The Desert via Ladybox Books. Her debut novella, Itzá, is forthcoming via Broken River Books in September. Liminal Bruja is a 6-month series on Corporeal Clamor. Her website is: riosdelaluz.wordpress.com