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Repression

The Ability of Memory

There were times when she convinced herself that it actually didn’t happen.

It couldn’t have.

The night didn’t protect her, nor did the gentle hum of the idle television across the room.

Or was it a radio? Was it even nighttime, or maybe early morning?

Did he wear a white t-shirt or a flannel?

What color were his eyes?

She was in her late teens and he was experienced, well-adjusted, and kindhearted. She could remember the smell of his 1989 Ford Mustang and that his family’s home had green carpet, yet she couldn’t remember if this night actually happened or not. Repressed memories have lied to her over the years, allowing her to move forward, but it robbed her of her ability to trust her own mind.

Was it a blue house, or a green one?

She got to the blue-green house, and his anger manifested into a dark confusion and his eyes changed color. The “good guy” had fallen asleep, trapped beneath the curse of a man enraged by the cat-callers on the street. The house had checkered tile, light pink curtains, and a fan in the corner. The couches had plastic over them, and the sink had rust carving away at the metal. The room had a sofa bigger than the bed and he’d sit there for days, planning his crime, or maybe he didn’t.

Maybe it was an accident.

Maybe she was the first person it happened to, and maybe he carried around the guilt for years.

Or maybe it actually didn’t happen.

At first, she led him to the bed, and at first the plan was to fall asleep. She’d had a long day at work, and so did he, so exhaustion clouded both of their minds, shifting their thought process. He wasn’t always this aggressive.

Or maybe he was, she couldn’t remember.

Repressed memories led her to believe that he wasn’t always like this.

The backboard dug into the wall so deeply that the paint chipped. Her fingers grabbed onto the sheets so tightly that her knuckles were white. Her hair was matted to the side of her face, her voice gone. She didn’t say anything. Maybe she should have.

Maybe her tears weren’t enough to save her in that moment; maybe he couldn’t see them.

Maybe he couldn’t hear her wailing, and maybe the neighbors down the street didn’t think to check on the one room in the house with the light on.

Sometimes, she’d remember the end. Bits of the memory would flood her mind—flashes of the checkered tile and the rusted sink would sit quietly on the floor. She would try to unpack the baggage hidden beneath her ribcage and pull out the remains of her scream, the one that he couldn’t hear.

Sometimes, she’d try to tell her friends about this memory and then her friends wouldn’t know how to position their hands. They wouldn’t know how to handle a memory that wasn’t theirs and then she’d say, “Well, maybe it didn’t actually happen.”

Sometimes, she’d listen to other people talk about sexual assault and wonder what it was called when a boyfriend did it, and then sometimes, she’d scream so loud when she was alone in her empty apartment.

Practice.

Don’t ever speak of me again.

And she didn’t.

So, there were days that she convinced herself that this didn’t actually happen, it couldn’t have.

Someone would’ve heard her crying.

Someone would’ve released her voice from her throat, and peeled the skin off of his back.

Someone would’ve remembered that the house was actually white, and that his eyes were the color of honey.

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