To Do the Holding

How acknowledging the pain of others can help us heal our own.

| Spring 2017

  • I don’t get enough touch. We don’t get enough touch. I rest my hands on the arms of friends, I nuzzle my head on your shoulder because if I do not I am afraid something in me will die.
    Photo by Flickr/Sara

I want to murder everyone. I think about violence on the daily. I want to hit someone and I want all of you to watch so you are afraid.

I think a lot about the sound a laptop would make if thrown from a third-story window. I think about the heavy goodness of a U-lock in my hand smashing into your bumper, or your mirror, after you cut me off. I think about a man I know who I once saw while riding my bike. He was smoking a cigarette, and when I saw him I wanted to get off my bike, walk up, and shove him in the chest with both hands so that the cigarette would fly when he thumped into the brick wall behind him. I wanted this so badly that when I jumped off my bike and walked up to him he looked and me and said, “Why are you panting?”

I read an interview with Roxane Gay. When Roxane was a child, boys took her into the woods and when she came back, she was broken. She tells the interviewer that she got fat to become a fortress. “When I ate,” she says, “I got to make my body what I wanted it to be.” I think about how I gave my first blow job because I got tired of being pulled back into the bed and tired of being the only one who heard me say no. The first time I made myself throw up, I thought about getting that night out, and the thought gave me a cold kind of pleasure, so I did it again.

I skinny dip a lot more than you do. I like to do it alone, to do my little doggy-paddle laps in a pool on a quiet night; to leave the house I’m staying in, the campground where everyone else is sleeping, and run until I get to the dunes, stripping as I go, until I am fully naked, kicking sand up onto my own body with every stride. The water and the sky meet in the same darkness, where it is cool and full of life. Your skin, not your eyes, is the organ with which you see the physical terrain. At night, your body feels as natural and shameless as anything else. Swimming naked is the way we were meant to swim. It feels like church. It looks like forgiveness.

Sometimes I think if I could get hurt and then write about it, people would pay attention to the issue I was hurt for. I think about this when I run and a man tells me he could watch me move my beautiful ass all day. I say Don’t talk to me like that. It’s disrespectful and I don’t like it and he says What the fuck did you just say to me, bitch? He steps toward me and I step toward him. My blood goes up and I start to shake, but I also am filled with this blindness close to clarity. I raise my fists. If walking or running down the streets already leaves me bloody inside, why not have the outside match?

Sometimes I think if I could get hurt and then write about it, people would pay attention to the issue I was hurt for. There are a number of reasons why this is ill; namely, that people have already been hurt, and they are the ones for me to pay attention to; namely, that you don’t have to be a wounded white woman to be deserving of attention. In an anonymous essay titled “First Night in Kyiv” and published in Balkanist in 2014, the author wrote:

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