The Apple Rose

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When I left for the USA at the start of October, the thought of letting someone in made my body curl inward. The suggestion of sleeping next to someone made me want to cry. Going to work had been such a struggle. Speaking to people, sexualising myself, being sexualised, disrespected, adored – all of it was too much. Breaking my own heart and deciding on having my womb raked when I wanted to keep the autumn leaves was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

The guy who was 50% responsible  claimed absolutely no responsibility, he did not help me when I asked, he expected thanks for telling me I was doing the wrong thing by considering the alternative which he did not welcome. This cavernous human being was so incredibly awful that I had to send that little spirit on rather than let it enter this world with him as a father. This misguided, egotistical narcissist was so lacking in sensitivity as to flippantly tell one of my dearest and most intuitive friends about how the other girl he got pregnant two weeks after me was so cool about it, she just dealt with it like you’re meant to, without making a fuss, without being difficult, without being a bitch and making him feel bad. This moron was so self involved that he would say this to a woman in her second trimester of pregnancy while she stood with her face perfectly composed, hands lightly shielding her belly from anything he had to send forth to the baby girl growing in there. She called me when she arrived home, shaking with rage and disbelief. I was at work, about to go on stage. I was trembling. I was still pregnant. My legs felt like they’d disappeared, as though my torso was hovering above 6 inch heels, each guiding the other out into bright lights and an onslaught of loud.

My friend had withstood the pathetic tirade of this squirming lumbricus as only a queen can, “I will not be conquered by a fuckwit Billie. I just won’t, and nor will you.” This woman knew the extent of he and I. She was our number one supporter in the beginning but swooshed her skirts in his blind little face at the end. Dismissed by royalty. He’ll be flailing, nothing more than brainless matter at her feet til kingdom come, taking any breath shared in the same room to mean she doesn’t see him for who he is, as if the sharing of oxygen alone will absolve him of himself. What a douchebag. What a dickhead. I could not curse a child with him for life, when in 8 weeks I went from one of the happiest versions of myself to the most broken B side mix tape of the shittiest band ever known to man. Imagine how fucked up you’d be, if you had to have him as a dad? Imagine the cycle of pain and suffering as this child, my child and his, spun its way through relationships with family members, partners, its own children? I could have no part in this. Cycles have to be broken.

By the time I left Australia I’d emerged from the worst. I still didn’t smile from my heart, but I wasn’t overtly grieving or consumed by anger either. I went straight from La Guardia to Brooklyn and a guy I’d never met in real life before. He took me out of NY and away to East Hampton the evening I arrived. It was so calm and pretty out there. He was fun and silly like the old me. He reminded me of all my favorite parts of the girl who had been buried in snow for months. There was a rose bramble growing in a car park over some whitewashed  fencing. The roses smelt like rose, lemon and apple. Felt like all the answers were sitting in that moment when I had my face in those petals and let my heart fall in. Sharing those seconds, elongated with magic, a stranger standing right beside me, face mushed next to my face, arm resting against my arm. I was suddenly clear. My thoughts felt like my own again and I laughed when I realised that somehow, I felt beyond safe with this man. That moment felt like home. He had absolutely no idea. I hadn’t breathed a word of anything to him. It wasn’t an outpouring of secrets and acceptance of my darkness that brought me close to him.  I don’t know why. I felt like myself. I exhaled. Finally. All my shit, started to melt off me. I could feel myself as broken but getting ready to stir and shift the pieces. Later that day I wrote. I hadn’t written anything much for months. I hadn’t had the reserves of strength it takes to put all this down and still be able to press on with my day having played the painful history over in my head. The reality of it sitting in solid, ordered characters confronting my face with lines and lines of pain in words on paper.  That afternoon I lay on my stomach in the lounge room and I wrote. I wrote with my hair draped over covert tears as they made their escape down my face before I myself absconded from the room and passed out for hours. Exhausted. My Home Fire cooked our first supper like a boss named Jesus and I woke up to a table laden with food and butter and warmth.

I forgot about it until a couple of weeks later when I’d moved on to North Carolina. When I dug it up again I found my little love prayer for the future. Loneliness is inherent in most people i know, or maybe it’s just me. But we are creatures to love and be loved. That’s just how it is.

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I want to breathe unhindered.

To feel the cold wind,

the golden syrupy sunshine,

to smell the apple rose right down to where my heart lies beating,

whispering in rhythms.

Tell my all of the magic that emanates from simple things.

I want to give my love to someone and know it will be treasured,

to show myself.

Give my heart and have it held in open palms,

a baby bird to be cared for.

Share my joy with me.

Feel the same light glide inward across fingertips that keep me safe from any darkness they made themselves.

 

Cradle my head.

Uncrush my heart.

Dint by dint.

Scratch by scratch.

Smooth the scars from my skin.

Kiss my lips with dew drops.

Press flowers into my hair.

Love me.

Without fear.

Let my face always look upwards to yours and trust my neck wont break.

My head won’t roll.

My heart won’t bleed in rivers from me,

cascading down my legs,

pooling at my toes.

 

Vibrate. With me.

Let each cell jump with joy and noticing.

Have each moment this smile lingers,

bask in the assuredness of its immortality.

Answer me in songs,

speaking five tongues.

Dance with me in rhythms nobody else cares to know.

Leave the giant blooms of the oriental lily.

Wade through heavy curtains of its smell they made.

Leave its stems in the crystal vase to stew in money.

Walk a little farther.

Come, bury yourself in me.

I am the apple rose.

IMG_1034Final two photos taken by Misha Jenkins on Instagram @miloscameros.

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EAT, SLEEP, RAPE, REPEAT. 

After a particularly harrowing night last week I haven’t been able to quite shake the blues after witnessing the fucked up aggressive behavior toward women and the ignorant attitudes (the most alarming was from a fellow dancer) that continue to enable this current trend of violence against women and rape culture as “not ok but to be expected” in certain contexts, or the old “She was wearing this,” “She does that for a living,” or “She looks like a girl who would….” .

The excuses I hear from men behaving badly over and over again about the conniving sorcery of the vagina as it renders men helpless in a flash of gash, robbing them of their basic sense of human kindness. The definition of ‘violence’ has become one so extreme and obvious as to obliterate the subtleties and manipulations most often deployed in order to effectively be violent….and not get caught. Basically the general feeling is that if you don’t get punched in the face, or visibly bruised, or raped, you haven’t really been a victim of violence. It hasn’t been that bad. Could’ve been worse.

I’m still processing why the other night has effected me so deeply. Nothing that fucked up happened to me in particular but I was there. In the thick of it. The extreme nature of the people involved in the events has burnt something into me. Rolling hills of fear, discomfort, sadness, adrenalin, disgust, anger, tension, violation, humiliation, embarrassment, confusion, disbelief. I keep seeing the faces and hands…fingers, hearing the roars, profanities and cries, feeling over and over again the sensation of being numb in myself but hurting on behalf of everyone else and beyond. Maybe those girls have forgotten it by now. I haven’t. I want to be able to sweep it to the side, watch my sadness for human kind float away like particles of dust. I don’t actively watch the news anymore. I haven’t since 2008. But even still, ensconced in this little girl’s bubble of a world that I have constructed for myself, the stories of brutal rape and senseless victim blaming in India, of some fat Asian’s stupid rape culture t-shirt at Coachella, the girl in Melbourne being stabbed to death in the light of early evening, have all made it through my strawberry flavoured hubba bubba barrier.

Photo sniped from thump.com and please note that @JemayelK is the guy who posted the picture, not the dickhead wearing the shirt.  

No one was violently raped the other night. Not as such. Not with a dick anyway. I don’t know. Does a finger shoved up a vagina or asshole without consent count? Does a giant Maori man fucked off his face on drugs licking a girl’s vagina while she is facing the other way, or the same giant biting another girl hard on the shoulder, or his Sydney Lebanese friend digging both hands into her ass so hard that I could see the dints of his nails and fingertips, count as violence? I’m inclined to say yes but for some reason, the reactions of people who are told this story or who were actually there, seem to indicate no. This is what makes my heart hurt days later. This is why my eyes still sting with the threat of tears. This is why my throat constricts and my breathing pauses as I actively try NOT TO FEEL IT. I am trying not to feel the way I SHOULD feel when I was in the same room over a period when all of these things were happening. Some things I was aware of, some not. I was doing my best to manage my guy, to distract him from the fingering, the arse smacking and grabbing, ear licking, that was going on around us so that he wouldn’t expect the same. His octopus hands were doing their best to wander, his energy within our dynamic was threatening to fracture, to stray from me and become a part of the pack. My eyes were on him. So I did nothing. I said nothing.

My sister is a science writer. She says we are in a unique position as strippers to have insight into many elements of primal behaviour that have stood their ground through centuries of evolution. Now she has me reading scientific papers on aggressive fucked up chimpanzee behaviour and the hypothesis that these correlate with that of humans due to both biological AND cultural similarities. I’m learning that sexual coercion and collective violence are common in both. That it’s not just an imagined phenomena that men are more likely to fuck your shit up, and that women go for men who will fuck their shit up. And that one of the biggest differences between Great Apes and homosapiens is that the male homosapiens SHOULD be advanced enough to over ride their biological compulsions to be total fucking assholes, and that the females SHOULD be advanced enough to know that they have other choices than to take it like a bitch. And it’s up here on my high horse, where the air is brisk and fresh, and everything seems so clearly laid out before my eyes, that I have to marvel at myself. It was only 6 months ago that I allowed myself to be violated. I did not defend myself. I did not speak out. My brain over rid my instinct and I paid that milk eyed toad faced predator and left without a word of complaint. When I was 14 years old I was in the room as my best friend was molested. It was subtle, it wasn’t obviously violent. Even so, I thought I knew something was wrong. I did nothing. I said nothing. I did nothing because all my life I have been trained not to speak up. I was taught as a child not to question people in a position of authority or care. As adults women are told not to be hysterical, not to over react, not to be emotional. To handle things without ‘causing’ drama. It’s always on us to fix our reactions, to tolerate the behaviour of others and adjust ourselves to cope. It’s wrong. This needs to change.

After a night like that all I want is to be held. To have a man I care for show me what it’s supposed to be like. Contact. Intimacy. Care. Tenderness. The right way to be naked in front of someone. The right way to be touched and admired. To be desired for more than my instagrammable arse and my perky boobs. The right way to have someone inside me. To be really seen, and valued, instead of just looked at and chucked a hundred dollar bill. To be wanted for more than just 10 minutes of possession.  To have someone see me as I really am as their eyes move over me, trace their fingertips from my forehead to my toes, up the back of my legs all the way up again to cradle the crown of my head. Just to remind me that that kind of thing really exists.

It Aint Over Til…

It still doesn’t feel quite over yet somehow. I’ve been surprised and disappointed at how long it’s taking for the palm of that event to open, for the fingers to unfurl. They just seem to keep unraveling, appearing at moments from nowhere. Most of the time I feel fine but it doesn’t take much for me to way more stressed out than any reason will warrant. I’m trying to be positive and appreciate all the things at home that I missed so terribly and to find the comfort I imagined would be here, waiting to help all the awful bits go away. Every now and then I feel the weight and speed of panic smothering my face, a condensed ball in my chest that wants to lose it’s shit and blow it’s way out of there. I’ve come home, and seen my friends, cuddled my animals, surrounded myself with flowers, started going for big walks again. But my room feels cavernous, not the cocoon I was expecting. It doesn’t hold me close. Home is strange. Maybe I just need to buy more flowers.

It’s been interesting to observe myself interacting with people who have read that post. It’s good to acknowledge it and to say thank you to the ones who reached their arms out to me from across the sea. Strong arms, direct ones, the ones that show you they’re there and they’re ready to try and feel what you need from them, and give you whatever they can. I try to be natural about it. Like it’s just another topic of conversation. Which it pretty much is with people who aren’t too close. It’s done and dusted in a couple of sentences. Strangely enough it’s with them that it feels the easiest. But it’s hard to see some people flinch, some of the people I really care about. It’s hard to notice those changes in posture, manner, the flicker of something across the face, and not see in those things a reflection of the residual disgust and avoidance I still hold in myself. The thing that is hardest to shake off since it happened, is the flickering film in my head that’s been playing out. Old scraps of video events from my lifetime of times when I should have asserted myself but I didn’t, and now I think maybe I’m not the strong person I thought I was.

Maybe it is hard for people to talk about this stuff. Maybe I’m just so used to sitting around in the club, the unlicensed but professional confessional, having people spill the beans on their darkest secrets. Being told tales saturated with the most fucked up betrayals, perversions, weaknesses, and crimes against law and life. I don’t think twice to be open about my life in conversation and I don’t flinch at much. Us girls don’t really have censored topics around the dinner table, we are who we are and it is what it is. Is it possible that for a normal person, rolling in the normal world, it’s as hard to bear the burden of the victim as the burden of the perpetrator? Because you’re not really meant to talk too much about it?

It’s not as easy as I thought it would be. Even a few days after it all went down, I’d expected I’d already be over it. This stuff happens all the time. I already knew that. I’ve got a lifetime worth of witnessing and hearing tales of fucked up bad behaviour underneath the broad umbrella of the sexual violation genre. I got off lightly while he got off nicely on a minor offence. It’s been hit after hit for the women I’ve known throughout my life. A couple of days after it happened, I spoke to my sister and we literally did an inventory of our parent’s friends from when we were kids, “Who was the neighbour? Was it Owen? Oh….Peter! Really? I thought it must be Owen cause he did that hand up the t-shirt thing to me a couple of times.” We cackled at how morbidly  ridiculous it was that all these years later, these small time rookie violations came out of the woodwork of our childhood. I feel like I’ve always known about things like this. Why did it feel so bad at my age? Surely I should be stronger than that? Was I being dramatic? Indulging a victim mentality? Because really, a lot of the things I just wrote feel so cliche, they apply more to victims of rape and ongoing abuse. I should be over it by now after that little dalliance.

Such a dirty word these days, ‘victim.’ Flung as an insult like wet shit in a rodeo pen, or resisted and battled off like an intruder trying to wedge their way in the door. Nobody wants to be one, and when they are, no one wants to admit it. Such a defeat. Such an admission of powerlessness. Take the power back girl! Reach for the stars! You are your own worst enemy! That action, those words, have no meaning unless YOU give them  meaning! Nobody can bring you down unless YOU let them! Smiley face, smiley face, heart.

Go fuck yourself inspirational slogan.

Not everyone’s life is as good as their instagram or facebook timeline would indicate. Not everyone’s day was like a walk down a pastel path into a pastel pine forest with white fake real handwriting scrawled across the vista saying something whimsical and easy with some hashtags underneath #blessed #lovethelifeyoulive #smugcunt (credit for that last hashtag to my adopted parents in NYC, circa October 2014, Spotted Pig and shoestring fries). Sometimes people hurt you and it isn’t a defeat to let yourself feel it. To ride the waves until they subside. Low self confidence, self doubt, stress, feeling unattractive and gross, heavy head, heavy heart. But whatever the case, I do really have to get over it. And stop thinking so much. Do little things that make me super happy – filling my room with flowers, seeing my friends and walking my dog. Should probably hold back on the excessive eating though. Maybe lingering on this whole thing has just been the fat little piggy inside me taking advantage of the perfect excuse to eat more derishuss sugary treats…. The fat lady singing the signal to end it all, could actually end up being me.

I had so many people write to me after that post. So many people at different stages of dealing with their own version of the same story. Some are years upon years later, so when I read over these things, I don’t feel alone. And I don’t feel so much of a victim with shit on my face from the rodeo pen. So thank you to everyone who did. It meant a lot to have you tell me that what I wrote meant a lot.

Your post quickly brought back a memory of

The whole time, I thought it was me.  That I was creating this idea in my mind…”

In that split second… He sped over the curb and drove to the car park entrance right where I was standing.

I know the feelings you’re feeling well.”

I kept asking myself if it had been a legit interview, because I couldn’t make sense of what had just happened. I didn’t know whether to be upset with it or not.

To be honest, I couldn’t even defend myself if people decided to say that I asked for it to happen to me – even though I know it was wrong.”

…a long time ago now, but the same emotions i thought I had locked down were brought on by reading your post.

I reacted in much the same way. I even gave the guy a kiss on the cheek.”

I haven’t read your blog as I fear it’ll be hard for be as I have overcome so many sexually abusive and other sorts of abuse and I worry that reading it will revert me back to it. I just want to say…”

” The women I know who haven’t been sexually assaulted or taken advantage of in some way are such a small, small minority.”

I didn’t exercise any of that power, and then it was like I never had it.

You described so many of my thoughts to a tee. I am taking steps to deal my shit better in preparation for the arrival of our baby girl…”

I am sending you love and strength and positive vibes from afar…in a way that the sisterhood should stand beside one another.”

Love you. That is all x”

Take as long as you want to feel what you want to feel.                                                    As long as it takes before you’re standing tall, beating your chest                                      as you howl & prance                                                                                                      until even the monsters under your bed                                                                            will bow down to you before they begin to dance