Dissociative Mythology

By Eleanor Rector

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On the Way Home

1. catch his eyes gleaming in evening shine behind trees still dripping raindrops / Miami puddles and saturation so you wear flip-flops everywhere / except by ‘wear’ you mean that you put them in your rucksack wander barefoot / by now, you have learned / by now, you know that your body serves as a gathering place for Chaos and her followers / a stomping ground for displaced hyperventilations / you know to let your eyes slip from contact / you know your presence is a beacon /

but it isn’t what you expect /  it isn’t the heavy breaths and sweat dripping down his forehead / it’s some gentleness locked away in folds of skin towering six feet and some odd inches / it’s sad brown eyes and tongue twisters for words /

he reaches for you / but not you, your bare feet, muddied and peppered with tiny cuts / he gives up trying to form the words / first, he outlines your toes with his finger / then envelops them with his broad hands / your feet like smooth pebbles he is waiting to skip / he kneels, raising your feet to his core /

you aren’t afraid / you’re never afraid anymore / but you start to feel the tendrils of frustration against your neck / this stranger is anchoring you as you inch further and further into screaming Red Road traffic / he pantomimes each step along with you / some need of his silencing the cars that speed past /

Miami never stops for pedestrians / so eventually you weave between cars / spaces too small for his hulking frame to follow /

2. again, your final year of college / you moved into a bungalow painted bright orange and every moment inside / feels like some purgatory / for sins you don’t remember but are willing to claim /

this time, you make it past Red Road / into the block of streets you map with ‘you know, the area where all the drug dealers live?’ / you always choose the pathway that leads you past your ex’s bedroom window / pray his rage has quelled and his loneliness leads him back to you / you are preparing for the stomach-drop / you know you’ll only catch sight of his curtains / but are still always disappointed /

but the car on the side of the road is occupied / and this must be wrong because it is summer all the time / and you will suffocate / the stranger turns his head to watch your gait / Ray Bans covering up his face / when you pass him by he lifts up his hips / shows you the cock in his hand / you laugh /

you know the statistics / how often this is a predicate of rape / you are not afraid / you’re never afraid / you turn around to take a picture of his license plate / plan on calling the police / but he’s watching you in the mirror / and you aren’t afraid / but you know how easy this can change / you know the likelihood he has a gun stashed away / you know the things that happen here / you’ve listened to gunfire at night

you walk away /

3. you flew your belongings to the midwest to escape the summer / you have to learn to scream beneath train tracks / to replace the thunderstorms of home / early february and the third night in a row you’ve brought this boy home / the two of you brushing off snow before unlocking the backdoor / and your next door Neighbor passes with a woman and two children, bundled against the cold /

three hours later is a knock on the door and you open to see find the woman, unbundled, wide eyed / she says she needs help / says Neighbor is finally gone for a couple hours and she needs to run away / says she can’t tell him she’s leaving / he’s been hitting the kids and she knows he’ll make it worse / she brings over everything she owns in plastic garbage bags / backup diapers and bright toys / baby formula and coupons and high heels / says she’ll back the next night / texts all day for support and then doesn’t show up until morning /

her police escort waits downstairs while Boy and you bring down all her belongings / the only way Neighbor won’t know / you’ve heard him yell before / sat in the hallway while he screamed at his ma / ran out to help his pregnant girlfriend when he threw a suitcase down the stairs / and made her carry it / you turn voyeurism into a science, claim it’s behavioral analysis / you make four trips up and down the stairs / the cops don’t even make eye contact / for weeks after, Neighbor catches you in the hallway, asks if you’ve seen his woman / you are well-practiced at lying /

you are not afraid / you don’t know how to be afraid anymore /

the night before, you turned to Boy to ask if he was your boyfriend / he said yes / and later, this was the moment he pointed back to / where you had coerced him / where you tricked him into dating your broken self / where he was the victim of your constant manipulation through direct questions and expression of emotions / where he started being required to lie to you / which was also your fault / because lord knows it wasn’t his / he was just trying to calm the waters / and who can ever be faulted for that /

4. except that Boy started to have his own stories / his own madness that always manifested while he was en route / you didn’t realize until months later that these were only stories / drawn up to pull on your own trauma / on the years you hid in dark rooms /

the first when he is walking home from the train at midnight / you waiting at his apartment / work has been bad / and then a block from the house he wanders past someone outside a market / openly shooting into the store / he says he just walked past / it was fine / why would that bother him / so you don’t bring it up / instead you tried to erase the bad visions / that he never saw /

the second time, he is trying not to yell at you / but even messages can’t hide his anger / your bike breaks and you start panicking / something that greatly angers him when it is out of your control / he says he’s gotten off the wrong stop in the heart of downtown Chicago / he missed his destination by just one stop / because in your anxiety you texted him too many times / and you are not his responsibility / and your distraction had messed up his entire day /

because he doesn’t realize he is at the wrong train station until comes aboveground / and right outside the train station is an active murder scene / it is so poorly secured by crime techs that he is able to walk straight through it / he says the corpse literally had his socks blown off / you fold yourself into apologies / because everything you do is bad for people / and when you need help, all you do is expose people to trauma / needing is weakness and asking people for support is selfishness / and because of my weakness I had deeply harmed his psyche with an image he would never forget /

except that people don’t get gunned down in middle of the city during daylight without any news coverage /

5. maybe I am not haunted by Chaos / maybe I am her / maybe my presence incites the violence within others /

one day I will be wandering home / and I won’t make it /

Eleanor Rector