New Year’s Eve 2018.
I had been informed three days before by the police that my rapist would face no consequences for what he did.
I was on my way to work when the call came. I must’ve spoken to mum after that and told her to tell dad because I only say one thing during the entire phone call.
“Dad”, I wail.
“I’m holding you in my arms this entire evening”, he says gently.
Once I got in, I told the nearest managerial person that I needed to be alone for a few minutes before starting shift, where can I go?
My face must’ve been such that he didn’t even ask.
I worked in a hotel so at the end my manager found me crying from a vacant guest room. I had told him everything so all I really needed to say was that he got away with it. My manager was a tall man you couldn’t knock over easily but even he swayed when I cried against his chest. My legs had turned into water. His hands were so big that one palm covered half of my head.
“Do you want to go home?” he asked gently.
No, absolutely not. I can’t go home. I have no clue what I’ll do if I’m left alone. Walls are collapsing on me, I’m going to die.
We agreed that I’ll go outside for air if needed. I don’t remember much of that evening, except that various colleagues found me crying from different hiding places and my manager would soon appear to hold me again.
When I managed to stop for a bit, he would give me very simple tasks, guiding me gently like I was his child. I must’ve been in shock because all directions more than one sentence long disappeared from my head. Every once in a while everything was extremely loud or very faint and distant, like I couldn’t find the right radio channel.
“What?” was all I could ask.
What? What? What?
Take this and carry it over to that table.
That one right over there, can you see it?
What is this?
It’s salmon, darling.
What table was it again, I forgot?
It’s not a stretch to say that this man saved my life that day.
New Year’s Eve. There has been days between the day I found out and this but I don’t remember them.
I’d had a massive relapse with self-harm and it was impossible to find a spot of healthy skin from my left arm. I’d use everything that was available: backs of earrings, keys, sharp edges of plastic. Carrying plates in awkward angles forced the cuts open again. Even though it hurt, it felt good to be open. Like I had gills. I was a shark.
Around me were shadowy waters but at least I had gills.
These days I refer to my stripy arm as the tiger arm. They are my tree rings. You can count the sorrow from them.
I don’t remember much of the evening. I had been waitressing for so long at that point that I could do it on autopilot. Carrying plates to and from tables, filling water bottles. My existence is only seconds long. I can only function if I have something to do, otherwise I find myself staring into space. From that space comes horror and that what I’m trying to keep at a distance by burying myself into tasks.
It’s almost midnight. There is going to be fireworks display but before that we’re going to wish happy new year to the guests. I’m handed a tube which shoots out glitter when you pull a string.
That’s when I run out of power. I hand the glitter gun to my manager.
“Andrew, you know that I have never refused a job, I have never ever said no but please don’t make me do this, I can’t.”
I had carried plates with food and without food, I had cleared dirty knifes and forks, I had swapped bread rolls when someone had wanted white instead of wholewheat but I couldn’t pretend to be happy. I just couldn’t.
He took the gun off me without saying a word.
I was going to wait in the hallway when others went into the hall with their glitter guns but one of the managers, who had seemed to have enjoyed something besides the party spirit, tried to get me to take one.
“I’m not going to do it, Andrew said I don’t have to”, I tried but he wasn’t listening.
“Oh come on Ida”, he said, almost waving it in my face.
It was as if his eyes and hair had changed colour and his features had changed.
Luckily two other managers saw what was happening and stepped in between us from both sides like a pair of curtains because I was just about to pounce.
No! I said no! A free piece of advice: believe it the first time when a woman says no!
Instead I walk away in a huff, looking yet again for a quiet space where I could be alone. When Andrew appears a few minutes later, I’m crying on top of a pile of folded tables.
“Come on darling, get up. You know I can’t crouch properly”, he says gently.
Again this man’s part in life was getting his nice work shirt wet from my tears and snot.
“It’s going to get better Edie”, he always called me Edie. “Karma is a good friend of mine. She’s going to get him in the end. Come on now love. It’s a new year, a new dawn. Lets go see the fireworks.”
I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions, except not dying. That was all I could manage, really. My chest was constantly hurting so my heart felt literally broken. I could only exist from one breath to the next because anything further than that was terrifying. I thought I was going to die any second from sorrow.
A lot happened this year. I made and lost friends, resigned for the first time in my life to write again for a living, something that I thought would never happen.
This year I was given what might be the closest to justice I’ll ever get when my rapist’s mother said she believes me.
I am eternally grateful to her because it would’ve been so easy for her to say I was lying.
You will never hear me say a word against his family because this incredible woman could see past her immediate reaction to protect her son to acknowledge me.
What it must’ve felt like hearing something like that about your child.
My life crumbled when I ended up behind three sets of locked doors in a loony bin in the summer 2017.
A blank page. Nothing. Everything I had worked so hard for was gone.
I had to make a decision: I was either going to die or live. Lets be honest, dying is easy. It’s much, much more terrifying to choose life.
I took a step forward to fall over backwards but I got up. I always got up. I didn’t always know what for but I always got up.
I’d be lying if I said it was easy, especially on New Year’s Eve 2018.
Still, what would the point of it all if I’d stay down?
Why did I survive the most disgusting things a human being can do to another if I gave up now? I had come so far.
Why did I end up surviving when I tried to kill myself if I gave up now?
I’m never going to see justice or have a closure but he will definitely win if I stay down. I’ve had to make the decision to stay alive so many times. That’s why it’s so hard, you need to make that decision every day.
I am going to survive this. I AM going to survive this.
Now I’m sitting in my parents’ kitchen writing. Marsa the cat is sitting next to the laptop, too far to be petted but still participating. She has been my quiet writing companion since I was a teenager. Mum is baking pulla, a type of cinnamon rolls. The air smells like cardamom. Once dad comes home from work, we’re going to go see fireworks.
It’s a new year. A new dawn.
This year’s resolution is not just staying alive, we’re past that. Instead I will be doing my absolute best so that the girl washing blood from her thighs in the shower alone can look around her one day and say:
This is what I survived for.