This piece comes with a trigger warning (TW) of rape and sexual assault.

fuck it. rape is such a triggering word for me.

I’ll avoid it, even when I’m talking about it. any words

connected to it bring me back to

heavy nights. to whispers and my octopus-twisted gut feeling

of no. I was just giving in to implications. I never stopped to think

of the sea, roaring within me. of the salt saying

no. the girl I met, after her rape, she was living in the room

next door to me. we were in college, and with that, young and stupid.

might I even say naïve.

if I go back to that night, I wish I could change

what I did, because I lay in bed and listened to her crying.

her sobs, like the waves, building a creature of shame.

I went to her room and I remember I didn’t touch her. perhaps

she was comforted by my distance. a stranger. perhaps

she would have welcomed a loving touch of support. I only asked her

who she should call. your friends? your parents? then hesitatingly…

the police? that’s when her whispered no came. our nos were the brackish

spit back from our bodies. mine were silent. hers was too late.

we sat for a while. her, heaving sobs of the tide. me, silent and wondering.

helpless like a sea star caught in the sudden dryness of panic.

I return to that night, when the depths of horror resurface

again and again in the news, in the hopeless cries of victims, and I can

hear the nos, whispered, shouted, cried. I can hear them burning

in the silence of that night. a secret shame shared. I wish I could have

done more.

English teacher by trade, story writer for fun