My Man

My man wants to know how many men I’ve had sex with.

I tell him the truth: I don’t know.

I don’t feel the need to know how many times I’ve been raped. I have no desire to quantify the horror, shame or mistakes. I might explode with rage if I focused on those who eagerly traumatized me for their own pleasure.

During my employment as a happy-ending masseuse, I ended up giving much more than the hand jobs I signed up for. Now I’m trying to create a happy ending for my own life but my man keeps asking me about the past. His questions awaken violent emotions in me.

The customers who paid for hand-jobs knew that I wouldn’t call the police when they raped me because I’d be incriminating myself.

My only crime was being born below the poverty line. Self-abuse and self-neglect were ingrained in me by my parents.

I was hungry and trying to get an education I couldn’t afford. I was told ‘here is the ladder you must climb to reach a better life.’ I set to climbing. I solved my financial problems creatively.

My man fixates on the absence of the number of men. I’d tell him if I knew, maybe.

His questions feel invasive and probing.

I used to be valued by men for what I could give- my young, beautiful body.

Now I am devalued by my man for what I have given men.

Men only value women in relation to other men.

When will I be seen as my own person, my own human, inherently invaluable?

My man bemoans what I don’t know; the quantity of traumas too numerous to count, too common to stand out in my blurred memory.

Yet he doesn’t complain about the food I put on his plate, the home I make, or the bills I pay.

I implore him to wait, let me tell my story when I feel ready. I don’t think I’ll ever feel ready. When he asks me about my sexual history I feel ill, anxious and hurt.

I find my breath, reassure myself that he didn’t mean to inflict suffering, and flirt with forgiveness. I remind myself that my spiritual groundedness is stronger than even my exaggerated stress response, my current perceived crisis.

He knows that I was a pushover, pretty and poor. For all of his scheming, jealousy and time spent thinking about me, you’d think my man would connect the dots.

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