The news has been brimming lately with lusty accusations, tardy revelations, and full-blown descriptions of sexual harassment and unwelcome sexual advances triggered by individuals in power or by those who use power to supplant a warped need to control. Victims of sexual assault finally are beginning to speak out and that’s a good, although painful, outcome of the current exposure of this enormous problem. With this crisis in mind, I decided to create a fictional piece about how sexual exploitation is not a one-instant ordeal. It becomes embedded in one’s experience. It lives on.
I saw it there etched into one, dark green, tumbled marble tile on the bathroom floor. It was his face, a bit distorted and slightly soiled but present nonetheless. The man’s eyes were what caught my attention first. They were small, round holes above what appeared to be wide, bloated cheeks, although I could be wrong. His entire face looked bloated; perhaps it was simply fatty though, the way I remembered it, way back then, in a moment I thought I had forgotten, or at least, effectively tucked away into a dirty recess of my mind. Yet those eyes, like eerie, black holes drew me in, and I shuddered, afraid all over again. And the hair . . . it was the same too - a shock of dry, straw-like, nasty brown strands combed sideways over a darkly freckled, bald patch of scalp. I will never, never, forget staring at those hideous blotches as he came toward me, his sinewy arms outstretched . . . reaching, reaching. The vision of that instant in time, when my voice failed me, when my instincts deserted me, when my body was crushed into a patch of gravel, brittle leaves, and mud, when I gave up and in, came back in vivid color this morning when he startled me with his unlikely emergence in a square of grouted stone.
I knew then that he never fully had disappeared; nor would he. Never. His lengthy absence had been a delusion, and his visage, manifesting itself so strikingly this day, was another stinking jolt to my senses. I felt sick to my stomach. Ashamed. Humiliated. Sad. And, I was reluctant still, to say a word . . . until now.