You think you know what you’d say to your rapist if you ran into him at a Starbucks on a Sunday afternoon.
You think you'd be able to pull out every awful thing in the book and hurl them toward him.
At least something like...
“Get away from me, you sick freak.”
Except with more colorful language.
But instead he asks, “Is anyone sitting here?” gesturing to the lounge chair across from you, and you reply, “No” before you figure out who he is. You do a double-take. He smiles.
And instead you will start making small talk. About the weather. It's sunny today.
“Do you remember me? Do you remember my name?”
You do. You wish you didn’t.
“Amanda, right? Amanda Phillips”
That is your name, you confirm.
You get on your phone and text the first 8 people you can think of:
“My rapist is at Starbucks.”
“Get out,” they will tell you.
But you can’t. You don’t know how that’s possible, with everything in your body telling you to bolt, get out, leave, go. You can’t even move, you can’t breathe; you can hardly speak when he asks you a question. Mostly, you are trying not to cry.
You check the time.
Your friend was supposed to be here at 6:00. Any minute, now.
She texts you that she’s running behind.
Any minute, now.
Any minute, she’ll be here, and you can go outside. You can get away.
You try to act normal because you’re scared. He keeps saying things and you can’t say anything back.
“You left your earrings, you know? If you want them back, you’re going to have to come get them.”
You are holding back tears.
Your phone goes off every 5 seconds.
“Get out of there.”
“Are you okay?”
“Make an excuse, get up.”
Your head is spinning. He tells you that he got a promotion at work, as if you are old friends, and another one within that organization that sponsored the gala That One Night in January.
“Did you tell your friends? Do they know it was me? Who knows?”
You do not look at him.
“I guess that could go either way. I was flattered, you know? I couldn’t help myself.”
You hear from your friend. She got held up with some stuff. She’s not coming. You know that you have to find a way out on your own, as if you need permission to remove yourself from the situation. You tell him that your friend rescheduled, and you need to head out.
You tell him that it was nice to see him.
You get out, you leave, you go. You take your venti iced chai, which you have not taken a sip of, with you.
You stumble around the ottomans. You can’t move fast enough.
He is saying something but you don’t listen, you only focus on the door, where it is, how far away, what is between you and it, how quickly you can get to it, where to wrap your fingers around the handle, how hard you need to push, how quickly you can open it, how fast it can close again, how to put a barrier between you and him.
You open your car door, get in, and exhale the biggest breath of your life.
You drive home, you put on sweatpants, you prepare for the breakdown.
You get your favorite pillow and your favorite blanket, the chunky handknit one from Pottery Barn, and you lay down on the couch.
Lemon and Cricket curl up on the floor beneath you. They know what to do. They may not know how to sit, but they know how to do the things that matter.
You turn on your Apple TV so you are not all alone with your thoughts.
You call your mother, which was a mistake, because she is three hours away and you are hysterical and you will worry her.
She tells you that you are safe and asks when she can come down.
You can tell she is frightened and that makes you feel awful.
You call Kaitlin. You tell her you miss Maggie. She asks what Maggie would say and you cry because you do not know, you cannot feel her. That scares you the most.
You try to call Sarah, but she does not answer. You remember that she had a photoshoot today. She calls back, but by this point you are really out of words. So you just stay on the phone in silence. She understands. You don’t have to say anything.
You hang up the phone. It is time to regroup. You have a decision to make. You can fall apart, or you can rise. Kaitlin reminds you that you have always been a riser, a survivor, a champion, a warrior. Always. You do not feel like any of those things right now, though, on your couch with your thoughts.
You do not feel like you can rise, but you decide to rise anyway. It is the only choice you really have. It has always been your nature to rise. If you don’t rise, he wins. Jeremy refers to him as the guy who ruined your life and you get angry at that. He did no such thing. He did not ruin your life. He took something from you, but you are nothing if not a regenerative spirit. Facing him reminded you how to find your strength, how to tap into it. How to summon joy. You are nothing if not a survivor, Kaitlin says. You commit, in that moment, on the couch, with the Pottery Barn blanket, to speak that over your life every day, every morning, every moment, every breath, every second. You are a survivor. You have survived; you will continue to survive.
You wake up the next morning, early. The shame hits, a little. You have felt it before. It is no stranger. It speaks some things to you: to hide, to hush, to stop. “You are too much. You need to stop. You just need to stop. Way too much. Too, too much. Hide. Hush. Stop.”
“Thank you for sharing,” you say. You exhale.
You get off the couch, where you could have stayed all day, under that blanket, hiding. But you speak that you are a survivor, so you make some eggs. You turn on The Rolling Stones. Beast of Burden. You dance in the kitchen with your dogs. They are always happy when it is time to dance. When is it not time to dance, after all?
You have some time, so you look up flights for Bali again. You pick the dates. You tell your mother that you have to go, and soon, and alone, and she does not argue this time. You have to get out, leave, go -- this time for freedom's sake.
You talk to Laura about the shame. She tells you that you are wonderful and loved and not too much. Everybody tells you that, so you decide that the voice telling you that you are is a liar.
You are not too much.
You are not too much.
You are not too much, sweet girl.
She reminds you about Jesus. That he took your shame to the cross so you don’t have to experience it anymore. She reminds you of the Gospel. She tells you that you were hurt by someone else and that you didn’t do anything wrong. That you are free.
You believe her. She says she will not love you perfectly through this, and you say that is alright, because Jesus will. He will never disappoint. He will always tell the truth. He will always speak light over you. He will always remind you who you are: his daughter, his child, his beloved, a warrior, a survivor. That you have always been these things, and you will always be these things. You are redeemed and loved and promised good things. He can redeem anything, He has a plan for you that is bigger and better than what you have cooked up in your mind, and you are bursting with vision and purpose and dreams and goals.
You are free, because He says you are free. He speaks that over you, that you are free, that you are a survivor. That you do not have to hide under that blanket with your tears, which he has counted, by the way. Every last one of them. You have freedom because He says you are free.
So, you rise.