I am ashamed to admit that I began to take for granted my virtual freedom. To some extent, I have forgotten to appreciate fully the joy of browsing the internet without interrogation or fear of retribution, without attempts to create guilt or fear, without angry outbursts in the next room or menacing stares. I had simply forgotten.
Today, as I searched for a place to share my poetry it all came rushing back. It immediately struck me that each organization that provides support for Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse victims and survivors prominently displays a button entitled “Quick Escape” ~usually in neon red or bright orange ~ so the victim who is looking for help in the quiet moments that s/he can steal is able to click it and instantaneously switch to an alternate home page and clear the cache. But even at that, they warn that the “Quick Escape” isn’t failsafe and that those who are still living with their abusers may be at risk by even visiting the very page they need to get help.
These pages also display prominent warnings about internet security and the ability for another person to intercept your correspondence or trace your virtual wanderings after the fact. In truth, this is still something that causes me tremendous anxiety today. Once your privacy…your journals, your email, your phone conversations, your web browsing, your writing, your everything…has been violated, you never feel safe again. And if you have ever crossed paths in your life with someone that controlling, it is likely that s/he will not let go of this interference easily. This is a hard reality with which I still live every day.
I am attaching a scan of a tattered, wrinkled, well-loved and cried upon side-by-side photo of myself that I carry with me every day. It grounds me and reminds me of how much difference a little time can make and how a “quick escape” of any sort can certainly save a life. For all of this, I am proud of myself. I am grateful for the privacy I have, the warm roof over my head, a safe home with my children, and my full and vibrant life. I am one of the lucky ones.
While I continue to search for the right place for this particular poem, I will share it with you here as well. And as you lay your head down to rest tonight, whether you are alone or beside someone you love, be very grateful for what you have.
When I Pretend to Sleep
When I pretend to sleep I hear the clock tick And warily wonder, Where is he now? Will he find me? And so it begins again…
The bed creaks. And with the weight of impatience the cover slides slowly down my leg. The unveiling. I shiver…
And shudder to think. I hold my breath. I dare not move as his fingers slowly dance with my curves. Quietly now. Silent, or else…
But he shatters me just the same. And as many nights before I muffle my soundless cry and think of elsewhere, hoping for respite as he takes what little of me there is left to give.
And when it is done I set my mind free to wonder where else it might gently rest. - Tomorrow - When, again, I pretend to sleep.
~Christine A. Lasher