the last lap

Please note: the following story has been submitted anonymously.  To protect the confidentiality of the persons involved, all names and identifying features have been altered.


 

August 31, 2014

PTSD

Lately, I lie awake at night. My body and mind crave rest, but I can’t shut out the chatter. How do I go to school at an institution which dismissed my most personal tragedy? Everyone seems so normal. How do I explain that in a place where my mind was supposed to be liberated, I have instead found a prison?

I thought that I remembered that night freshman year with hauntingly vivid clarity. But then the flashbacks started to intensify, and I realized that much of my story was yet untold.

With a shaky, tired voice, I declared to the panel “he’s guilty.” Less than 48 hours later, they found him innocent. I was flooded with emotion, both paralyzed and enraged.

But I still returned. While Middlebury is a place of profound grief for me, it is also a place of great warmth.

I wanted to put my best foot forward, yet the triggers and nightmares intensified. Every time a black car goes down Hepburn Road, I cringe. I know that he won’t be back for another week, and that we’ll have a No Contact Order. I still cringe. All black cars, not just the ones that look like his. Some see a Honda, I see a hearse.

As I was finishing up my last bit of unpacking and organizing, I found a half-used pack of Chloraseptic, a type of lozenge that numbs your throat. YOU FOOL! YOU ABSOLUTE IDIOT! The investigators asked you if you had experienced any physical pain after that night. You said “not that I can recall.” But here’s the proof- the pack of half-eaten cherry lozenges. You remember now. You remember how terribly your throat ached the next morning. You remember rushing to MiddXpress to purchase some sweet relief. You remember coughing up the blood.

So I’m left in my bed, unable to sleep and completely devastated. Because I don’t know what I want more, to remember or to forget.

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

September 2, 2014

She/Me

Middlebury College. The “progressive” “safehaven.” “Diversity.” “Student-centered.” “The campus on the hill.”

Wide-eyed, slightly nervous, totally awkward freshman have flocked to this campus. Normally, I would say “my campus” or “our campus.” But I can’t say that now. Disaggregated. Isolated. Frustrated. Violated.

I was one of them once. Wide-eyed. I was slightly nervous. So awkward. Excited for the adventures ahead.

This campus (not “my” campus or “our” campus) has a way of doing that- of leaving people with stars in their eyes. The academic rigor. The rural setting. The granola. HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE GRANOLA?

But I’m no longer under their spell, whomever “they” are. Middlebury is a contested site. Sure, there are moments when I forget, like trespassing at the abandoned quarry. I try so damn hard to forget, only to beat myself up for not wanting to honor my lived experience. To remember.

When I see the wide-eyed, slightly nervous freshmen, I see myself two years ago. I long for their optimism and trust.

The most painful picture on my phone has never been the picture that I took with my assailant and my hall hours before that night. The picture that tears me apart is the picture that I took a few days earlier, alone. I yearn for that girl with the goofy smile and long, red hair. I long for the girl with the broken glasses. I miss her; I mourn her. And when I see the freshmen awkwardly holding their maps, I know for certain that she is dead.

 

RIP to a former me, gone but not forgotten.

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

September 3, 2014

Abbey Pond

Abbey Pond is my refuge. It is scenic; it is a treasure. It reminds me of home and of better days.

And tomorrow, I’ll be inside all day, at my work training or at the doctor’s. Then there’s dinner. So today, I decided to go to Abbey Pond- to get some sunlight and fresh air so that I’ll have something fond to remember tomorrow. I went alone.

Everything was fine until I got a little too caught up with my footing. I didn’t see the tree, and then its branch brushed my head. Pine. And in an instant, my mood did a 180. I froze. I panicked. I shook my head “no.” His hands on my head. I remembered what I had sought to forget.

I refused to give up. I had already driven all the way to the trailhead. This was my time to unwind. It’s just a tree branch, I told myself. It’s a tree. Trees don’t have hands. You can’t seriously be afraid of a tree.

So I kept on walking. I was proud of myself. I was determined. And after a little while, I stopped thinking about the pine branch. My breath steadied. I can do this. I’ve got this.

But then, the rocks became a bit slippery. My feet… I’ve got to pay attention to where I’m going! And at the end of that slick, rocky climb, I paused to take a breath. My spine uncurled. Another branch.

There was no ignoring my panic the second time around. My breathing became rapid. My mind spun. This wasn’t just a tree. And amidst all of this confusion and chaos, I saw him hiding on the opposite side of the trail. The pale skin. The blonde, Justin Bieber hair. It was him. I’m going to die. Here in the woods. This is it.

I raced back to the parking lot. A dash, then a glance back. Repeat. Was he following me? I made it out of the trees. I unlocked my car. I cried.

There were no other cars in the lot. He had never been on the trail. Call it what you want, a mirage or a figment of my imagination. A flashback. I feel absolutely crazy. Knitting cat sweaters status.

You’ve taken a lot from me, you sick bastard. And now you’ve taken Abbey Pond.

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

November 26, 2014

Bike.

I feel like I’ve been in a frantic race this entire semester, and I’m finally closing in on the last lap. I’m excited to be free soon- so soon- in Jterm. Free from a face that continues to torment me; free from this paralyzing fear. But first, I have one last lap.

I had finished my last class. I was headed up the hill to grab a bite in Proctor and pack for Laura’s house. Thanksgiving break. As I climbed the steep hill from CFA to Proctor, I saw you. I was walking my bike. I stopped and started shaking, struggling to keep control of my grip on the handlebars. The front wheel swerved everywhere. Panic.

Finally, I gave up. I turned my back to you and propped my bike against my body as you passed by. I was shaking uncontrollably.

You muttered “cool,” ever so sarcastically under your breath.

WAKE THE FUCK UP. I didn’t turn around because I’m rude. I turned around because what you did to me makes it impossible for me to look you in the eye or to even contemplate you as a real person. Monster.

It’s so unfair. You pop up at the least convenient times, and the triggering ensues. When I have an important presentation and you startle me so badly that I spill oatmeal everywhere in Proctor. When it’s raining and you won’t get off of the path near Munroe so I have to dirty my new boots in the mud. When I’m smiling- when my mind is starting to feel on break- and you waltz over hill. Hypervigilance. Damn it. I had let myself feel safe- that fleeting illusion. I had let my guard down.

This has been such a long race- a horrid, long, shitty race. I thought that you’d be abroad for the semester. I showed up to the start line with so little training.

And you know what? I’ve almost made it, and I’m so very proud. But the last lap is always the hardest, and I’m filled with exhaustion and anticipation. Please, don’t give up now. This has gotten better. This will get better still. A week left to go. You will triumph. You will finish strong.

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

-Middlebury College

Advertisements