‘Then I hear them walking back to us, I see a flash of metal, and I know…’
We can almost hear the music and laughter from the party. As she starts telling her story, I look over her shoulder and see two welldressed men heading in our direction. I don’t think much of it when one of the guys comes and sits on the bench next to us. It irritates me, but it doesn’t scare me. ‘Are you tomboys,’ he asks, but it’s not a question. His white teeth ash, a stark contrast to his dark skin. I have no idea what he’s talking about. ‘Are you lesbians?’ he asks. Now I get it. ‘No,’ I say defensively. The other guy is standing behind us and we can’t see him. The guy who speaks to us is dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. ‘We are leaving now,’ I say, getting up assertively. ‘No, no, we’ll go,’ he says and they start to walk away. For a moment, I am relieved. This is always how these situations end. Always. They walk about 20m away and I see them standing and talking about something. The waves continue to spray their breeze over us. ‘Mich, I’m scared,’ my friend says. ‘It’s ne, don’t worry, we’ll leave now.’ I’m irritated with her for being scared. Haven’t I been in similar situations hundreds of times before? All we need to do is get out of there. I turn around from looking at them. Then I hear them walking back to us, I see a ash of metal, and I know.
When I wake up the next morning, my thighs, back and buttocks are a sickly greenish purple from where they kicked me, dragged me and threw me on the rocks. Every muscle in my body aches. My hands are completely numb and tinged blue from when I struggled in panic with the shoelaces. Surprisingly, my face is ne. I was right: the one who punched me didn’t hit that hard. But my vagina is tender. It hurts to pee. Luckily I’m not bleeding. How many people know how broken I am?
My mom and I go to the V&A Waterfront to replace some of the stu that was stolen, like my cellphone and my watch. Why? It was the only thing we could think of doing. Unlike when someone dies, there was no funeral to plan, no condolences to receive. I couldn’t denim jacket and black jeans. Also purple lacy underwear that now make me feel like it was wrong to wear them. Everything I thought I knew about rape and rape theories in principle was a little harder to put into practice now that I was a ‘survivor’.
I am still scared. Everything about me is less. I feel physically smaller than I did two days ago and my breath is shallow. In Woolworths’ dairy aisle I am sending a message to my friend Maria from my mom’s phone when I see another message from one of our family friends. ‘We are thinking of you during this time. X’. My stomach contracts. Bile rises in my throat. I can’t move. People can’t know. It’s my fault. I’m dirty now. I walk to my mom who’s picking up a carton of strawberry yoghurt. ‘You... can’t... TELL PEOPLE ’ I yell. ‘This is my story. I decide who knows. No one else, me.’ ‘OK. I understand. Should I ask everyone not to tell anyone?’ ‘Yes ’ I can’t breathe.
That night Maria comes over. We sit on the front porch and I tell her what happened. She is angry. Inside, I hear the comforting clatter of pots as my mom cooks dinner. On the wooden table in the dining room, my friend Ashley lays down a white tablecloth. A pot of my mom’s mince pasta is on it, and we sit obediently as my mom dishes for us. I look at the small lines which run and swerve and collide across my mom’s face. And the deeper ones around her eyes, which sometimes catch her tears before letting them fall.
‘Michelle,’ my mom says. ‘What?’ ‘What were you thinking? Trying to hit him with a panga?’ Her mouth easily breaks open into a laugh as she talks. ‘You can’t even walk across a at surface without tripping ’ She claps her hands once – loudly – as her body rocks forward. I shake my head. Sure Mom, now’s the time to talk about how clumsy I am. But I feel the smile sneaking into the corner of my mouth, and once that happens, we all laugh for a long time. Extracted from I’m the Girl Who Was Raped