It is 5am. An already warm, bright morning. The air is dry and dusty.
A woman is walking aimlessly along the road. Tired and worn. She is carrying a plastic bag with several items inside. Her hair is loosely tied on top of her head. She is wearing a short cotton skirt, oversized t-shirt and pumps.
During her sleepwalking state through the haze of the city she sees several early risers. Waiting for their bus. Or wearing their smart skirt/trainers combo for a trek into work. She can distinguish between these people and the one’s finishing a shift. They were either propped up against the bus stop trying to resist fully falling asleep. Or, still energised from work, frantically texting or playing games on their phone.
She didn’t associate herself with any of these people. And yet, even the odd one that had been out all night drinking and dancing, well, she didn’t feel akin to them either.
No one seemed to look at her as she floated by.
Even though she was tired, aching, her body yearning for rest, her mind wired. She had a heightened sensibility, felt completely aware of everything around her. She started to notice, what she hadn’t seen before, on these familiar roads.
A man and his son where lying on the dry grass.
“It’s five in the morning! What the hell are they doing up at this time?” She thought.
“How long have they been there? All night? Jesus. The kid looks about four. Maybe the dad has run off, taken the kid and left his wife. But they have nothing with them, no bag. Maybe the kid had a nightmare and can only get a restful sleep in the open air. What a kind father. What an idiot. Anyone could take that kid”.
She carried on walking. All the shops she passed were shut except a small bakery. Behind the grill-covered windows she could see two people frantically preparing bread, and buns, and cakes for the oven. The smell made her nauseous.
As she carried on down the road, she turned right and approached a hill. She knew this was the road.
She had an amazing feeling. Something made her knees weak, and she stumbled a few steps forward. She stared at the sun through the city fog, watched all the houses ahead of her and wondered. About the people sleeping inside. Peaceful, restless, dreaming, holding each other, more early risers, babies crying. She shuddered at the last thought. That, she didn’t want.
This amazing feeling was a closeness, to everyone. But, there was virtually no-one around. No-one she knew. A warming feeling of self-assuredness, to go forward. She didn’t want to be close to them, in their houses, in their beds. But she felt a part of something. She felt rooted to the ground.
She wanted to be everyone all of the time. To experience everybody. A strange feeling she couldn’t explain if anyone asked. For a short while, just to be them, to know their thoughts and feel what they feel, but all at the same time, everyone at the same time. Like a strange orchestra, everyone’s feelings and thoughts combined in unison to make a great amazing, wonderful voice, the screams of children. Felt through her body.
“Where had this come from?” she thought. “This feeling is not like me at all”.
She had discharged herself from the hospital at 4.15am and decided it would be a good idea to walk home. The nurse seemed terribly sleep deprived and anxious, every action seemed automatic and hurried. She made a small attempt to convince the woman to stay.
“You’re not ready to go yet”.
“I’m not in a rush to get home”, she replied to the nurse “This just isn’t the place for me at the moment”.
She went to the toilet before she left. She still had wet blood on her knickers. She thought she’d stopped bleeding. Grabbing a handful of tissues, she stuck it between her legs, pulling her knickers back up to hold it in place. Reassuring herself the numbing pain would subside on the walk.
She stopped at a pedestrian crossing. An automatic response when the ‘red man’ was showing. But there wasn’t a single car in sight. It was incredibly quiet on this road. She stood there staring down at the kerb. She didn’t realise how long she’d been standing there. Staring. Thinking. About what? The lights had changed three times.
She walked across the road and noticed several ‘missing dog’ posters on the lampposts as she passed. An offer of one thousand pounds for the safe return of Lola, a black pug dog. No questions asked. There was a picture of the dog, and another of the dog and its owner. She looked at this poster for several minutes, and then carried on walking slowly. Feeling a sudden urgency to help this poor man find his missing Lola, she thought about the unfortunate situation. This man is alone in his search. No policeman would look for a missing dog. Offering one thousand pounds was a crazy amount. She couldn’t stop thinking about the money. “I could really use that right now”.
She didn’t care, had never cared much for cats or dogs. She couldn’t understand the relationship people had with animals in their home. It seemed very strange. “Why do they feel they want and need animals in this way?” she thought.
“I could really use that money”. But the more she thought about this man and his Lola, she imagined their home together. A very spoilt dog, she wants for nothing. Eats luxury dog food, has all the latest toys. The furnishings in the house have seen better days but he prefers to spend money on his dog. Assuming he was a bachelor alone with his Lola. If she belonged to a large family the situation would probably have been the same.
“It would be so good to find this dog” she thought. “For this man and for myself. That’s not selfish”. She felt a warm, genuine care for this couple, a need to find this dog. She noticed a cat lying in the sun on someone’s driveway. Longing for it to be Lola, she even thought about taking the cat. Perhaps, not even to offer it up as Lola, but just to have this animal. As a substitute? What would she do with it? She laughed at herself.
Approaching a park, she wanted to enter but the gates were still closed. Going through the park would cut out twenty minutes off her journey, not that she had to save time. She squeezed through some broken railings that seemed to be attached to someone’s back garden; neglected for quite some time.
Now in the park, in her own private space, at least for a while anyway. She failed to realise how she would get out the other side, with those gates closed too. It did cross her mind but she didn’t worry.
“Maybe I’ll just lie down on the grass until someone opens it, I’m not going back”.
Feeling exhausted but happy, numb to thoughts of her body. To the pain. She lay down on her back in a wide open part of the park and closed her eyes. She could hear the birds. There was an illusion of breathing fresh air in this park. In the middle of the city. It felt dry, but smelt sweet. “Why does it smell sweet? The grass? The trees? I guess”. She could smell her own body. She felt dirty. Well, she hadn’t washed for six days. The smell was ripe but not unpleasant to her. She warmed to the smell. She thought about the blood between her legs. “When I was younger this would’ve really freaked me out. Now, I don’t even care. And, I’ll tell people”.
“I shouldn’t be ashamed of this, or being dirty. Being dirty is natural. Everything is natural. Maybe I’ll just let myself go completely” she laughed.
She tried not to think too much about what had happened. It would lead to worrying and all she felt like doing was lying as still as possible. Rooted to the ground. Thinking meant moving in some way. “What good was it to think now anyway, what’s done is done”.
It was getting on for six in the morning. Nothing had changed. No-one around, in the park.
She felt relaxed, weighted down, incredibly still. She soothed herself with gentle breathing as she could feel creeping pains in her abdomen. She imagined herself naked. Like this. Lying on her back on the grass, legs straight, slightly apart, arms by her side. She imagined what this might look like to passers-by. Naked. Blood between her legs, dripping down. Appearing as if left for dead. But lying in an odd position for someone who could have possibly been raped. Violently. The raped woman would be lying on her front, or curled up in a foetal position. She found a slight pleasure in the curiosity. Of being disconnected from her body. Her mind elsewhere whilst a cruel, dramatic act was being carried out on her. She would fight, resist, but give in.
“There is a need to disconnect your mind from what is happening to your body” she thought. “As if this is automatic, and an empty home we can leave and come back to. But. What happens to the scars and the damage to the body?”
She brought her hands up and laid them down on her chest. She thought about all the scars she had. All self-inflicted. She shuddered for a moment, felt embarrassed at the thought of gaining pleasure from being raped. “But this is quite common right?” she asked herself. “Why do a lot of women get pleasure from imagining themselves being raped, particularly by a stranger? Even if they would never admit it to their friends, as if surrendering, feeling weak”.
“Women want to be passive” she imagined saying this out loud to her female friends and laughed. “They would have a lot to say to that” she thought.
“Maybe a lot of women don’t want choice and freedom. It’s too much. They don’t want to be equal to men, or they admit it’s too much to compete with them. They would rather relinquish control. Maybe women have too much choice? They’d rather give the control back to men. At least their bodies”. She felt sad at this, and then sick. She knew it wasn’t true at all. She laughed at the idiocy of even thinking about it. She didn’t know what to think.
She rolled onto her front, and felt very comfortable. With arms up over her head. “I could stay here”.
“The only thing stopping me is life”.
Her legs felt extremely achy and weak in this position. It was a tingling, a lovely feeling. As if the blood was rushing away from her body, through her legs and out of her feet. She tried to wiggle them, and her toes. Into better positions. But in the end she lay still and indulged the sensation.
“No, no you’re wrong” she said to herself. “What are you talking about? It’s a fantasy. That’s all. Like all other fantasies. The violent, submissive act of rape is just a fantasy for women. And there it stays. You know that. The reality is unquestionable. Many women would try with all their strength to fight them off. Maybe what women want is to act out repressed emotions and thoughts in their head, like this, as a fantasy”.
“I dunno, of course it’s a fantasy, but it still doesn’t make sense. Just the idea that women would imagine this to happen at all. I guess it’s an erotic desire, its fun to act out the forbidden in your head. Or in a game, but not for real”.
“The woman, when she plays out the fantasy could also be the rapist as well as the victim. She is playing out both roles, so she is in power. Which she can’t really do in reality”
“Is the rapist always represented by a man though?” she asked herself this question but she was too exhausted to think about it. She could hear the traffic on the road nearby.
She didn’t feel like doing anything. And this grew into a feeling of being locked in her own body. She pressed her stomach to the ground to feel it again. The pain came back in agonising waves. Pain she thought she could cope with. People used to say she had a high threshold for it. But this was uncomfortable and strange, and making her dizzy. She leaned back on her heels, rocking back and forth, doubling over, she pushed her forehead into the ground. “I took those painkillers before I left, I’m sure I did”.
She looked up and around to scan the park. It was six thirty. She counted three people walking their dogs and one person jogging past. She thought of Lola and laughed.