Cinematic Capsize: A Sexual Assault Story in 7 Parts

Rayelyn Mallari //

Content Warning: The following poem contains themes of sexual violence, suicide, and PTSD that may be traumatizing or uncomfortable to some readers. 

Part I – Here Lies My Silence 

September 

Sixth grade

I’m the girl in the cafeteria 

plastic gloves and a hair net

Wiping down tables 

I see him

As I’m sweeping corn into a dustpan 

The tall tan man sees me and smiles 

Walks over and asks me, 

“Hey, want to help me clear out 

The back room? There’s a lot of stuff 

And I could use a hand.” 

“Yes, I will help you.” 

We walk up the ramp 

He opens the door for me 

I see an empty metal crate 

sports equipment all over the floor

Seems obvious what he wants me to do 

His name… 

Mr. Cordova

The school custodian  

He insists that everyone calls him Tony 

He stands at the cafeteria entrance every morning 

Saying hello to me before I went off to class 

He never did that with anyone else 

I’m here, 

Half the floor cleared 

And he hasn’t done much 

The room feels colder now 

I tell him this, but he doesn’t budge

He says, “Help me push the stuff into the crate. 

There’s not enough space for the rest.” 

I walk over and push down on the mound of balls 

I hear laughter from first graders entering the cafeteria 

On the other side of this wall 

Tony’s heavy footsteps coming closer to me 

His body hovers 

There has to be something to break my fall 

His breath hisses against my ear 

His beard scratches my neck 

His arms cage me in as he helps me push 

I can feel something being pressed against

My lower back  

He turns me around 

Looks me dead in the eyes 

As his hands roam under my shirt 

Tracing the bottom of my training bra 

His matches strike up against my skin

And I feel the fire 

He knew I was cold, but I didn’t feel any warmer 

His brown eyes turn gray smoke 

No one else knows I’m in flames 

He snarls, 

“Aren’t you easy? Doesn’t take much 

To keep you quiet. 

I know you want this. 

You’re a special little girl. 

You deserve it.”

I keep pushing him away 

But his grip tightens 

I don’t remember what happened next 

But I find myself walking out of the room 

Before the door closes, I look behind me 

One last time 

The jingle of his keys 

The corners of his lips upturn 

Down the ramp I burn  

I come back to class late 

The teachers and yard duty wonder 

Where I’ve been for the past two hours 

My friend sitting next to me taps my shoulder 

And asks why I don’t smell the same

“I thought it had only been thirty minutes…”

My voice shrivels and doesn’t let me finish 

Part II – Maybe It’s Better If I Didn’t Know

It’s been a few weeks since 

I know it wasn’t right, 

But I can’t bring myself to say 

He would do me wrong 

My gut’s telling me it’s the latter 

And it’s right 

I hear the girl from homeroom 

Talk to the teacher about 

Some old movie she watched over the weekend 

“There was this scene where 

The girl’s grandfather molested her

In his car…”

“What does the word molested mean?”

They both slowly turn to me 

When I ask the question 

And they look at each other 

With widened eyes 

It seems like the rest of the school

Whispered about it 

I feel the supervisors watching me 

Everywhere I go 

There is always a friend close by 

No one wants me to be alone 

But I don’t feel comfortable 

I search up the word 

Read the definition 

My knees buckle 

I stifle the cry 

Biting at my knuckles 

It’s of no use

I’m not sure if it’s better knowing 

Or staying naive  

He turned into a monster, 

And they all knew before me 

The fall leaves scrape against the asphalt 

The birds chirp their mellow songs 

The kids have fun playing basketball 

How can the rest of the world move on 

Like this doesn’t matter? 

Part III – Spiraling 

I don’t want to go to the restroom during class 

The hallways will be empty 

I will hear his truck speed through the corridor 

And I can’t let him see me 

“Another mental breakdown? Pretty on schedule if you ask me…”

I shake every time 

My friends come up from behind 

They ask me why 

I can’t say anything 

I don’t want them judging me

Like everyone else does 

“Sounds like some hot hentai I watched the other day, want to see?” 

The boys continue to undress me with their eyes

They never stop talking about 

Whatever they think he did to me 

It’s the yellow fever, but they don’t see the jaundice, just my thighs

“You should have known what he was going to do. It was pretty obvious” 

“You wouldn’t be like this if you just said no.” 

The voices during passing period always blame me 

I have nowhere to go 

There’s a reason why I stay quiet 

Whatever I say is going through deaf ears 

If they like what they want to see so much

I’m surprised they haven’t told me to go on a diet 

So I walk through the school with my head low 

I can’t be mad at them 

It’s not something I would want to hear 

either 

Part IV – Cinematic Capsize 

My orchestra class is held in that back room 

I have to sit there with my viola, pretend to be fine 

Every time I’m in there, 

I’m only going back to the scene of the crime 

I remember now 

the loud click of the door locking shut, 

As I left him there 

I imagine the chalk outline 

of what could have been my body 

I don’t think I was meant to make it out of there 

Alive 

No one believes me anymore 

They think I’m reaching for pity 

Just some attention to bandage the wounds 

Or was it that I’m the only tan girl in a sea of beige 

Is a cry for help from a little Asian girl nothing to this city? 

I see him in the nightmares 

He never stops 

He never leaves 

In every single one, I can’t speak 

So this is what becoming a woman is, I guess 

The man only sees me for 

The waist, the wrists, the crest of the neck

The breasts, the back, all the rest 

To him, I don’t have a heart or mind anymore 

You can’t say you haven’t seen it before 

It’s all in the movies 

Girl clings to her rare moment to shine 

Boy couldn’t care less

He stares at her other pair of eyes 

And of course, 

She’s created from the magic of feverish dreams 

Scripted to sign her life away to a man 

That doesn’t know any better 

Than to take what was never his 

And make it look good 

so he can forget her 

After all, it’s just for the plot of love letters 

I’m that girl from the screens

I’ve written my story 

But his shadow is all I’ll ever be 

I don’t want to be for him 

I want to be for me 

But if this be the only way I exist 

I’d rather poke at my wrists 

With my mechanical pencil 

Pretend it’s a syringe to draw all my blood 

He says he wants color 

I don’t know what he wants, but I have this to offer 

How ironic this writer use their own instrument 

To draw herself into the heavenly mist 

Part V – Take Care 

I’m sitting across from the nice lady in her office 

The empty pencil syringe sits on her desk 

She asks me to show her the marks 

I pull up my sleeve and the white etches 

Beam from the fluorescent lights 

She starts playing doctor 

Writes a referral for the school psychologist 

It’s lunch time, food tray in hand 

I walk into another nice lady’s office 

A light blue tissue box awaits the catharsis 

Fifty minutes a week 

I try to make her understand

What the last few years felt like 

I eventually stopped making time for the visits 

Not that I didn’t need it 

But when you have the stares waiting to see you choke 

Giving into the memory of Tony 

Makes my throat hurt 

I think my friends are starting to understand me 

I’m getting better at not letting it consume me 

The repaired ship swallows the bottle 

Throws his words out to a salty sea 

I’m okay here. 

I’m okay. 

I’m still here. 

Still

Here 

Part VI – Relapse 

I’m not in middle school anymore

It’s been years since

I thought I’ve forgotten but 

There’s always something around me 

Craving to conjure up his ghost 

And today, my mind lives in the past 

I walk into my speech class early this morning 

Biting on bleeding lips 

She stops me before I put on some chapstick 

I guess this is what I get for wearing my heart on my sleeve 

She’s expecting an answer and I tell her everything 

She says that she’ll lose her job

If she keeps my secrets 

Picks up the phone 

And tells the office ladies I’m on the way 

So this is where I’ll be staying today 

I pack my bag and drag myself out the door

The old white man dressed navy blue 

Officer badge by his shirt pocket 

Writes a new form 

Slips it into Tony’s old folder 

I’m not sure if this is the part where 

I can say I’m safe now 

He pulls out a recording box 

Starts the interview 

It’s the same thing  

But it’s a bit easier to talk about now 

Dad takes me home 

Doesn’t understand why 

I didn’t say anything sooner 

Family first 

He thinks I want to make us look cursed 

“I didn’t think being quiet would hurt 

You”

I say I want to take it to court, 

He tells me to keep my mouth shut 

I’m making things worse 

“No one else will hear about this, you got me?

We will not have our lives eaten up by ABC 30.”

I’m sick, but that doesn’t make me crazy 

Little did I know that Dad will no longer need to worry, 

The DA on my case would never call me back 

I’m at another cliffside 

Ready to dive 

And you have the nerve to call it a stunt 

Something to make the masses gasp once 

They see me in a pool of my own blood 

How funny, 

They throw me all the self help tissues, 

But you won’t let me heal in an empty room 

I see the light

The peace, the relief 

I walk toward it 

But she pulls me back 

The little girl that’s stayed with me 

She wants a happy ending to this story 

So I’ll keep trying for her 

For me 

Part VII – A Sweet Revival 

I don’t exist to entertain 

I don’t exist for him to write over my name 

It’s 2019 

I’m better now 

Must be the wellbutrin and lamotrigine 

I’m packing boxes 

to move somewhere 4 hours away 

I’m in college now 

The twelve year old me didn’t think she would see this day 

She holds my hand through the hallways 

My eyes flutter open 

Metamorphosis 

Everything is technicolor now 

I write her between my lines 

Whoever knows me will know her too 

I can see 

Blossoms grow from the cracks in my skin 

It’s a garden, 

A garden of a life waiting for me 

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