I understood the tenets of harm reduction before I really knew what that meant. That is, I understood things without academia’s interference by being the rum soaked gerbil not the man with the microscope. My carpal tunnel sort of gripped my forearm forcing me to take the pen and sign up for a monthly membership to Massage Philly. Harm reduction is not dropping the straw but the way you spread your fingers sometimes with it tucked into your waistband or bra to wash your hands or to stretch or to pet a stray cat.. Harm reduction isn’t throwing away the headphones, it is keeping them in your bookbag for as long as you can. Harm reduction isn’t stopping the walks, it is fitted Nikes, hydration, knee exercises and trying to breathe without turning the volume up, or on a good day, there is nothing in your hand or on your back. You don’t wear the bookbag that day. You put some cash in your pocket. You are not purchasing that day. You are smiling at dogs. You are friendly to children. You are feeling the weather. It is the way you craft each playlist to be disposable after a certain amount of use. It is not the deactivation or deletion but the constant removal of the phone from hand, or the removal of the headphones
“I have never relaxed,” I tell the technician.
I am not embarrassed or ashamed of the things my body holds or the way I wear my fright honestly and boldly. I never tell a lie. I don’t think it is possible for me to do this. Due to my submission to truth in this way, I become more wiley.
“The trick is you can’t get caught,” I tell her confidently walking into the store. I turn around to grin, “You know me.”
I push the double doors open with my back.
“I just may confess everything”
If there’s anything I placed too much value on it’s an external locus of control, i.e. luck. He tells me to lay down face up to start.
“We will start with your neck.”
That’s where everyone always starts. With my throat, my neck, my jaw line.
“I have dysphagia,” I say to someone else filling out paperwork.
They always start with the throat.
But it’s hard. Not hard like sore or stiff but hard like a small bouncy ball is stuck in there and shrunk a little so you can’t see it but things get caught on top sometimes and
“How much water do you drink?”
“With meals, I try to drink at least three small glasses.”
The doctor looks at me, discerning. I do not tell lies.
“Ok, here comes the lavender.”
I feel some light pressure at the base of my skull where every thought got caught in webbing.
If a man breathes near me, I tense so I begin to list things. Things I have to do when I get home. Things I have to get from the store. The next section of the house to clean. Things that I can no longer swallow. How much money I have in my bank account. Ways to double my bank account. Seven alternative endings to an email. The time I shouldn’t have said anything but did so now I am reneging or backtracking, but only internally.
“Ok, I am going to stretch your neck.”
Things I need to remember, like memories. Things I am supposed to let go of. Open your palm.
“Good,” he whispers and I do let my neck drop to the table and lift up with his hands without him even saying relax.
When a man touches me, I tense. What men don’t believe is anything and I have a plan to prove it. I begin to list the ways that men have traumatized me. I put my thumb up so he knows I’m serious.
1. When I was five years old, my babysitter’s brother raped me.
2. My older brother terrorized me as a child, bullying me as a form of affection but also physically crossing boundaries while teaching me how destructive boys could be.
3. My dad’s friend used to comment on my appearance all the time.
4. My dad forgot to pick me up at the pool one time.
5. My dad forgot many things.
6. A kid kissed me on the school bus without me agreeing to it once. My brother taught me how to punch a guy in the chest so hard he loses his breath after that. He also taught me how to kick their nuts.
He begins to work on my forearm and we both hear it pop.
“Unfold your palm.”
I walk with a bit of a stalk and tall but I do always carry something. I sleep with a grinding jaw and clenched fist. We both feel the pop near the thumb.
“Wow,” is all he can say.
I continue to list things but the fox interrupts me. We go to see the bear and I know what that means.
I don’t want to see the king.
But you’ve been asking to see the king.
I am scared.
I fall through the water anyway and when I emerge backwards through time, I see him on the island in his red and white garb, smiling. Time for favor. Yes, bear, you are right. I have begged.
“You have one wish.”
Let that rage go.
I feel him in my shoulders.
“This is a tricky spot,” he says.
I feel it like a black misty armor. It’s on my right side.
“Your right side is tighter.”
My right side is barbed and ready and dark. A viscous fog wraps my back, bicep and shoulder. You know how it may feel to carry a shield all day?
“Oh yeah,” and I jump a little
Let that rage go.
“I want whole body healing,” I say to the man on the beach.
But then I stammer, panic, is that right? I am doubting although arrogant in public. Should I say freedom? Yes of course. I get it. He waits.
“I want whole body healing.”
“Ok, sit here, rest and take your time getting up. I will be out front when you are ready.”
I do take my time in the room with the pink light that day. Even if I lay only a minute longer, it is a minute longer than usual. He gives me chocolate and water and some ideas. I promise to come back and remind him of the contract. I walk outside without fixing my hair. The sunlight is bright. It is hot and I am an infant. Pausing for a moment, I find my feet.
It’s always like this. Not the incessant male interruption, although it
but the synthesis. The way the stories come in three folds and I can’t keep up. It’s like this. I want to list the things they’ve done and I also want the king. I begin to walk away when I feel him grab my arm.
Let that rage go, Catarina.