The first time I noticed it was in Cambridge. Yeah, right in Central Square. We were at that Italian place—I think it was Italian. Pammy’s. Right. We always got those big gourmand dinners. You remember that fucking razor clam ceviche? I was hoping for something on that level.

Did you notice all the times I got up and went to the bathroom? I swear it wasn’t like that. I don’t do that anymore. I just lost my appetite when I saw it. Is it here now? Obviously.

What’s it like? I feel like you want me to use adjectives, and that doesn’t work for me. I mean, I already feel crazy enough telling you this. I don’t want to give you colors and shapes, because it wouldn’t matter what it looked like. 

I could say it looked like a gnome, or Britney Spears, or a Christmas tree, and you’d fucking laugh. And the conversation would be over.

You would.

Yeah. So I guess it’s more like, how does it feel? And it isn’t a real feeling. I know that. I know what hot and cold and fuzzy are. I’m not—I’m not trying to say I think it’s real, but real doesn’t matter because the way it makes me feel, that’s real, you know? And nothing—nothing touches that.

It feels—well the feeling comes in stages. It’s not just one thing that it makes you feel. It’s all at once, but also in phases, like your body is going through every feeling in such quick succession that it doesn’t know what to think, and it doesn’t think. 

Hm. Maybe.

It feels, real primal, animal stuff. Like I’m a dog that’s been kicked, and I turn around and bite you before you have a chance to move your foot away. 

Or more than that. Like I’m a dog that smells the bad intentions on you, and I start barking when you’re up the block. 

Yeah. That’s why I went into the bathroom. So you wouldn’t hear me bark. Classic, man.

No, I feel like you don’t get it. Maybe we should talk about something else. 

I don’t think so.

You keep saying “afraid.” But I’m afraid of sudden loud noises and cars crashing, but it isn’t like this. It’s different.

Different like…okay, the first part always comes over you like this pressure in your stomach. Have you ever been out, and suddenly needed to pee? And you knew that there were no bathrooms around, like you’re somewhere random up in midtown. So you start pulling up bars and restaurants to go into, but say it’s a holiday so everything is fucking closed.

But you don’t know that these places are closed, not right away. You have to jog up to the first one, some bar. Damn, closed. So you take a look at the map. Café up the street. Cool, let’s go there. Fuck, that’s closed. And you’re getting a little more embarrassed for running around, a little more desperate. 

Okay, there’s a hotel ten blocks up. Can you make it that far? Can you really make it? So you try to walk there at first, but it’s starting to really sink in that you have to pee, like now. And there’s that sense of humiliation, not the kind that churns your stomach, but the acid type, the one that curls around your sinuses and makes your ears hot. 

And you know you can’t ask anyone for help—who the fuck lives around there? If you go into a store, you could pretend to be pregnant, but could you really be convincing? Yeah, I know you couldn’t pretend to be pregnant, man. It’s an example.

So you’re desperate, and you can’t ask anyone for help, and you have to reckon with the fact that you might be the guy who pees himself and still has to ride the damn subway home.

That abject humiliation over something small and simple that everyone feels every day. That’s the first feeling. Humiliation that everyone is going to see something happen to you, and they can’t help you. They’re going to know something’s wrong with you, and you can’t stop them from knowing. 

Yeah. Yeah, it is awful.

No, it’s not just the embarrassment. There’s other parts to it. After the humiliation, there’s what some people might think is the worst part. I think it’s all pretty fucking bad.

The next part is the violation. Yeah, yeah—humiliation and violation. And I’ve been violated, man. You know me. It was bad but like. At least it didn’t happen at fucking Pammy’s? At least if Ryan was doing that at Pammy’s, someone would have come and helped, you know? 

It’s like, okay, yeah—let’s go back to Ryan. Imagine if he were here right now. Just screaming at me, and ripping off my shirt—sorry, I’m just trying to really spell it out. But yeah, imagine if he were…undressing me, and I was trying to say no, and trying to push him away, and everyone just sat there, eating their dinner.

Because the thing with violation, the thing with that is that it’s private. No one has a chance to save you, that’s why they don’t. And you—well, I—don’t tell anyone what happened, when they would have kicked his ass if they knew. 

But this is like. Everyone knows. Everyone sees it. But they aren’t really watching you. They’re just perceiving you as a part of the room. As if the violation it’s doing is just normal. As if you’re just a fucking object.

And you are an object, it makes you into an object when it happens. You don’t get to be you anymore. 

I don’t know. I don’t really feel like myself anymore, man. I know you knew me at a bad time, but I think I was more me then than now.

I guess.

Yeah, there’s more to it. Uh, the next part. The next part is weird. I really don’t like talking about it much. 

I can’t really name the feeling. Imagine you know your finger is going to be cut off. Like you see the knife coming down. Yakuza style, yeah. 

The thing is, when that knife is coming down, the whole time, you’re in disbelief. Like your brain doesn’t accept that in a few seconds you’re never going to have that finger again. And maybe you’re rationalizing—oh, I’ll take it to the hospital and they’ll sew it back on. Maybe you still even think it’s still there for a few seconds after the knife is pulled away.

But there’s this feeling, right. Right before the pain kicks in. There’s this feeling that you’re going to be in pain, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But it isn’t an acceptance that feels peaceful. It’s apathetic, but not peaceful. 

It’s just…terror. Terror in a way that fearing something coming doesn’t match up to. This is the fear of something currently happening to you. You aren’t getting away. This is now. And you are suffering. You are committed to that suffering.

No, it doesn’t get better the more it happens. I think it gets worse. I think knowing you’re going to suffer, truly and fully, that makes it much worse.

Yeah. The last part. It’s pain. It’s not physical at all. I’m sure my muscles look totally relaxed when it happens. It’s all in your head. My head.

I don’t know. It doesn’t ache like a muscle ache. It’s just pain. I guess, it’s something like…have you ever been so tired that everything starts hurting? Not from working out, but from not sleeping for ages? It just feels like this haze coming out of your pores, and everywhere it touches, it burns. You feel it in your nose. It drips down your throat and sits in your stomach, and you wonder if you’ll be sick.

I’m not sure what you mean.

Actually, yeah, like—I’ve had worse physical pain by far. For sure. Remember when I had pneumonia? But this is not that. It’s like. The idea of pain. Not your own idea, but like someone put the idea of pain in your head. 

Think about how when you save something as a JPEG, like deep-fry it, that makes it a little worse but still recognizable? Still the same source image. That’s what the pain is like. It’s not pain that I want to think about, but I’m thinking about it.

It’s like, I remember burning myself really bad when I stepped on bonfire ashes once as a kid. And if I try to think about it now, when it isn’t happening, I can’t remember how bad it hurt. It’s like it’s locked up. But this thing, it frees those memories. It makes you hurt all over again. But since it’s just a memory, it isn’t perfect. 

When it stops, it doesn’t hurt in the same way, but it still hurts. I guess because you know it will all happen again soon. Closer together. You can anticipate it, but not really. Not if it keeps getting worse.

Why? Why does anything want to hurt anything? Subjugation? Domination? 

No, like I was saying. I’m the animal here. It’s not the animal. It’s better than me. It’s stronger than me. It’s just pulling the wings off a fly because it can. 

I’m a fly compared to it. We’re all flies compared to it.

It doesn’t matter how it looks. It just matters what it’s doing to me. 

Yeah. Yeah, you’re right, I should probably talk to someone. I thought I was talking to someone. I thought—I wondered if you might have seen it before. 

Because it was looking at you that time, man. It was looking at you then, it was looking at you on the train ride out here. It’s looking at you right fucking now. You, and then me. 

I don’t know. I can’t stop it. I just let it happen. That’s why I look like this. Maybe I’m wrong, I could be totally wrong. 

Yeah, I hope so too. Look, I’m sorry I’ve upset you. I should go home. Yeah, maybe it will get better when I talk to someone. I’ll try to get help. Have a good night, man.

Stop. Stop it. Stop.

Don’t follow me. Please, I just want to get out of here. 

I can’t breathe.

Stop! Stop it! Leave me alone!

It doesn’t matter what it looks like. I told you, it doesn’t matter.


What do you mean?

Yes, just like that. It looks like that.


Why does it leave you alone? You piece of shit. You fucking—

Why does it leave you alone? 

Why me and not you? Why me and not you?

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