Afterwards

by E.J. Schoenborn

Afterwards,
I open all the windows.
I buy three boxes of Franzia Chillable Red because it’s the most amount of wine I can get for the cheapest price and I need to water the flowers.
I turn my stomach into a garden,
rake my fingers across the earth,
trying to tear myself open to tear out his cigarettes.
I delete his texts from my phone, 
rip the his number out by the roots,
I move to a new house, 
one where my rapist has not planted his feet. 
I keep a bottle of water next to my bed to put out the fire.

Afterwards,
I go on a date to Apple Valley with Will
to the Minnesota State Zoo during their Adult Hours
We get to drink and visit the exhibits, 
and he says it will be so much fun.
He wants me to go to his house after this.
I pull a bouquet of yellow roses out of my throat, stems catching on the walls, put them inside a wine bottle and give them to him.
I try to say, “I’m Sorry,” but cough blood and thorns onto his lap instead. 
In his eyes, my body transforms into a pitcher plant,
carnivorous flower attracting flies with a basin of sap,
like I drew him in with laughter and honey sweetness
only to find, now, if he gets too close, 
he will stick to the walls of my trauma
until he too becomes consumed. 
He empties the bottle of flowers on the floor and hands it back to me, silent.

Afterwards,
I uproot relationships before they grow.
I have a dozen first dates and wrap them with barbed wire. 
I tell my friends this is the most I’ve dated in my life,
which is to say, I tell none of these boys I love them or myself,
or I give all of these boys bouquets of flowers with the heads ripped off,
a handful of stems.

I pray
to a damp cloth.

Afterwards,
I don’t call 911.
I don’t take medication, don’t go to therapy, don’t tell my doctor what happened.
I don’t call it depression or anxiety or PTSD.

I call my shaking tired, call it closing the library, a full schedule, an opened text message at 2 AM from a phone number I deleted months ago.
I pretend it doesn’t exist until it does.
I do not give him a name, because then it never happened.
I do not give my mental illness a name,
I do not give myself a name, 
because no one names a salted earth.

I never told anyone about the after before,
how I didn’t know if it was rape until months later,
if I should say I was raped once or twice
because is the morning after he sleeps over a continuation or a second chance?

Later I text my rapist to ask when he was last tested
because he didn’t wear a condom.
Even when I’m trying to be safe
I am not safe.

Afterwards,
I leave all the windows,
I try to put out a brush fire that is always hungry.

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