An animal unencumbered by memory

by Janet Frishberg

CW: abuse

At dance last weekend I spotted a Jewish man, curly-haired, the kind I would want to notice me. Too familiar, not from this dance floor. I placed him slowly, then quickly. Me: seventeen, drunk, a bench outside my dorm. Him: three years older, girlfriended. I’d blacked in as he was breaking my hymen.

(This is a really hard time for men, my no-longer-friend complained at a party a few years ago.)

(My therapist saying: We are training your body to know when it’s safe. And you might be the first in your lineage in many generations who has been able to learn this.)

The pain of my hymen breaking unplanned cut through the many shots of tequila or vodka, the cups of jungle juice I’d chugged at his house.

What are you doing, I said. We’re not having sex.

But you’re naked, he said.

Anyway, he stopped. What a blessing two words can hold. I told the therapist this. She said: What a blessing you pushed him away, that you could tell him to stop. This too I guess.

Last Sunday I would have still wanted to kiss him if I hadn’t known him. Or rather, would have still wanted him to want me. Maybe I mean to like me. For how many years was I trying to come to consciousness to someone taking care of me, a man. Newly awake and being taken care of—this was the experience I craved. Instead I kept coming to consciousness to them trying to enter me.

On the dance floor, he had a crumpled plastic water bottle in his pocket and I was grateful to find something unattractive about him. His consumption of single-use plastics, gross.

How to make sure it was him when he almost certainly would not remember me, some freshman sorority girl he didn’t fuck twelve years ago. His girlfriend then was blonde—they usually are.

It was time for the sound meditation. We lay down less than twenty feet from each other.

Can I give him the feeling of my hymen breaking, the blood on the toilet paper later that night. Can I give it to him through the sound of the singing bowl vibrating our third eyes. The way for years I refused to let that be the story of my first time, refused it with force, until it became old cardboard boxes crowding my brain. Is there a way to give it to him without words. I mean without work.

Here, David, take this pain into your body. Into your hip and psoas, running down your tightened inner thighs. Spend years trying to unravel the mystery of it. I am done crying in the home offices of kind pseudo-mothers. Instead I will be running, faster than ever before, with the swiftness of an animal who has shaken off all harm, an animal unencumbered by memory, forever and ever, amen.

Janet Frishberg’s fiction and nonfiction has been published in journals including [PANK], Catapult, Electric Lit, Joyland, and Hobart. Her writing has been nominated for Best Short Fictions and a Pushcart. She is an alumna of UC Berkeley and The Kenyon Writers’ Workshop and is an Assistant Interviews Editor for The Rumpus.


Photography by: Stephen Rheeder