Becoming Zen

“No.  I shouldn’t calm down. She- should get the fuck out of my car. Now!”

“But Mira, she’s entitled to her opinion.” Louise said. “This is a sisterly space. A safe space.  We’re all supposed to feel free to express ourselves.”

“Exactly. I feel that woman should get the fuck outta my car!”

Mira jerked the van to a grumbly stop on the gravel shoulder of the two lane highway. Her grip, mighty on the wheel, had made the veins stand out on her hands and on her forehead. Her face was all torn up and stoney serious.

“Get out!”

Zenith, in the backseat, looked at her long thin fingers. Her nails were as bright as moons set in finger tips as black as the sky. She looked out the window. The night was moonless. Zen smoothed her skirt and replaced her hands there. Angela, also in the backseat, glanced at Mira’s eyes in the rearview. Apparently Mira was serious. With a breath, but no words, Angela opened the back door and hopped out of the van. She walked a few feet away and stood there. Zen didn’t look at her. No one did.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Louise said from the passenger seat. The van moved back into traffic. Finally, Louise took a last look in her side mirror. Angela hadn’t started walking yet.  Mira kept her eyes on the road.

“She’s an opinionated bitch with zero empathy. Let her walk.”

“Yeah. But it’s at least 5 miles to the train station and it’s dark.”

They were some 15 miles outside of the city. November and darkness had settled on their shoulders like a shawl.

“Did you see those hips? She could use the exercise.”

“She was wrong, Mira. To suggest it was your fault–I mean. But we can’t leave her.” Zen spoke slowly from behind them.

“Right. So what, she’d been drinking.” Louise twisted around to face Zen. “Almost everybody drinks, right?”

Mira started to cry, which was not something she ever liked to do. Especially not in front of strangers. Why had she even offered them a ride to the station? People she only knew from the stupid meetings. Mira was already on edge. She couldn’t help it, because it was evening.  For the past year, since it happened, Mira had panic attacks when the sun went down. Winter would be worse with its dreary mornings and long nights. Even now her mind was running races. Shame vs. anger. Not because she’d been drinking, like Angela thought, but because she was cheating when it happened. And because he had been her friend. Angela’s thoughtless comment came at a time in the evening when she was already prone to being an absolute mess.

She could barely contain herself during the rape meeting. She had been asked not to call them that. This night she had continually tapped her toe. She had coughed and rolled her eyes while the others spoke. Their group counselor, Sharnae, had labeled these behaviors passive aggressive. Said that Mira was trying to block the group process because she resented that process. It was true. She didn’t want to talk about it. And she couldn’t see what anyone else got out of it.   

Mira couldn’t have said why she decided to speak this day and not the other days. But when her turn came in the circle, she was a fountain. She told them how Jack had treated her like a little sister, so much so that she had suspected that he was gay. She had talked about how good of a friend he was before that night. But she couldn’t bring herself to say what had actually happened. Couldn’t bring herself to say he raped her. And now she needed to drive but she couldn’t see through her tears and she was suddenly very tired. She pulled over again.

“How can you believe me if I can’t even tell you.”

“You can tell us. We won’t judge you, Mira.”

“I can’t. You don’t know what it’s like! It is not a thing I even have words for.” But of course Louise and Zen did know. They each had their own story. Even Angela. Zenith knew she couldn’t take away Mira’s pain. She couldn’t even get rid of her own. But she could help her lighten the burden by helping her see it and tell it clearly. Zen could touch her and see everything. In fact, she was sure that just her being in the space, her gift, helped the others to unburden. It was probably why their group was connecting so quickly.

Zen placed her hand on Mira’s shoulder. At first, like always, Zen had the fear that she would just float away. She felt like she was disappearing from the inside out until there was nothing. Blackness. When she awakened she was no longer who she remembered herself to be. She was seeing the world and its memories through Mira’s eyes.  

If you had watched these three women, in the blue van, slumped into their seats, you wouldn’t know who was sleeping and who was speaking. But you would know there was a story being told and you would have the irresistible urge to listen:

He kissed me late one night. Yes. We had been drinking and laughing, standing close to each other in the kitchen with after dinner dishes, when he kissed me. Well, I let him. I could say that I was drunk or I could tell you the truth. It felt good. I hadn’t kissed a guy since the 8th grade. Yes I was dating somebody and he knew. We had been neighbors for years. I was having fun. I was being human.

 He was my neighbor for 2 years before I ever saw his apartment. But 4 years later, I had a spare key under his couch cushion. I felt safe with him.

So that night I let him put his hand under my skirt on the top of my thigh. He was my friend. He was a good kisser with my eyes closed. I wasn’t wearing underwear beneath my skirt. I had worked out that afternoon. If you didn’t know sweaty underwear can give you a bacterial infection. I feel like I should explain. I was enjoying the feeling of his fingers brushing against my clit. That was familiar. He inserted a finger and kissed me deeper. When I felt him stab his penis into me I yelped and he kissed me harder, and I pushed back, but he pressed me back onto the counter with my hands on his chest and turned my face away. He held me. He held me by my ass and slam slam slam slam fast fast into me before the cry could even come out. Into me into me. And then I wailed. Crying and shaking really hard. Two more sharp thrusts and he let me go. He pulled out of me. Limp. He wiped his hand on my thigh. He kissed me on the cheek. He told me he knew I would like it. He pulled up his pants. They had been around his thighs, still buttoned, still zipped and belted.

He went into the bathroom. He came back and grabbed a beer as if he hadn’t just done those things. I spent the evening being a cheerleader. I pretended too. I laughed at nothing. I smiled at him. I did everything I saw on TV that women do. All the shit my mom did. I put his pizza in the oven to warm and I smiled. I got him another shot of gin. I wanted to run. I wanted to tear my skin off. I wanted to jump out of that 5th story window. Instead I smiled. Just to get through it.

He patted my head and left me standing in the doorway when the movie was over. He called me his brown girl. Like he always did. He walked downstairs to his apartment. Just like he always did.

I loved him but he was never my friend. I wasn’t even a person to him. I was a fucking target. He didn’t give me a chance to decide if I wanted that. Maybe I would have consented eventually. Maybe the next time we hung out. If we could have talked about it. If I could have talked to him about it, I would have discussed protection at least.

I consented to his kiss, I consented to his hands. But I didn’t want him to take anything from me. I found out I was pregnant 6 weeks later.

A tap on the glass snapped everyone back into the moment. It was Angela. She had caught up with them. Mira wiped her eyes on her sleeves. Zen sat up straight and straightened her blouse. Louise wiped the drool from the corner of her mouth and rolled down her window- so that they could hear what Angela was saying.  

“I’m so sorry. Mira? Can I get back in the car?”


Misty sol’s short stories have appeared in the anthology From Where they Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth by Tiny Satchel Press. She also occasionally writes an opinion piece for Philadelphia Printworks, a politically charged and culturally conscious zine site. Notably, Misty received the 2016 Leeway Foundation Transformation Award for her long term commitment to making art for social change.​ You can find her on twitter @mamamistysol.


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