erik kirkland memorial prize winner
To this Godforsaken holiday
The ancient origins of Halloween and its modern customs show it to be a celebration based on false beliefs. Growing up in the church, they had advised against all celebrations, Halloween being in the top three; they told us that God warned us not to consult ghosts or spirits, nor call up the dead.
We dressed up as schoolgirls.
Perhaps I defied God that night, wanting to participate in college fun and ended up encountering a spirit that consumed me.
My skin laid across his bed, I was hung like the prettiest adornment he’s seen; he smoothed his skin over my skeleton, ignored my ghost screaming, and laughed “boo”. I entered the worst haunted house on campus, crying like a child when they experience evil things for the first time. It was my first time unfortunately.
To my good friend back home who reassured me that what happened, happened
We never talked much anymore but when we did, you gave me the most sound advice; “Yes, that is rape. How are you feeling?”
To the alcohol that got my rapist drunk a week after the raping occurred
Hennessy, I am so grateful for you. You uncovered a true monster.
Nobody else knew.
Your hands grabbed me like an unwanted wakeup call; you flashed billboard signs of a menace yelling “notice me!” as the Henny entered you.
It’s crazy how you said you didn’t want to get drunk that night. It’s ironic how you had control of what entered you.
To my rapist (aka you)
I hate that word. You didn’t give me a choice.
To D (aka the rapist)
Instead of calling you rapist because I feel as though that still provides you with too much power, I will address you as a human still.
This is me, holding you accountable; humans do despicable things. You did a despicable thing.
From when I first met you, we displayed smiles so big on our faces on things only we knew about. We differentiated like night and day and still we made a friendship to last for the next four years and a forever. It was just yesterday, you and the guys telling us about football or something with a run through of plays. You saw the confusion fall over my face and answered: “it’s like a rehearsal”; you automatically integrated our conversations and for a split second, I didn’t despise the fact that you were living. I almost smiled.
You are a cancer.
Even if you didn’t kill me, you damn near did, and I still choose to recall the good parts about you.
To the Frat House
I came to your doorstep crying like I had just been shot. You gathered around me like the Secret Service and knew what to say, which was nothing at all. You handled it so well.
Better than the cops themselves.
That night, I woke up crying and shaking in your bed. You let me stay as long as I needed to and never once pressed me to speak.
I’m sorry you’ve seen this too many times with the women in your life—the same type of shattering. On behalf of all of them, thank you for not letting us fully break. Thank you for telling us we are not broken. Thank you for telling us we don’t need fixing.
I never thanked you for holding me together.
To Public Safety, The Police, The Investigator, and The Title IX coordinator
I appreciate you for trying. For allowing my friends by my side while I told my story. For allowing me the space to scream, to cry, to shake, to break. I’m sorry your job doesn’t allow you to do more.
I’m sorry your job is so hard.
To the cop that interrogated me
You helped me relive trauma and state that I am the third case in two weeks from my school. All the perpetrators were disguised as football players.
You did nothing for me.
You called me a case. You treated me as another unfortunate incident only to see your flimsy note pad; you never took the steps to see if I was eligible for more. You never provided me with closure.
You chose not to provide me with closure.
Fuck you for not saving conversations automatically. You were my only chance at evidence.
Guiding me toward you has to be a miracle because that day, I wasn’t going to move from my dorm. You know that day, I thought about not moving ever again. That day, you texted; you called to tell me you’re here to help.
You help victims feel more like survivors on days we don’t want to move. You help people feel person like again.
May God bless you, you heaven sent angel of a person. You made me feel whole for an entire hour.
To the sexual violence prevention center
You greeted me with yellow, blue, and brown cushions. Without being another person that may have failed me again, your four walls didn’t try to advise me, yet they still spoke to me. You’re my home away from home.
To my professors
I appreciate the extended deadlines. I wish you didn’t pity me so much, but I am grateful for your human decency.
For some of you, I wish you pitied me more. Maybe not pity, but it saddens me you care more about your paycheck and classwork being completed than your students’ mental health.
To my advisor, professor, and friend all in one
“Welcome to the worst club ever.”
You Black magnificent beauty of a being. You threatened to burn down the school and reminded me that the system was not built for me. For us. That we have to protect one another first because no one else will. That society sees Black women struggling and dying, and in return, they give us a high-five.
Thank you for not high-fiving me. Thank you for giving me time off. Thank you for reminding me that I am wonderful.
I’m sorry for your trauma.
To the athletics department
Most of you see nothing wrong with spreading legs and stroking penis and thighs until you’re satisfied.
You condone rapists. I hate that word.
You condone your friends taking advantage of women that could have easily been your sister, niece, aunt, mother, friend.
You poor D3 athletes. Fuck you.
To the University
I wish you cared more about rapists than you did about your students smoking weed. I hate that word so much.
Maybe if I was White, you would do better. I’m happy some of you staff members care. At least pretend to.
To Lin Hua
Who would’ve known Chinese class in high school brought us so close. I think it’s ironic your Chinese name means “cleansing”.
You made me feel clean again. I love you.
Thank you for reminding me that my feelings are valid—that I am strong and granted emotional moments. That me being hysterical doesn’t make me less strong.
I’m sorry I’ve avoided you for so long.
I wish to share my untold stories with you.
To my therapist
Thank you for seeing me as a person and not just a patient.
To my bed
You have been the only consistent thing.
Depression is a strange thing. An energy vampire that makes daily tasks seem insurmountable. On my worst days, you’ve accepted this body as your hermit. You have become my safe haven from everything and everyone who has become painfully exhausting— including myself.
I have to leave you now.
To my sisters
I pray your butter and brown faces never experience this.
To my mother
I’m sorry you went through the same. I heeded your warnings, I listened to your stories, but I could not prevent this happening. I need you to understand that I could not prevent this.
I understand why this angered you, and we argued. I wish we didn’t. I still love you.
To my father
I’m sorry you went through the same. I heeded your warnings, but you never gave me the chance to listen to your stories. Daddy, you don’t have to be strong.
To my poetry
You really do heal the wounds inflicted by reason.
To my college best friend
Your tender forehead kiss allowed me to realize that friendship still exists in the kindest ways. You stuck by my side and watched me fall. You helped me pick myself up. We revisited your haunted house and opened doors to the same experience times three. I’m sorry you felt like you had to harvest your pain. I will never call you demolished; I call you healer. What a superhero you are; you treated me as your Lois Lane.
Thank you for being my voice and sending the search party when I lost it. Hey Superman. No amount of kryptonite can stop you.
Here’s to the next four years and a forever.
You deserve healing. You deserve security.
Healing isn’t pretty. Healing is one of the ugliest things you’ll ever face; dark rooms, long showers with no cleansing, wanting to drown in this situation that has caused your brain to completely shut down.
You are allowed to shut down.
You are allowed to cry.
The days you can feel the air escaping your lungs, remember that you are still here and this too is a gift. To give yourself time, breathers, and a stress toy; things you shouldn’t be ashamed of.
I’m sorry I was ashamed of you.
I’m sorry I didn’t forgive you sooner.
I’m sorry for forgetting that forgiveness applies to you as well.
I’m sorry for not telling you I am so proud of you.
You are a flower blooming, there is still dirt in your roots, and this is a forgiveness as well. Forgiveness is the final form of love and wow, do I love you.
Hold on to the love you have been given. Some days it won’t feel like enough. It won’t always feel like enough. It won’t always feel like it’s there. But it is.
Don’t forget it’s there. It’s always been there. Don’t forget yourself.