A meaningless procedure – Ljubljana, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York City, Malmö, New Delhi, Stockholm, 2005–

By Alex-Alvina Chamberland

“These streams don’t flow into one definitive sea, these rivers have no permanent banks; this body no fixed borders. This mobility, this life. Which they might describe as our restlessness, whims, pretenses, or lies. For all this seems so strange for those who claim ‘solidity’ as their foundation.”

—Luce Irigaray 

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!  NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!  NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve repeated that word. No. The last time I was here I didn’t even say that word, because what difference would it make? And besides, what exactly do I mean by here? It started with a relatively handsome young man seeing me pass by on the sidewalk. It continued with his face undergoing an extreme makeover, from expressionless to PunchorFuckorWhat’sThatFreak? I’ve seen millions of stares in my lifetime; still I can only decipher their message in blatantly obvious cases. Follow me reader and we will find out what this one means, as he follows me to provide an answer. Lust? Lust. He tells me: “I got so fucking hard just watching you walk by.” Love? Love. He affirms: “I LOVE shemales, skinny blonde ones with big lips especially!” Hate? Hate. He ignores all my attempts to ignore him. He shadows me for three blocks. Then he pulls me out of the spotlight and into an alley. 

Then.

Then he says: “Don’t worry sexy girl, I just wanna talk. How old are you? Let me guess: 22.” 

Then I say: “No.” 

Then I try to walk away. 

Then he yanks me back. 

Then.

Then he says: “Why don’t you want me, do you think I’m ugly?” 

Then I say: “No.” 

Then he uses his weight to force me to the ground. 

Then I say: “No.”

Then he says: “Oh, you drive me completely CRAZY.” 

The temperature outside: Cold – October. A wasp can crawl but not fly. My temperature inside: Colder – December; darkest – the 21st. The wasp is hibernating to evade death. Am I saving my feelings for later? I don’t know. No whimpers. No pleas. How can I stay so calm in such a predicament? I am like a stick, a stick that thinks: How can I get stiffer? I am trying to talk him out of it. How many times have I been here? I have lost count. I think to myself: Not again.In a bed, on a sofa, on the subway, in my doorway, on an avenue sidewalk; never in a city park, but once in the backroom of a shop. Again. My dear reader, you sense that I am in danger, but since I’m not screaming you don’t know where to run to help. Again. I am strapped underneath a car that is driving sideways. What do I see on the ground? A dog’s feces next to a rabbit’s feces? I think so. I do not specialize in identifying the excrement of different species. Candy wrappers (RUSTLE-RUSTLE). Cigarette butts. Yes. No, I was not smoking them. I was doing nothing wrong. I was not using their fuse to burn my skin. I swear to god they were already littering the ground when I was brought here. The labels? Prince, Marlboro, Gauloises, American Spirits. Most probably more. They wish I would shut my trap. They have no interest in making an advertisement out of this situation. Rape does not provide good publicity for their brands. 

Dear Prince, Marlboro, Gauloises, American Spirits, Please do not sue me. I am telling the truth. Your stubs were there. I am not making up their presence. It is not my fault they were getting stuck in my hair. Leaves? Yes, leaves are on the pavement as well. Very many of them. It is autumn, no, fall. Any budding flowers hidden underneath? Not till late February. The fatigued wasp buzzes with annoyance at having her perfect hibernation spot disturbed. The leaves make crunching noises (CRUNCH-CRUNCH) to interrupt the young man’s heavy breathing (PANT-PANT) and awkward movements (WAGGLE-WOBBLE). And me? I am here as well. Although I might as well not be. I murmur tiny egh-nehjks of discomfort. A red brick juts into my left shoulder, scraping it coarsely each time he gyrates against me. A road made of rough concrete threatens to impair my clothes, reaching for the blood beneath my skin. A muddy puddle wets my right thigh, not frozen yet – that’s my own body we’re talking about. The young man’s attempts at kissing feel as appealing as eating a sticky piece of food, cream cheese or moussaka, which has spent a full day exposed to the elements on a beach. His stubble grates like coarse grains of wet sand, the wind stings with no need for a metaphor, and the saltwater is replaced by plenty of sweat mixed with the scent of Axe instead of ocean. Axe. Another brand which won’t wish its name mentioned in connection with rape. Yes. Commercials display Axe making the girls go craaaazy for you out of their own free will! It’s a lie, It’s a lie, they’re lying to you. Sue me, fine me, send me to prison, stoning threats, yesyes, modern people do it on the internet! Rape-aXe – too exhausting to constantly carry one inside of me. But straight from the sweatshop to the rape scene: The man is wearing a pair of Nikes. My entire body is behaving like a scrunchie. He tries to stretch it out. He fails miserably. He is realizing that it’s hard to take off the clothes of a person who’s not cooperating – especially since he’s a fumbling bundle of nerves, huffing&puffing he is groping&gasping; lacking all skill. I am no longer a stick. I start squirming like a trapped salamander. A trapped salamander out of water. Dry. And in hell. This. Is. Just. So. Meaningless. Could he even manage to penetrate holes that are this closed? If he succeeds at forcing one open he will use it as his own private toilet bowl. Flushing down god knows what and hoping he’ll never see it again. 

I look towards the street. I hope someone will pass by. I hope this someone will be kind and rush to my assistance. I hope this someone will not be mean and steal my pink backpack and scram. Three of my favorite books by Lispector, Leduc, and Roy are lying there with their quests for truths. My laptop-lapdog with the script of my own book too. I see a raven circling overhead as she kraa-kraas. Where is my black cat? And why hasn’t she fetched a growling, barking stray bitch to bite him in the ass? I have gotten myself out of this situation before. How many times? I’ve lost count. How many fingernails do I have? 10. Are they all sharpened like claws? No, 2 recently broke. That leaves 8. Enough to dig into his cheeks, while scrunching up the skin on his face and yelling: STOP IT! RIGHT NOW! 

(I dig my nails into his cheeks, scrunch up the skin on his face, and yell: “STOP IT! RIGHT NOW!”)

Statistics, reader, statistics:  8 out of 10 = good odds. 5 in 10 – a scene from a panel at the trans film festival: All the directors keep repeating “I made this film so people would know trans girls exist.” The only trans woman director interrupts: “Shut the fuck up, half of all men have slept with us!” Five in ten. These odds would be fine if they weren’t secrets kept at the bottom of the back of the closets for exactly 99.3 percent of these men. Again. What is a dream about you that does not include you? Again. Why am I here? Again. When secrets remain unspoken they do not seep out. They explode in your face. Again. Back to the eight sharp nails. Somehow, someway, something changed inside this particular man. Perhaps it was the pain inflicted on his face, perhaps it was the raised decibels of my STOP ITs, perhaps his knee brushed up against the fatigued wasp one time too many, perhaps it was a eureka moment where I became human, perhaps it was something entirely different; I cannot read his mind. I can just breathe a sigh of relief for his reconsideration, his scurrying off into the night, his aborting the mission without a mission accomplished.

 Alone again at last. My heartbeat pounds irregularly; heard by some soaring birds, burrowing insects, and blind mammals. The icy wind blows itself into my fresh bruises to enunciate their pain. I hover somewhere between empty and invincible. The emotional landscape of this body quivers just short of an earthquake…  

And so it was and so it is that as I left the alleyway disheveled, dusting off the Fall’s mud and leaves from my thighs and knees, I thought of Clarice Lispector tousled with her dress torn, after winning a prestigious literary prize and being molested by a top-ranked official backstage. A man trying to rape me is nothing unusual. A few have succeeded. Many have failed. It is sick that I state it so matter-of-factly. It is sick that it is a matter of fact. I’d rather be raped than dead, yes, but I’d prefer other alternatives. A unicorn packs a strong back kick. Dear rapist, please refrain from arriving like the next tram. I’m not the one who can ensure that. Little scars on the canvas of life. Little scars that I refuse to hide lest they upset – whom? And how many scars? Again. I’ve lost count. 7, 9,8? They have their minds made up, and I am uncertain. How can I focus amongst all this noise? The canvas was never blank. I was born into a history that shakes its dreadful head at a better tomorrow. I hold one paintbrush, the others hold eight. I work, I work, I work on the thickness of my own brushstroke – I was taught that life is in our own hands. I work, I work, I work on my own technique. I paint a pretty picture, a picture perfect. Several brushes cross it over. More and more colors (Pink! Purple! Green! Glittery Grey! Black! Blue! Ultramarine! Red! Violet! Red!) are being added. I settle for something very messy/deeply intricate. And the damage the others can do is severely diminished. Certainly, they can still hurt me. The price of the opposite is much too high. I refuse to pay with that currency. More detailed information? Wait. Wait… And find out. 

Later that night, shaken drunk by one single drink, another man tries to trip me as I’m leaving a bar. 

He: “I will go home with you!” 

Me: “Did I say you could come with me?”

He: “BUT I AM THE GREATEST!!!”

 

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