#Day 7 An Open Letter to the Ones Whose No Didn’t Count
Your no counts.
Even if it was whispered through smudged crimson lipstick. Even if your breath smelled of beer and cigarettes. Even if you smiled wide when he leaned in and tucked a stray strand of hair behind your ear. Even if you thought he was cute. Your no counts even if you didn’t see it coming. It counts even if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It counts even if you don’t have predator warning nail polish . It counts if you say it with your eyes shot through with fear or closed and unable to squeeze out anything at all.
It counts because we all carry glory right there in our skin, in our hair, and eyes, and the crinkle of our smile.
We carry glory as a reflection of our creator and these bodies were made for holy things.
They were made for worship. They were made to play an instrument, run a 50 yard dash, birth a baby, wrap arms tight around the frailest of shoulders, cook risotto or bake an apple crumble. They were made to paint with a thousand colors, to dance to the good songs, to feel sunshine brush across the bridge of your nose when the clouds clear in the blue skies above. They were made to read the novel, or write one. Our bodies are created as instruments of worship in everything we do.
You were made to take in glory and reflect it back. These bodies hear the melody of your child’s first words or your husband saying, my love, you are a beauty. They were made for the gift of the table and friends gathered and warm mugs of coffee clasped in your hands. These bodies were made for an arabesque or the long stretch of tired limbs after a glorious nap. They were made for gentleness and hope and yes, for sex.
These bodies were created and don’t we know that all of creation belongs to God?
So your no counts. Because that guy who thinks deeds done in darkness won’t ever be told, that thinks the stronger prevail, the weaker can be used and disregarded, he doesn’t know whose no he’s trampling on. He doesn’t realize whose body he’s using.
It’s not just your voice, precious girl. It’s the very voice of God thundering out on your behalf. Your no counts because you belong to Him.
I escaped with my no that night. I haven’t always had that chance.
But I didn’t see a threat. I wasn’t interesting in him at all. He had broad bloated shoulders from high school football and his head squashed down into his thick neck. We hung out, guzzled six packs on Friday nights, waved our lit cigarettes in the blackest air as we played mixed tapes on a blanket laid out under the stars. There was always a pack of us. My friends and his.
Until that night. I stopped into the country store for cigarettes because they wouldn’t card me and reveal my 15-year-old birthdate. I slipped in just as he was closing up. Just him and I and he wanted to show me something in the back. I heard the click of the lock behind me after I entered the stockroom.
“Come here, sexy,” he croons. “Why are you hooking up with David? I’ll show you what a real man is like.”
He is moving towards me.
“Shut up, open that door,” I joke but my voice betrays me and comes out high and strangled. The air is hot and still and I cannot make my lungs expand in my chest. I am caving in on myself.
His hands reach for my hips. They are huge, one palm wraps from my hip bone around to my back.
I am shadowed by his bulk and I see all my mistakes.
I think of my bra with the pretty edging and the strap showing where my top hangs low. I think of my body that I’ve learned to arch just right to make boys turn. I think of the jokes I make when I feel safe, in the pack, flirting. I think of how naïve I am to be here. I think of how popular he is and the girls who want to hook up with him. I think of my boyfriend and wonder what he’ll think when he finds out. Will he believe me?
I think of a thousand things that have nothing to do with this boy deciding I could belong to him just because he can overpower or manipulate me. I think of my fault. I think I am unclean. I think I deserve what I have coming.
I am a wild thing trapped. I am nerves and fear and his breath is on my neck. He is smiling, all charm and bravado and privilege. He takes what he wants, I know this now.
My arms fling out and I see it glinting on the stock shelf like salvation. A hammer sitting there by a stack of Campbell’s soup cans and boxes of graham crackers. I am drunk with fear and rage and remorse, it is in my hand and I’m raising it high above my head and yelling to get his hands off me or I swear to God I’ll kill him.
I can see the shock in his eyes. Girls like me don’t say no to boys like him. Girls like me don’t say no at all. My no doesn’t count.
“Crazy bitch!,” he yells behind me. But I’m running and yet I can’t outrun this.
I escaped. But later, I am an unraveling thing. All bundled tight and coming loose. I am prey for lusty eyes. For years, I am shedding skins. I am a hunted soul.
Because I didn’t know that my no counts.
I didn’t know that escaping wasn’t enough, I would have to be delivered into freedom, into grace for myself, and healing for every wretched wound those eyes seared into my skin.
I didn’t know yet who I belong to. But more importantly, he didn’t. Someday he will. Someday he’ll account for every no he denied or manipulated or coerced. Someday he’ll give an account for the no he thought didn’t count.