I checked into the Emergency Room for the girl who can’t walk through the door. With shaking hands I pulled the expired ID from my wallet, while she stays, shaking and alone, in darkness. I listened for the S.A.N.E. request, corrected my date of birth when the nurse couldn’t read the out-of-state ID, and attempted to return a sympathetic smile before sitting in the waiting room.
I started crying for the girl that can’t stop. Tears ran down my cheeks as the blood pressure cuff tightened. My temperature was 96.7, but I couldn’t stop shivering. My heart rate was 80 BPM, although I warned the nurse the beating would stop at any second.
I accepted a hug from the Victim’s Advocate for the girl who will never be offered. I nodded at the appropriate time, like when the words “strength” and “safe” and “proud” were wrapped around me. I held the S.A.N.E. nurse’s hand when she extended it in my direction. I squeezed her hand tighter when she explained I would be their guest for at least five hours.
It was then that I became jealous of the girl in the dark.
I stripped in front of the nurse for the girl huddled in her shower. As she rocked back and forth, I stood on butcher paper and peeled my protection off; piece by piece. My shirt was wrapped in plastic, then labeled, then gone. My pants fell next, then quickly wrapped, then placed in a paper bag. My underwear was last, with remnants of him still visible.
I stood naked, in front of strangers, for the girl still trying to find her legs. The shivering doubled, my heart rate increased, and my skin resented the hospital gown it was offered.
I shook the officer’s hand for the girl who’ll never meet him. I tried to concentrate on his explanations, to remember the important information he was offering, and to smile slightly when he told me the chances were good. I took his card, underlined his personal phone number, and thanked him for offering his assistance at any hour of any day. I secretly hoped I’d never see him again.
I pulled twelve hairs from my head for the girl who’s cries for help were not answered. I struggled to place them in the small white envelope, as I wondered who’d decided on the number twelve.
I swabbed my throat and mouth with cotton four times for the girl who can’t get rid of the taste. I coughed when I was asked to swab my tonsils, my lips quivering. I was more than thankful for the bottle of water that quickly followed.
I showed the scratches and bruises to the forensic photographer, for the girl hiding hers. I stopped him twice, holding my face with my uneasy hands, when the click of his camera and lights from his flash became too overwhelming. I stared at his kind eyes through a tear-stained window as he told me to take my time. My hands, my neck, my arms, my back, my breasts, my pelvis, and my legs were all on file. My pieces categorized. My body, now evidence.
I put my feet in the stirrups for the girl huddled under her covers at home. I stared at the ceiling, hands clenched and body tense, as uncomfortable plastic tried to uncover traces of him inside of me. I tried to relax when asked to, tried to breath when the pain hit, and tried to fast forward when it all seemed to go by so slowly. I wondered why they needed to look inside me, when the signs of trauma were written on my face.
I told my story eight times, for the girl who can’t tell hers. Three officers, a Victim’s Advocate, two lawyers, a S.A.N.E. nurse, and a District Attorney now know me better than my closest friends or family. Each head tilt and touch of my shoulder made me feel helpless. Each determined head nod and promise of justice left me exhausted.
I thanked the friends who were by my side for the girl who feels alone. I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, have survived without them.
I hugged each one of them for the girl who’d never have their equivalent. I held their hands for the girl who can only hold her own.
I came forward for the girl who never will.
That girl, shaking and alone in darkness. That girl who can’t stop crying. That girl huddled in the shower, trying to find her legs. That girl who’ll never meet a police officer, who’s cries for help weren’t answered, and who can’t get rid of the taste. That girl hiding her bruises, huddled under covers at home, unable to tell her story.
That girl who feels alone is me.
By: Danielle Campoamor, Contributor