An anonymous reference to me and a direct jab at the people in question. An appeasement, I think, or maybe a loophole. A way of allowing my humble silence to reign while my friend lashed out — stabbing back with a searing, seething, scathing rage.

My shock turned into a grin which turned into a chuckle. I read the words again. All nine of them. A glaringly simple iteration of facts that I had absolutely no means of articulating myself. How silly, I thought, how bluntly direct.

Sorry I didn’t warn you about the paragraph, my friend said when I texted him minutes later. It’s okay, I responded. It really was. Still, I sat there very much unsure of how to process the stirrings inside of me, unsure of how to proceed.

So, I read the words again.

They were about me. But they weren’t. They were about what happened. But it read like someone else’s story. They were there, concretely on the page, for an essay I was editing. But that was it. It wasn’t me.

This was the friend whose bed I climbed into that morning. Theirs was the door adjacent to my own. Sobbing. Shocked. Scared. I slipped into the space between my friend and the wall. Cradled by my exhaustion and their arms and the dark behind the curtains, it all came pouring out. At first, the tears. And when the words finally came, they were all revealing.

It was 6:48 a.m. I was still in last night’s clothes. My eyes were sore. The thoughts racing haywire through my brain coalesced in one singular sensation. Shame. A shame not because of what I had come running from after hours spent crying in my room. A shame not because I had remained quiet and motionless, tense and pretending to be asleep as I perched at the edge of my bed. A shame not because my bed was now a place of anxiety and my dreams would not come sweet.

Rather, shame because this wasn’t the first time. Or the second. Or, honestly, the third. Shame because for some reason this time, I broke. For some reason, this time, I wasn’t strong enough. Shame because I couldn’t shoulder the burden anymore, because I had had it worse and because each time I had kept it hidden. I had sealed my lips, writing off whatever uneasiness I felt in the ensuing days, and weeks and months. Conjuring, in my mind, a list of excuses, of pardons, that kept me going.

They were easy because it was always my fault. I was too drunk. I agreed to go back with them. I was the one who let him practically carry me upstairs because I was so gone I couldn’t stand. I could have walked away, I could have gone home, I could have drank less, but again, I did not. Moreover, it was I who still chose to dress up and go out, to have one too many shots, to stay until the party had long emptied out.

I never said no. I never said anything, really. I did not want to talk about it and so, very simply, I did not. I relied on the gray areas, the lack of clarity. I put all my weight on the haziness of alcohol-induced memory. If I couldn’t quite remember, then it must not have happened. If I didn’t quite believe myself that anything had gone amiss, then it must not have. I couldn’t face the thought of someone else turning their finger at me and that sinking feeling in my heart.

If I couldn’t bring myself to say something, anything, to anyone, in the immediate aftermath, then what was the point. What could anyone do anyway? We had all moved on. Hadn’t we? So I told myself there was nothing to say, that speaking up was more trouble than it was worth. I convinced myself that I was okay. And in a way, I sort of was.

Then, the world imploded. The voices took the world by storm and my own meticulously carved out space was invaded.

It began with that trembling but firm testimony on television. Then slowly, the voice grew stronger, and louder. And suddenly, it wasn’t just a blonde woman wearing her perfectly ironed navy blue suit relaying something she had scarcely whispered before to a world of listeners. It became a chorus. Out of her grew a strength — in numbers, in stories, in acknowledgment. And with it, I realized. I saw that in my fear of being denied, in my fear of being called a liar or a drunk or wrong, I had denied no one but myself.

Two weeks ago everything changed. Two weeks ago a tangible shift was felt in myself, and in the world I’m slowly learning to navigate. Authors are reclaiming their stories and lost hearts are slowly being found.

[12:01 AM, 10/11/2018] Me: bc even if you’re not brave enough to add to the chorus

[12:01 AM, 10/11/2018] Me: you know that you’re not alone

[12:01 AM, 10/11/2018] Me: and that’s huge

So, thank you. And, goodnight.