You Know Better: Issue Five

November 2011. I’ve been trying to learn to sit still. This is something I’ve been working on for years. And even when I think about all of the things I’ve done since the last issue of this zine to try to make my life a little calmer – leaving my band, quitting the food co-op, consolidating my jobs, moving in with my girlfriend – I find that even if my body is sitting still, my mind is always going. It’s been a challenge to realize that all the hectic activity I spent so much time trying to get away from wasn’t really coming from the outside.

Read on for a taste of this issue. To get a copy, stop by Bluestockings or email isabel at isabelsparkle dot com.


You were saying something; I couldn’t quite hear you. It was at the end of the story about your cousin and the terrible things that had been done to her. You could see my question so you repeated for emphasis, a second time and quieter. It wasn’t just her, you said, eyes on mine. It happened to me too. I didn’t know what to say. These were the things I’d read about, things I knew were everywhere, things I’d never actually heard spoken to me. In a whisper, like this, in bed, in someone’s arms. I held you tighter, said you didn’t have to talk about it, not meaning it. I wanted to hear everything. I knew you’d tell me, that in your voice I’d hear the things I already knew were true: how there was always some uncle, some father, some errant relative putting his hands where they didn’t belong, some girl escaping into drugs or sex or any other thing she could get her hands on. I had no words; you lay on my chest and said you could finally breathe. You loved for me to rest one hand on your lower back and the other on the back of your neck. You said it made you feel safe.

A year later you’d be attacked again, in the city you loved, so many hours away from where I was, pushed onto the street in the middle of the night by men who laughed loudly into the darkness and pulled at your pants. You were wearing a belt and you were tough, I thanked god you were tough, you kicked and you fought them and you got away. So furious you punched your best friend in the face when you finally found her, so terrified you’d made it through again that your fists were all you could offer anyone. Some time after that, while driving in another country, a friend would tell me I’m so glad I never dated a girl who was abused. I wouldn’t have known how to be gentle enough; I wouldn’t know how to handle it with the kid gloves you need for a situation like that. As the highway markers passed and the storm clouds continued to gather above our heads, I looked out at the landscape, the small shacks along the road that offered snacks to weary travelers, the chickens and dogs that roamed their properties, seeming free to do as they pleased. I breathed long and slow, turned back to my friend and said You would have learned.