By Domi J Shoemaker
I wish I could say that this thing I wrote after waking at 2:30am to take my pain meds and check my blood pressure after a hysterectomy that had only been performed so quickly because I benefit from the Affordable Care Act was an act of true inspiration. But it is more than that. It is also desperation. I have reached maximum capacity. I will tell you why.
After getting my surgery scheduled at the teaching hospital, I rolled across campus to an appointment that confirmed I would need a breast biopsy. The breast clinic did the biopsy two days later, and the .
day before my cancer surgery, a week ago today, and just before their gorgeous offices up on the hill closed for the day, someone giddy-sounding from the clinic called me and said,
“Domi, I am so happy to tell you the calcifications in your breast are benign.”
Now, with one week to go before my post-op appointment to find out the stage of cancer and whether they got all they needed to get, I listen to the presidential debate and hear that man say things like “Obamacare is a disaster. Just a disaster,” and I want to throw up.
This coming from a man who would surely try to shred me for the way I move through the world, the type of man I know all too well.
He is my old conservative “uncle” who put his hands and mouth wherever he wanted, on and IN my four-year-old body. He would zero in on the vacuum of need created in me those times when I saw my father rage at my mother and carry her down the hall by her throat.
He is my teacher when I was eleven, who carried me across the playground by my collar, with my feet kicking inches above the ground, desperate for purchase, just because I was cool-talking and called him Mr. Turkey like I was Vinnie Barbarino.
He is the man who, when I was twelve, called my mom for the hundred bucks we didn’t have to replace the passenger-side windshield of his split-windshield Dodge van aftermy feet had kicked it out, while his buddy tried to convince me not to climb back up the tree.
He is the man’s buddy who, with his hand on my thigh, tried to keep me in the van because I thought I had the power of a FLYING squirrel after he fed me PCP-laced Kool-Aid when I lied and said I was thirteen.
He is that man, when I really was thirteen, who rubbed up against me and said, “You have the most beautiful breasts I have ever seen,” when I was such a tomboy and had begged to wear cut off Levi’s and a T-shirt but got sidled with a swimsuit that pushed my breasts into the next area code.
He is the coach who, that following year, my first in high school, “hired” me to help coach the girls junior varsity basketball team. The coach who picked me up, when I was drunk, and he saw me walking alone at night. I convinced him to drop me off at a friend’s house with the promise of a kiss. He kissed me. With his tongue. I lost all interest in basketball.
He is the hundreds and hundreds of men who feel free to comment on my body whether in praise or in disgust and he is the woman who buys into that message that she deserves what she takes because she has given it for so long.
It isn’t a wonder that we all – at THE HANDS of men (and at the hands of women who follow their lead), who believe they have a right to use us at their will – have had to re-boot and readjust over and over just to be alive on this planet.
And here we all are. Speaking up! However we can.
I wish the piece posted below, which is only the 2nd thing I have written to its completion since starting all the health tests last January after an ambulance ride for what was a-fib likely due to anxiety, a symptom of my well-documented PTSD, PTSD at the hands of repeated early childhood (and beyond) trauma, were only MY story.
I feel fortunate to be alive and to have NOT killed anyone with this rage.
All that said, these words are meant to be a catalyst, not a masterpiece, because my words don’t need to be precious, they are meant to get shit done.
I wish this was just about me and my dearest friend, but it is the story of so many of us. To even pass this heinous man’s behavior off as “locker room talk” is to deny the fact that even locker room talk is designed to minimize the damage these putrid bags of bilious waste inflict upon those they treat as property.
By the time I was 6, I was at least 3 people.
I don’t know how it happened, to me instead of you.
How I split and split again and you, you had to swallow the rage.
While I grew big, then bigger, then bigger again,
You withdrew and went inside yourself.
I found safety is loudness, in bigness, and in bright!
You found solace in smallness and silence.
Our strength is born in sameness.
You at the hands of your father and me at the hands of uncle,
THE HANDS who grabbed us and groped us as though we were owned and grown to be consumed.
It is not just us, my love, it’s her, and her and him, and them,
THE HANDS, they they tried to erase us.
BUT WE ARE INDELIBLE.
And to honor the protector of those parts of me who helped me survive, I give you this-
p.s. “Listen, fucknuts, if you don’t want your rich white boys to pay for healthcare, stop creating the problem by taking whatever you want. That’s a goddamn coward’s way. Come talk to me about your excuses. See if you can earn it. I dare you.” ~Harley
And from the new me you see today-
p.p.s. Our bodies always move toward healing and homeostasis. As a species, this is how we have survived. This go-around with cancer and it’s friends, I have been using my body to create images and clips when I cannot find the words. All of the heart-shaped images are my own blood found on and in various pieces of clothing and furniture. That’s what endometrial cancer does. So I wanted to conquer my fear by calling the cancer out with images and representations of love.
Domi J Shoemaker is the founder the Burnt Tongue Quarterly reading series and they have been published in Pank Magazine, Unshod Quills, Nailed Magazine, Gobshite Quarterly, and in the Forest Avenue Press Anthology, The Night and The Rain and The River. You can hear Domi on KBOO radio’s Bread and Roses archives with Leigh Anne Kranz. Domi worries about being a name-dropping attention whore who did a scene with Fred Armisen in Portlandia. Just Google Pedicabs Are Douchebags, and it will come up. Domi’s grandest achievement aside from completing an MFA at Pacific University, is working with Lidia Yuknavitch since 2012, and is currently co-facilitating the seasonal face to face workshop series, Corporeal Writing with Lidia Yuknavitch.