CW: sexual assault, disordered eating
Is it possible to will a cockroach into existence?
For example, if I were to leave this plate with the gnawed at pizza crust out on my bedside table overnight, would anything happen? What about a half soaked bowl of street meat remnants in the kitchen sink? Are cockroaches more health conscious than I am?
Ever since I saw that cockroach scurry out from under the couch two days ago I’ve been hoping for another sighting. I went to get something out of my backpack on the floor and when I moved it this cockroach appeared. I yelped and Jake came upstairs with shoes on ready to take care of the situation.
When it was all over and the crunchy carcass was deep in the garbage bin, Jake retreated downstairs and my depression resumed. Had I really been dissociating that badly? And could cockroaches be more effective than SSRI’s?
Two years ago, before the cockroach, I had a similar experience at a Chipotle on Long Island on my way back from my meeting with Detective Garcia at the Nassau County Special Victim’s Bureau.
A few months earlier, the calloused memory of my high school sexual assault started to peel and flake and litter my sleep. I had gone to see Spotlight with my step-dad and felt raw afterward. I went home and dove deep into Internet searches about the violence depicted in the film, the survivors, their stories.
Late that evening, a force strangled my heart, pulled me into the kitchen, and compelled me to tell my mother what had happened to me senior year. It was the same sensation I had felt sophomore year during my college’s Take Back The Night Speak-Out that lifted me up into a chair in front of a room full of strangers. It was, of course, the same story as well, only this time for an audience of one.
Maybe Mark Ruffalo is to blame for my insistence that some legal action be taken. Or maybe, in moments like those, when trauma cuts through skin, the craving for justice is insatiable, too humane to subdue.
I had become accustomed to the almost weekly drives to Bethpage, that expanse of Broadway with Indian clothing shops and restaurants, auto body and fast food joints. The last stretch of roadway took me past a parking lot with a replica Ghostbusters car sitting in it, which I both ogled and questioned profusely. There was a time on one of those drives that my mother stopped and forced me to take a picture with it. Aside from us, the only other parent-child pair was a six-year-old boy with his dad.
My mother had only recently started accompanying me on my back-to-back social worker- detective appointments. Up until then, I’d gone alone and there was a creeping sense of exposure knowing that she’d be inhabiting a space that was recluse and mine. But that’s the reason why she came – so that this experience didn’t have to be mine alone.
The first time I wondered what she would do over that hour as Katie, the social worker, lead me to her office, passing the children’s room with its Fischer-Price table and chairs and colorful foam puzzle piece flooring. Luckily, that day, the stack of free books lining the windowsill – the main selection usually being beach reads and dogeared bibles – contained a copy of Gilda Radner’s autobiography It’s Always Something, and by the time my appointment was over and I was escorted back to the waiting area to collect my mother, she had twenty-three pages left.
However, on this particular car ride back, I was, in fact, alone. Rarely were my meetings with Detective Garcia too promising, but this one was especially disparaging. We had finally tracked down my assaulter’s cell number, and, after having been coached on what questions to ask and what language to both use and avoid, we tried calling a few times using the SVB’s outdated burner flip-phone, Detective Garcia wearing an earbud to listen in. But the kid never answered.
“His number is disconnected.”
“The number just doesn’t work anymore,” the detective repeated.
Afterward, when blasting and sing-screaming the timeless Wicked power ballad “Defying Gravity” did not immediately quell or lessen my PTSD-induced anxiety as it usually did, I decided I’d get myself Chipotle. I was in the habit of withholding food from myself until I absolutely needed it, and now was one of those desperate moments of hunger.
The drive to Chipotle took 5 minutes and as I sat in the parked car giving myself time to breathe and ready myself for another brief yet painful excursion into society, I remembered I had forgotten my debit card. And credit card. And cash.
I could’ve died right then and there in that Chipotle parking lot. The combined sensation of being starved of food and even a modicum of justice was death to me. I was nearing psychological surrender when I looked at myself in the rearview mirror and said aloud, “No. I’m fucking getting Chipotle.”
I started opening any and every compartment that car had to offer. Between the seats, under the seats, seat pockets, cup holders, even the trunk. Some bold, uncompromising force had taken hold and managed to collect…$3.15.
I stomped into that Long Island Chipotle more determined than I had ever entered any other room or food establishment in my twenty-four years of life. And when that Chipotle Crew Member asked me what I would like I quickly shot back, “I only have $3.15, what can I get for that?!”
“Um, you can get a kid’s cheese quesadilla.”
“Okay, I’ll have a kid’s cheese quesadilla!”
The level of triumph that surged through me – I’m convinced – might be on par to that of a person who has just completed the New York City Marathon. I had tired myself with the unabated anxiety of crafting a legal case against the kid who sexually assaulted me, not knowing where or if it would lead anywhere at all, but knowing I deserved something for myself, if not justice, then closure.
Yet regardless of what might happen in the future, I knew I had been victorious in that Chipotle, and that victory was enough.
Annette Covrigaru is a gay/bigender American-Israeli writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. She was a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices nonfiction fellow and writer-in-residence in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kaaterskill Basin Review, TQ Review, Stitch, Emerge, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She is the editor and creator of All Things Jesbian, an LGBTQIA Jew(ish) litzine (allthingsjesbian.com). Annette is currently completing a master’s degree in Holocaust Studies through the University of Haifa.