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Me Too and the Trauma Narrative

I’ve spent the past days watching two little words that tell-and-don’t-tell so much wander, liberated at last, largely comma-free, through the raw expanse of shared trauma that is my Facebook-feed.

Me too

There was something freeing, wondrous in this massive exchange of implicit revelation, untold stories that were all different but all ached. With the Weinstein disaster in mind, and inspired by Rosebud Ben-Oni’s piece yesterday, I started pondering the trauma narrative.

As I read the two words over and over I felt sad—in solidarity, but sad. It took me so long to write the words myself. My fingers hovered over my computer keys, trembling in the air.

The logic of trauma is epic and for me it has always seemed to demand a certain encoding to guard safety. Maybe this is why I’m not a memoirist. I never like to talk about what happened to me head-on.

It’s something I can only show you sideways, tilted at an angle that makes it hard to identify but familiar still. I can only fictionalize all through the night and then get on the subway to my morning life.

Like Emily Dickinson, I “tell all the truth but tell it slant,” through fiction, poetry, sewed secretly into my clothing like the female characters from a Carmen Maria Machado story.

Then I think, but shouldn’t I make it explicit? If I don’t, people might feel confused, lost in a tunnel, without any tools to help them see their way outBut then, I think, they’ll know exactly how it felt.

I celebrate every woman who has shared her details, but still I remain unable. Maybe I’m just a coward, but even in an explosion of me toos I still needed to encode, to fictionalize. I am always rewriting my life. I think all women are—and all people for whom this world wasn’t written, which is to say almost everybody, save the maddening few.

I figure the details are mine but the trauma is ours. We’ve all been there. We have learned that terror changes clock ticks into alien symptoms of our own dissolution, into a language we can no longer understand except to say, “perhaps tomorrow it will not rain again,” at that hour when everything hurts and nothing will ever be certain again.

I search other women’s (and men’s) writing for signs and symbols of my secret language: not just the hurt that transformed me but what it transformed me into, what it transformed in me, how I tried to make it into letters moving left to right across a page, bringing tidings of some part of me that had come back from the dead and wanted to tell about it, but only in a tongue nobody could place exactly. But it wasn’t that they couldn’t understand it at all; the thing is they could, sometimes more starkly than if I had just said it outright.

I want to show you not the explosion but the mushroom cloud. When you see it, you’ll feel it in your body. I want to show you the blasted segments, but also the kind of art you can make from the reassembled pieces.

I promise you that I’ll continue to fight every day for this world’s wounded creatures who are all of us, for those who continue to write about that wounding night after night, and maybe even to write about how we can stop hurting each other.

Me too.