Trigger warning: Sexual assault
A mirror is like a soul. When an existing crack is triggered, it shatters into a million pieces. Putting it back together becomes an emotional journey that requires acceptance, patience, and trust. This is my shattered recollection of a night, assault, and experience that broke and put my soul back together.
On a late October night, I checked into a Scandinavian hotel room after a long day in the air. I had been flying for six months, and while it wasn’t everything I had dreamed of, I always cherished the experience of a new city. Even after the longest of days, I never turned down a social invitation, like the one that night where I put on my leather jacket, walked out in the crisp air, and joined him and a group of people for a glass of white wine.
In a blink of an eye, 6 p.m. turned into 12. But instead of being soundly asleep, I was awake, throwing men’s shoes out in the corridor, rushing back and forth in the hotel elevator, seeking someone for help.
Moments earlier, he had forced his way into my hotel room, choking me hostage. Our encounter lasted what felt like the longest seconds of my life, as I attempted to kick around for my breath. My response left his intoxicated self confused, as if it was the first time he realized I wasn’t here to play.
When I grasped that everyone in the lobby was asleep, I sat by my locked door until 4 am, ignoring his repetitive knocks and protecting what was left of myself.
An agitated feel was in the air that day, like the energy around me somehow knew what was about to unfold. Delays had piled up, coffee ran out, and the only way to stay positive was to socialize away.
I remember trying so hard to prove to myself and to others that I belonged. I would pretend to be outgoing. I would act like I was on the pedestal my job title set up for me. But deep down, I was avoiding myself. I couldn’t bear to look at the mirror in fear of facing the unrecognizable person I was becoming.
I exhaled exhaustion and relief when checking into my hotel room for the night. But in an effort to make the most of the city while I still could, I ignored my need for rest and joined everyone out in the town. After spending his time securely locked away, he bought a round of drinks to join in on the joke of the day. In between sips and laughs, I would keep catching his recurring gaze. But something felt uncomfortable and I continuously turned away. Within hours, I left the table and headed back west, sober, fatigued, and ready to doze off to sleep.
At 5 a.m., I put on my lipstick, tied my hair in a bun, and delicately applied eyeliner as if I was painting a mask that would hide the flaws of my broken self. In the lobby, I joined the flying man and freed my shaking chest in a composed way about his friend’s behavior. I left out small details as if they were locked with my fears in the hotel room, handed my card back to reception, and boarded yet another plane with the hope to leave it all behind.
But my relief was short-lived, as his ghost followed me home. An intoxicated behavior often ripples into the morning, and while my honesty was an attempt to resolve the problem, it fueled the fire that made them light my wings up in flames. That October night had caused delays, money, and inconvenience, which led to a corporate confrontation no one had expected. After I sat for hours in the interrogation room, the mirror shattered and I was cut loose.
When I got home, I laid down screaming onto the cold hardwood floor of my townhouse. After a while, my exhaustion plunged me into the dark and for the next two months that followed. Occasionally, I emerged on a cloudy day, seeking my friends for coffee. But despite their support and cheers, all I really felt was sorrows, shame and tears.
As I could no longer bear being alone with myself, I clung onto the first person that showed me kindness. I wandered the street alone in search of lightness, ordered a green tea to knock out the cold that took my voice away, and patiently waited for a text. Sadly, kindness turned bitter within days, as we were both not ready to handle my emotional state.
I chose not to celebrate Christmas that year and found comfort on my own. There was nothing left in me to socialize, pretend, or cling onto besides my own emotions. And for the first time, I liked it that way.
That one October night had forcefully pulled me off a path I was not meant for. It also stripped down a behavior that held me back for too long. On that Christmas night, I could finally look at my broken reflection with kindness, support, and the assurance that I would no longer be alone.