Evocations by Elizabeth Bluth

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CONTENT WARNING: implications of sexual assault and domestic violence


The bar is loud and hot, too small to hold all these people as is always the case with dingy New York bars, but this is where Mark wanted to have his birthday and so we are here. I am waiting at the bar for our drinks. A man grabs my ass. I grimace at him but say nothing. He doesn’t notice. I return to my friends, and spend the whole night looking over my shoulder.


Mary Beth and I are seated at the bleachers at recess. The sun beats down on our eleven-year-old ponytails. Brayden G approaches us from across the field, leaving the group of boys huddled together there. We’ve been waiting for this for days. Everyone knows Brayden’s about to ask her to be his girlfriend since he tried to kiss her after school on Tuesday. “Mary Beth”, he calls out. She blushes. “You’re a whore.” He runs back to the group of boys who turn away from us laughing. “What’s a whore?” she asks me. 


We’re sitting in Freshman Orientation. They’ve taken the boys to another room. They hand each of us a whistle with the university’s logo embossed on it. There’s a powerpoint about all the ways we can avoid harassment. I wonder what kind of advice the boys are getting.


I can’t decide between green or yellow peppers for the stir fry. I’m standing in the produce aisle with one in each in hand when the stranger approaches. Long, stringy hair and a Walt Disney World sweatshirt, but I don’t remember his face. “Give me your number,” he says. “Tell me your name. Give me your number. You’re so pretty.” He follows me down the dry goods aisle despite my repeated pleas for him to leave me alone. Other customers are staring but do nothing.  I give up on grocery shopping and walk quickly towards the exit. But I hear him call out after me. “Bitch.”


The showers at the university run hot, but I’m trying to burn my skin off.  Why bother having roommates if they’re never home when you need them? Why did you answer the door? Why didn’t you scream when he picked you up and carried you down the hall? Or when he climbed on top of you and stuck his hand down your pajama pants? How many times did you say no? When he sobered up and started to apologize, why did you say it was okay? 


I am helping Mark move into his new fancy apartment in Long Island City with views of the river. He smiles at me as I taunt him again about his ridiculous new job in finance. I am still hunkered down in deep Brooklyn working freelance, living on bagels and rice. We are happy, but as I go to put pots and pans away in the kitchen, I accidentally pull off a cabinet door. Panic sets in and I am flooded with embarrassment. I apologize profusely, too much honestly. And Mark reassures me it is nothing. Won’t let me fix it. Instead he has me sit down on the couch with a cup of tea while he takes out his toolbox and reattaches the screws properly (they hadn’t been screwed in to begin with; it was not my fault). I am on edge the rest of the day, saying sorry every ten minutes, wary of the pressure of my limbs on the furniture and countertops. Mark rolls his eyes at my umpteenth apology, cups my cheek in his hand, and reassures me everything is fine. I know, deep down, it is, but I cannot shake the learned response. We are sitting on the couch after dinner. He places a hand on my back as I reach for the remote on the coffee table, and though I should be reassured by the touch, it takes everything in me not to shrink away. With sleep, I’ll reset, let go of the habitual fear. Tomorrow, we’ll return to our content and jovial routine. Tomorrow he will be just Mark, my Mark, and not every man who has done me damage.


Elizabeth Bluth is a writer of fiction, poetry, and plays. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in LIT Magazine, Emerge Literary Journal, VERSIFICATION Zine, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, and others. She has a BA in Theatre and Creative Writing and an MFA in Fiction from The New School.

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