My Story

Erin died on a Wednesday. She had a midweek death, but wasn’t discovered until the following Monday. I’d rather die on a Saturday, a weekend death seems to be more exciting than a midweek death. I’d want people to know about my death right away. I’m sure given the opportunity to do it all over again that Erin would have chosen a weekend death too. But that’s another story. I’m going to tell you half of a story, it’s a mostly true story, roughly seventy percent truth. I imagine a good writer being like a chemist, with words, structure, composition, studying reaction and matter (of fact).  I’m not a good writer, but I hope to tell you a good story. This isn’t just my story, but I was involved and I wish to tell you my version, my side of things. Please keep in mind there are several sides to every story and in most cases the truth is rarely the side that gets told. There are certain events that Erin and I lived through, which are going to be retold by someone who was “inspired” by the tragedy that killed both of us. I know that makes little sense, but the girls we once were died, and how we were robbed of those lives should be our stories to tell. The woman who was so inspired did not gain consent to tell our stories, when I spoke up for myself, for Erin who is no longer with us, I was silenced.

Erin was the most beautiful ugly girl I’d ever met. Her hands were so soft, her skin so pink it was pale translucent, dotted with sun speckled freckles and imperfections. She had small features that were framed with messy blonde hair and a large crooked nose casting shadow over thin red lips. She was soft feminine with a husky voice, and such a rich laugh that she made me blush. Erin’s eyes were blue gold, like cake of indigo, she was a girl in a woman’s body. We had that in common; child birthing hips and heavy breasts, long legs and warm hands. Erin was the type of girl the world cared about. If someone like Erin were taken, people would look for her. If someone like Erin were raped, the police would care. If someone like Erin was hurt, the world would seek justice. Erin knew that, just like she knew that if the same things happened to someone like me the world wouldn’t blink. Erin stood up for me, she stood up to injustice and gave us both voice. Erin taught me how to breathe again. She taught me how to walk. If I were blind I’d have trusted Erin to show me the world. Erin was the focused fight I needed, she encouraged me to find my voice, even if it meant screaming. Erin introduced me to Relax-And-Smoke-This, she helped me see how healing long drives on winding back mountain roads could be, encouraged me to touch again by holding hands as we jumped across river boulders. Erin became my waking moments, between part-time job, outpatient therapy, and dodging bodies in school corridors and stairwells. Erin was the hurricane after the eye of the storm passed, she was the heaviness that I’d carry long after I let go of the assault, she was the wound that still hasn’t healed in my scar garden. Erin had been the voice of reason, the reason our offender served any time at all.

Erin died long before she killed off her body. I know because I died just before she did. My death was quietly swept under the Reservation rug, under a broken fence post just beyond the boundaries of where Non-Tribal Officers were allowed to serve and protect. On the side of earth where Tribal officers weren’t allowed to police Non-Native bodies. These are policies, we don’t argue with policy until over a decade later, and even then no one cares.  Erin and I would talk about our deaths while we were alone. We’d press our backs and bare skin to the warm asphalt on mountain roads while watching the Milky Way above, only the Seven Sisters and trees could hear our whispers. We’d hold hands and talk in low tones during the difficult parts, while tears ran down our cheeks and into our ears. We’d be still and silent through our panic attacks, our bodies relived the story telling easier each time. We talked through police reports, through court dates, season’s change, through new night skies, until eventually we both moved away. We never moved on, because how could you? We just reshaped ourselves around the wounds, around the heaviness, around the memories of girlhood being choked out of our bodies by strong manly hands who knew no mercy. I stopped thinking about the small mountain town where police shoved papers in file folders labeled shred while Justice wasn’t looking. My parents paid off the medical bills for hospital stays and removal of stitches, I grew into my addiction and womanly body, earth bound and lonely for a life I was robbed of.

After learning of Erin’s death I hugged my legs to my chest and wept until my eyes ached and snot ran down my lips and chin. I wasn’t surprised, and that’s why I cried so hard, for so long. I cried out of guilt. I cried out of fear that the same thing would happen to me. I would have a midweek death and not be found until the following Monday, if I was ever found at all. I wept because maybe there was something I could have done different and Erin would still be here. Before Erin there was Shannon, Becca, and other names that I’ve burned on the backs of my eyelids, names I see and remember when I’m ready to give up on everything that goes wrong, and my entire life always goes wrong. Despite everything always going wrong to the point that it’s comical I’ve kept these fallen warriors, these names and faces with me and kept going to honor them. And I wish I could say that I am still here because I am a mother and my kids need me, they’ve given my life purpose but that would be a lie. I wish I could say I’m really strong and a survivor and we keep going because [insert another lie], but I’ve stayed and tried to help as much as I can because they didn’t. Because they couldn’t. Because we are our own justice in a war machine that was designed to kill and remove us, to wipe us clean out of existence and clear our voices out of a greedy and self-serving system.

My story bled into her story and were these precious and private moments we shared in whispers and tiny voices under a midsummer night’s sky, when no one else was around except forest and fields of stars. We told our stories to practice preparing for a trial that was carried out behind closed doors. My story sat on pale, butter yellow legal paper with a black ink ball point pen after being scribbled onto a police statement that slipped away until no one could find it. My story is not my story, it’s a single moment that has reshaped my entire life. This story is retold any time someone’s eyes graze the scars on my neck and lips. This story is read by doctors who gently press the scars between my hip bones, just below my belly button. This story is heard by loved ones who try to hold me close during hugs and feel my body tense up, and I have to stutter out the words that it’s me, not them. This story is sitting with my back to the wall, eyes on exit signs, walking on well-lit streets, self-defense classes, and logging hours at the range in case I have to save myself ever again. This story is the anxiety that loving someone new and knowing that being intimate for the first time means sharing where my scars came from and maybe they won’t want someone with as much baggage as this brings. This story is memories of rape kits and judgmental nurses gathering my dirty, ripped clothes with latex covered fingers and placing them into plastic bags with commentary about dirty and useless Indians. This story “inspired” someone so much that she wanted to retell it. This story that didn’t even warrant an arrest. This story that couldn’t stand alone at trial because I’m just of those dirty and useless Indians, the same story that was whispered to stars and a girl with eyes as blue as the winter sky. This story died with Erin, this story should be resting in peace between fence posts, two decades ago where it was first told.

I know that my story can and will be stolen, that anything and everything I say will be used against me (and Erin). I understand that I may remain silent, that all of this was possible because so many of us were silenced. I understand the price those who speak up for us pay, they die so many deaths that they are never able to rest in peace. I understand the cost of being an Indigenous Woman. I know that the rights given to most people don’t apply to me, I know I will be provided with unfair opportunities and few will ever stand up for me. I understand the girl who was also raped by the same man as me will not go free, we will all be punished, we will carry out a much longer sentence than he did. I understand that the mechanics of this system will make it possible for the man who stole our lives and rewrote our stories to go free. I understand that I will not be heard unless I am screaming which will draw attention to every other Indigenous woman. I understand that seeking justice within this system will result in injustice. I understand that all of these pieces and parts will become short stories, which are parts of bigger stories being retold, and this is part of an endless cycle that just keeps going, set on repeat with no hopes of any healing.

I understand consent means nothing.

I know somewhere, in some world there are two girls trapped in women’s bodies, pressed against asphalt under a Midsummer night sky whispering secrets only the stars can hear. That’s my story. My version of events.

Speaking Silently, for you.

Ahau! I have written a collection of (free) poetry for you! 7 “books” of 10 poems, 70 poems. These are a gift to you, these poems are dedicated to Indigenous Women. They were written with love, through pain, and a hope we can heal and strengthen our voice through sisterhood. This has been a heavy life and I would not be here without my sisters. I am so thankful that I’m here with all of you. We are powerful, even more so when we unite and stand together.

Speaking Silently, doesn’t touch on every issue and intersection. I wrote from where I stand, where I’ve stood. These are free, however I will be adding this to Amazon for purchase of .99, which I will make .35 off of. I will be donating the proceeds to the Panzi Hospital in the Congo.  I will also have paperback copies available August 15th, the proceeds from this will be going to a Suicide Prevention on the Wind River Reservation. I will provide links and more information with links on all of this August 15th. Thank you for all of your support and please never forget how amazing and brilliant you are. You are needed, never forget that.

Ant Hills @ Amazon

Hello all! I have a collection of poetry for sale, here is one way to make a purchase, through Amazon.com. If you’d like the link to another way to purchase this then please let me know. I will have copies in my online store, which will be available November 25, 2016. The details and description of this book are in the available at Amazon. Many thanks for the support! Love, Sarah

Here is the cover of Ant Hills, please click on the photo for the link to Amazon, or click on Ant Hills: Stories of Girls in a Group Home.

ant-hills-official-cover

Human Touch

I.
His tiny fingers slide over the skin on the palms of my hands, he laces his fingertips around the soft spots between my fingers and squeezes tight. He does this so that the tiny palm of his hand is pressed against mine, just barely. He loosens his grip and we start walking in stride, or as close as possible, I slow my steps so he can maintain his steady pace. He asks me if I like this, I think for a moment…

“You’re one of the only people I’ve ever held hands with as we’ve walked along.”

“Along what? What are we walking along?” He asks me, impatiently.

“Along the hallway. But we’re walking along a life moment. When you’re older you won’t remember this, but I will.” He squeezes and replies, “I might just surprise you.” This gentle loving gesture, this subtle exchange of energies, this moment interlocked between us, with fingers and hands, this is human touch.

Fall 2013

II.
He presses his bare chest against my back, I push my ass against his groin and feel him growing. The morning sun slips through the blinds and he nuzzles the nape of my neck; we’re both uncomfortable and not ready for sex, my breath feels hot and my eyes are filled with restless sleep gunk. He reaches around and squeezes my breast, then lets go of me, completely. We take a few moments untangling ourselves from sheets, our love is becoming comfortable, which is typically when I let go. He sighs and asks me, “Will you ever get sick of waking up with me?” I chuckle, and tell him the truth.

“Aren’t you going to ask me?” He reaches back across the bed and his fingertips graze the tips of my naked erect nipples, they grow harder, so hard that it aches and I want him to just touch me instead of tease.

“No. I’m not going to ask something I already know the answer to. We’re wired this way, we’re built to grow tired of one another, all of us. We just turn that off for the kids, for the vows, for self-preservation’s sake, for the safety, for the comfort. Because leaving wouldn’t be right. Or would cost too much.”

“You’re such a fucking cynic.” He finally grabs my breast, and this is human touch.

Summer 2005

III.
The sun is slipping below the mountain tops, the hard outline of the Snowy Mountain Range is melting into darkness and overcast evening skies. Spring storms gathering strength before they release Winter’s grip, and here I am. Spread eagle, body trembling, legs in stirrups, my mother at my side with Dr. Laura’s head between my legs. “One last push! Now!” The pressure that’s been building for months, for weeks, for days, for hours, for minutes, seconds…it’s gone. Exhaustion envelopes me and I can hear myself whimper, but I’m a distant voice, an out of body experience. I draw in a second breath, deep and hold it in my chest, everything sounds muffled, and as if it’s slow motion. Blurs of soft light and shapes who must be humans shuffle, whisper, and move just past my line of clear vision. I wait for it. Reality is a blur and I start to fade into the darkness, just like the mountains that frame our life giving scene and then it comes-her first cry. Her first noise. Her first. I’m too tired to move, and I know I’m not done, there’s more. I’ve prepared for this, the placenta, the nurses, the family, so many moments must pass before she’s gently set on top of my chest. She’ll feel this side of the heartbeat she’s grown accustomed to. She’ll look up and lock eyes with me, blind to the amount of love that will embrace her as I check to make sure she has two leg, two arms, five fingers, and count her tiny toes. Really this is just seconds, but too many to count. I close my eyes and listen to her brand new cries, this is human touch.

Spring 2000

IV.
For thirty-one years this woman has been the porch light that has lit my way home, no matter how far I’ve traveled, how lost I’ve been, how broken I’ve become. The beautifully strong resistance that silently screamed, never give up. Full of spit and vinegar, unconditional and moxie, “gypsy blood” and tradition, I’m her legacy. Still and cold to my warm touch, her sweet curved lips are now a thin line of Cha-Cha Cherry Red lipstick. I gently dab a bit of her make-up off. My private viewing is breaking open a flood of emotion; the reservoir of love and hope inside of me rushes forward in a choked sob, escaping just shy of the dark wooden box that shines with a polished seal coat under soft flickering candle light. When I turn to leave this lonely room I will be empty, maybe forever. This is human touch.

Summer 2010

V.
My body has been a clumsy chamber of change since birth, I’ve become more often than not, with each cycle of change that creeps across this earth I’ve joined the march. The moons have guided my shedding womb. The years have shaped my hips, waist, thighs, and breasts. I have cut, cropped, chopped, my hair, and my heart has quickened it’s deafening beat with the tides. I’ve loved. I’ve lost. I’ve cared about the win, but more important was how I got there. I’ve been ripped open, from the outside in and the inside out. I’ve been split, divided, shifted, transformed, thrown away, faded out, and lost. I revisit my scar garden daily, ritualistic in recounting the times I’ve been busted open at the seams, and each retracing is a reminder. This is human touch.

The Shower, just a hour ago.