She didn’t think much of herself.
She thought she’d exploit certain feminine features she had and go with that.
Highlight the male vision of her.
What boys reduced her to when the light goes out.
The ones she liked gave her no attention whatsoever,
And she looked at the girls they did like and transformed herself
Endlessly, never to anyone’s satisfaction or wellbeing, but the ones who wanted
To hurt her, and she was familiar with that taste.
She was sitting in a bus, in the back, her cleavage presented like the
Centrepiece of a palace room. It was dark.
She listened to music and daydreamed about romances that
Had never come to life in reality, had long persisted in
That unborn death, but she unburied her hopes in her mind,
Looking out of the window. The bus drove through a village that
Everybody feared and yet it halted at its one stop and they entered.
Five, six, seven of them, tall and bulky men and she had caught their
Gaze immediately. She felt like she had a stamp on her forehead,
As the same old ghosts targeted her wherever she went, suddenly she
Felt naked, as they approached, smiling, unwholesomely, that commanding walk
Across the heads of seats, towards her, the prey, the girl that shrank amongst
Her cleavage. She had nothing to cover herself with, she thought it was on her,
That she needed to hide, instead of them controlling themselves.
She felt trapped and thought she’d just play nice and be courteous so that she’ll
Get out alive, untouched. An insincere smile crossed her lips because she couldn’t
Contain her nervousness; ah, you see, but father always said: a smile is an invitation,
If you look them in the eyes that is a clear statement, and she recognised the sad truth
Of those barbaric words in that very moment. She felt that she needed to quickly bury
And matt her outer womanhood. But it was too late, in their eyes, she had given her
Accord. To what exactly? They assembled around her, all her exits were blocked,
Her lungs were blasting against her ribcage. Read her body language. Discomfort.
Fear. And even though her resentment and rejection had been clear, they refused to read
Her factually, truthfully, as she sat there, crouching, they had already started their
Projections, categorised her, that they knew better what she wanted,
That she had revealed her nature to them and now they would dig it out again.
They had no interest in reality anymore, the image of her was formed.
She was incarcerated with all their circulating faces, shoving, smelling,
Touching her hair, sniffing, asking her why she had made herself so
Pretty tonight. She felt the muscles of his leg slammed against her immoveable legs.
There was no air. People would occasionally stare, see her predicament, and
Look back into the void before them.
That gesture didn’t surprise her anymore; she knew it all too well.
She felt their thoughts, in their heads it was already happening,
What she had not intended, what she had not wanted, what she refused
With all her might as her body became a monotonous tension.
She could sense the pictures in their heads on her skin. Incompatible with her will.
The circle around her grew tighter, they felt so powerful in their
Desolate pack. They gave her compliments that tasted like poison.
Uttered a million times before, with the same purpose, void of emotion.
She was aware of empty words like that too, they were alarm bells, intentional.
Intended to smoothen the edges, to please, to appease, to persuade, to pressure, to
Destabilise, to force, to rape.
It’s always a very thin line.
Those words stood on mountains of corpses.
When the bus came to a final halt, she could act on
Her decision that she would never be one of them.
“Ophelia” by Arthur Hughes (1832-1915)