• Roxanne Nagarwalla

The Deer and The Hunter

Updated: May 13


In the peak of night, the lonely light of the moon languidly pours itself across the wooden floor.


The hickory tree creaks with the sway of the wind, and I stiffen. A sound that used to seem ephemeral and mysterious now rings between ears as a potential threat.


This body refuses slumber, aroused on high alert. There is a strong necessity to protect, but for what, I do not know.


I rise from the bed to check the locks on all the doors and windows, knowing I already locked them a few hours back. This strange neurosis of double-checking is a self-soothing of sorts.


I repeat ‘I am safe’ to myself like a mantra until my body can stop quivering and believe the words as truth.


I fall asleep in the fetal position, holding myself like I would a child.


I am the caretaker and the wounded.


*


The next day my neck aches from poor sleep, and I go to a massage parlor. An old Thai lady moves over my body hurriedly, her bony fingers pressing deep into my flesh. My sinewy muscles loosen, but my heart contracts.


The only pain lies in a past recollection that her touch unveiled. I allow myself to cry. The old lady is confused about my reaction, and so am I. She leaves me naked in the bed in a solitude of my own making.



I wonder how it can be over six years, but the body still remembers, even when the mind attempts to suppress or reject. Everything becomes a subtle reminder, from waking reality to the depths of sleep.


*


In the astral realm, my subconscious is plagued with men. Most are middle-aged. Most are white like freshly fallen snow. In my dreams, I am a paralyzed deer, and they, the hunters, search the forest for an easy kill.


I am the easy kill. Soft. Vulnerable. Exposed like an open wound.


When they find me in the moss, they do not say a word. The quiet is overwhelming. Their silent longing is violent and familiar.


I am a woman who is well versed in silence. Taught culturally, generationally, conditionally.


My mouth cannot form a “no” or “stop” or “please”.


The men stand over me, meaty hands reaching for slender throat.


Before they seize my trembling body, I wake up.


I comfort myself, "don't worry, it was only a dream, just a common nightmare."


The subconscious fears that riddle my dreams are synonymous with reality. Every inch of the dreamscape is grounded in the memories of womanhood, an echo from the not-so-distant past.


*


I know this suffering is not mine alone.


My girlfriend's fathers have ripped into their bodies. My sister shakes off a man’s touch and pulls away too fast when held even tenderly. My best friend still cannot let her boyfriend of two years kiss her, a poignant reminder of childhood.


It hurts too much to talk about. So, we write about it, fasten it into a poem, or transmute it into a song. The alchemy of pain. But something remains. A lingering feeling during even the lightest of days.


The grief grew thick on the skin and became a part of our girlhood; like the freckles across cheeks, or a birthmark on the inner thigh.


A mark that we have somehow survived.


-----------------------------------


Roxanne is a nomadic artist currently living on an island in Thailand.

She works as a developmental editor and ghostwriter, bringing others’ stories to fruition.

Roxanne spends her time contemplating the paradoxical nature of the human condition and enjoying life's mysteries. Beyond her designated roles of writer, humanitarian, and free spirit, she is a lover; a lover of life and all beings.


Connect with her on Instagram at roxy_vn


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