It’s the sound of fans I can’t stand. Box fans, oscillating fans, ceiling fans. Floors that creak in a too-silent house. The turn of a doorknob. The certain clunk of a weighted shoe. Lotion from a pump bottle. To this day, I’ll take a sweltering room before I sleep to the sound of a fan.
More than that, it’s murmurs through a crowd I can’t stand. The sherriff who, when taking my statement, accused me of exaggerating my story. The boy at school who turned his voice a mocking octave to sing, “I fuck my daaaaddyy,” when I walked past. All the many family and friends who wanted to crease the blame and turn it back toward my mother, like one would do with a shirtsleeve in a too-hot room.
It’s uncomfortable for them, Dylan. This man’s work has touched them, and they don’t want to think of those same hands harming you. So to cool that discomfort for themselves, they tell themselves that you, poor sweet girl, must be a victim not of him, but your mother. Even better, you must be a victim of your own memory. See how much easier that is for them? Now, really, all you’ll have to do is realize your memories were false, it was only a hard dream, and our culture can keep its idol and all can be droll again.
Dylan, don’t do it. Your story is yours, your body is yours, and so many of us are out here on the periphery of this debate listening to see how the culture will shake out. His op-ed in the Times yesterday was compelling, well crafted, hit all the right pangs. Of course, this is a man who for decades has finessed his audience just so, and those of us who’ve lived under similar hands know the ploys. Even as they took my stepfather off in handcuffs, he turned to mouth, “I love you, babygirl,” as if somehow the care he imagined he had for me was enough to undercut his harm.
I have hesitated at writing you. I’ve spent much of my week in stasis, migraines and flashbacks come back, as I listened to all the arguments rise around you. The world hates a victim, and I work so much of my life now to be seen as a woman who’s competent, durable, unbroken. And then, a friend sent me this old Kathleen Hanna video, and I remembered that I promised my young self that I would shout.
No matter if they claim we’re crazy, no matter if they call us the hysterical shrill, or say that our stories contain ‘palpable bitchery.’ I will not shut up. Dylan, no matter how hot it gets, please don’t ever shut up. And don't listen to the fans.