It’s 7.48am and Angie is walking home from the hospital, where she works as a nurse. Today is the 8th day in a row that she’s been assigned the graveyard shift but she doesn’t mind it. It’s quieter and she likes watching her patients sleep and find rest, while she watches over them to take care of their every need.
As she walks, she holds her bag close to her and although it’s summer, she’s wearing a thick jacket and stockings. Inside, she wears a long sleeved black top underneath her tight-fitting uniform. Never again would she wear anything without sleeves. Never again would she allow her neckline to be exposed. She never knew this part of her body would be the thing that attracted him the very most.
Her palms are sweaty but she keeps her right hand in her sling bag, her fingers clutching tightly around the pocket knife. She can never be too careful. He might appear anytime, anywhere.
Walking along the street from the hospital to her home would take an hour, but she welcomes the exercise. It fact, the only time she’s able to find peace is when she’s walking.
Angie walks everywhere. She never takes the bus, the car, the plane, not even a bicycle.
If she cannot walk to where she’s going, she will not go.
As she’s about to cross the bridge where he first raped her, she mentally prepares for the nausea that always hits hard.
“Ready?” She asks Anni, one of her imaginary friends that Angie’s mind created in order to protect her. To no one else but her, Anni has been walking alongside Angie since the first incident.
They arrive at the start of the bridge, a bridge that Angie has taken countless of times since she was a child. It’s the bridge that separates town from her neighborhood. She crosses it everyday when she goes to work.
“Can we count backwards this time?” Anni says in her cheerful voice.
They count backwards from 318 as they walk across the bridge. Angie can feel her heart pounding. From her chest to her back, a sharp pain increases in intensity as she inches closer to the exact spot where he first defiled her. Where he first decided to ruin her life forever.
’56, 55, 54…….53′
At step 53, Angie looks at Anni, takes a quick breath and slowly lets it go as they pass 52, 51, 50, all the way to 1.
They made it again. And no one will ever know what a feat they’ve accomplished, just by being able to cross a site of trauma without going into complete panic.
No one will ever know what Angie carries with her. She can never tell anyone. She can never name her perpetrator. Because who would believe her?
He’s a respectable business man in town who owns 2 hotels, 3 restaurants and is the supplier for all of the medicine to the hospital she works in. Everyone in Berat (Albania) knows who he is. From the burek stall owner to the mayor, Miro is the local town hero.
She tried to make a police report against him, after he had raped her a second time – this time in the supply closet on the top floor. The police dismissed her and said that she was “the 5th girl who’s claimed to be raped” by him. “It’s just not possible, look at his hot wife, why would he want to even touch someone like you?”
The second time it happened, he had found out about her work schedule and attacked her while she was doing her rounds. With his strong hand clasping her mouth shut, she couldn’t scream. She couldn’t fight him. She was helpless against him – in all ways.
After Angie got home, her mother, Gloria, heard her opening the door softly, the hinges creaking because of the rust.
As Angie brought a cup of water to her mother’s bedside, Gloria grabbed her wrist and sat her down on the bed, next to her. Gloria is blind and her blindness heightens all her other senses. She could feel that something wasn’t right. She could feel her daughter’s agony, even though Angie hasn’t spoken a word.
“What happened, my love?” Gloria asks.
“Nothing mama, I’m just tired.” Angie’s been avoiding Gloria’s questions for a while now, 7 months and 2 days to be exact.
In silence they sit, Gloria holding Angie’s hands and putting them on her lap.
Gloria knew of course, that something had happened. Something had changed in Angie. This was her child. She would always know if something is wrong but she knew better than to push Angie to talk.
“Okay then, turn around sweetie. Let me brush your hair.”
Angie turned around, her back facing her mama, and let her close as she felt the brush comb through her long black hair. With every stroke, Angie feels her eyes getting heavier and heavier. She lets her head tilt up and down naturally as her mother combs through her hair. She knows that this is how her mother cares for her. And she lets her. Because it’s easier than telling her what happened.
Before long, her mother stops and Angie blinks open her eyes again, her face staring back at her in the mirror on the wall. The mirror that her mother used before her blindness set in.
Every time Angie looks at herself in the mirror, she doesn’t recognize the person staring back. Who is she? Where has the light in her eyes gone to? Where is the healthy glow that once used to radiate from her skin?
Before the self-interrogation continued in her mind, Angie stands up from the bed abruptly, and kisses her mother on the cheek.
As she lay on her bed, ready to go to sleep, the flashbacks begin. They go on for what seems like an endless of time but her fatigue takes over and plunges her into her dreams.
There, she’s free. There, she’s finally able to live a life she wants. In her dreams, there are no men. Only happy children singing and dancing. For the next precious 5 hours before she has to wake up for her day job as a waitress, Angie sleeps.
Sleep Angie, sleep.