‘You’re a superstar,’ she wrote. It was wildly over-exaggerated praise for what I’d done, which was simply download a paper from a journal to send to her. It took ten seconds and definitely didn’t deserve superstar status, but it made me feel like a primary school child getting a gold star stuck on my forehead and, momentarily, like a superstar. Do they do that still? They should. The world needs more gold stars.
Sometimes I want to scream and cry and shout at humanity. They’re just a crap lot, a lot of the time. Let me back track. I don’t often talk about my work in The Ivory Tower because, well, I just don’t. It is fascinating, excruciating, depressing, ecstatic and heart-breaking. I work in HIV, and that’s all I really need to say to quantify that sentence.
I try very hard to separate work and the rest of my life. I try to leave the stories I hear while I’m in The Ivory Tower there. I have to, otherwise I’d throw myself from a bridge. So many of the stories are just tragic. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible, inspiring, wonderfully happy stories, too, I just don’t get to hear those very often, due to the line that I’m in. I do get to help sometimes, though, which I like. I’m lucky to be here, to be able to do that.
The problem is that I’m not very good at leaving the shit at work, because the things I hear each and every day are not just stories. There are people behind them. Real people. People who are trying really hard to survive in a world that just keeps on kicking them – on their shins, in their backs, in their stomachs, knocking the air out of them, over and over and over.
Mostly, I manage, but then I hear something that makes me crumble, to want to scream, and cry, and shout, and hit out. Like this morning. A 6-year old girl, who had been raped. There are no words. My faith in humanity shatters a bit more every time I hear of these things. Hers, I’m pretty sure, is broken terminally. How could it not be? She’s 6-years old. Six.
It brings up the question of what has the very young boy (he’s 14) who did this seen in his short life, that he thinks that’s okay? What’s he been exposed to that brings him to the point to do something so horrific? There is no excuse, ever, for rape, but one has to step back and try to take in the bigger picture, to look for where it all broke.
Because that’s what it is: broken, completely and utterly broken. And unless we step back and start looking at the people who are raping and getting them in on how to fix it, this vicious circle will continue breaking people. It seems insurmountable.
All I want to do is kick and cry but instead, I do what I can, I do my tiny bit to help mop up the mess that he’s left behind, the medical mess, try to at least keep her body from breaking, from falling prey to all the monsters he may have passed on to her.
But her broken soul? Her broken spirit?
For that, I am helpless. And there are no gold stars that’ll make this okay.