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I Started Screaming Monday

by Genevieve Mills

[If you are reading this aloud please take a deep breath and start screaming. Each word should be screamed without pause until you reach a dash. Take a breath there to regain your strength so that you can keep screaming. With each paragraph you should get louder until you reach the end and you’re screaming with a thunder you didn’t know you had. It is best to read this outdoors or in a concert hall.]

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          I started screaming Monday—I was walking home from work and the sun was already down because it was winter when a man—taller and wider than me—blocked my way on the sidewalk—and crouched down—and lolled his tongue out like a child imitating a monkey and leaned his face towards mine—and I twisted away and screamed at him.

          Now it is Saturday and I have been screaming ever since—even in my sleep according to my roommates who yelled at me with bags under their eyes and plugs in their ears and asked if I wouldn’t stop would I please sleep in the bathroom with a towel shoved under the door since it was the most soundproof room in the apartment so now my back hurts from the tub and I am still screaming.

          I have been working from home since Tuesday when my manager called me into her office and asked why I was screaming and if I could please stop but when I thought of stopping I thought of how I felt when the man shoved his face towards mine—small and powerless and trapped—and all of my breath came rushing out of me and the nice HR lady agreed that for now I can work from home—except my neighbors complained about the noise so I sat in the park with my laptop—screaming and scaring pigeons away—and people walking past me veered to the far side of the path.

          My friends thought my screaming was fun at first while we sipped wine at home but then we tried to go to a bar Friday night and the bouncer put his hands over his ears and wouldn’t even glance at my ID as I screamed so they each gave me a hug and said maybe I should go home and rest—instead I leaned against the cold brick and tried and failed to smoke a cigarette while screaming—I watched the smoke drift up and tried to inhale but I was all exhale.

          I went to the emergency room Sunday but the doctors held stethoscopes against me and felt my lungs with cold gloved hands and couldn't figure out how I was still screaming. I tried to explain what had started it—and the female nurse nodded but the male doctors shrugged liked they couldn’t hear me and wrote me a prescription—it’s hard to swallow a pill while screaming but on the third try with water all over the kitchen counter and my sweater I got it down and I’m waiting for it to work but it hasn’t made me stop screaming.
 

[If you’re reading this aloud for this last paragraph you shouldn’t try and form words. Just clench your fists and scream as loud as you can and the listeners should understand you.]
 

          It’s Monday again and I’m still screaming but I’m not going to try to take another pill—I think I like my scream—it’s bigger than my voice has ever been—and everyone even men give me a wide berth on the sidewalk—and my lungs feel full and strong—and I don’t have the breath to talk but it doesn’t matter anymore because all I want to say is this scream—when I close my eyes it’s all I can hear and feel and I think I’m becoming this scream—this long and loud rage—and it’s tiring—and I might have to find a new apartment—and a new job—and new friends—but I don’t know what else to do and besides—there are worse things to be than a scream.
 

[If you’re reading this aloud you can stop screaming now. Or you may continue until some listeners grow uncomfortable and leave and the few people that are left behind begin to join you. Eventually you won’t be able to hear the difference between your own voice and theirs. It will all just be one scream.]

Author's Note

This piece is unusual for me because I tend not to write based on real events in my life. But the first part of this really did happen to me (although I didn't scream, I shouted "f— off" at him). I was on my way to meet friends for dinner and after telling them what had happened, and after hearing all their awful harassment stories, and reading another #metoo article, and drinking a decent amount of wine, I came home and wrote most of a first draft while still furious and kind of freaked out. One thing that stuck with me while writing and editing was how my friend said, "I'm glad you yelled at him because I don't think I would've been able to." I want more women to start screaming—or cursing, whatever works.

Genevieve Mills is a fiction and nonfiction writer from Louisville, Kentucky. Her work has appeared in Psychopomp Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, Unbroken Journal, Severine, Drunk Monkeys, and other magazines.