Prayer for the Man Who Assaulted Me

The author reflects on a traumatic experience and foreshadows a bleak future for the perpetrator.

prayer for the man

By Kate Arden

Prayer for the Man Who Assaulted Me, and Later Asked, “How Many Times Do I Have to Apologize for That?”

after Charles Harper Webb

May there come a day, decades from now,
that you start to feel that something’s off; that you
start to smell traces of my perfume just when
you are drifting off to sleep; that you find a hair a
different color than your wife’s curled delicately
on your pillow. May you wake up from the
deepest part of your sleep trembling because you swear you heard my voice carried in on
the breeze. May you feel someone humming
in the upstairs of your quaint suburban home
only to find the faintest warmth from my soles
left in the floorboards. May you be terrified.
May you taste adrenaline every time your
phone rings. May the street be filled with cars that do not look like my old car but that
make the street quake like something I
might drive. May you hear my laughter, the sweet kind from before, emanating
from behind your TV set. May you pull out all the books on the shelves, picture
books and old textbooks and airport novels,
because you swear you saw between them
the flash of an eye, the one you once saw
huge in terror, now narrowed, cold and
determined. May you have to sing to yourself always
so you do not hear me waiting. May
your wife not understand. May you overhear her on the phone to her mother, when she thinks
you are asleep, wondering if it will be tomorrow
or next week that you finally snap. May your children aim weary looks at you, a stranger,
unkempt, wild eyed and sweating in what was
once their living room. May she send them to live
with her mother. May she start packing a suitcase.
May you be forced to move states by the memory
of me. May you be unable to eat because your
stomach is always full of me. May you sleep in
fits. May you hear my name in the mouths of
passing strangers. May the new city reek of me.
May you long to see me, finally, at last,
if only so that it will all be over. May your
wife call and you hear my soft chatter
in the background. May your kids’ new sitter
have the same name as me. May you find skin
under your nails though you have not touched
anyone in months. May you find yourself
crumbling to the ground begging on your worn
knees for forgiveness. May you repent so
forcefully and for so long, asking the benevolent
sky to crack open and drown your undeserving
lungs; asking the ground to boil and melt the body
you once allowed free reign of this earth and all its bodies. May your pleas be so earnest
and distracting to passersby that it gathers
media attention. May I see your gaunt figure
on the news and it take me awhile to recognize
you because I have not thought of you in so long.

It is possible, just slightly possible, that then I will forgive you, and it is only because I
remember feeling once how you feel there
on your knees. My god, how I pity you. Your god,
how I pity you. May you die of relief with my name
on your lips, praising me as a merciful lord,
one who is kind to animals.

Kate Arden majored in English Language and Literature and graduated from UNC in 2021.