Switching on the Light – Alarie Tennille

a note from Alaire…
Although never physically assaulted beyond a pinch, I’m still nervous about personal safety because of living at college when a serial rapist was on the loose. My roommate and I slept with the windows closed, no air conditioning, one Virginia summer because we were so afraid. The rapist did strike next door, not more than 15 feet from my window. I went off to a job interview in another city that day, not knowing that the news had been announcing “Virginia Avenue coed raped” all day. My friends were in a panic because I wasn’t there to answer calls.
I never told my parents of the danger for fear they’d pull me out of school. I was in the first coed class. I didn’t want anything to block my success. 

Switching on the Light

I wake in the dark.
A man stands silhouetted
in the doorway. I try to scream,
find my voice sleep-paralyzed
like my legs.

Shhh, it’s only a dream,
whispers my husband, pulling
me close. My moan fades.
My adrenalin soars.

I wake in the dark.
A man stands silhouetted
in the doorway. Repeat,
repeat. Over twenty years
of reruns.

I blame the serial rapist
who haunted college nights.
The one time my roommate
was gone, he climbed
through the window next door.
How can that other woman
ever sleep again?

At work one day, I explain
to a friend why I’m dragging.
This man in the dream
never speaks or comes
toward you? she asks.

Maybe he’s not an intruder.
When you were little,
didn’t your daddy stand
at the door like that to check
on you?

Alarie Tennille graduated from The University of Virginia in the first class admitting women.  She serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place in Kansas City, Missouri.  Alarie’s latest poetry collection is Waking on the Moon.  Please visit her at alariepoet.com and check out her new blog there.

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