“As to Your Comment that It Could Have Been Worse” by Caridad Moro-Gronlier

Worse than the fact that I said yes to a last-minute fishing trip to Key Largo at 5:00 o’clock on a Friday, bare limbed, mini-skirted, no repellent to ward off stingers out for blood?

Worse than the untethered way I lived my adolescence—no cell phone or GPS, at best a couple of quarters in my purse, how I didn’t say where I was going other than out, how I said, Thank God, get me out of here, when he pulled in, how I tucked myself inside his car and kissed his cheek hello?

Worse than that summer at Domino’s where I took the orders he delivered, how he split his tips with me, how I’d lie to my parents and say I had to work late only to ride shotgun and smoke pinners until he finished his route, how I endured the slice and sizzle of his cracked vinyl seats, the tremble of his broken axle, how I felt safe because he called me little sister?

Worse than my gratitude when he sprung for my shrimp platter combo at the Long John Silver’s in Florida City, how chivalrous I thought him when he suggested the bathroom and warned me we had a ways to go, how I didn’t ask where we were headed with every mile marker we passed down Card Sound Road, how I chastised myself over the foreboding in my gut, the dread that pooled in my hands when he finally pulled over and said he forgot the fishing poles?

Worse than the bellow of gators in the squid ink dark, no flashlight or porch lights, just headlights fixed on a canal-lined road where his voice deepened by fathoms, when he said—Don’t act like you thought we were really going fishing. I bought you dinner, right?

Worse than how I jumped out of the car with no map, no landmark, no sense of direction, no knowledge of the stars, just the image of the last payphone we’d driven past and the impossible arithmetic of the walk back to that glass booth, how there would be no one to call who would not blame me for getting in his car?

Worse than how I thought to appease him, to empty my mind so he could enter my body, how I thought to lie there and let him take me in exchange for a ride?

Worse than how my legs loosened when I said no, how he shoved me to the ground and loomed over me, how I tugged at the hem of my skirt as he called me a tease, a cunt, a whore, not little sister anymore, how I chanted please until he unlocked the door, how he gave me five seconds to get in, how I made it inside as he yelled, four?

Worse than how he wound his hand through my hair, how tears slid off my neck onto his braided fist, how he pulled over three times to tell me the least I could do was give him a hand job, how he threatened to make me walk every time I said no, how he littered my left thigh with right-handed rabbit punches, how I tallied the idle minutes spent at the countless red lights between me and home?

Worse than how no one heard me pull in despite how hard I slammed his door, how his tires kicked up pebbles that pierced my knees when he peeled out of the driveway, how there was no one to let me in, how I could not steady my hands to undo the lock, how the deadbolt resisted my house key?

Worse than how after thirty years I still ask myself— why the fuck did you wear that skirt?

Caridad Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera (TRP 2021), winner of The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series and the chapbook Visionware (FLP 2009). She is a Contributing Editor for Grabbed: Poets and Writers Respond to Sexual Assault (Beacon Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for SWWIM Every Day an online daily poetry journal.