Updated: Mar 25
In order to help empower trauma warriors into sharing their stories, the founders of Origin Papers have decided to share their stories with you.
My siblings used to attend the rabbit-friendly University of Victoria where my sister was in the
sciences and my brother the humanities. I always had a thing for the West Coast, however
stuck I was in the gusty winters of Halifax, Nova Scotia during my high school years, after
moving from Maseru, Lesotho. Every holiday that my high school granted us meant that I
was on the first flight departing from the icy tracks of YHZ to YYJ. Regardless of the number
of times I’ve boarded flights before, butterflies float to the top of my diaphragm before
crossing that threshold onto a plane. This feeling lived in my lungs when I flew to Victoria for
the beginning of summer at the end of grade eleven, 2011. But this visit was different from
any of my previous visits to see my siblings: this was when I fell in love with Vancouver.
We never thought to leave Victoria during each holiday since every time I went it was during
a festive season, Christmas or Easter. This time the sunlight infected us, lighting up the
vibrant smiles and slack liners around the bustling harbour front in the downtown area of
Victoria. This energy spread into my butterfly lungs and I insistently told my siblings, “We
should ferry over to Vancouver for an afternoon!” They wilfully agreed as they had not been
to Vancouver in a while and enjoyed spending time in a bigger city.
I remember the day we took off on the ferry, moist from the humid air, a light breeze blowing
over the solarium making the heat bearable. We grabbed one of the full English breakfasts
that are made fresh on deck and enjoyed the one and a half hour of smooth sailing. We
hopped onto the 620 bus to Bridgeport where I was introduced to my first Skytrain ride. I had
never even imagined the two words sky and train could be joined together—my fascination
with Vancouver began at that exact moment.
Pacific Centre station was our first stop, in the downtown core. I could feel it as I went up the
escalators, wiping the sweat off of my arms from the clammy train ride: that feeling in my
stomach starting to tingle as we topped the stairs. I could hear cars rushing across the
streets, enclaves of footsteps and smell the sizzling steam off the stovetops of food carts.
Had I ever questioned the meaning of love or what love meant to me, I now had a partial
answer. Like I had never seen daylight before, I fell in love with the city of Vancouver, its
surprisingly fresh air and rays reflecting from the clusters of glass-windowed high rises.
“I’m going to live here,” I muttered, surprising myself with the words, how right they felt.
Louder now, “Guys! I’m telling you now so you two are my witnesses, I’m going to move here
when I graduate!”
Following that afternoon, the dream to live in Vancouver became the driving force that
encouraged me to start caring about my coursework. The flood of instructions my parents
had ever told me prior to being sent to Canada for high school were more apparent now. I
had a goal, and if achieving that goal meant actually completing my homework and attending
class in order to actually get my IB diploma, then I was ready. I started remembering certain
university workshops I’d attended because the only way Vancouver could be come my
reality was if there was also an educational purpose. My parents agreed and so did my final
report card in senior year. It was official: I was going to the University of British Columbia!
September arrived and so had I, eager to move into my new dorm room, my new chapter in
my life. Since I had been to this rodeo before and moved to a new city already, I assured my
mother it would be okay for Mb, my sister, to move me in because Victoria is just across the
pond and Namibia is not. I got my key cards to my room and mailbox and the saga of
unpacking began. I call it a saga because I arrived in Vancouver with one suitcase and
waited for the rest of my shipment to arrive after me, which took a month to show up. After
refolding clothes, pinning up pictures and stowing my suitcase, the new beginning has
begun. Mb headed home around four o’clock, on account of a number of outdoor activities
starting, beckoning first year students to come out so we could all mingle. To be honest, I
was too tired from all the adrenaline I spent prior to getting to UBC that I took a nap instead.
It didn’t matter: this was the beginning of my next four years, and I had all the time in the
world to begin.
And begin it did the next day; my first day of what changed the rest of my life. It was a sunny
and eventful day, full of fresh-faced first years, and the excited current that thrilled through
the chatter of the students about the well-known fraternity party, ‘The Toga Party.’ Fraternity
parties had always seemed unreal, a strange cocktail of brazen masculinity and alcohol that
only occurred for the best-looking students in the States. But who gives: this was my new
chapter of life, and there was no better time to embrace those classic college experiences.
It’s gotta be as good as the movies, right?
Since the regalia for the night would consist of towels turned dresses and sheets wrapped
around some ladies twice over, I decided to go with a simple t-shirt and jeans. There were a
number of people that didn’t dress up and rightly so, we were the ones who could make it to
the party scratch free without falling over tangled sheets. My balance isn’t spectacular on the
best of days, and our alcohol consumption before leaving our residence made this not nearly
the best of days. The fraternity houses are located in one area called the Greek Village at
UBC, with several different parties happening in each of the houses simultaneously. We
aimed for a house called Fiji, imagining the college-movie paradise we would find ourselves
Indeed it was quite the college-movie: different zones where different groups did various
different college things. People playing flip cup, a game that still doesn’t seem logical to me,
the air hazey with alcohol, smoke and sweat; chunks of extremely inebriated guys outside
shouting obscenities; the basement. There weren’t many people on the disco lit dancing
platform in the spacious basement; I preferred it down there because of the clearer air. After
some time, my friends wanted to leave the party at Fiji—I was enjoying the vibe enough and
felt like I could handle staying there on my own. I didn’t think twice about it; this was my new
life; this was my first night of my new life. They left; I continued to get my groove-on amongst
the six others also dancing in the basement at the same time as me. The music pulsed, my
body pounded, I drank.
I drank, but I was still coherent enough to know what was going on around me. I drank, I was
drunk, but I knew. Heading to the washroom, I walked across the room towards the dark
corridor where the light no longer glowed, the music no longer bumped. I used the walls to
find my way to the door, dizzy, but I knew. I felt a heavy breath moistening the back of my
neck. It was not there before. It was there the next moment. He shoved me into the
washroom by my waist. I stumbled, rushed to the door to switch on the light. The bulb was
blown. There were muddy puddles of water on the floor, I could tell because I could feel
small pebbles grating under my flats. I was drunk, but I knew. I knew, and I could not move. I
could not move. My mind was alert and ridden with fear that my body wouldn’t follow its
instructions. Get out. Leave. Get out. Fight. Get out. This cannot be happening. This is
He knew the layout of this washroom well, grabbing my arm and pulling me towards the
toilet. I tried to grab my cell phone out of my pocket to shine a light on his face, phone for
help, I don’t know. Anything, anything, just anything but what was about to happen. He hit
my arm, bruising, hard, knocking my phone onto the floor, sliding into the water.
I was drunk, but I knew. I knew, but I could not move. I could not move. The muscles on my
face that were once active from my enthusiasm transformed into painful spasms; this was it.
This was my first day in Vancouver, this. The city I had dreamed of living in for the last two
years. This night. This washroom, the pebbles beneath my feet. I knew, but not enough. Not
strong enough. Not possible. This. This could not be me. This was me. This is me. Right
now. Now. Bruised, breaking, open, split open, not enough, drunk and I know and I cannot
He pushed me aside. My jeans around my ankles. I did not know when he left. I was just
alone. Pushed aside with my jeans around my ankles, standing there in the dark, alone.
Pebbles beneath my flats. I have never been able to describe that darkness, that alone. My
feet on the ground. Lost.
It has been three years now. I stopped wearing flats for two of those years. I did not know
why I did not want the feeling of my feet so close to the ground. I cannot walk without feeling
that breath on my neck, on the streets, in clubs. I did not have the words for it. For two years
I did not have the words—I minored in Critical Studies in Sexuality, and I learned the way I
was supposed to speak, the words: rape. Sexual assault. Victim. Survivor. Abuse. Trauma. I
feel the pebbles beneath my feet still, and I am searching. Searching for my words. And still,
I am here. Searching.
"Don't Hesitate to Create"