Pay attention, ref!
The men in this basement have proven 1476 times that they possess the vocabulary to be outraged. The men in this basement scream obscenities at toy figurines on television screens sitting next to women who have other reasons for screaming. Our cries of outrage sound the same to this soccer game. The men in this basement tell me they love me and I believe them. The men in this basement are loved by me. These men have been my brothers for one, five, ten, thirty-six years. The men in this basement would light torches and walk across the earth to bury the man who raped me if I told them where to find him. If I could find a quiet moment to tell them of his existence and of what he’s done. The men in this basement can’t stop screaming at toy figurines on television screens long enough to listen for me to tell them. The men in this basement wouldn’t recognize my experience in their vocabulary if I did. The men in this basement can’t connect my violation or our country’s epidemic of sexual violence to what happens in my stomach every time they call a lousy sportsball player a bitch. The men is this basement are America.
She’s not even cute, but she puts out. Are you serious!!!??
I told her I was leaving my wife. Dumb broad. That was terrible!
She was drunk, and passed out a little but I fucked her. You’re garbage!
Brock Turner is sentenced to six months confinement in the Santa Clara County Jail and three years of probation. Get your head out of your ass!
A sixteen-year old girl is repeatedly raped in Stuebenville, Ohio, while her peers post her assault to social media. Pay attention, ref!
She hates it when I smack her ass, but mmmmm, it’s screaming for it in those jeans. That was a foul.
But I’m her coach, her trainer, her teacher, so I should deserve … Yellow card!
She said no. But she didn’t really mean it. Red card!
I am pacing in circles between the pool table and the couch in my cousin’s basement, my cousin’s man cave. I move anxiously between the keg and the guitar stand while our team loses on a 8′ x 10′ television screen in the opening game of this year’s soccer season. This is the 1476th game of sportsball I have watched in bars, or basements, or stadiums, in the company of mostly white men. The dialogue is the same always. American football, real futbol, basketball. Any sporting competition that moves fast and where men run back and forth after balls. The size or shape of the ball doesn’t matter. The verbalization of outrage and disappointment in performance is always the same. Are you serious!!!?? That was terrible! You’re garbage! Get your head out of your ass! Pay attention, ref! That was a foul! Yellow card! Red card! This is the 1476th game of sportsball I’ve watched in the company of mostly white men. This is the first time I’ve ever wondered how it would sound if these same words were yelled at a field full of men who truly deserved them.
Ann Petroliunas is a 2017 graduate of the prose certificate program at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, OR. She is an educator, writer, and managing editor at Arq Press. Born and raised in Chicago, she now resides in Oregon and often gets confused about which one is home. Ocean waves, glue-sticks, and avocados are a few of her favorite things. Her work has previously been published in The Rumpus, Hot Metal Bridge, and Memoir Mixtapes. Find her at annpetroliunas.com