The Latin complicare means to fold. I love the tactility inherent in folding: it requires some pressure, some movement, some shaping. I love that this tactility assumes a degree of control while still allowing for chance and surprise. Folds might be knife-edged and precise, or loose and haphazard. Folding might be a deliberate and premeditated action, or in sudden reaction to a losing hand.

Complicare also begets the English to complicate, which is a relationship I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. If folding is complicating, unfolding is…simplifying? No, not really. Paper must be smoothed, stitches must be unpicked, space in which to expand must be found. All these take time and effort. Some folds can’t be undone; some complications are permanent; some visible lines remain, no matter how faint, of whatever the initial fold once was.

I’ve been thinking about the permanence of complicated experiences we fold up into little pieces and wedge into interior corners. Are they pulled out and examined occasionally? Do they lie hidden, tucked away because the density of a folded object makes it at once easier to manage and more difficult to fully comprehend?

Here’s one: I was a manager and he was my boss. He convinced one of my staff members to text him surreptitiously-taken photos of me. He responded to these texts with suggestive remarks and opinions. Sometimes he requested specific photos.

This truth is frustratingly haunting just now, one I’ve been unfolding to try to see more clearly. Writing these sentences holds my memory to the light at different angles, as if perhaps there’s a pattern in the creases I haven’t yet discovered or didn’t know at the time.

I don’t know how many pictures passed between the two of them, or for how long. Weeks at least, months maybe, before I knew it was happening, and when I finally saw the text thread it was with a horrified non-comprehension. I still remind myself that it was real, that the texts and photos were there before my eyeballs.

My discovery happened the day before I was scheduled to go on vacation; I spent my time off weighing what to do and who to tell. I eventually went to HR, filed a report, and gave multiple statements to multiple people. One particular woman I’d considered a mentor asked me, with a hint of exasperation, why I’d given the photo-taking employee a promotion with a degree of responsibility a few weeks prior–how did I not see this coming?–conveniently forgetting she’d approved the promotion. 

I felt myself shrinking when HR called to tell me that both the boss and the photo-snapping employee had given notice so of course there was no real action the company could take. I compacted neatly under the implied pressure to let it go. I don’t remember what I said. I hung up the phone. I laid down my losing hand and never went back.

I was and am unsettled by the ease with which the entire situation just …evaporated. I wonder if I will ever like having my photo taken. I’m still, years later, dealing with the financial ramifications of leaving a job without a real plan B in place. I can count on one hand the number of men I trust to have my best interest at heart.

It’s there in my pocket, complicare. I unfold it occasionally so I don’t forget, so I remember that this was a thing that happened. I unfold it to remind myself that so many carry these things in some form all the time. I tuck it back in place to live adjacently to all the other complicares being female in the world provides, as we carry ourselves and our histories in manageable, portable form.

I have complicated, contained what I now know is a deep and steadily-pulsing anger that took a clearer, sharper form the moment ‘grab them by the pussy’ became part of the national lexicon. I’m not sure what to do with this anger, not yet. I have smoothed open these folded moments repeatedly over the last year in the hope that putting something down in words might help. It feels futile, even amid my ferocious joy at monstrous men falling like dominoes, because of one particular man still out there, maybe preying on another unsuspecting woman. It feels futile because of so many still in situations where they cannot speak out, where livelihoods are at the mercy of men who may never be held accountable for their actions. 

Postscript

Wise, beloved friends have the gift of special perception, and a few weeks ago one sent me a simple thinking of you text that included a snapshot of a page from Rupi Kaur’s book of poems.

i fold the good days up and place them in my back pocket for safekeeping. draw the match. cremate the unnecessary. the light of the fire warms my toes. i pour myself a glass of warm water to cleanse myself for january. here i go. stronger and wiser into the new.

I can fold up the good and carry that as well. Burn the unnecessary. Stay angry. In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg’s anger fuels and solidifies the power of her love. May my anger do the same.