top of page
  • Writer's pictureHey Draughter

augment: Through the Looking Glass

“I knew who I WAS this morning, but I have changed a few times since then..."

-Lewis Carroll

This story is not an easy one to tell: It’s about a young man who learned to love the world and himself by trusting his light, only to have someone try to take it away; this is also a tale about that same man who learned to find himself and reignite that light through finding the strength to get up and take one more peer through the looking glass. This final account in this series resurfaces a difficult event that I experienced, it's one that would completely change my life forever, and ultimately make it difficult for me to do the one thing I loved to do every day: look in a mirror.

Time and time again, I’ve peered through many looking-glasses and thought I’ve always known what I’d been seeing. After my assault, the reflection I’d been shadowing for a quarter of a century became so much harder to comprehend. Through trial and patience, I’ve finally found the strength to look back in the mirror and tell it.

07 October 2020

This story ends with eyes, but for me, it started with dreams of large hands. For about two weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night, uncomfortable after having the same dream of hundreds of hands all over me. Dreams quickly melted into nightmares of light brown eyes, again all over me, sinking into the root. It got real when I started having difficulty breathing; I could almost never concentrate, I was biting my nails down to the beds, and was constantly locking myself out of my car― and getting yelled at by my entire family because of it. Most days I couldn’t even get out of bed, nor did I care to eat. I was working out consistently because it was the only thing that I felt like I could control. Nothing was clicking, and I, without a doubt, felt completely unhinged. Days when I’d muster up the strength to get up, I would have this constant fear that someone was following me. I started re-thinking about my routes, and even when I drove, I did it faster than ever with more intention and precision. At first, all of these things didn’t seem to be connected, until I remembered lucky #21.

I’ve always loved 21 because it’s divisible by my first favorite number, #3, but I also have an intense 21-day time clock when it comes down to dealing with emotional trauma, a product of me living in a very emotionally unstable home for my entire childhood, and something I’ve deconstructed in therapy to this day. As a boy, mom used to always tell me to get a grip. Whether it was something big or something small, I never had a space to unpack my thoughts and feelings around things and moments that emotionally altered my life. I felt that I simply had to internalize my feelings and find a way to push through for the sake of the grip. It was on the 21st day that I’d cracked open the thing that had been weighing on me for close to a month.

Truth is, being sexually assaulted is one of the most disorienting experiences a person can encounter. It completely transmutes the way you see yourself and everything you thought you knew about life. It happens every day.

One in every third woman and one in every fourth man has been sexually abused in some way by the time they’re adults (and these are only reported instances). Out of my four best male friends, 3 of us have been attacked by someone in some way, shape, or form― and for my girlfriends, the list is unfortunately too long to count. For assault and rape victims, this is not just something you can actually ever get a grip around. 21 days in, all the mirrors that I’d worked hard to place in my room became portals I couldn’t bear to look into. It was hard to feel pretty, sex was sometimes on my mind, but the thought of it would and still gives me tremendous anxiety. I felt undesirable and dirty each time I'd look in the mirror, and for the first time, when my body was in the best shape it’d ever been in, I was afraid to live in my own skin.

19 July 2020

On Sundays, I’d take long walks in Portland. But on this morning, as I prepped for my morning walk rolling-up at my desk, my spirit shifted me towards the large wall-sized window in my apartment. Then, I’d made my way over to turn on my coffee pot that sat in the reflection of one of my favorite hallway mirrors. And at that moment, fresh out of sleep, gawking at my curls wildly placed atop my head, standing in the hallway of my studio where I’d felt trapped for so long. My skin was crawling and hot. And, in that moment, my reflection confirmed what my core had known a month ago, it was time to GTFO of Portland.

02 September 2020

When the plane’s wheels plummeted onto the tarmac in New Orleans, I realized that my return home was much more than just going back to wait out a pandemic. This was the first time that I’d be back in New Orleans for an extended period of time since I came out to my family. Over the past two years, since that event, I’ve compiled a collection of poetry as I started walking in my truth, and I was in the final stages of finishing the manuscript. Once the plane's wheels skidded onto the Louisiana lands, I knew that the book was no longer a coming of age project, it was a dedication to my home. Over the course of this year, I was in the process of burying former versions of myself. I’d been unpacking my toxic habits between Portland and SF, but now it was time to bury an old me that still lived in prominent areas of my hometown. It was time to let go.

Returning to my mother’s house, the same home that I’d spent most of my college years, was innately bizarre. I felt so out of place yet used to the fact that I was out of place. In an effort to get my mind right and my routine back in order, I set out to completely re-do my room. I’ve always believed that your mind is a reflection of your space and the spaces you occupy. I wanted to set up a comfortable studio space that gave me the room to think and read and create like I’d been doing all year. I ordered a huge bookshelf that was the size of my wall to house all of my books. I made sure all the furniture materials were either made of wood, glass, or gold, with mirrors everywhere. The goal was for the room to embody who I am now so that I could feel at home, a huge and valiant effort for someone who’s never felt at home in their home for the entirety of their childhood and adolescence.


When I was little, the home I grew up in was a place filled with pretty things that I was often never allowed to touch. But my favorite piece of my mother’s furniture was a huge, circular coffee table made of glass. I’d often stare back at the reflection of my chubby cheeks fawning over the shimmering circular disc, yearning to touch it.

I’ve always loved glass. Everything about it, the way it shined, how things reflected off its surface, even the matter in which it shattered was fascinating. But, though my mother liked glass objects, one of the things that there weren’t many of in our house were mirrors. There'd typically only have one in the bathroom, maybe a hallway, but that would really be about it. So each time I’d move out into my own place, I’d make sure there would be several mirrors in my apartments.

As I began to travel the world, I explored life through some of the most beautiful places on this planet, and in turn, I’ve had the chance to see myself in some of history’s most extraordinary mirrors. The same glass structures where Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette peered back at themselves in some of history’s most turbulent times. To seeing myself in the mirror of a bathroom hostel in Prague as a broke college student studying abroad. Juxtaposed with frequent images and glances of myself in the corridors of ceiling-high mirrors in Musée du Louvre, to finding myself in that tiny bathroom in my shitty San Francisco apartment that held all the hurt that I couldn’t after I came out to my family. To deconstructing my traumas with a dry erase marker on my bathroom mirror in Portland. Each look, each mirror, and each time helped me see myself in a new light and comprehend who I am past the reflection of what others see.


03 October 2020

For the longest time, October 3rd has been one of my favorite pop culture references thanks to Mean Girls. It’s also a special day for me because it’s the same day Mariah Carey released Daydream 25 years ago (one of her bestselling albums and one of my all-time favorite musical works). For me, October 3rd is now the day that I completed my first manuscript, tentatively titled, This Cosmos: A Promised Land. And, it was also the day that all of my things were finally moved into my newly decorated room. So, needless to say, I was excited about this Oct. 3rd. For a moment it did feel like a sweet, sweet fantasy. All the clothes― unpacked and hanged, photos on the walls and books on the shelf― strategically placed, and the record player― ready for vinyl jam sessions that I was used to having almost every day when I lived in Portland. I was ready to occupy a new space that matched my energy, so I could begin the final edit of my manuscript before I began sharing it with fellow artists and friends. I was content. There were mirrors and reflective glass doors on my dresser, I was able to look at myself from literally almost angle in my room.

Naturally, I started the day by listening to Daydream on Vinyl. And as I’m sure I rhapsodized my love for the album on Twitter, on this particular day, the songs hit hella different. It could’ve been the fact that I was resonating with a certain freedom that I’d felt since I’d finished This Cosmos, it could’ve very been well that by finishing my own work that I really understood the meaning of what Daydream’s production meant to my favorite artist. Daydream was an era when Mariah was in her prime, but her private life rarely reflected that. Her only saving grace was the fact that Tommy Mottola, her then-husband, was often gone, which gave her the space to create music and even a great, secret Alternative Rock album few are aware of. It was through these two projects that she was able to find a way to take back the creative reigns in her work.

In Carey's memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, she writes, “Though I was recording Daydream, parts of my life were still quite a nightmare… It’s always been a challenge for me to acknowledge and express anger. My personal life was suffocating… and I was in desperate need of a release.” Upon the completion of my book, I felt similarly as This Cosmos was a compilation of tragic moments that I took the time to translate into great poetry. I couldn’t explain it, but internalizing my assault made my mind, body, and soul feel like they were on the verge of spinning out of control. So in the same vein, I did something a little crazy― while editing and revising, I set out to relaunch a content series that I’d had on my website that had been unused for over a year, and the goal was to make it just as sick as my visions for the book. That series actually turned into this project.

17 September 2020

Finishing This Cosmos was the only thing at the forefront of my mind. I was rushing to finish the book to meet a competition deadline, and one morning I was prompted with a Co-Star notification that said “Write a love letter to your former self, then bury it.” Shook from a timely message early that morning, I set out to do something I’d been doing in California and Portland for most of the year, I was going to revisit a place to begin the undoing. I gathered my things that morning and headed to a space that was calling my name in the French Quarter.

It was important for me to lay all the insecurities that had held me back to rest in the spaces they were spawned in order to reclaim the fullness of myself. It was at that moment, that morning, 2 weeks into my move home when I decided to walk around my stomping ground when it happened. I know it doesn’t matter that I only had on running tights and a hoodie. I did nothing that even remotely even signaled consent or attraction to the assailant. But to this day, I still wonder if I should’ve done something differently that wouldn’t have called attention to myself.

September 17th will never have an alternate ending. There’s no way to write in what should’ve happened, I can’t and never will be able to forget the experience that I encountered. It took me a full month to report my assault. I still have moments when I really have to sit with myself and accept the fact that it happened. Especially during a time when I’ve been the fullest and most sexually liberated version of myself to date. At times, I wish I could just forget that it ever happened & I often have times when I’ll confess it, but the words still feel foreign on my lips.

However, through it all, I’ve learned there’s something about light. Over time, I realized that it wasn’t my ass or the tights that made that man did what he did to me. That day was and will always be about someone who saw a light in someone so bright, they did everything in their power to steal a glimpse of it because theirs had been snuffed out over time.

Life is about moments that make us who we are. All events in life have the ability to augment our lives for the good, as long as we stay open to perspective and circumstance. Each day we wake up, and each night when we part to sleep, we are ourselves. But with each day, several things happen to us that can alter our minds, bodies, and spirits― some of those things can even enhance your life to the fullest. Other times, the cards can be difficult to work with. But, I am a firm believer that there may be dark times, but life has no coincidences and tons of surprises. Though I’ve been through a number of traumatic experiences over the course of my life, being sexually assaulted is one of the most painful. As a person, I’ve always hated being touched and have the hardest time physically showing affection. Being violated in that way was almost unbearable, but through patience, my closest friends who have been anchors, therapy, and my faith I’ve been able to take back my narrative, re-own this page of my story, and use all the moments in life― the good, the bad, and the muhfuckin’ ugly to perpetuate an eternal mood of increase over my life.

  • The pain you feel is natural, and it’s okay. Give yourself the time you need to feel what you feel. Typically, it’s 21 days for me. But that has been one of my coping mechanisms since I was a kid. Now, I don’t recommend bottling something up for that long, but it is important to give yourself grace and space to understand what you may feel about some circumstances.

  • Remember what happened to you is not your fault. You do not bear the guilt or shame of the abuser. It is important to acknowledge and be honest about what happened. It is also not your fault. As you remember the event, you do not need to bear the shame of the other person. Treat the trauma like a snow globe on a shelf, observe it for a moment, reflect in its confusion as you need to, then place it back on the shelf, respectfully.

  • Don’t just get a grip, be the gripping force that gets you back on track. Once you’ve addressed the trauma, it is easier to work through it. But don’t just stop at acknowledging that something happened. Begin the soul work to put yourself back on track. After reporting my assault, it got easier to breathe again. With support and therapy, I was able to find healthier coping mechanisms and resources, and I was able to start feeling like myself again.

  • You are the baddest bitch. Don’t you ever forget that. There is a light in you that can never be snuffed out. Use that light to help find your way back. Whether it’s through creativity or a new fitness goal, when life gives you lemons, find a way to make gold out of them. As you move on, remember that nothing can bring you back to that space unwillingly & no one has power over you but you. Now flip your hair & look back while you twerk in the mirror.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, resources like RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline could be helpful for you as you look for other coping options and alternatives.

Stream the augment. playlist on Apple Music.

Photos by Judy Kim (@kimjudy).

154 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page