I sat spinning scissors around my finger on the kitchen table. I couldn't look up. I saw only the brown uniform and badges across from me. No face. This faceless man had asked me questions I couldn't answer. My face got hot and throat froze. In my left corner a pair of holed jeans stood, waiting.
Less than an hour before, when I came home from school, these holy jeans had the face of my father who had told me the police called while I was gone. They left a phone number. They'd like me to call back as soon as possible. I couldn't tell you now what either of us thought it was about. I'm sure we both assumed I was in some sort of trouble but I hadn't broken any laws, aside from smoking an occasional joint with friends, since a couple years prior when I had been questioned about breaking and entering but never charged.
My heart raced as I dialed the number. My dad was on the couch, not hoovering but in definite reach of my voice. The officer told me that my best friend's step-dad (further referred to as "The Victim" and "The Suspect", respectively) was in police custody for rape and asked if knew anything about this. No. "No idea," I lied.
"She told us she believes you had been assaulted as well. We'd like to speak with you in person," he said. I didn't hear a word after that.
It was hot outside. Full sun. Clothes on the line. Dad and his jeans, holy shirt too, had been working in the garage. Why did he even answer the phone?
"What's going on, honey?" he asked.
"Umm... The Victim's step-dad... raped her. They want to talk to me. I don't know why."
He looked shocked, I started to panic.
I went for a walk (and by went for a walk, I mean hid behind the garage and smoked a cigarette. Or two.) until I heard my name yelled out from the back porch. I slowly approached the house, past the police car and to the door. They were sitting at the table. My father got up so I could sit. I wondered what he knew then.
The officer gave me his name, which I no longer remember, and softly repeated that The Suspect had been arrested earlier that day, pending multiple charges of sexual assault and it had been mentioned that I may have been a victim as well. I could tell then that he hadn't told my father a thing. He suddenly looked broken. Angry. Shocked. I looked away. He started to say something when the officer cut him off with, "can you tell me what happened?"
I denied any knowledge of the subject. I picked up the nearest pencil and tapped it carefully on the table as to not make a sound. I pictured the fuzzy room and the pain I'd woken up to. I smelled vomit and cinnamon. I remembered my knees spread to each side of me and The Suspect standing between my legs at the end of the bed, looking at me with wild eyes and licking his lips and making "mmm... mmm..." sort of noises like a child eating his favorite ice cream.
The officer asked if I would like to see The Victim's statement naming me as another person The Suspect had assaulted. Then, I found the scissors. Whoosh, whoosh they went, the only sound in the room. They were staring at me but I was frozen. Again.
That fucking stupid bitch. She had no right to tell them what happened to me.
My thoughts went back to that bed. There was still music playing. Where is everyone? What is he doing? I couldn't move. I couldn't speak. For the longest time, I don't know if he even realized I was awake. A small sound left my throat, The Suspect said something I couldn't remember and the room went dark again.
The brown shirt told the man in holy jeans it might be easier for me to talk if he were to go outside for a while. He started out, paused, then continued to the door.
After a few minutes I told him it was the second time I'd been to her house. Christmas Eve Eve. The Victim, two other friends and I rode snowmobiles till dark. The Suspect seemed "cool" with us then and bought our cigarettes and alcohol. We were playing Bullshit and drinking vodka with lemonade. Couldn't even taste it. Then there was quarter bounce. When we ran out of vodka, we switched to some silver-canned beer. The Victim kept choosing herself. She was hilarious. Deep in the country with no neighbors to hear, we blasted music and got rowdy. It was only my second time drinking too. First time same place. I stopped. He reassured me that I was not in any trouble. It wasn't about the drinking and I had done nothing wrong, he told me. Please go on. We ran out of beer and started using Hot Damn. It took several shots before The Victim noticed. We laughed.
I could taste vomit in my throat then. His face back in my mind. Were those his fat fingers or did that sick fuck stick his...
We danced until the music sounded muffled and The Victim stumbled toward the bathroom. I walked over to help her. She had her arm around me. We got caught on a nail in the wall. She almost fell and turned to me with a grin slurring, "I love you, man". Once I got her to the bathroom, she was throwing up. I went to the bedroom across the hall and stretched out on the bed. I was so tired. The room was spinning. When I opened my eyes he was there, doing whatever.
Then I woke up sore, down there.
The officer asked me what was happening when he was at the edge of the bed. Did I remember his pants being down? Where were his hands? Did he say anything? My face got hot again. More silence. He finally asked me to write down in detail anything I could remember about that time. It was brief. I didn't know what he was doing. I knew where it hurt. I couldn't move. Everyone was gone. Woke up in my bra and underwear. The end. He told me if I testified in court, The Suspect would serve a longer punishment. I said no thanks. I figured The Victim's testimony was good enough to keep him for a while.
What I didn't say was that after the five of us woke up in the morning, the soreness and cramping were shocking proof it hadn't been the horrible dream I thought it was. We all went to the laundromat downtown to wash away the evidence of the night. The Suspect kept joking about how cute I was in my underwear and the little bra I "didn't need" after he'd taken the puked-on clothes off of my body. I felt sick. Maybe sick from the alcohol but sick inside from what happened. I was taken home the night before Christmas to spend twenty minutes in the shower before telling my dad I had food poisoning. I spent the better part of the next year hating myself and locked in my room (afraid of my own father) before The Victim came out and told me The Suspect had been raping her for several years. That was the first time I said a word. I stayed with her as much as I could after that but never drank and when anyone else did, I made sure he wasn't left alone with them. Eventually we then went to her alcoholic mother together. She flipped out, drove to his work and took away his house key. She, of course, proceeded to take him back two days later accusing us of making it all up. I didn't tell him any of that.
Six months after she took him back, I was almost 15 but hadn't even started my period, there I sat telling a stranger what that pig had done because someone at school told someone at school told one of the teachers who called the police. The man in the brown shirt gave me his card with the usual "if you think of anything else...", advised me see a counselor either through the school or some rape victim advocacy group and went to talk to my dad.
My sad/angry/helpless father and his holy jeans came back inside a few minutes later. He asked why I hadn't told him. It was my fault. I shouldn't have been drinking. He did his best to convince me that wasn't true. I never saw a counselor. We talked very little about it after that, other than him saying The Suspect was really lucky to be safe behind bars.
That first year took so much away from who I was. I thought if I never told anyone it'd be easier to forget. Letting go of that idea, even if by force, allowed me to shift the blame back to where it belongs. The years following have gotten a little easier each time. It comes back to me at times but I rarely abuse myself with its presence. Fifteen Christmas Eve Eves later, I can finally tolerate the smell of cinnamon. The shame of what happened is a fleeting thought that no longer ruins the holidays. I have a mostly normal sex life. It's taken a long time.
It doesn't feel the same but sometimes it still feels like something.
- If I told you that I'd have to Kill you
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- Things I believe: There are no coincidences. There are no accidents. Everything is symbolic. Everything is relative. We're all a little crazy. "The truth is out there." There *is* something greater than us, only it's probably not other than us; it's more likely deep inside us. "The universe is shaped exactly like the earth, if you go straight long enough you end up where you were." (There's a Modest Mouse quote for almost every situation.) "All you need is love." (And food, things you enjoy and, occasionally, medication) That which doesn't kill us doesn't kill us. Breathe. Anyway you can. As long as you can.