If anyone asks…it wasn’t me. I wasn’t even there.
My defense….my paltry, paltry defense…my cage of denial.
Went out to spend the weekend with that guy I went on a date with…Before I even went, I felt the frame shaking, the lug nuts unscrewing from the manifold, the engine knocking. Had already guessed at my own certain destruction, but I went. I went because I wanted to invent a girl who is able to sleep with men without a backstory of ghosts etching their names on her body. I wanted to think if I pretended that I didn’t have a past it wouldn’t come back to haunt me. I wanted to believe if I convinced someone else I was ok, I would be ok…a closed eye puff and the sending off of dandelion fluff…
But wishful thinking does not combat trauma. It cannot box. It cannot duel. It can only hold your hand in a field as you lie dying from that which has already wounded you…
It’s sad because the night started out great. I immediately felt like, “maybe I misjudged this man.” We just sat on the couch, feet on each other, under a blanket, arguing over music while listening to an indie station. We revile Kurt Vile, but begrudgingly admit we like his song Loading Zones. Once again, the gent brings up Peter Frampton. I dodge telling him my feelings on Frampton by singing along to Dawes. We then go to a local place and get a personal pizza and a drink. On the way there, J. squeezes my knee reassuringly a few times. We pass woods and I jokingly ask if that’s where he’s dumping my body after he murders me this weekend. He laughs, tells me, no, he’s already decided on the Hudson River. I tell him that sounds lovely…to come to rest in the water. Oddly enough, I mean it. At the restaurant, we belly up to the bar and fit in with the local yokels…we look comfortable, natural. Our bodies face each other and our body language is open to each other. It’s a packed house, but we’re inhabiting some little bubble that fits only us. I like when I make him shake his head and reluctantly laugh at some awful joke. Sometimes he pretends to voice my side of the conversation when he realizes he’s been talking at length about something, “That’s enough of that, James.” It irritated me on our first date–but now it strikes me as kind of charming in an odd way. We laugh easily as I talk about my embarrassing tattoo and my tragus piercing and he admires my ability to be an envelope for pain. He confesses he can’t handle needles. I sip my hard cider and smile slyly at him over the glass…notice his long eyelashes…wonder what he’s thinking about me. But he doesn’t want to hang out there. There’s an agenda.
We drive home, taking corners like there’s someone on our tail. Battle of Who Could Careless by Ben Folds 5 comes on his radio and the 16 year old me that knew what the fuck was up thrusts my fist in the air and sings as we speed towards his home. He laughs. There is a feeling of unfettered happiness for a minute. I am doing this. I am actually doing it.
We get to his place and he puts A Mighty Wind on & make our own gentle laughtrack. He occasionally looks at me to make sure I am enjoying the movie. He lays in my arms, pulling my legs up on top of his. I rest my cheek on the top of his head. At first we just gently touch each other over our clothes. Fingers in a flame. His wool sweater collecting my heat. But as the movie goes on, he grips my thigh and kneads it. I hear the noise that roils in the back of his throat. There’s wantingness in his touch. I feel it…but we delay it…and spend the length of the movie just trying to find the way our palms fit best over the other person’s body for when there’s no fabric, only skin. I find his chest to fit best. The movie ends, before the credits can even roll, he has turned around and is kissing me. I expect to just kiss for a while. But in the midst of his tongue finding mine, his hands are coming up under my shirt. I want to tell him, wait, wait, there is stuff you need to know about touching this landmine…but engulfed, my body lifts up into him, betraying any boundaries I may have had. I am not a girl who sleeps with people on a second date. Well you are now. You knew that coming here, I think.
His hands are under my shirt & he is in trouble. He doesn’t even know it yet. The fuse is already lit and growing short. I picture a Wile E Coyote booby trap for the Roadrunner, as he grabs my hand and leads me into his bedroom. I laugh as we stumble thru the kitchen. I stand uncertain for a minute in the dark of his room. His hands slide up and undo my bra. I take the hint…I undress. I lay down and it’s a smear of black oil. His hands all over. My hands on his face, trying to hold onto who I am in bed with…but things are too fast, too slippery. I want to tell him to stop…just for a minute..but I don’t. I can’t. He is inside me & I just decide to meet him and go with it. For one of the first times, during my life, I have actual physical sensation during sex. I can feel him and it actually feels good….and it is then that things start to shake. Topple. He pulls out and kisses down my body & I can’t feel his face anymore & I don’t know who is in bed with me…and my uncle is there kissing me, holding me down, readying me for the rending pain that always rips me in 2 & stuffs screams into the back of my throat with 2 fingers. I frantically try to push him away and start yelling, “No, please. No. Stop. STOP.” I pull the brake on the bus. It screeches to a halt. He gets off. “Okokok, ok…are you ok? Hey! Are you ok?!” I am not there. I never was. It wasn’t me. I don’t recognize this girl. She is screaming. She is tightening up & convulsing, naked, on some nice guy’s bed. I can’t breathe. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. Fuck. I vaguely hear his voice thru my struggle to get air, “Are you ok? Are you ok? Talk to me! What is going on? Hey? HEY! I don’t know what’s happening. I need you to talk to me.” I can’t. I can’t expel myself.
I come out of it and just sit there begging forgiveness like I’m making the sacrament of penance. Hail mary, full of fucking grace.
He holds me, tucks my hair behind my ear. I feel guilty for what I’ve done. He’s a decent guy. He didn’t deserve this foist of issues, this plague of locusts, this rainstorm of frogs. After lying close for a bit, we try again. He pushes into me and he keeps holding my hand, our fingers a chain-link fence. I am able to hold on till he finishes. (It doesn’t even occur to me till I am driving home that we didn’t use protection. When it occurs to me, I am horrified. I was not that girl. I never thought I was that girl. I guess I am now. )
In the middle of the night, he has to wake me up because I am crying in my sleep and shaking.
In the morning, he tries again and I bury my face in his chest, my little hands in fists. “It’s ok, we don’t have to do that anymore,” he whispers in the top of my head as I shake. It is then that I catch him suspiciously looking at my arms. My patchwork quilt. My hoed rows. I know then. I know then he is done with this, my damage. It’s too much on the scale. I can feel the fence going up. I’m on the side with the junkyard. Wreckage around me. Crushed cars. Watchdogs barking somewhere in the distance. He is on the other in a manicured yard & with the newly sided house, with a Stepford wife. It’s cold on my side of exile. I kiss him on the lips as I leave, rest my forehead against his briefly, my goodbye…knowing I probably won’t see him again and I am sorry. Sorry for the destruction in my path. He didn’t deserve it…but I can’t help myself. And I can’t help him.
I stop and buy a pack of Marlboro Reds on the way home and hot-boxed it all the way home, trying to ignore the pain radiating from my privates and some darker core. All I can think is: I don’t recognize this girl I am anymore…the abuse has started to steal any human-ness I may have had…I langolier’ed that guy for no reason other than a momentary reprieve via delusion. I am a shit person. My next thought was, “I think I need serious psychiatric help.”
I got home & just wanted to curl up and cry over my free-fall down the side of some mountain. I want to die. I wonder if I could still somehow end up in the Hudson if I kill myself…cold blue wet sleep. But no. Snap back. You’ve got kids here, waiting. When I walk in the door, the kids run to me and hug me excitedly. Bridget hands me a card she made for me that says “I love you, mommy.” I am drawn with resplendent flaming red hair, holding hands with her father and her. I try not to choke on my shame..knowing where I was & what I was doing while she was drawing that picture. She asks to brush my hair & puts flamingo barrettes in it. My girl loves me. Loves me. Sees something there, where I see nothing…I take a swig of the silver sword that is vodka….and I text J. I thank him for a lovely weekend and apologize for my unacceptable behavior. I have this speech down pat. He responds that he thinks I have some deep wounds & that it is not conducive to sex. He responds that it freaked him out a little bit & next time we hang out, we’ll just hang out. I respond, “I get it. It’s a lot and I know I make people uncomfortable. If I don’t hear from you again, I understand.” He responded, “Of course, you’ll hear from me again. We’ll just take sex out of it.” I don’t know why he would bother…and I don’t anticipate hearing from him again. He texts me later…he tells me after I left, that he went for a walk and came back to a bat in his apartment that he had to shoo out with a broom…I feel a slight upward tug at the corners of my mouth, even though I don’t know what any of it means…
Now I am very drunk and crying.
I just got a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop, red as the hair my daughter gave me in her card, my hands coated in the slick of it…He had a bat in his apartment that wouldn’t leave. Omens that don’t mean anything unless I want them to…but some writer of fiction, some angry god am I…