When I had given up on getting it to not happen, I figured at least I could try and build some fences. He wasn’t to come past if he was drunk, he was too much to handle those nights. He immediately found and exploited loopholes. There would be a party, I would say “I’d rather not go…” he would say “I won’t drink, not a drop. Come with me, please. It will be good for us” so I would go. Within 10 minutes of arriving he would disappear, and 30 minutes later return to me, wasted. I would go cold as ice, angry, but only we knew our deal. One night I just refused to acknowledge him once he got drunk, and had avoided him for about 2 hours, when he found me speaking to a friend outside. He pushed in front of the friend, interrupting the conversation and jammed his tongue into my mouth. I shoved him off, revolted and betrayed. “So cold!” Another friend jeered. He throws up his hands “My girlfriend, the ice queen” (he called me this often, with great enjoyment) laughter. My friend said “aww, Jenny, he loves you.” And it hung in the air like she had burped in my face. Oh does he? DOES HE? I started to hate being told how loved I was. Feeling the crowd on his side he leans to kiss me again, I say “no!” And move evasively. He immediately deflates “I can’t even kiss my own girlfriend” and sulks away. Several people tell me to go after him, that he’s inside talking about how much it hurts that I don’t show him affection, I am told to be nicer to him. He of course left out the part where he agreed to not drink, isn’t supposed to be around me when he is drunk, and all of our painstaking conversations about my boundaries. He drinks more, gets too drunk to bike home and is loaded into my car. I’ll have to get him into bed on the second floor of his building or mine. God save the Ice Queen.
I remember when I first began to tell people I was unhappy with my would-be rapist. It was as though, other people were invested in my being happy *staying with him* even if I wasn’t actually happy *being with him.* Friends would remind me “but you had a crush on him for like, your whole life!” Maybe I had, but an important distinction between a crush on your friend and finally dating the guy is that one of them is almost entirely built on expectation, and lives solely in your mind, and the other is built on experiences, and lives mostly in your apartment.
Yes I did have a crush on him forever, and dating him for a fortnight cured me of it completely. This was very difficult for people to grasp. I suspect it is because they had a crush on my relationship, and their expectations and minds eye had constructed a cute fairytale romance where the two artsy weird kids that were attached to each other through their teens that everyone thought made an adorable pair had finally figured it out and were together. Which, in your mind seems sweet and worth saving, but in reality I was the girl doing all his homework while he listened to my records, and eventually I was the adult in grad school starting a business and he was the guy who tried to do a cartwheel in her living room and broke the fridge.
Understanding that the trauma wasn’t a continuum or a story with a beginning middle and end, was a healing moment—it was liberating. Suddenly I no longer felt like I wasn’t doing it right or “moving past it” as though such a place on the horizon existed and I hadn’t arrived at the point where it was officially “behind me.” Mythically “over it.” An impossible escape that I am sure now doesn’t and will never exist. When I realized the trauma was more like a tattoo, an ever fading, stretched out, “used to mean something different to me than it does now,” but always on me, piece of who I am, I felt better. I can’t outrun my arm. I can’t break out of my head. I can’t “get past” myself or my own life—which is why it hadn’t been working all the times I had tried to. Accepting that the trauma and the things that happened to me live exclusively inside of and on top of me was really important, because it helped with the other part that I had struggled to unpack, which is that the story and how I comb through it, changes—it changes a lot.
Already I can see the hair on some dudes neck stand up—”the story changes a lot?” Oh yes. Not the facts. Not what happened. Those things stay calcified in place, but I change, and the people around me tell me their stories, ones running parallel to mine and that changes things further. When I heard what he did it to other women, it changed the way I felt, like it wasn’t something that I had personally summoned. When I look back at being 14 and him hovering around my desk talking about the way I looked after I had lost my kid weight and my kid glasses, it’s different than it was when I was the insecure child at the desk becoming friends with her rapist. The story expands as my understanding of myself does. The story inhales the new information, and exhales a renaissance of context. The story shifts, pivots, tilts, weaves, bulges out thick and deep in some places and peaks narrow and sharp in others.