I remember waking up in an angry panic. I was worried I would be late for history class. I respected the professor and didn’t want to show up late to his lecture. I sat in the front row, and it would be more than obvious if I entered mid-lecture.
I was angry that I was there. Disgusted that I was in a filthy motel room usually rented by the hour. The anger was like a hot poker stabbing me in the face. I wanted to scream. At him. At me. At time. At God. At anything that would let me scream. I wanted to scream until I wasn’t angry anymore.
I couldn’t put everything together. The night was a compilation of images and moments. Nothing flowed like it should. I was struggling to understand the haphazard playback in my mind. I pushed the thoughts aside and focused on the one thing I understood: getting away from him.
I panicked because I wasn’t sure I would get back to school safely. I didn’t know what his plan was, and I was completely in the middle of the ocean without a ship in sight. I didn’t have a driver’s license, much less an available car, and I knew I could walk back to campus if I had to, but I’d definitely be late for class, and I couldn’t get off of this wheel of thought. If anything other than him driving me back to campus occurred, my entire day would shift and I couldn’t take that instability. I needed to go to school and go to history class. That was my mantra. That was my plan. That was all I could focus on.
Shower. I needed a shower. I went straight to the bathroom and was grateful for the hot water that hit my body. I scrubbed with the tiny bar of soap, as my silent tears fell, landing next to the mix of sweat, sperm, and layers of cells I violently washed off of me with the aid of a scratchy washcloth. He entered the bathroom. We couldn’t see one another, as the years of soap scum and hard water spots created an opaque glass that offered me protection from his gaze.
His shadow approached the toilet. He laughed and said he really needed to pee. He said we didn’t need to be in a hurry. He said I could skip my classes for the day.
No. No. No. No. No. I told him that I needed to get back to campus. I said I couldn’t afford to miss class and work, and it would raise all kinds of flags as to why I wasn’t there. Realistically, my absences would raise eyebrows, and I’d have to answer for it, but I needed to make him feel like I would be missed and people would worry enough to seek me out. He didn’t know any better and accepted my answer.
He continued to pee and said that he could join me in the shower.
I said I was nearly done and needed to dry and fix my hair. He left the bathroom and I exited the shower, quickly wrapping up in the only available towel. He was back before I could turn around, the smell of him alerting me of his return.
My heart was beating as though I’d just finished a sprint. I maintained his eye contact as he walked around me, manically smiling as though he were giving me a view I craved. He entered the shower, and as he started to whistle, I ran to quickly dress in the other room. I stood in front of the mirror, lost in my face. I felt like a separate being, trapped inside a shape I recognized but couldn’t connect with as being me. I was shaking. The reflection pursued her lips and stared ahead, her hair flying around her as though it were trying to escape the room and the hot dryer she waved about it.
The anger rose up and bubbled over, streaming into every pore of my body. I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of that room. Flee. Run. Escape. I knew I was in danger.
I grabbed my backpack and took inventory of the room. If necessary, there were chairs I could use to fight him off with and get out of the door. I just needed to get out of that room. Sunshine and oxygen were on the other side.
He took his time getting out of the shower. He never stopped whistling. His pride was loud and echoing in my ears. I steeled myself for a fight when he came out of the bathroom. He vocalized a disappointing sigh when he spotted me gripping my bag with an eagerness to go.
“Why so anxious? Why don’t you skip today? We could have more fun.”
I shrugged and repeated that I would definitely be missed if I didn’t return soon. I kept looking for things that I could use should he attempt to prevent me from leaving. The plastic forks and knives from the Taco Bell meal we ate the night before were not much help. That moment, as I focused on the empty food and soda containers, would later be the puzzle piece that unlocked the “how” for me. He’d given me a soda and the lid was attached with the straw, but it wasn’t snapped closed. I’d commented that it was strange. He’d brushed it off like it wasn’t odd. I’d come to realize that was how he drugged me. I’d interrupted him, and he couldn’t quickly get the lid back on the cup
He finally started to dress, complaining the entire time, and telling me that I just needed to loosen up. Finally, he opened the door, and I practically ran to his car. He laughed, joking that I really took my studies seriously and commented on how cute it was that I couldn’t wait to get back.
Thankfully, school wasn’t far, and he drove straight there. He pulled up to the front of the student center, near where a trio of men were performing landscape work. I opened the car door, hesitating as the men all stopped doing what they working on to turn and stare. Classes were in session, and the campus was quiet sans their trimmers. I made eye contact with each of the men, but it wasn’t comforting to me. I couldn’t read their expressions. They weren’t smiling, and I certainly wasn’t offering a friendly greeting. His loud laughter interrupted my thoughts.
As I stepped out of the door, he laughed and said, “That is how it will be from now on. They are staring at you because you are different. They know what you did last night. It is all over your face. They know by how you walk. They can smell it. They know that you have had sex.”
I slammed the car door on his dreadful laughter and didn’t look at him. I faced the men and met their gazes with defiance. “Don’t look at me!” I wanted to shout. Instead, I quickly ran to class, anxious to be outside his reach in a classroom that offered safety.
I remember apologizing to my professor at my tardiness. I sank into my seat, allowing myself to exhale for the first time all morning. The classmate next to me asked if I was okay. I nodded. “I’m fine.”
I don’t know what was discussed that day in class. I don’t know how I got from my classes to work and to the dorms that day. Everything was different. Every piece of me was different. I was not the same. I wondered if what he said were true. Was I marked in some way?
All I wanted was to call my boyfriend. All I needed to hear was that he loved me and it would be okay.
Later, as I sat in my room, wishing I could piece together everything, straining to understand, the grief washed over me. I was gone. I didn’t know who this new person was, but she wasn’t me. My brain flooded with statements of blame and shame. I knew that I was tarnished. I was less than I was a day ago. I didn’t deserve my boyfriend, and why would he want me anyway. I wasn’t the girl he loved. I wasn’t worthy of his love. I couldn’t keep him tethered to the worthless person I’d become. I vowed to deal with this on my own and release him to find someone worthy of him.
I believed I was fine. It wasn’t the first time something bad had happened to me. In my regular style and family training, I simply needed to push on and forge past this moment. It was something that could be absorbed and never thought about again. I was wrong. I was so wrong.