Trigger Warning: This article contains discussions of sexual assault.
The bed sloshed up and down, our bodies creating a wave-like movement that made me slightly seasick. What bothered me at the moment — curiously — was not the situation or my stomach, but that the bed wasn’t filled up with water all the way. As my left temple violently grinded against the decking of the bed, I mentally concluded that the bed was probably 40% empty. Maybe it was deliberate; maybe he liked it that way.
I had met him at a bar. He always hung around like bad news and none of my friends knew him, but he was tall and handsome and extremely blonde. He was a “Robert Redford in his heyday type” as my friend Gina had so aptly put it. He came up to me that night, bought me drinks, and made me feel beautiful. So when he suggested that we go back to his place, I didn’t even think twice about it.
As soon as we got into his room, though, his demeanor changed. He became rougher and more dismissive of me, like he knew that I was his now and there was no need to court or play coy or pretend. I’d felt sad, but then he offered to put on some music and I stupidly thought, for a split second, that what I knew would happen, wouldn’t.
I watched him as he moved across the room with precision, grabbing the subwoofer and placing it at the foot of the bed. Then, he took two of the speakers and put them on either side of the headboard. He fiddled with the dials a little while, and finally pressed play. Something trippy started seeping out of the speakers — I’d never heard it before — and he adjusted the volume to 26 — close to max, but not loud enough that the neighbors would complain.
As I watched him set up his stereo, I had a feeling of foreboding at the pit of my stomach. We were completely alone and I knew that no matter what I tried at this point, he would still have his way. His organized — almost rhythmic — routine fed into my fears, and I sat at the edge of the bed, transfixed and unable to move.
When he was done, he pushed me down and away from him and I toppled over, stiff and almost lifeless. He switched off the music and made his way to the bathroom, turning on the shower. I lay on my side and looked at the alarm clock that was partially hidden behind one of the speakers. It was 2:57AM.
I pushed myself off of the waterbed, holding on to the corner of one of the bedside tables for balance. My whole body hurt. As I made my way down the stairs of his apartment, I started convulsing uncontrollably and threw up the entire contents of my stomach. And then do you know what I did? I cleaned it up. Because even after what had just happened, all I could think of was how awful it would be for him to walk down the stairs tomorrow — unscathed, unhurt, looking forward to his brand new day — and see my vomit there.
The fresh air sobered me up slightly and I walked slowly through the deserted streets to my own apartment. I thought about it a million times: the way he treated me at the bar, and then the way he treated me at the apartment. He had been two entirely different people, and I hadn’t seen it. That made me question my judgment, and it made me question everyone in my life — what if they all had the capacity to hurt me like this? And what if I didn’t know it? How could I have allowed this to happen?
At that moment, I passed a drunk and rowdy group of men leaving the bar and I felt instinctively afraid for my safety. But then I thought…what for? The worst had already happened.