There were six shot glasses of raspberry Russian vodka. They were small – smaller than I was, lined up in front of me like a dare. They felt inconsequential as their contents slid down my throat; fed to me by someone who knew better.
The Packers lost to the Giants that day. My family went to my cousin’s house. He died in 2013 and that was the last time I saw him. He made roast and I ate it. Later, I scrubbed pieces of it in my vomit off the Berber carpet of a junior boy’s home.
There were two boys there. Three years older than I was, they barely had hairs on their still baby fat faces. One berated the other for being so irresponsible with me.
“She’s only like, 100 pounds,” I remember him saying.
He was wrong.
I was 96 pounds. And 5 foot 8. And my only experience with alcohol was Communion and the one time I took a sip of my mom’s diet Pepsi and learned it was NOT diet Pepsi.
My eyes opened to a dark room. My mouth tasted like puke. It was stuffy. I could feel my body pooled in sweat. The smell of a diffuser made me gag. And there were someone’s fingers inside me.
“You said I could.”
I was silent until it was over.
Still drunk, I stumbled to the bathroom. Vomiting had streaked the mascara I had only worn for the third time in my life. In the mirror, my eyes focused in on themselves, trying to make the walls solidify behind me. The pants I was wearing weren’t mine and they slid off my hip bones while my trembling fingers tried to dial my mom’s phone number on my already dead Motorola Razr.
Drunk as I was, I knew the two boys were concerned as to why I was in there so long. Was I drowning in the bathtub? Did I asphyxiate myself? How my heart wished for either of those possibilities to be true.
I opened the door, pulled bravery from the depths of my violated soul, and asked to go home. They gave me a Listerine strip for my breath.
I remember heaving when I smelled the Calvin Klein One perfume I would spray on my bed. I spent the day laying on my bedroom floor – no scents were there – trying to piece together the night before, investigating what little evidence and recollection I had.
My innocence had been stolen from me a decade earlier, something only my mom knew, but I couldn’t bear to tell her what happened that night (had I not learned anything from my childhood?). I called my best friend. We shared a locker and first period English, but now she’d share the inner workings of my damage, the deep afflictions bestowed onto me by 11th graders.
“Do you think God hates me?” I asked.
And she assured me that God did not. And that things would be ok. And I believed her.
On Monday morning, she called me a slut.
And I skipped first period English for the next two weeks, sleeping in my older brother’s Ford Bronco until the bell rang.
The lesson I missed was the “hero’s journey”, so I had to watch Star Wars at home, making up some lie as to why I had missed so much school.
The only time I felt brave enough to ask for help was when the counselor came into class and told us to write an accomplishment or secret on the back of red tickets – an exercise in reflection, something that would be given back to us when we graduated. They would only be seen by her. I looked at her intently, my eyes pleading for the help my voice could not ask for.
Now, ten years later, I still fucking hate Star Wars, and Listerine strips, and Calvin Klein One, and diffusers.
And if I so much as get a whiff of raspberry Russian vodka, I’m transported back to the blur of a night when I learned that the abuses I faced in childhood would never cease to rear their heads in different places with different hands.
Holly would be raped in February. Samantha’s unconscious body would be violated by April. And the stories would circulate the halls until we left them for good.
And some part of it felt normal, even though I know it wasn’t. And some part of it feels like my fault, even though I know it wasn’t.
These experiences find me now, with men I loved or could love, their intimacy blocked by the hurt that bangs on the door, reminding me its still here when a hand grazes me wrong or lingers on my thigh. And I cry and apologize because part of it feels like my fault, even though I know it isn’t.