Content Warning: This piece contains references to sexual assault.
I can’t remember when the change happened. It was almost unnoticeable, because you still held me in your arms. But every time you did, your hands rested lower on my body. You began to send me messages later and later in the night. Even worse, I stayed up, anxious to receive them. I wanted your lust to be your love, so I took it as such.
That night we lay in a naked heap. Every part of our bodies overlapped on that impossibly small twin mattress. you stroked my neck and I blushed and laughed, drunk on puppy love and the feeling of butterflies.
This is what it’s supposed to be like, I told myself. This is college. This is adulthood. But what did I know? I was eighteen, just six months removed from high school. I was eighteen and struggling to control my body after I’d eaten an edible just hours before. Eighteen and still gratefully accepting the whiskey you seemed to ply me with.
I lay on my side when you started touching me. I remember feeling hot. When did we put this blanket over us? The movie was still playing, so it couldn’t have been too long ago, right? This is okay. This is normal. It’s what grown-ups do.
I didn’t say a word. I felt like I couldn’t move. at some point you pulled my sweats down so that you could more easily access my body. On the screen, the main character told a joke. I forced a laugh, and you did too. The distraction was fleeting. You were soon back to work.
The confusion and the pain came all at once. Is that still your hand? Maybe the angle is just more uncomfortable. It feels different, though. It can’t be. Ever so slightly, I nudged you backwards. Slowly, painfully, you kept going. My mind was racing. What do I do? Hot tears threatened to fall, but I bit my lip so hard that I tasted metallic blood. I would not cry. I forced my consciousness through the cloud of fog threatening to envelop me. “Stop,” I whispered harshly. “I don’t want to do that”. You lingered inside me for a moment longer. It almost felt as if you were savoring your unearned access to my body. You moved out of me, once more slowly and lazily. It was excruciating. I was a virgin, and I couldn’t tell if I was bleeding or the edible was making me paranoid.
You stopped for a while. You threw your arm around me casually and we watched the movie. I ignored the throbbing of my lower half.
My heart sank when the movie ended. It was well past midnight now, and you would expect me to sleep over. Before you could try to initiate sex again, I took matters into my own hands. I made sure you finished, and I passed out, once again bundled in your arms.
The next morning the sunlight seemed to mark my shame. I slipped out of your room and hurried back to mine, praying that no one would see me. My roommate marveled at the bruises on my neck and chest. I bruised easily. They would be gone in a few days. Maybe I’d suffer a turtleneck or two, but where was the real damage? I laughed with her. But the more I thought, I couldn’t remember where they had come from.
I told my friends about what had happened that morning. I told them that I had a mediocre hookup that I probably wouldn’t repeat. We laughed over watery Commons eggs and joked about how good hookups were hard to come by. I didn’t tell them that although I was weeks away from my next period, I’d put a tampon in. I didn’t tell them that my vagina had already begun swelling so badly that it hurt to sit. I didn’t tell them about the blistering, or that when I went to the bathroom to wash my hands, I locked a stall door behind me and frantically Googled “how to tell if he was wearing a condom” and “is vaginal tearing normal?”.
I did not hate you. I could never hate you. All I ever wanted was to understand you. Mostly, I wanted to understand why I felt that sex was the currency of love. Had that belief put me in this situation? I sat before you each day as I forced myself to proceed as if nothing had changed. We laughed together and ate together and even had sex. But how could you not see it? I sat before you with a gash in my chest where you’d cut away a piece of my soul, but somehow you failed to see the blood.