Note: This essay is about sexual assault and could be upsetting. It also has really foul language which makes me cringe when people I know read it, so if you know me and you don’t use really foul language, I’m really, really sorry, but I have warned you.
I was nineteen years old and living in Sarasota, Florida with my best friend from high school. We’d moved to Florida from Richmond, Virginia because her grandmother lived there and we wanted someplace new to be, a path out of dodge. Her grandmother turned out to be a bitter old cunt, though, and we quickly moved from our twin beds on the glassed-in lanai to a scabby apartment in a shitty part of town with lots of roaches, fleas and a terrible mouse problem. Because of the mice, every food item had to go into the refrigerator. Every box of cereal, every instant soup packet, everything. There was a hurricane while we lived there and we were supposed to evacuate, but we didn’t, and the rain poured so hard and the sky turned green and our driveway flooded and thousands of roaches poured out of the crevices at the ground and up the walls of the side of the building.
My friend and I worked at a nursing home. The night shift. Our job was to do rounds every three hours. We were the hounds from hell, torturing the old people. We’d walk into their darkened rooms and shine a flashlinght on them making sure their chests were moving up and down, seeing if they had ridden out another three hours towards their deaths. Sometimes their eyes would be open. It was horrible. At home, we wrote down the names of the people who died on our Formica kitchen table because we felt so helpless that they were just gone and no one knew or cared they had ever lived.
We also had to check to see if they were wet. Can you imagine? Lying in a nursing home in your eighties or nighties while some ridiculous teenager shines a light in your face and feels your ass to see if you’ve wet the bed or, if you’re wearing one, if your diaper needs changing.
My friend’s grandmother had a boyfriend, a sleazy, bony old man whose appeal was undetermined. At some point this man got sick and my friend and I were tasked with providing him with support. We brought him food from the haughty you-know-what and did chores around his apartment.
One day we were getting ready to leave and I was sitting on the edge of his bed talking to him and he picked my left hand up and placed it over and around his extremely erect dick. His dick was huge and bulging, moving somehow under the sheet and thin blanket, like it was alive independent of him. I jerked my hand back and stood up.
I’ve not had a very happy life. A fair number of pretty shitty things have happened to me. My mother was mentally ill, and I was denied a relationship with my father because of the horrible lies my mother told me about him that I thought were true. When I was nine my mother married my vain, petty stepfather who was both an alcoholic and a pervert. I remember exactly where I would stand in the doorway of the living room and ask men at dinner parties if they were leg men or breast men under the guise of asking them what cut of meat they wanted for dinner. My stepfather found giving me this errand hilarious and I was so confused about why everyone was laughing and why I felt so weird inside.
In 7th grade, I started drinking and doing drugs. I had sex for the first time at thirteen with a man who was twent eight years old. For years I’ve been telling the story about how my daughter’s biological mother had a nineteen year old boyfriend and it’s appalled me and I never made the connection to myself. I’m not sure what the right age to start having sex is, but I’m pretty sure it’s after you have stopped growing.
I was hospitalized for four months at fifteen, diagnosed with adolescent depression. Depression in kids often manifests as anger, and I had plenty of that. Funnily enough, it was the psychiatric hospital with its child murderers and other miscreants where I started to get a little better. I wasn’t being gaslit by my crazy mother, beaten up by my sociopathic brother and I didn’t have to watch my stepfather drunkenly worm his way around my parents’ never-ending parties where he would hang on his friends wives as his eyes became more and more bloodshot.
When I was sixteen I met my first serious boyfriend, Scott, who would help me get even further out of the swamp. He was a fellow angry person, into punk rock, who didn’t just hate the people around him, he hated society and it’s bullshit inequalities and hypocrisies. Scott Wolfe made me a sociologist.
So at 19, sitting on the edge of the bed of this dirty old man, I was an amalgam of angry, fierce, funny, smart, and traumatized. And the sexual crimes that came before this simple placing of my hand were wrong, but they were also consensual, even though I don’t believe 12 year olds can consent to sex and 28 year old men who have sex with 12 year olds should be shot.
These other sexual crimes were in a context. I was partying, smoking pot, drinking Michelobs. There were lots of people around. I actually liked this man (and it wasn’t just this man, it was these men). He was cute and funny. He drove a cool red pickup. Yes, it was rape, certainly legally it was rape and I would muder any many who tried to have sex with my daughter next year. It was wrong. Yes, yes, yes.
But like all women I have a catalog of sexual crimes committed against me, and this one was the worst. It came out of nowhere, it took a moment in time and instantly saturated it with lust, vileness, aggression, patheticness. I was blindsided by the introduction of predation into a normal day-to-day moment. One second you’re safe, the next moment you’re not.
This man, long dead, put a moment into my life, a snippet of film, a sensation in my hand that remain almost thirty five years later. If I could go back and kill him I would. But I wouldn’t kill him as he lay in his bed under a cool sheet and a thin white blanket, I would go back to when he was in his twenties or thirties, forcing drunk women to go further than they wanted to. Pressuring a sober girlfriend into going all the way if she loves him. Slapping some woman who didn’t listen. And I would appear in the kitchen where she was looking at the blood on her hand in horror and I’d blow a hole in his chest the size of the moon.