You are scrolling through social media when you see a post by one of those activism pages, the type you like to follow but never really contribute to, and it says that most times, it’s extra alcohol, not Rohypnol or GHB or ketamine like you thought, and that makes sense because those guys didn’t look like the type to really carry Rohypnol around, they honestly seemed quite harmless, you remember thinking at the time – and after, when you were trying to figure out what happened, before you actually figured out what happened. So maybe it was extra alcohol, though you don’t know how he, the taller one, could’ve slipped extra alcohol into a pint glass without completely changing the taste of the beer, and how much alcohol really, until your body betrayed you? Anyway, you shake your head, that’s all over now, you don’t even know where they are, or who they are, or how they look, it happened so long ago, and besides, couldn’t it have been so much worse? You might have been dead in a ditch or strewn on the side of the pavement naked and bruised, and instead, you woke up in the upstairs bedroom of a nice-enough house, though you don’t remember getting up the stairs or taking your clothes off, you don’t really even remember the bedroom, though you remember a voice in the morning, as you regained consciousness, saying “some of us have got to get to work, you know” and would someone who’d done that be saying those things to you?
Anyway, it’s all over now, and you don’t really think about it all that much, except moments like this, when you’re again trying to piece it all together, trying to see if there’s something that comes back to you, like whether or not you accepted that glass of wine when you were slumped on their living room floor or if you were awake when your tights were being peeled off – and honestly, isn’t it a bit dramatic to feel anxious about something you don’t even remember? Still, you were scared that morning, you were scared, and you didn’t know what had happened to your body or where your body had been or what it had felt, and even now, sometimes, you talk about your body as though it is something other than yours. For a long time, you kept the other one’s card on your shelf, you were tempted to call him sometimes and ask what had happened, and maybe he’d be in the middle of a class when his phone rang, and his students would put down their instruments and ask him what the matter is, and he’d hold up one of his fingers and leave the room, lean against the corridor walls and say to you, don’t you remember? You were the one who wanted to fuck me. You were the one who stripped to your skin and pressed every fiber of your being against my chest. You’re the only one to blame here.
Later, your friend told you that you shouldn’t be going to concerts alone, “don’t you know that you’re a woman and things like this happen?” And you knew, you knew things like this happened, you knew better than he ever would, and still, you went, and still, you drank a pint of beer and still, you closed your eyes and let the music unwind you, and still, you smiled at these two men who were so nervous and so lovely to you in this new city, new country, and still, you let yourself be flattered by their attention, you liked that they’d come to you when there were so many beautiful girls in the club, and when they asked you if you wanted a drink, you said sure, another beer would be nice, and you forgot every warning you’d gotten, every worried relative whispering in your ear, saying be careful, they drug young girls in places like that, and anyway, it was just one mug, and anyway, you never thought that this is what it would be like, a quiet after-drink in the outside area of a little pub buzzing with so many people and so many blinking fairy-lights and such a starry night.
So maybe it was your fault after all. A few years ago, another friend, a guy who isn’t your friend anymore, said that you were hard to love, that you ended up hurting the people who cared about you with the ways you hurt yourself, and those words ring in your head every day, and maybe it’s always been your fault, because women who don’t want this pain don’t leave themselves bare the way you do, though you’d always thought of it more as longing for any type of love, and what did you ever know of love anyway, when the only thing a man ever asked from you was your body, this body that you’ve spent so long tearing apart and resewing, trying to accommodate every dick that wanted a place to feel something other than itself. And that’s probably why your friends don’t really call all that much anymore, or why your mum doesn’t ask how you are when she phones, because it always comes back to this, this hurt that you carry always and inflict on yourself and everyone around you, and how could it not be your fault, you foolish girl, always mistaking sex for love and lust for kindness and don’t you know any better by now?
The next time you go to that club is with your maybe-boyfriend who becomes your proper-boyfriend on the same night, and there’s no concert but there is a DJ playing The Killers and Blink-182, and the floor is pressed with swaying bodies, and the lights are blue instead of purple, and you don’t think about the band that was up on that stage, the same stage you both are dancing on, his arms around your waist and yelling the lyrics of Mr. Brightside so loudly it feels as though the whole universe should be able to hear the club, the sweat plastered on your faces and the gin burning you from the inside out. You tell him, again in this club, though not on that same night, what had happened, what you think happened, and you don’t remember him saying much, you don’t remember much other than your heart beating so fast against your ribs, as you offer up your body saying this is all I am and this is all I have to give, this tired spine, this sullied flesh, take it all, it is yours now.
Now, he is in his workroom and you are hunched over the dining table, supposed to be researching the farmer’s protests for an article you only have three days to write, and instead, you are searching up kitschy quiz titles like ‘how to know which date-rape drug you had?’ and ‘what are the symptoms of being roofied?’ and none of the sites really say anything other than what you know – the wooziness and the blackout and the little snippets of what your mind plays over and over, the car and you in it, the white light in the kitchen, the carpet hitting your legs and then your face, and nothing – nothing. This website says to tell your friends the moment you notice something’s wrong, and you are suddenly so tired of always being told that stepping outside alone is not an option for you. A boy you know is walking four thousand kilometers through India for his gap year, and you wonder what that would look like if it was you, if you would even make it a week without being abducted or used or ripped and thrown into a cornfield or filmed and circulated on one of the illegal porn sites you’ve heard about. Last week, three girls were found stripped and dead in a field, and the week before that a three-year-old was raped and killed, and all this plays in your head over and over again, and what do you know of this suffering while you sit in your kitchen, alive and healthy and happy? What do you know of any of this, of the pain of people who have to remember what had been done to them, who were left with things larger than glimpses of mild, yellow-painted walls and stumbling out into a small front-garden in the morning?
You don’t know anything about suffering, you tell yourself, and you wonder if you should take another shower because your stomach has started to feel a bit strange and unsettled and maybe the feel of burning water against your skin will make you unremember the nausea and maybe blaring Fall Out Boy on your speakers will block out your memories or rather, your lack of memories, your unremembered night, that little black box in the center of everything. Sometimes you wonder what it was like, if your eyes were open when he was inside you, if both of them were inside you, one by one, if they kissed you, if they tasted you, if they even bothered using protection, if somewhere inside you could be their DNA, still coiled amongst the many other abandoned things your body has discarded. Who were you that night? Who do they remember? How strange it is, the versions you leave of yourself in other people’s lives, and would they – the tall one and the other one –even know your face if they saw you again, or if you’d be lost in the swarm of other unsuspecting girls they’d done this to; or maybe the other girls were smarter than you, and never went out alone and never drank alone, and sometimes you wonder what it would feel like being one of those old men in a pub, in those huge moss-green coats, hunched over a pint or a whiskey on the rocks and no one to bother you, no one to look at you and see a hole to slip into, see a prospect, a conquest, something to be taken, you are not asked your name or where you’re from, or told you look beautiful tonight and what do you like to do for fun, I could show you a good time; instead it is only you and the night spinning past you, and you wonder how it feels to be so alone.
You still like that band, and most of the time, their songs don’t remind you of them, the tall one and the other one, and you love so much about that evening, the lights and the couple dressed like Matty Healy in different eras of The 1975, the first sight of that after-party pub, tucked away in the middle of the street and twinkling in your eyes, the cold breeze against your face after being locked in the heat of that yearning crowd, how you needed the music that night, how you needed something other than them for your body to sink into.
You don’t love like you used to anymore, and it doesn’t hurt as much. Your friends talk about how much you’ve grown in front of you, and you nod and laugh and say things like “Honestly, I was such a train wreck,” and you go to therapy, and your therapist helps you through little things, like being kinder to yourself or communicating with your parents, but you don’t talk about the rape, that’s not ready to be hers yet, and your fingers can no longer count the number of days you haven’t cried or tried to destroy yourself. Your body heals in parts, and you pick at the niggling wounds; you tell yourself that you’re still broken because you don’t know any other way to be, but you sing when you prep dinner and wait for your lover to come and slip his arms around you and kiss your neck, and together, you slide the chicken into the oven and bake potatoes and bread, and more often than not, you do not think of that night, or those men, or moments you cannot remember. You lovely, longing girl, how you find this gentleness in your pain, how you take this body and make it yours once again.