I surround myself everyday with other people to mask the effects of what happened that night. I claim indifference when others express their love for my actions or me and I do not know how to tell someone that their touch scares me. I came up with the perfect excuse. I am claustrophobic. As soon as I mutter those magic words other people seem to understand and give me the space I crave. The truth is that it is all a lie.
The attack was not as straightforward as it seemed. It did not happen in a dark alley nor was I surprised that it even happened. For years I lived with the knowledge that I put myself in a dangerous situation with someone I did not know. My friends and I went drinking to forget the heartache, betrayal, and consequences. I know that I was the friend that always stayed alert but my heart was troubled. I felt that I had friends that would support me the way I have always supported them. For many years, I had never forgiven them the role that they played that night. I blamed them for their inability to stop me from being carted off in a cab when I could barely walk. This anger allowed me to not focus on myself and how I blamed myself for lacking the self-control to avoid the situation in the first place.
I wake up with nightmares and I have not found a person that I can be intimate with that will drive those memories away. This man drove my carefree spirit from my body and the sparkle that I once had is gone. It is almost ten years later and I cannot bring myself to accept a stranger’s hug or not jump when someone’s fingers accidentally brush my arm. I mask it well but the self-imposed punishments are my way of atoning the act of being foolish. I smile and laughter has found its way back into my life but the darkness of that night never leaves. I help people cope with what I have gone through and this does allow me to function in a normal way. Somehow that is not enough.
I have been to therapy and I know that what happened in that room was not my fault. Rationally speaking, I can distinguish whom the true villain was that would be willing to take a college girl’s hopes and crush them. I understand that my friends are not my keepers and that I must rebuild my life slowly. I expected that if I pretended that it did not happen that I could make it all go away and if the police were not involved then I could remain the dutiful daughter in the eyes of my parents. It was my grandmother, may she rest in peace, which saw through the mask and embraced my darkness. She whispered words of love without knowing why I needed them. Grandma urged me to rehabilitate my mind and exorcise my soul from the sins of that night. I still struggle with what happened but at least I can recognize that people love me and that I deserve to be happy. For whatever it is worth, at least I feel human again.