Honorable Mention, Prose, Create | Encounter 2019
Content Warning: Sexual Violence
There was a staircase under the gym where we used to go together. The school is being torn down this year. I wonder if that stairwell is still intact.
“Our Spot,” we used to call it. At least, I think we did. I can’t tell if I remember the details or if I’m reaching to fill in the blanks.
I was a sophomore, I think. Maybe a junior. I hate that I’m unsure.
Anyway, we used to go there to make out – to Our Spot. It smelled like sweaty wrestling mats and gobs of dust. One time he had his hand down my pants, and a man we had never seen before came through a door we didn’t know could open because there was no knob. He said, “You kids havin’ some alone time?” Then he hustled up the stairs. That was the last time in Our Spot.
But this day was different.
I could still take you to the step. If it’s still there, that is. The staircase began near the locker rooms, but we didn’t know where it led; the door at the top was always locked. It was the third step from the bottom of the second landing. We could hear the PE class over our heads – the shouting, the whistling, the bouncing balls. Were we on lunch break? Actually, I think we had a free period together. That means it was junior year.
Yeah, I think it was junior year.
He pulled down my pants. I’m pretty sure they were jeans. I know they were tight. I may have been wearing spandex shorts underneath. I don’t know if I was wearing them that day; I just know I usually did back then. He hooked his thumb on the waistband of my underwear – full cotton ones that probably had a butterfly on them.
My pants were down and then they were off. Or maybe they weren’t. I don’t think he took off my shoes, so my pants were probably down around my ankles.
My pants were down, my knees were pressed to my chest, and I felt his tongue but I also didn’t. Was I broken?
“We’re not ready.”
I know that’s what I said, but it was a lie. Because he was ready, and I was not. What else did I say? What didn’t I say?
Finally, I was done. I don’t mean done done. I just mean that I’d had enough, and I didn’t want my pants around my ankles anymore. Or strewn on the landing. Or wherever they were. Maybe they were leggings.
He said: “My turn.” At least, I think that’s what he said.
“We’re not ready I’m not ready we’re not–”
“Not fair,” he might have said. Or, “You owe me.” Or something like that.
I hate that I can’t remember.
What I do remember: Watching him undo his pants and slip them down his hips. He only had to lower them a few inches. Unfair – there’s no indignity in that.
I remember his fingers twisted in my hair. I remember my knees hurting and wondering if they’d be bruised. I remember disgust and fear and suffocating. I remember briny tears burning my eyes, melting them like slugs under table salt. I remember “Not ready not ready not ready”
I remember thinking about anything other than what was happening.
And I remember shame.
He was done. Not done done, but he’d finally had enough. Did he finish that day? By his hand or mine? I can’t remember.
I hate myself for it.
And he was elated and I felt dirty and icky and sick and I said “Please don’t tell please don’t please don’t” and he said “I’ve got to tell Dakota.” He was grinning. And I said, “No please, please don’t.”
But those words were too late.
I stood at my locker and watched him rush to his friend – whose blonde hair stuck out at odd angles and whose lips were always too red – and I heard “Dude guess what she just–” and the bell rang and the hall swept him away and I stood still and
I don’t remember what I did next.
I didn’t think about it for a long time. I didn’t know how.
Our Spot became tainted by the strange man and the door with no knob, so Our Spot instead became our parents’ cars parked in deserted school lots, or the scratchy floral couch in his parents’ garage where his uncle sometimes slept, or maybe it was his brother, while his mom cooked dinner on the other side of the wall. Or it was his bed – he had the upper bunk – or it was my bed between when I got home from basketball practice and when my parents got home from Wednesday night church, and I made him park at the apartment complex around the corner in case they came home early (they didn’t).
There was the shame of being caught on the couch with my hand over the bulge in his pants, and when my mom asked me if we were having sex I didn’t know the answer, and we cried and cried and cried on her bed.
I never knew such shame.
And years later when I freed myself to write, I was surprised at the patterns I found. Of manipulation and jealousy and sadness and humiliation.
I tried to remember the details, and I stretched my brain to reach them, but they hid like unswept cobwebs in abandoned corners of a concrete stairwell. They still hide there.
I filled them in as best I could, but I can never stop telling myself that maybe
I made them all up.