The following piece includes a discussion of sexual assault and the subsquent mental and emotional impact it may have on survivors. Discretion is advised.
by Connor Zimmerman ’20
I stand there in the corner absorbing everything around me. The sounds, the music, and the vibrations crawl their way underneath my skin. The sweat streams down my face, as the heat dances around the room. The smell of drinks envelops me in my corner of the basement. Why did I agree to come here? I look over and see two of my friends high-fiving as they chug their drinks. Some of my other friends are yelling at each other across the pong table. I hope to God that I have some plastic bags in my car.
As I look away from my friends, I see a girl dance her way through the crowd towards the keg. She moves and twirls through the packs of people till she is almost in front of the line. As she fills up her drink, she looks around the room. She looks over at me, and she smiles. I try to lift my head over the crowd to get a better look. Can’t see anything with the one string of Christmas lights in this basement.
Suddenly, she is moving through the crowds towards me. I guess I’m not invisible in this corner. She comes up to me and screams over the loud music, “So what’s your deal? You’ve been here forever and haven’t gotten a drink yet.”
It’s really annoying when everyone wants to know why you aren’t drinking. “I’m just hanging around keeping an eye on my friends.” I point them out, and she takes a look as one of them is vomiting in the corner.
Laughing, “Well I’m sure the car ride home will be fun.”
“I’m sure I won’t forget it. What about you?”
“I came over for another drink…and to talk to the only guy with a little mystery in this place.”
“Huh, mystery? Should I take that as a compliment or am I an experiment for your psych 101 class?”
“Only one way to find out. Let’s go upstairs into my office.” She grabs my hand and pulls me through the crowd with her. She leads me up some flights of stairs, and I try to get a better look at her as we climb up the stairs. Her long dark brunette hair bouncing up and down her back makes it hard to get a good look. We come to a living room where the music’s dim echoes are somehow still alive, and the sudden lights blind me. She pushes me, and I fall backwards onto a couch as she disappears. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. I should just leave. Before I can get up from the couch, she comes back into the room with a chair and puts it in front of the couch.
“So, Doc what’s the plan here? Do you always do business where you live?”
Without a response she dives in, “So how often do you choose to be the sober one among your friends?”
Drawn aback, I pause. “I’m not entirely sure. No one wants to be the driver, but I’m willing to take the hit.”
Leaning closer to me, “So, Mister Mystery, are you a push-over or are you afraid?”
Her words are playful, but her eyes are harsh. With a smile I ask, “Can’t I just be a good friend?”
She smirks and stares at me, “A good friend wouldn’t be the sober one every time, and I have a feeling you’re the usual sober one. A friend is comfortable around those he calls ‘friends,’ and isn’t afraid to speak up for himself.”
I nod my head in frustration. “Well maybe I just don’t like drinking.”
She shakes her head and gets up from her chair. Taking a seat on the couch next to me, she says, “The way you look at everyone says otherwise. While you stand in the corner, your eyes have a flash of either annoyance or anger…How am I doing?” Inching away from her on the couch, I remain silent. Do I tell her the truth? Maybe it will just end whatever this is faster.
With a torturous smile she asks, “A one-sided conversation is no fun, maybe we should do something else?” I should leave. I stand up and say, “I think I should go check in on my friends…they are probably fighting about whether their elbows were over the table during pong.”
She looks at me funny. “Maybe I will make this a little clearer.” She stands up and leans closer to me. Her perfume mixed with a smell of cheap beer draws me in. Her body begins to touch mine, as she reaches her arms around me. As her hand touches my neck, my body feels like it is about to go limp. Her lips approach mine, and I lean forward to kiss her.
Suddenly the faint music begins to grow and grow and grow until they are screaming. Images begin to flash in my head: a girl smiling at me from across the basement, her hand giving me a drink, the sun striking my face in the morning as I see my clothes by the side of the bed. I can’t breathe. I begin to pull away, as I gasp for air. I run towards the bathroom and slam the door behind me.
I dry heave into the toilet, as tears begin to well up in my eyes. I hear a soft knock on the door. “Hey, is everything okay?” Trying to calm myself down, I move from the toilet to the sink. Splashing some water on my face, I look in the mirror and instead of my reflection I see a bed with messed up sheets and a man sitting with his head in his arms.
The door begins to carefully open, as she peeks her head in the bathroom. “Hey, whenever you feel okay, I have a glass of water out here if you need it.” I nod my head, still staring in the mirror. She nods back and closes the door. Breathe in, breathe out.
I come out of the bathroom and sit back down on the couch next to her. Her hand reaches out with the glass of water, but I just shake my head.
“So, was my breath that bad?” She asks with a smile.
Staring at the wall ahead, “No, it wasn’t that.”
Looking at her, “Is this some sort of damn game to you?”
She looks down at the floor, “No. I’m sorry…I…I guess I just had a little too much to drink and….”
Silence sits in the room between us on the couch. I let it linger so that I’m not the only one that is uncomfortable in the room. Shaking my head, I say, “It happened probably close to a year ago. It was a night just like tonight: loud music, a dirty basement, cold and cheap beer. I guess it was fine until…it wasn’t. I started talking to this girl and when my cup was empty, she said she would grab me a drink. It must have happened around then, because I don’t remember much else…just flashes. It felt like a dream. It still doesn’t feel real sometimes.”
She looks at me and then back down to the floor. “I’m sorry that happened to you. I’ve known people that have been…I guess I just didn’t really know them…you know.”
“Yeah I know.”
“That’s my name.”
“I’m okay taking things slow. I know a great Chinese place in the next town over. I mean if you are free next weekend?” She asks looking at me.
I look over at her and smile, “Yeah I would like that.” She looks different in the light…she looks real.