Hi, it’s me. It’s been just over fifteen years since we last saw each other. Life sure has changed since the wee hours of that November morning when I woke to find you in my bedroom, on my bed, inside me. When searing pain forced open my eyes, and I saw you hovering above me, my body draped lengthwise across the bed. I didn’t remember inviting you in – wait…how did you get in my bedroom? How did you get in my apartment? Questions drifted through my head, but a dense mental haze suppressed them from traveling out my mouth.
We had only met hours prior as you were a guest attending the Homecoming football game with my best friend’s father, and she conveniently lived just below me in our apartment complex, making your calculated decisions even easier to execute. We tailgated before the game, and even though my intuition wasn’t as honed as it is now, I sensed something was off about your demeanor. I ignored it and believed that surely the presence of my best friend and her father would shield me from any harm.
You did a stellar job of putting me back under the covers asleep; however, neglected to remember what I was wearing when I went to bed, just grabbed whatever you could find from my dirty clothes basket. That was the first clue as I painfully urinated, groggily recounting the previous night. Your face. Pain. Heaviness. An open mouth. No words.
Segmented memories flashed through my mind, piecing the horror together.
I’m sure you thought that I wouldn’t remember, with the drug you put in my drink at dinner. I’m sure you thought you could sneak up to my apartment after my best friend put me to bed, wait for her to go to sleep, take my key from her counter and invade my house. I’m sure you believed you could violate my body and get off without me ever knowing. I’m sure you didn’t realize that you would leave bruises in the shape of your fingerprints on my inner thighs that I would see everyday for the next month.
I’m certain you didn’t count on me waking up in the middle of it.
I looked at you square in the eye, but when I opened my mouth to scream, no words materialized. You turned me over face-down to finish. I stared at the carpet throbbing in pain. So much pain. I tried to fight, to move away, but my limbs were leaden. But. I saw you – your ostensibly overweight body hovering over mine, the beads of sweat on your flushed, grotesque face, the male-pattern baldness typical of men your age in their forties, and the glare of your red and white baseball jersey lit by the streetlamp outside the window.
Then black again.
I thought you ruined my life that day. For months, I stumbled to class in a stupor of anxiety – convinced I was damaged forever. Years of therapy followed. I let fear dictate my every decision, and fashioned myself a dungeon of self-protection.
Your actions that day altered the trajectory of my life, and so it seems yours as well. I viewed myself, each relationship I had, and every success and loss through the lens of loss. I was bright-eyed and naive, and what you did that night ripped apart the veil of innocence that had shrouded my life until that moment. I stopped trusting others, and even worse, I stopped trusting myself. I’ve had three miscarriages, two children, and one divorce. I never fully healed the internal scars from your attack, and every grief that followed in the years to come found fertile soil to grow and take root.
How about you? I heard that your wife and children left you after you were investigated for aggravated rape.
When they interrogated you, I watched on tape, you know – the entire hour and a half of your sordid, pornographic version of a good-girl-gone-rogue who seduced you into her bedroom, a married man. I relived the entire attack, viewing it through your twisted lens. You must have breathed a sigh of relief when the case didn’t make it through the DA’s office. You were free, at least from a physical prison.
My journey to healing began when I was pregnant with my son. I realized – with the help of a wonderful therapist and some seriously hard soul work – that letting my wounds go was not the same as letting you off the hook for your crime. It was offering myself the gift of freedom and a future, one that wasn’t defined by your actions. I had grown so accustomed to living with the pain that it morphed into a toxic security blanket. The fear now was in letting it go to see who I could be untethered to it.
Days and weeks go by now where you never cross my mind. I live a life full of joy and freedom, and the strong and independent woman I am now was melded from the ashes of my naïve 21-year old dreams. I take shit from no one, and this once people-pleaser has finally found her voice. My intuition honed, I am unapologetic in saying “No” to people and things that don’t deserve my attention. I’m teaching my son consent at an early age. I’m modeling empowerment and strength for my impressionable young daughter.
While I have thought of you less and less, I have to wonder if you have been thinking of me more and more lately. All these enraged women – empowered with solidarity – I bet they scare the living hell out of you. They should. I’m one of them. And though your statute of limitations is up, I wonder if yours is closing in on you. I’ve liberated myself from the prison you threw me in that night. But how do you live with knowing what you did?
You may have started this chapter and felt power believing you were the author of my story. You’re not. You’re just the villain who didn’t win in the end.
Because. I have the last word.
Lane Faulkner is a writer and former English teacher living in Nashville, Tennessee. A single mother of two, she is a taco enthusiast with a perpetual sense for wanderlust.