For Kelly Oxford or Not About Frog Dissections
Kelly Oxford recently requested on Twitter, in the wake of Trump’s most recent remarks, for women to recount the first time they were sexually assaulted.
I’m not sure I remember much about the story I’m going to tell you now.
For instance, I don’t remember if it took place over two weeks or a month or a marking period. I suppose it probably lasted from when Mrs. G, the biology teacher, decided to implement a new seating arrangement and when she decided to move onto another. You see, the seating arrangements dictated the lab partners (location, location, location!). You’re life could be fundamentally altered by who you sat next with whether it be the punk girl who turns you onto the Kinks and cigarettes or the preppy boy who will, years later, invites you onto his yacht where you lose your virginity. It’s a rule of thumb that bumping beakers was only a few short steps away from breaking bread.
I think Mrs. G liked to shake it up occasionally, force us to work with new and exciting people, people who would rearrange out guts. Memory nor common sense can lead me to a plausible estimate of how long that decision would have taken her because, like the exact time line of the to-be-told event, I remember very little about her. I mean, I do remember, one time, Greg had given Nikko and I gum and Mrs. G only saw me chewing it and made me spit it out while Greg and Nikko snickered next to me, free from punishment, and I hated her for that and also for not recognizing that I should be her assistant director for the Spring musical. In fact, I don’t know why she didn’t just quit and let me run the whole damn show because she clearly was not up to the task of formulating a coherent artistic vision that catered to the cultured 8th graders palate, exemplified by the her flawed casting of Oliver.
What I don’t understand was how she noticed me chewing gum in the back of the classroom but not…
Time wise, I remember it as a series of images, cultivated over a number of incidents, that play themselves like a slideshow in my head, the whole thing lasting about thirty seconds. Because the slideshow only lasts thirty seconds, I can easily watch it multiple times a day. I can watch it while taking a shower. I can watch it while doing filing at an unpaid internship that’s slowly killing my soul. I can watch it while waiting for popcorn for my little sisters to cook in the microwave before American Idol starts. I can watch it while I’m not sleeping next to someone I don’t really know.
Although the slideshow is thirty seconds long, it has taken up maybe about six months of time collectively in my brain.
This is why I can’t tell you how long the actual story lasted.
I don’t remember how it began. I don’t remember how it ended. I just remember the small segments of time filling up the largest portions of my being. It’s small and large all at once and it lies on a completely different time line than the rest of my life despite the fact that it informs all of it. That’s why it is hard for me to piece it together and give it to you in any form with a direct correlation to how time actually works.
I do remember that it took place, at the very least, during the week in 7th grade where I had to dissect a frog for biology.
I remember that because it makes for a fantastic metaphor, and that, my friends, is the silver lining of the situation.
I have to remain positive.
I remember that I didn’t want to dissect it. I really didn’t want to dissect it. I actually might have feigned vomiting or crying. I don’t remember. But don’t confuse this with me having high moral standards. I won’t hear of it. I didn’t want to dissect the frog, not because I thought the frog had been slaughtered against its rights or that animal cruelty was a societal disease for me to vanquish. I thought it was disgusting.
The skin clinging to itself.
The long stretched fingers with enflamed sticky pads.
The beady little eyes that wouldn’t close not matter which way you yanked them.
The translucent belly leading to a wrinkling neck.
Not a single inch of it was tolerable.
I refused to look at it.
I refused to look at it because it had a body, whether or not it wanted one.
That’s how I became the designated note taker in charge of all literary work for the project. My natural gift for writing already flourishing at the tender age of thirteen as you will see when I tell you the frog’s name.
I named the frog Gorfo.
Like frog, but backwards. With an ‘o’ at the end. For style.
It wasn’t Gorfo’s fault he had a body.
For me, Gorfo would be loved through my words. It was the only way I knew how.
So, I spent Monday and Tuesday sitting in the corner facing the wall while Greg and Nikko would dissect Gorfo and tell me what to write. That is, on paper for me, all that happened that week.
I actually can’t write about this.
I actually can’t.
I know I should and I know that this would clarify a whole bunch of shit and tie together my thoughts but I’m also afraid it won’t. I’m afraid I’ll tell you and you’ll think that its not enough to warrant my deranged obsession with physical loneliness and pathological corruption of possible relationships or that I’m pathetic for being traumatized by this or that you’ve had it worse, way worse, and you’re doing fine and I’m not and if this isn’t what’s wrong with me than what is?
I thought Greg was flirting with me at first, I think. I think I actually might have mentioned this to a friend on AIM to impress her. I thought he was going to ask me out and I was going to get to turn him down like I had turned down Liam White the year before despite the fact that Liam White was one of the most popular kids in school. I did regret turning him down about a week after; twelve and already regretful.
Maybe I should write about Liam White.
I don’t want to write about this.
I want to write about something else.
But I’m already too far in.
I have to finish it.
It’s so easy to slip back into thirteen year old me. That’s what’s making this so hard. Despite the fact that I remember very little about how the event started and stopped and changed, I remember exactly how thirteen-year-old me had felt about it.
Actually I’m realizing that I remember a lot more about this than I thought.
I remember thinking that I couldn’t tell anyone because Greg was only a kid.
Greg was only a kid and he didn’t know what he was doing.
If an adult had done what he’d done I knew that you had to go to a teacher or a guidance counselor or a vice principal, but not the actual principal because he was more of a Big-Picture type of guy, and you had to tell them. This was Health Class 101, right after how to insert a tampon, although that procedure confused me for much longer than I’d like to admit. It had been drilled into my head that if you found yourself in this type of situation, you had to tell an adult. Literally, any freaking adult you could find. They didn’t care if it was your Mom or the crossing guard, as long as you told an adult.
But I thought that was only if it was an adult who was doing it to you.
I don’t remember anyone ever said anything about what to do if it was a kid.
Greg was a kid.
Greg was only a kid.
At the time I remember thinking that if I said something that meant they would call him down over the intercom in that really awful way where everyone knew that the kid’s parents were not there to pick him up to take him home. They would call him down in that way where everyone knew he was in trouble. Everyone would probably think he had brought a gun to school and I would sit there and the teacher would know that I knew why he was being called down and would look at me with either pity or would roll their eyes. I could never pick which one.
They would call him down and, once he was in the main office, a woman, it was always a woman, she would walk him to a room, probably one without a window, and once he was in the room, she, who was an adult who had worked tirelessly to gain our respect, she would tell him, explicitly, that the thing that he did to me was very, very bad and that I was very brave to come forward. She wouldn’t really think that because me coming forward just meant that she had to do more paperwork instead of going to lunch with the vice principal — but not the principal because the principal was busy with the Big Picture. She had to, unfortunately, sit here and lecture this fat kid. Then, she would tell him that he was the scum of the earth. She would methodically and in a very grave but also sort of bored way tell him that he was the shit that flies puked on; more a child of dirt than of God. He was spit and grime, more cancer than human.
I truly believed that’s what she would tell him.
No kid deserved to hear that.
And Greg was only a kid.
How could a kid become any better than what he was to me if at the age of thirteen he was pegged as a rapist?
What do you want to be, Greg, when you grow up?
You’re a fucking rapist.
You don’t come back from that.
No kid who is told at the age of thirteen that he’s a rapist eventually turns their life around and goes to Harvard Law. Once that title is on your head, it stays there.
I believed I was saving him, I think.
Maybe that’s what I told myself.
I’m sure there were other reasons. But that was my main rationalization. I know that much. I also assumed I was asking for the attention. I loved attention. Still do. But at the base of the matter, he was only a kid. He didn’t know what he was doing was wrong. Otherwise he wouldn’t have done it to me during biology. He wouldn’t have done it to me while Nikko was watching. Nikko would have said something. He wouldn’t have done it to me under a table. He wouldn’t…
He was only doing what he was taught how to do.
I thought of his parents.
I thought about what kind of dad he had.
I thought about the things he said to me about my dad, things he asked me if my dad did. I wondered if he said those things because they were things his dad did to him. I wondered if this was how his dad talked.
I want to puke. I want everything in my body to leave me. I don’t want this to be something I have to write about.
He was only a kid.
But so was I.
I was only a kid.
And I wanted to be a kid for longer.
Instead my life completely fractured. This one time I did mushrooms and I swore to God nothing was clearer in the world than that fracture. I sat for an hour staring at my hands and crying because the fracture was so clear. I see the kid I was before that point and I see the person I became after and bifurcation is exact, my life folds so perfectly over at that point.
I hate myself for thinking that he was only a kid.
I was only a kid.
Jen was only a kid.
I never talked to Jen about Greg explicitly but I remember her talking about ‘dating’ him in the locker room during gym and how she got real quiet after that. I remember thinking Jen had perfect hair and eyes and skin and that ‘dating’ him made no sense. She should have been dating Liam White. Not this fat dumb kid without a neck.
The girl Greg took to senior prom was only a kid.
A part of me can’t believe Greg grew up and went to high school with me. He was there every single day in the same building as me.
He was a big ugly kid but he was a huge ugly teenager.
I heard he took a shit in the showers of the men’s locker room once in front of everyone like it was something to be proud of.
The girl he took to senior prom was a freshman: huge curly blonde hair, big blue eyes, plain faced, petite and curvy, but more than any of that — more than the blonde and blue and the small — she was quiet. I don’t ever recall her talking. I don’t even know if she could. She’d never say anything.
When I heard she agreed to go to senior prom with him I wanted to warn her or at least make sure she heard about him shitting in the showers. She deserved to know he shit in the showers. She was in choir with me, that was the only class we shared, but she was an alto and I was a soprano and a sea of tenors and basses separated us. There was no way for me to get to her, to reach her, and I didn’t know what to tell her once I got there and it was an awful far way to go to not say anything at all.
I want to blame the tenors and the basses for that but it’s not their fault.
I only knew about Jen and the girl from Prom and even then I’m only guessing. Maybe he never did anything…
I know he did what he did multiple times to me, but they all kind of meld together when I watch the sideshow. I know that I feared biology for a long while. However, there is one incident that really sticks out for me and it is how he did it when the class was dissecting the frogs. He had come over to me because I was hiding in the back corner of the lab. I was facing the wall while Nikko told me to write. As I wrote about how he’d moved the frog’s heart out from under its ribs, Greg would come up behind me—
I shouldn’t write this. People who know me are going to see this. My dad’s going to see this. I’ll tell him not to read this. Maybe I’ll hide it in a block of text and he’ll speed read and will only read the first sentence and the last sentence and maybe everyone will do that and no one will see it written in the middle and after I say it we can all go home and watch Seinfeld. Seinfeld was still fairly popular at the time. I remember that it came on at 6:30pm right before the Simpsons, which I always watched, and right after the nightly news, which I never watched. All of this occurred on Fox 29, which was only on Channel 29 for a couple of years but then moved to a different channel and I never understood why the cable company would move Fox 29 from Channel 29. It didn’t make any sense. Greg came up from behind me, slipped his finger under my skirt, towards my asshole, and asked me if that’s where my Dad liked to fuck me. No one noticed. He put his hands — If Nikko noticed he never said anything. Nobody said anything. I also knew that you could only watch The Simpsons at 7:00pm on Fox 29, but you could watch The Simpsons at 7:30pm on Fox 29 or Fox 5. One was the New York station and the other was the Philadelphia station. I forget which was which. They would play two different episodes though and you could pick the one you liked better or the one you hadn’t seen before. It was really an ideal system that occurred four days a week. It didn’t happen on Fridays but I had dance class on Fridays anyway so that didn’t matter very much.
Mrs. G, always the perceptive one, noticed on Tuesday that I wasn’t dissecting the frog. She didn’t think I’d learn anything by staring at a wall and she didn’t think my excuse of being disgusted was reason enough for me to spare the boys the paperwork portion of the assignment. So she gave me a scalpel and told me I had to remove and identify at least one of the organs while Nikko and Greg wrote down my findings.
I remember taking about ten minutes to even approach the table. I remember being in the corner and probably fake hyperventilating. At that age I was one for the dramatics and I’d loved playing the martyr. I think I take after my mom that way which is why I never take her seriously when she cries. Women shouldn’t be allowed to cry, that’s why they say we’re weak. We’re weak.
But I did approach the table.
I remember Gorfo being pale, I think.
I want to remember something really artful and meaningful about Gorfo right now but, if I’m being honest, I can’t. I want to remember this moment being incredibly painful or cathartic for me. I want to remember seeing myself in Gorfo’s exposed body and creamy thighs. I want to remember my salty tears mixing with his stomach juices or something beautiful and poetic along those lines. I don’t even remember which body part I removed and I feel really cheap making one up…
I want to remember anything other than the one thing I think I remember.
I think I remember that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be and I remember that I actually enjoyed it a little. I remember taking out whatever organ it was from Gorfo’s body and thinking, I did this to you.
I remember pretending to be sick the next morning and staying home from school. I remember telling myself that I was playing sick because I didn’t want to dissect the frog again. I remember telling that very story to my friends for years, how I was so disgusted by the whole dissection thing that I refused to show up at school for the rest of the week: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. That’s how much I cared about some animal’s life.
That is, if you can call a frog an animal.
That’s what I remember.