We Don’t Talk About It

It was just past 11 pm when we got to the dance club, which was really just a shady box with security guards in a dark patch of downtown. The entrance led into a narrow hallway that eventually flooded into a sweaty mess of bodies swaying to some pretty mediocre music. Blue and purple flashed in disco style across the small hall, occasionally revealing people who looked like one person instead of two. I navigated to the red shine of my friend, Chaya’s dress, only to realize that I really had to pee.

I made some friends waiting on line. There was small talk about one thing or another and I told a girl she looked nice. She beamed at me and held a hand over her heart. At least, I thought, the people here aren’t trashy. By the time I got to washing my hands, my phone screen lit up to show it was midnight, and the only dancing my feet had done was around floor stains.

When I had finally squeezed myself through the crowd and found my friends, the DJ had begun playing music I actually recognized. Chaya was busy bonding with her own friends who had come to visit, so I resigned to dancing with the others. I was glad to finally be letting loose — the night was turning out to be not so bad after all, and I wasn’t even drunk.

After an uneventful half hour of dancing to remixed classics and oldies, I felt a stranger push himself behind me. His hands latched onto my hips, but I kept dancing. There was a faint sense of alarm as I motioned to my friends, what the hell is going on. Sahir gave me a thumbs up; Kaitlyn shrugged and smirked. I shot them a look but didn’t actually do anything else about my situation. Fine, I said to myself. Let’s see what this is all about. This isn’t so bad.

In the darkness of the club I could only make out parts of the boy attached to me. His hair was spiked with too much Axe and his suit radiated the smell of sweet vodka. The silk sleeves suggested strong arms — or, at least, arms that were stronger than mine. He had a drunken confidence that spoke through the veins on his hands. There was no talking.

For a while we just swung to the music, until he turned me around and pressed his mouth to mine. My thoughts moved from panic to indifference quickly: whatever, I can deal with this. It’s a party, after all. I wasn’t really concerned about my friends judging me — from what I could tell of my limited vision, they were egging me on. And the guy wasn’t entirely horrible with his mouth. Whatever, right? Whatever. Apathy is often a reaction borne of self-preservation: I made up reasons that it was okay because I didn’t know what else to do.

His hands wandered across the gold sequins of my upper back and the smooth ivory of my lower skirt. Somehow, we’d moved several feet to the left, and I could make out his objective from the corner of my eye: the booth seats that lined the walls. I let him lead me there and we continued where we left off for several seconds until I noticed something very off with our situation. His hands had made it to the sides of my tube top dress. He tugged downwards.

I reacted quickly enough that no one else noticed the indiscretion, only to be met with resistance as I tried to keep my dress on and pull away. The first time, I pushed against his arms, the second time against his chest, his shoulders the third — I managed to create distance only after I lost count of my efforts. I walked away in a daze. What just happened?

From the shifting disco lights I could make out the features of his face; I memorized the low arch of his eyes and the way they quickly turned into the sharpness of his nose. His mouth formed a wicked curve that I made a note never to forget. But I let it slide then because, you know, boys are gross. It was dark. No one would say anything. I went to join my friends, shook out my legs and arms, and pulsed my head to the beat. It could still be a good night.

A little while later, my friend, Raj, reached out to take my hand and started weaving through the crowd, away from the others. I assumed he wanted to dance somewhere more spacious, like earlier. It would have been a nice respite to step away from the recent events, which I was still trying to process. Instead, he didn’t let my hand go until I was already too close, face to face, and for the second time that night, mouth to mouth. No, I said to myself, but only in my own head. No, I wanted to say out loud. Not again. Not you. But I didn’t say anything. I conceded to his arms around me and allowed my ears to suffocate from the decibels. He was a good friend; we had history that was marked by his dorm bed and text messages I couldn’t show anyone. I told myself It wasn’t a big deal. I knew he would get bored soon. This would be just another memory in our on and off more-than-friends relationship that had always been otherwise good. I wondered if that made it okay — or at least more okay than what had happened not ten minutes before.

Besides, Raj’s face was one I already knew all too well. As he guided my numb arms around his waist, the stranger who I had made such an effort to remember began to grow foggy. Just around when Raj pulled away, our friends had elected to leave. As we boarded the bus across the street from the venue,

someone drunkenly asked if we had just been making out. We shared a glance and said no. We laughed.

Our secret, yeah?
 — -
 I wore that dress again once, thinking I might be able to rewrite its memories like a hard drive — but there are always ghosts in the machinery. Sometimes I tell people about the time I was “low-key sexually assaulted.”

I’ve told the story to more people than I would like, each time wondering how much of it was even real; how much has been embellished; how much I may have forgotten. Things like this stay with you until you speak about them, and even after that. My friends all know about that random guy. But no one knows about the right after. We don’t talk about it.

#MeToo