I guess it’s a long story. It’s about two people, great friends, with the same upbringing, but two different religious beliefs. We dated and it went horribly wrong. Really, horribly wrong.
I was really broken. You know the story. On again and off again and how the last boyfriend treated me like garbage, again and again. I thought that I needed someone like him.
Then there were my friends there to save me. They had been my best friends the whole year before. Countless hours at school and at practices. We were rarely apart.
He was one of these friends. I knew him so well and I felt like I needed him to provide stability in my life when The Ex was finally gone.
We all became really comfortable around each other. When you have to change clothes in front of 50 other kids every other day the whole idea of being in shorts (that were far too short) and a tank top (that shows way too much) doesn’t seem like that much of an issue. If anything, it frees you. You know that they look and there is a sense of empowerment that comes from their desire, even if you don’t fully understand the consequences yet.
We have all suffered in the heat together, gotten up early in the morning together and experienced so much joy together. Come to think of it, maybe being so comfortable around each other is what lead us down this terrible path.
You were involved in every aspect of my life that year. It was a great year and there was always a lot of really intense chemistry between us. The Ex said he didn’t like the way you looked at me. I guess, at times, I was also looking back.
When he was gone, and I was devastated. You and I decided to give it a shot. You were apprehensive and I was desperate. “Just give me a shot.”
It was snowy the first night you kissed me. Underneath the big tree at the park, making angels in the deep snow. It felt scary and intense. We both knew that our friendship with each other was dependent on the outcome of this relationship. The pressure is on. Who knew it would go down so fast? We probably should have known.
The differences in our “history” were glaring down at us every day. You knew far too much about me and there really was nothing to tell about you. In the back of my mind, when I think of you, I have always wondered if that power-struggle is what really bothered you. Is it what sent you over that edge you seemed to cling to?
To this day I cannot believe that it didn’t end there. Walking through the happy supermarket aisle. We were three friends who were going to make dinner. Joyfully playing house. We were making decisions on whether it would be pasta or sandwiches. Being like real, teenage, adults.
I don’t really remember our friend’s exact question, some incredibly personal, probing question about my “history.” Could you live with it? What did you think? He knew as much as you did about me and as much about you as I did. We were all just as close. On some level, he had a right to ask. It was on everyone’s mind anyway.
I was not ready for your response. The one that I. Will. Never. Forget. “Well, you know, she’s kind of like a used car. Once you drive it off the lot it loses a lot of its value.”
Run. Run now. People who are supposed to care about you, who are supposed to be your friend DO NOT say things like that. Run. Why aren’t you running? Stop laughing it off. It is a big deal. It did hurt. Why aren’t you saying something? I know that you think this about yourself anyway. That doesn’t make it okay for him to say it or think it. Run.
The intensity continued as the days went on. Suddenly, it was just the two of us hanging out. None of it was the same. We didn’t play video games anymore or watch tv. It was a lot of kissing. Thankfully, very little else. When we got too into it you made fun of me, you called me names or mocked the way I reacted. I put up with it.
Until that night in your car. We were kissing harder and something changed behind your eyes. I knew your religious convictions and I knew that they pulled you from temptation. A temptation that neither of us was ready for, but I had experienced once before. I remember feeling your hand touch my hip. Some part of me registered that you brushed the line on the top of my underwear. Why did that seem to make you so suddenly angry?
Over my shirt you grabbed me. I remember saying “ouch” the first time and you stopped. Moments later you twisted my breast, hard and I thought you meant it as a joke-gone-wrong. It wasn’t until you ripped the lace that I realized how angry you had become.
Some unknown force inside you had surfaced and you were confused and furious. At me or yourself or God, I don’t know. You pulled the lace the stuck out from the edge of my jeans like the chain on a lawn mower and I felt it shred painfully across a very delicate part of my body. I don’t remember how long we sat in still, silence until I went, sobbing to my car. It wasn’t until later that I realized there was a flow of blood pooling. I guess you were tearing away what you thought was my temptation.
That was the night it was over. That was the night I was scared of you. Scared of how I thought I needed you. Scared that you, this good, pure person who knew me as well as anyone else. You didn’t want me or think I was good enough. It wasn’t long before I told you that we were over.
I expected you to be angry, but you weren’t. Maybe angry would have been better. At least angry I could have understood. You were in a bad situation. You thought it was your body betraying you, maybe you thought I was asking for something, when I wasn’t. We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t even really get close at all. Maybe even that was too far for you.
As weeks passed and graduation approached I was Hester Prynne. When it came to you and me I might as well have worn an A on my shirt. I was the one who destroyed our friendship. It was over for me from then on. Long before it was over for you.
Every aspect of life as I knew it was changing. Graduation approached quickly and I tried to distance myself from it all and move on. I’m sure that this was terrifying for you too. Everything you had known was disappearing and real, adult life is a hard idea to choke down at eighteen. Is that why you couldn’t let go?
I didn’t become afraid of you until the night that I felt like you punished me for tempting you. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that part of you was slipping. In all the confusion and changes, an essential part of who you were was gone.
One day you quietly stated your real opinions in the midst of our debate in government class. We were talking about Capital Punishment. Should it be legal? For what parameters? Someone asked, what about rapists?
Your suddenly thoughtful eyes stared at me from across the row.
“Capital Punishment wouldn’t stop it. For some people, it would be worth it.”
My heart was in my ears. Did everyone hear or was it just me and a friend behind you? She pulled me aside later and to this day we sometimes talk about that look in your eyes. Surely someone would have said something if they heard it too. Surely.
At prom I came with my friends. Still, you were always there. A lot of them were your friends too. Please stop trying to dance with me. I still think a lot of that was my fault. I was scared and not very good at standing up for myself, especially when my “date” ditched me and I was suddenly alone. A good portion of this night was spent hiding in the bathroom.
I remember thinking that it was probably my fault for wearing such a low-cut dress and “tempting you” again.
The short part of the year was spent much the same way. Avoidance, awkwardness and compartmentalizing memories. The intensity was still there between the two of us, but this time I knew that if anyone was looking they weren’t seeing it reflected in my eyes. The only intensity I felt was fear.
It’s weird though, feeling like you have to be friends with someone who scares you like that. Most of our friends are still the same. You and I don’t talk. I can’t and I don’t think I could be alone in the same room with you ever again. The thought of it makes me retch.
I don’t know how to deal with feeling obligated to be friends with someone that makes you feel ashamed of yourself for something that is now part of who you are. The truth is that I made a lot of mistakes back then. Maybe I didn’t take what you were going through seriously enough.
Maybe I should have told more people how badly you scared me. I remember telling another boy that I became serious about that I now had developed issues being alone with guys. Even now, happily married, I still find myself reserved. What if I respond in a way that is too over the top? Will I be mocked again?
I’m not sure what the point of this story is. I’m not really trying to raise awareness or anything. I guess I just want to put down into words something that I’ve felt obligated for years to explain to any man who got close to me.
At least now my voice doesn’t quiver when I say “That’s not funny.” And at least now someone listens when I say “That hurts.”
Run. Dear God above. You should have ran. But please remember, it gets better eventually.