By Jillian Elkin
**Trigger warnings for rape**
The ceiling has dirty stains on it. I have no idea how a person can stain their ceiling. Perhaps, a group of people played a game that involved throwing sauce into the air or someone defied gravity for the sole purpose of rubbing his taint on the ceiling. When I look at the ceiling, I don’t have to look at my boyfriend’s vicious eyes as he fucks me. I didn’t ask him to fuck me. He didn’t ask me if I wanted it either. We look like a normal couple, I think. A lot of couples have sex when one person doesn’t really want to – I think.
After he pulls out, he leaves me alone in his bedroom. I throw my face into the duvet and cry. My eyes concede to the darkness as I fall asleep. He wakes me up with a kiss. Less than a minute later he is inside me. I’m alone. I’m crying. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.
It was almost a year ago, but the memories have been haunting me lately. The other night, I fucked my friend and the memories came back. Not like a flood or a hurricane or some other poetic, beautiful nonsense. The memory was just there. Then my brain shut down. Turned off to save herself. This happens when I try to remember other things that happened in the room with the dirty ceiling too. My head fills with fire. My bony fingers shake uncontrollably, trembling with brittle certainty. They’re doing it right now.
At this point, I can’t remember if I liked it. The sex, I mean. If that’s what you call it. I can’t remember how often I asked for it. Or if he watched me cry on the pillow beside his. I can’t remember if I said ‘no.’ I did not say ‘yes.’ When he put my hand on his crotch, I was obedient. When I was between his legs, I did what he expected me to do. When he was on top of me, I did what young women are “supposed to do.” It didn’t hurt that much. I was too sad to disappoint him. I was too empty to have conversations about why I was not in the mood those nights. I felt too weak to speak.
The sex wasn’t always bad. Actually, for the first time in my life, I had really good sex. I initiated it frequently. I came often, even when I wasn’t sure how it started or if I’d wanted it too. So, I don’t know if anything bad happened to me.
I keep a journal. Not everyday, but often enough. I wish I wrote more about that time because now I can barely remember. I trust my writing more than my memory. I read an entry from the worst night. The night that never ended. When there was so much sex and so much crying. I wrote with sadness and pain in one sentence. Lust and anger in the next. I wrote that the sensation reminded me of when I lost my virginity. When something was taken from me.
I consider myself to be an ardent feminist. I was a feminist before he met me too. I learned about affirmative consent. Yes means yes. Duh. Rape is not confusing. Consent is not confusing. There is no gray area. Those things were easier to believe before I fell into the grayness.
No one in my life would expect that this sort of thing could happen to me. In a perfect world, no one would imagine violence and heartbreak as inevitabilities in anyone’s life. I don’t binge-drink. I have a picky taste in men. I run outside to see a rainbow. I laugh out loud without shame when I’m walking down the street and a funny thought enters my head.
According to my high school math teacher/ advisor, this sort of thing does happen to girls like me. My advisor, a few other high school girls, and I chat and eat dinner around an oblong table—Harkness table as they say where I come from. Our advisor warns us of the cruel men in the world. “Some men prey on young women. So, you’ve got to be careful.” With a sharp turn of her head, she locks eyes with me and says, “Especially you.” She elaborates: “Quiet, shy girls are easy targets. Men think they’re not going to say anything.” I nod absentmindedly.
Especially you. Those words are buried in my crapshoot brain. It took me years to realize that this was a super fucked up thing to tell anyone. She failed me as an advisor and as a female role model. I suck at math, so maybe she failed me as a math teacher too. That “conversation” took place a couple of years before I would discover four walls and a dirty ceiling.
Maybe this isn’t just another depressed sex story. It pains me to replace a narrative of excitement, growth, and love with this messy memory. It adds a darker stroke of color to the picture of us walking along the boardwalk at midnight. I feel a confused tenderness to the old story of our time together. The story I prefer. I liked holding his hand, and he liked calling me ‘his.’
Then again, nothing bad happened to me. I chose to take my clothing off. I chose to lie down in that king sized bed with a white, tear-absorbent duvet. I chose to move my hand that way. I chose to put my mouth there. I didn’t say anything about what happened after that. I guess I chose not to say ‘no’ even though I distinctly felt miserable and wanted the experience to end or not have begun in the first place. Unless depression took away my ability to say ‘no.’
There are other factors involved in this situation that the therapist I will inevitably reveal this to might consider relevant. I was a teenage (above the age of consent). He was in his mid-30s. He told me he loved me and I believed him. He was well aware of my emotional fragility and instability. We lied to each other a lot. It was almost romantic. This essay is the ecstatic truth. I can lie to your face, but I could never lie to a blank piece of paper or the grimy keys of my tired laptop.
I suppose I will continue to not know what happened to me. But now you know.
Jillian is an aspiring princess living in New York City. She is a rising senior at Vassar College where she studies Film. Her talents include filmmaking, creative writing, and bringing people coffee for free. For fun, she makes her friends watch plot-less, foreign-language art movies.
Image courtesy Kalegin Michail/ Unsplash