I arrived on his doorstep beautiful, buffed, waxed and shining.
It was our 6 month anniversary and he was my very first grown up boyfriend, his 24 to my 18 as much of an aphrodisiac as our natural, combustible, chemistry. I knew from the moment he opened the door to usher me inside that tonight was going to be different. I was dressed for the occasion, in something black, tight, and short, -nearly scandalous but escaping the distinction because it was February, winter, and therefore, I was wearing tights and a sweater under my coat. But coats come off, and sweaters can be removed, and with the right words from a committed boyfriend, so can tights.
He led me gently inside, coaxing me to relax all the while. I thought I’d hidden my apprehension and nervousness well. David knew me better than I’d thought. This only led to frighten me even more. I was only 18 and still virginal at that. I was hoping to remain that way until my wedding night. The only remaining question in my mind became, “Is David going to be the groom?” It was something I thought about constantly. It was a problem that we couldn’t seem to surmount and we were a couple, having made it official and committed for 6 months; we were of one mind, as we shared the same religious beliefs and convictions as well as morals and ideals; and we were as of one body, spending most of our time together. But we were not of one soul. David assured me that the intertwining of souls only came with intercourse, sex, making love. I knew he wanted to make love to me. I could hardly bring myself to utter the words. We were at an impasse. Yet, ultimately, I felt safe with him. Had we not first met at church? Did we not have the same convictions when it came to no sex before marriage? David was just being a boy. That was understandable. After all, I had hormones too and sometimes they were extremely difficult to placate or ignore.
Stepping into his house, the tableau laid out before me in David’s living room was the very essence of romance. The lights were off and numerous lit candles decorated every sustainable surface. The fireplace was ablaze with warmth and red, yellow, fiery light. There was a picnic set out on the living room floor complete with bite size goodies, blankets and pillows, champagne and the accompanying glasses. I felt like a princess. I felt like a wife. I felt treasured and appreciated. I felt loved. David was good at that whole making a girl feel appreciated thing. I remember thinking, “Good thing there are no roses!” Roses meant sex. I knew that, boys knew that, every girl knew that. It was a secret code but easily deciphered and not nearly as conscripted as men would like to believe. Are we women not always two if not two dozen steps ahead of our men? At least, that’s where we should be if not for the men who draw us back and delay us with sweet honeyed words, lying caresses, and empty promises.
David was supposed to be different.
He looked at me as I stood looking out at the goodies laid before me, apprehension in those big brown eyes of his, as if to say, “Do you like it?” “Of course I like it you doofus. I love it.” I was completely and totally charmed. And so the night was off to a great start. Soon I was lying on that cozy blanket with him, his back propped up on pillows, leaning against the bottom base of the couch, and with me in his arms, divested of shoes, coat, sweater, and yes, stockings. What was left? Not enough. He held me and I felt safe. He fed me and I hid my countenance in the shadows from time to time, trying to keep the mystery alive, adding some much needed spice to a 6 month commitment that had started to feel like a plateau instead of a steadily chugging train or an uphill mountain climb. I was worried that he was getting impatient. His hands roved through and fro and I let them travel without checkpoints. I was relaxed and drunk off the atmosphere, his actions in thinking up and putting together such a romantic treat, and of course, the wine and champagne.
He was steady and I was out at sea, adrift, bobbing, and without an anchor. His arms and warmth promised a safe harbor and a resting place when I was ready to drift back into the bay. I pictured that harbor often with its diamond engagement ring and wedding band (of appropriately ostentatious size of course), its deliriously enjoyable honeymoon where two souls would finally converge, its lovely five year plan consisting of us moving out to New York, he supporting me while I attended NYU, and us eventually adding to our little family. The harbor looked so attractive and the anchor even more so. David was on his way to bank manager at 24.
But I could wait. Penetration could wait. Soul melding could ultimately wait. I wanted my white dress to mean something to me. We would be married in a church in the eyes of God and man. My thoughts drifted along this vein as my blood rushed along through my veins, spiced with alcohol and living high. I began to get hotter.
“Babe it’s so hot!” Was I mumbling? When had my speech begun to slur? Was I really that drunk? I couldn’t be. I’d only had three glasses.
“I know babe. Do you wanna take off your dress? Here, lemme help you- No, come on babe, its okay. You’ve got underwear on right? No big deal, ain’t nothing I haven’t seen before hon.” He was strangely persistent tonight. I was still lying back in his lap. His hands seemed so large and despite the fire and candles, they felt cold upon my flesh. I felt feverish and dazed. I tried to sit up.
“No, I don’t want that. Help me up-“ I struggled to move.
He pulled me back down into his arms. His strength had always been used for me before. This felt different. Was he keeping me from getting up?
“Stop it Dave. Lemme get up!”
My speech was slurring more and more. I could hardly form and string words together. My tongue felt laden and my head even more so. My vision began to get hazy and I began to feel a strange dread boil up in my gut. Just what the hell was happening?
“What the hell is going on? Why do I feel so strange? David. Help me up. I think you should take me home. I don’t feel so good.”
Was I just thinking these words or was I actually saying them? Why couldn’t I tell? Where were my arms, my feet, and my legs? Why did my head feel as though it’d disappeared from my body? Where was David? My harbor had vanished like a mirage in the desert.
“Come on babe. Just relax. You had a little too much wine. Here. Just lie back on the blankets, come on, right next to me here, and I’ll help you take your dress off. You’re probably overheated. You’re probably feeling faint from all the heat.”
His strength in that moment was insurmountable. David was holding me down.
David had always been such a perfect gentlemen. He opened doors-cars, buildings, houses, etc; he observed all the courtesies and his manners were exquisite. Sometimes I was afraid of committing an irreparable gaffe in front of him. I’d worried about it often enough that I’d purchased Manners for Dummies from the local Borders Bookstore with my 20 percent off members only discount, sacrificing my usual weekly romance novel buy.
I smiled faintly, recalling this, letting David lay me out on the blanket. Distantly, I heard a faint scratching sound. What the heck was that?
“David, do you have mice or bugs or something? Get me off this floor!”
My raised voice mirrored my rising anxiety. Only, he didn’t hear me. Did he? He didn’t respond. Slowly I realized the sound I heard was a zipper. I looked up; there were three Davids above me now, all kneeling above me, their faces hovering imminently.
Death is imminent. Heart break is imminent. Betrayal was imminent.
The first David, he looked apologetic then determined. The second David, he looked fierce. He quite frightened me so I looked away. My head was no longer on my body, and it was nice to see with my neck, or maybe I was seeing with my arms and legs? Maybe my spinal chord or my heart? So I looked back to see what the third David was thinking. He looked afraid. What in the world did he have to be afraid of? Out of the foggy gray edge that bordered my vision, I saw a hand reach out of the darkness to comfort the scared David. The hand caressed his face lovingly. I smiled. He looked so relieved to see that hand. With a jolt, I realized, upon espying a familiar looking friendship ring on the third finger, that it was my hand!
My hand was like a stranger to me, my body like a rental. What the hell was going on? I opened my mouth to ask but I soon found myself chewing on a ripe and juicy strawberry. It was so delicious and refreshing. I closed my eyes to better savor the taste, all the textures, and the sweetness of the blood red, berry juice. Also, my eye lids had grown increasingly heavy and I could not seem to keep them open. I closed my eyes and savored that fresh, ripe, bursting strawberry. I swallowed down its sweetness, its small delicacy. I opened my mouth like a blind and vulnerable baby bird, looking for sustenance from the sky, from the gods, from my mother. David, ever mindful of my needs, ever the perfect southern gentleman, dropped another strawberry in my mouth, and as I savored this new tiny friend, I began to drift along my ocean once again, only this time, when I looked out to find the harbor, all I saw was a heavy gray fog.
Where was safety?
The hole in my stomach seemed to drop down as a feeling of acute dread and nausea assaulted me. My scrambled circuits began to sluggishly but determinedly assemble themselves as the red flashing neon signs of warning were finally tripped and I began to fight for sight. My eyelids would not open and my body would not move. What was wrong with me? I tried to cry out but my tongue felt numb and bogged down with my unspoken words and unanswered questions. Where was I? Where was David? How could he allow such a thing to happen to me? Why wasn’t he coming to rescue me, my committed and every so loyal boyfriend? I began to gag and felt myself being turned over.
“Oh god, oh god, oh babe!”
These words were distant but distinctly panicked. I had to fight to open my eyes and move my limbs. I’m a good fighter and I’m determined never to lose. I looked up and saw one David. The other two seemed to have fled. In terror maybe? Horror? I could not concern myself with them at present. I had to fight to move my limbs and find my head. Slowly, my head seemed to come back into itself and reattach itself to my body. I was just strong enough to prop my head up from where it was resting on the blankets, and look down at my body. My black, scandalous dress was gone, where, I could not begin to imagine. I had not even felt the breeze on my body from being unclothed or the ensuing warmth from the fire on the parts of my skin that had been previously covered. A tidal wave of shame and embarrassment threatened to carry me away. The sea that I’d been previously adrift on seemed to gather inside of my chest cavity and burst out of my eyes, my nose, and my mouth. I felt as though I was drowning as I began to cry huge, ensuing sobs and a pain began to make itself clear and present within my heart. I felt as if I’d been beaten down with a hundred clubs. I felt naked as I lay there in my Victoria’s Secret semi annual sale underwear-black lace with pink trim and bows. In it, I’d felt the daring sex appeal of a woman yet still with the girlish and fanciful whims of a girl.
Now I just felt ill, I felt violated, and I felt cold.
A chill seeped into my very heart, traveling and penetrating through my bones, and waking up my sluggishly churning brain. With a lurch, I sat up and began to gag, now audibly, trying to get my idiot limbs to work as I struggled to get to my knees and then to my feet. David, forgotten in my self consumed hatred, suddenly reappeared in my periphery in the guise of a helping hand and a soothing voice. I looked into his face, only one David, the anxiety, fear, and fierceness still there, all on one face, despite his damn gentlemanly concern and knight in shining armor act. It was then that I knew he had reduced me to this shameful thing: this nauseous, naked, broken bird that’d been force fed poison in the guise of love.
I was afraid of him in that moment. I was ashamed and hateful of myself.
His hand on my lower back, his palm touching my disgusted flesh, helped me up and to the nearest bathroom, in the hallway not far from the living room. I accepted his help, like one reluctantly accepts life from a devil. But life is life and despite the giver, it’s something to be fought for and treasured. I felt near death though. I felt like a dirty whore. As I knelt there in the bathroom, fluorescent lights beating down upon my head, face inside the porcelain bowl, that god of shit and piss, I began to feel an overwhelming rage, the kind that makes itself friend to guns, knives, and murderous intentions. I was out of my mind with anguish and love. He held back my hair from my face, rubbed my back, and kissed the nape of my neck.
How could I still feel pleasure in his acts of kindness and tenderness? Had he not revealed himself to be a monster of the worst kind?
He murmured soothing phrases all the while, never apologizing and yet so obviously weighed down by remorse and stone cold terror. I felt it in that overly lit bathroom and somehow, I heard it too, over the sounds of my retching and sobbing, somehow those more silent sounds managed to drown out my sounds of pain.
And it was there, even as I plotted his dismemberment, that I knew I had already forgiven him. I staggered to my feet, washed my face, and drank a glass of water, all with David supporting me. He was silent and watchful and seemed permanently mute. This was for the best. In a sudden move of gallantry and foolishness, David scooped me up in his arms and carried me down the hallway into his bedroom. He laid me tenderly and gently onto his bed, and then tucked me in. As he backed away from the bed, I tested the movement of my arms and legs, of my lungs and my heartbeat. I was still helpless and limp as a rag doll. I was still unable to fight physically and emotionally.
I began to feel myself emotionally bleed out.
I didn’t know what could serve as a bandage to staunch the bleeding, at least until I got back home to my real safe harbor. To my parents. I began to cry silently, tears rolling down my face. I felt a movement on the bed and slowly moved my head to see David, sans clothing, and clad just in his boxers and socks, getting onto the bed. He got under the covers next to me and pulled me into his arms.
Hating myself and feeling as though I were dead, I snuggled into his chest and breathed in his scent. I thought about knives stabbing chests and guns blowing out brains. He kissed me softly on my dried, cracked lips and like a dangerous and long lit explosive, I went off in a flurry of movements, my body surging up in a blast of energy that seemed miraculous as it did inevitable.
My vision began to get hazy as I saw and heard what seemed like a train. It was coming straight for me, barreling closer and closer and getting louder and louder. My vision began to turn a deep crimson red, like the strawberry and with the same tart sweetness, the same red blooded-ness, as I saw my arms, my hands, my heart and my gut, beat down onto the bed, over and over and over. Suddenly, the train hit me, full force, at full speed, but I felt no pain. I sank down onto the bed, exhausted and spent, and I glanced down at David, to see him bloodied and bruised, curled up into a fetal position on the bed. Our breaths were as loud as the freight train, in, and out, in and out, loud in the too still and pin drop quiet room. I lay in a heap beside David’s bloodied mess of a body. He lifted his head up, and turned his face towards me after some moments. His nose was bloodied and tilted to one side, he had what looked to be the beginnings of two black eyes, his upper and lower lips were cut and several dark bruises were blooming up across his face, chest, arms, and thighs.
He looked ripe. He looked like I felt, beaten by a thousand clubs, defeated by the empty promises and well hidden lies of a smooth gentleman’s tongue and honest looking eyes. I felt triumphant and hallow. I felt victorious but I still felt dead. This devil’s offer of life seemed to ring false, just like our six month relationship seemed but a quickly disappearing and disintegrating mirage out in the hot desert sun. I smiled into his overly ripe and bloodied face. I couldn’t help but feel some measure of satisfaction. My body had risen to the occasion when I’d truly needed it.
Slowly, David rose up onto his knees, his terrorized eyes boring into mine. He brought his bruised and naked arms up, his palms pressed together in a gesture of supplication and deep regret, he bowed his head and face into the mattress, before my folded legs, in worship, and he began to sob. His cries were loud, undignified, ungentlemanly, and without the perfection of his former façade of good manners and even better lies. I felt my heart melt even as I felt my brain turn away from such an unmanly display with disgust and deep pain.
Slowly, I felt my body move close towards his, embracing his brokenness with mine, knowing that this was the end of some sort of punishment for the both of us, and a beginning of my newly freed mind and body and my never intertwined soul.
I held him to my lace clad breasts, feeling maternal in a way that vaguely sickened me. And yet I could not bring myself to leave him. Six months seemed like such a long time in my 18 year old world perspective. What a waste to leave him after so long a time. I would just hold him a little longer. I would just wait until he fell asleep.
Originally written 2009.
“Let the truth speak. Let the truth heal-again and again and again.”