Horizontal Lives

True Tales of the Infamous Courtesan: Persephone N. Hades and her Horizontal Life underground. How she got there, her mis-adventures and her struggle to re-surface.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Nothing Personal

I am fat.
I am 17.
It is September and I am ready to go off to my freshman year at college.
I’ve applied to all the great drama centered schools in Illinois: DePaul’s Goodman Theatre School; Northwestern in Evanston.
I am not accepted possibly because I am dyslexic and not very bright.
Or because I’ve been so busy being distracted with an abortion, Germany, Mick and his death that my grades were poor and my SAT scores on the level with a bright 6th grader.
Probably the latter.
However, a State School: Western Illinois University, centrally located in a cow-patch in Macomb, Illinois, will have me.

I am fat.
Fat. Fat. Fat.
Shrimp forks and ice cream have done me in.
That, and quitting smoking.
The healthier I get the fatter I get. Completely unfair.
The only upside to being fat, is that my hair is amazing. It seems to grow faster and be thicker. If it wasn’t for my Fatness, I could be in a Pantene commercial.
I have never had such great hair.
Unfortunately it surrounds a moon-pie FAT face.
5’4. And at one time 98lbs.
Now, still 5’4, (unfortunately that didn’t change) and now 138lbs.
Only my skirts with elastic waists fit me.
Buy my first size 8. A pair of jeans that bite into my bulbous thighs and feel too good when I peel them off, leaving road marks from my knees to my crotch that last for hours.

I hate myself.
I hate my life.
I hate God for taking Mick away.
But, here we go.

I check in at the all-girls dorm.
Security snaps an official photo, laminates it to my official Student I.D. card and shows me to my room; Home for the next year.
As the Guard hands me the key, I glance at the photo.
Who is that?
Staring back at me is a plump-faced, dour-eyed cow with raised, pleading eyebrows.
Yank my heavy bag through the door, letting it slam behind me.

A Box.
A Box containing two twin beds on opposite sides of the room.
Beds with puke orange bolsters against the wall so they can double as sofas.
The bolsters pull open for storage.
At the foot of each bed are two small built-in desks with shelves above for books.
Next to the desks, directly opposite the door is a full picture window overlooking the Campus.
At the head of the beds, near the door on either side, are two closets with wooden doors.
On the wall hangs one phone with a long curly cord—a party line to be shared by the entire floor of girls.
Down the hall are the shared bathrooms with stalls, showers, and sinks.
My roommate, I’m told, will not be in until morning.

Unpeel my jeans, rolling them inside out until I am able to kick them off with my feet.
Actually groan with pleasure as I scratch the seam lines indented in my thighs.
Decide I’ll take the left bed.
Remove the scotch tape I was diligent to pack and the dozens of poems I created in calligraphy, each one laminated together with a picture of Mick, and design a Memorial covering the entire closet door.
Light a candle.
Spend the night alone with the Door of Homage and a jar of Skippy Peanut Butter.

Cindy Victory, (her name says it all,) arrives looking and acting just as her name implies:
Peppy and cute with a button nose, a short bouncy haircut although mousy-brown.
She wears shorts that have been pressed, gym shoes with lacy bobby socks and a tasteful t-shirt that barely reveals two small breasts self-contained and of manageable size.
Her body is that of a track and field athlete. She is able to wear shorts without shame for she has thighs that have not yet known the tragedy of cellulite.
Her disposition is one that has never been acquainted with pain or self-doubt.
Within a few minutes of our meeting, I learn she is a virgin and proud-of-it.

I can intuit the rest of her life:
She will finish undergrad with an ‘A’ average in business.
Either go on to grad school or get married.
Have a lovely, healthy, un-neurotic average family.
Live in a nice suburb of a nice city with a normal husband who only cheats once or twice in the marriage but she never finds out.
Celebrates birthdays and anniversaries and never forgets any of them.
Will be surrounded by normal friends with normal lives and will grow old gracefully.

Being near her makes me want ice cream. Gallons of it. With hot chocolate sauce and piles of WhipCream.

Cindy and I spend our first night as roommates cross-legged on our beds, giggling too loud as we superficially expose our ‘whole-entire’ lives to one another.
While Cindy dips economically into the peanut butter jar with her one toasted-wheat cracker, I polish off the jar with an enormous tablespoon.
We plan to be the best of friends.

During the next few days, the rest of the girls on our floor take up residence as well.
We share a bathroom at the end of the hall—all thirty-nine of us—except Kitty Pea;
The RA (Resident Assistant) who has her own bathroom attached to her private, no-roommate Box.

The first thing I notice, aside from feeling like I am never going to fit in with this group of protected, well-cared for, non-neurotic girls, is the abundance of pubic hair.
I know. I know. But,
It was an odd comfort to see that these girls, whose bodies had not yet been tempered or distorted to suit men’s desires, were bushier than I was; with a line starting just an inch below their navels and running wild onto their thighs.
I had never seen a grown woman naked except in a Playboy magazine, and the women in those magazines seemed to lack pubic hair, making me wonder if I was abnormal.
Now I know, that in at least this one aspect, I am not.

New environment.
New People.
The opportunity to re-create myself.
Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to begin Theatre classes until second semester.
I go to classes. Observe. Listen. Outside and detached. Seeking the niche I fit into.
Observe and Listen.
Observe and Listen.
Kids sitting around in "The Union" between classes studying, talking, eating, watching "All My Children" on the big screen TV, hating ‘Erica’ together.
Makes me wonder if anyone takes any classes between noon and one--air time for the Soap.
Kids attending uninspiring classes Psych 101, Soc 101, PolySci 101, 101, 101, 101, in lecture halls filled with hundreds. No discussions. No inquiries.
The only requirements for a grade are the scores received for the midterms and finals.
Kids going to ‘Kegger’ Parties. Frat Parties. Getting ‘plowed’.
Kids having one-night stands that end in high-fives in the male-dorms,
Tears and whispers in the female dorms.
"Did ya hear she pulled a train at Alpha Beta Omega last night?’ (Slut)
"Did ya hear she got smashed and blew the entire 11th floor of Basey Dorm?" (Whore)
"Did ya hear he popped Suzie Snowball’s cherry last night?" (Way-ta-go!) (Prostitute)

Daytimes I walk from class to class, eyes on the pavement, thighs sticking together, gathering sweat on my cellulite, feeling it roll down to my fattened knees.
Meals I eat with the other ‘kids’ participating in conversations I can’t remember the minute I leave the table.
Pretending friendships that touch nothing real, laughing too hard and too loud.
Evenings I sit alone, trying to study but instead find myself playing volleyball with grief, despair, a longing for Mick.
I don’t know who I am without him.
I don’t know who I am.
I only know who I was.
And what I don’t want.
Unlike my peers, I’m done with the drugs, the drinking, the ‘pulling all-nighters’.
I have had lots of sex and been through an abortion. I’ve run away from home landing in a foreign country. I’ve been part of an adult relationship and have already experienced the death of my lover.
I don’t know how to shrink myself enough to fit in.
I am alone. With my past. My unfamiliar cellulite. And lots and lots of food.

By November Cindy Victory has a steady Beau and I, a much needed job.
Kuli’s Gin Mill—a Fraternity/Sorority hangout.
Although underage, I get a job as a bartender.
(Same fake Social Security number; same fake I.D. used at ‘Pork the Beaver.’)
Kuli’s, is shaped like a hollow wooden gymnasium—lots of empty space for the crowds to pack into, with a rectangular bar in the center, surrounded by a few billiard tables. Even before the customers are let in, the always soaken floor emanates a stench of industrial cleaning fluids, wet cigarettes, and old sticky beer.
Drinks are easy.
Beer in cans. Beer in bottles. Beer from a keg.
Served mostly to privileged Fraternity boys who show their metal guzzling canned beers, then smashing the cans on their foreheads, whooping to a chorus of ‘woe, cool man!"
Wine with a twist off cap.
Generic liquors: vodka soda, vodka tonic, rum and coke.
The only specialty drink to learn is Long Island Iced Teas, served mainly by the pitcher to groups of Sorority girls who drink until they find themselves standing on the bar stools arm-in-arm singing loud and drunkenly to ‘We are Family…I got all my sisters and me!"

With limited funds and a limited sense of self-worth, working at Kuli’s is a blessing.

It provides me with an excuse to be involved in the nightlife without having to invest in the ‘goings-on’
If nobody hits on me, well, that’s ok. I’m there to work.
But I’m also on display. Apart from the crowd. More easily noticed, and somewhat more desirable because I’m not part of the masses. I’m behind the bar.
Am I a student? Am I a local?
Only a mystery because most of these kids don’t have to work their way through school.
I’m an anomaly. To them. To myself.
Kuli’s is a comfortable fit.

My shift five days a week, runs from four o’clock Happy Hour,
(Populated by locals and truck drivers passing through town),
Until the wee hours, when all my peers come in to destroy their brain cells.

Among the locals frequenting the bar are two truck drivers, Dennis, "Denny", and his partner Bob.
Two rigs, one in back of the other, driving in tandem.

Bob is much younger than Denny.
Black hair, thick framed black glasses, flannel shirt, dirty well-worn blue jeans. Scrappily handsome.

Dennis, I assume, is in his late forties but appears sixty.
Everything about him seems gray and dehydrated, reminding me of one big cigar ash.
His face, so furiously wrinkling, bears resemblance to a snake’s skin ready to molt.
Sharp gray bristles of a two-day-old beard, poke out from the top of his bony cheeks near his eyes down to his pointed Adam’s apple.
The only saving grace is his stark blue eyes that seem to have no pupils.
In the many twilight’s in the bar, when the sun blinds me as it sinks beneath the picture window and the barroom fades to darkness, the shocking blue of Denny’s eyes hang like small iridescent balloons,
alone in the air.

"Lane! Phone!" One of the girls shouts from down the hallway.
I snatch up the phone in our room.
"Laena?" says the voice.
My heart bangs. I haven’t heard that name since Mick died.
"This is Rick, Mick’s friend."
"Hi. Hi!" A white wind blows an energy through my body that I haven’t felt since I had last seen Michael.
"How’s school?"
"It’s the coolest! My roommate is the coolest roommate I could have ever wished for."
(Cindy is sitting at her desk.)
"And I get to start Theatre classes in a month after our semester break. It’s so cool here."
"Cool." He says.
"Yeah, it’s real cool." Tittering loudly through every word.
"Are you going anywhere special for your semester break?"
"Um, I don’t know. I have a job so maybe I’m just gonna do that."
"Can you come to Chicago for a few days?"
"Umm, umm, well, why? I mean I don’t really have enough money to."
"I want to see you." He says simply.

In his voice is the promise of Mick, alive again in memories shared.
In his voice is the recovery of my old self.
Both, getting fainter as the days go by.

He offers to pay for the Amtrak from Macomb (where WIU is located) into the city.
A three-hour ride.
But Macomb doesn’t have a train station.
He offers to pay for the taxi to the Station.
I don’t have enough money for a hotel.
He offers to let me stay with him.

So expensive, all this.
Perhaps he is missing Mick and needs to re-connect?
I agree to go up for the weekend.

Rick is waiting on the Platform.
He wears a suit.
His short black hair is perfectly groomed, slicked back from his forehead.
He wears a gold necklace and a pinkie ring.
He is a rich, ‘man of the world’.
He strides to his Caddy as I follow behind transforming.
I am ‘Laena’.
I watch as he unlocks his gas tank with a key, then, once inside the chamber, unlocks the car doors. Mysterious and cool—owning none of the exuberance of Mick’s nature, he is pre-possessed, surrounded by an aura of edge and danger.
I am Laena.
He is thirty-one, like Mick.
He is thirty-one and wants to spend time with me.
Paid to spend time with me.
I am Laena—the goddess, Mick’s true love.

A few minutes from the city limits of Chicago, he pulls into the lot of what appears to be a pre-fab two-story motel with steps running on the outside.
I follow him up the stairs as he carries my suitcase.
He unlocks the door.
From the threshold I survey his home.

A one-bedroom apartment, all plastic and chrome furniture of three colors: red, white and black.
How sophisticated.
And so grown-up to have his own place.

He offers me a drink.
Instinctively I ask for a diet soda.
He makes it clear I can have alcohol, but not knowing what to ask for, I say the first thing I remember from Kuli’s: ‘a seven-seven’.

I ask for an ashtray.
I had quit smoking in Mick’s honor and had substituted ice cream instead.
Now, working at Kuli’s I took up the habit again.
Rick doesn’t smoke so he hands me a salad plate.
I sit on one of the plastic kitchen chairs, facing the wall, smoking my way through an entire pack.
I had hoped we’d talk about Mick, but we don’t.
After a conversation I don’t remember, we go to a dinner I don’t remember, go home and fall asleep.

Awake the next morning in a fetal position facing the closet, my back to him, my newly-Goth black hair flowing over my pillow and a bit of his. Something hard, wet and fleshy is poking, rubbing up and down, from the dip in my bottom to the separation between my legs.
I move forward a bit, hugging the side of the mattress.
Hairy arm encompasses my waist, pulling my back into his stomach, soft with tufts of hair.
The poking rubbing wet hardness slips inside.
Moving. Moving. Smells like sour mornings.
I make the requisite moans, knowing this is the price paid to be interesting enough to spend time with.
He finishes.
Wet stickiness gushes out between my thighs, flowing down to my knees.

Shower, dress, stare at the wall, sitting at the kitchen table chain-smoking.
Waiting for Rick to take me to the train.
I am Lane.

It is February in the icy Mid-west—fierce winds and bone-cold air.
The beginning of my second semester.
Two days before Valentine’s day.
I want to go home to Chicago to surprise my parents.
In truth, I can’t bear to stay on campus for the festivities.
I have no sweetheart.
At least not one with a tangible body.

Money earned at Kuli’s pays tuition and books.
I have thirteen dollars. Not enough for a train ticket.
Wearing my most stylish high-heeled winter boots, a thick coat, carrying one light bag and my purse, I step out in front of my dorm building, and raise my mitten-ed thumb.
A few cars zip past, fading into the fog of my breath.
A truck pulls its eighteen wheels to the side of the road.

A second truck follows, parking in front of the first.
The driver’s side door opens.
Dennis, the Happy Hour Trucker from Kuli’s, in white stained long-johns leans out, yelling over the rumbling of the engine.
"Where ya headin’?"
"Home." I yell back. "Chicago."
"Going there. Get in."

Thrilled to get out of the cold.
Thrilled its Denny. (Someone I know)
Super thrilled to get a ride in a ‘big-rig’.
Something I’ve never done before.

In a tiny-stepped fast trot over the slick snow to the passenger side of the truck, I grab the door handle, hop up the high metal step and into the passenger seat.
The cabin is warm and filthy.
I slide my coat down from my shoulders, put my feet on the dashboard and light a cigarette.

I badger Dennis with questions about "Life as a Truck Driver".
"What do you think its like?" he shoots back.

Looking out the enormous window, sitting up so high above the world, I say,
"It’s like God on wheels."

He laughs. Hard. Grabs his CB radio.
"Like God on wheels!" he wheezes into the microphone.
"10-4 Denny. You got some Spice of Life in there with ya!"
"Sure do. Ain’t you sorry. Over."

I’m laughing, having a blast.
Dennis hands me the speaker.
"Try it." Lights a new Salem with the butt of the one he’s finishing.
"Just press this button and say who ya are."
I hesitate. Then push the button in with my thumb.
"Breaker Breaker, this is Spice of Life…" I giggle, flirting safely over the airwaves at 75 miles per hour.

Dennis smokes a constant stream of Salem’s.
Two hours into the journey, he grabs a clear sandwich baggy full of black capsules, pops one in his mouth, tossing the baggy onto the ashy dashboard.
"Black Beauties." he says in answer to my raised eyebrows. "Want one?"
"What is it?"
"Black Beauties."
"But what’s that?"
"Speed. Necessary part of the job."
"Oh. That’s okay. No thanks."
As the newness of the truck ride wears thin, I rest my head on the palm of my hand leaning against the chilly window.
Doze off.
Several hours later, the truck bumps hard, hitting my nose against the glass, and comes to a full stop.

The parking lot of a small, one-story L-shaped motel.
A large, hand-painted sign: "Chief Motel."
"Are we in Chicago?" Yawn, stretch my arms up.
"Naw. Keokuck."
"Iowa? Isn’t that the other way?"
"Too much ice on the roads. Had to turn it around and head west. We’ll make Chicago tomorrow."
"Oh. Ok. I’ve never been to Keokuck before. I can add it to my list now."
I wait in the warm cabin as they check in.

I grab my and purse and follow Dennis, carrying my bag, to a little room.
Two doors: a screen door that creaks when we open it, and a white door made out of a wood that seems more suited for interior doors than exterior ones.
He tosses my bag on the flimsy faded bedspread and tells me he and Bob are headin’ to the bar.
I should come if I want to.

A dark tiny hot box, the room’s four walls are floor-to-ceiling fake paneling.
The double bed has no headboard and sags sharply in the center.
At the foot of the bed, against the back wall is an old wooden stand someone has carved their initials into. On the stand is a heavy iron phone with no numbers on the circular dial of its belly, and a weighty receiver. Since there is no other floor space, the TV is suspended from the ceiling.
There are no windows.
The bathroom holds a sink the circumference of two fists, a toilet and a stand-up shower.
I decide to go to join Denny and Bob.

The Bar is lit solely by the glow of the television, and the neon signs proclaiming various beers.
I am the only woman, so when I walk in, the bar explodes into a chorus of howling wolves.
Seating myself safely between Bob and Dennis, I order one drink—something with a cherry floating on top.
Smiling, nodding, listening to a conversation yelled above the music, about ‘routes’, and ‘sawbucks’, and ‘weigh-in stations’.
It reminds me of being Germany when I didn’t speak the language.
I pluck the cherry from its stem, swallowing it whole.
Finish the drink. Crack and swallow every last ice cube, then excuse myself and go back to my room.

I slip on my yellow terry cloth spring dress that doubles as a nightgown, crawl under the stiff itchy sheet and drift away.

Fists banging on the door.
Eyes open to a darker blackness than in my sleep.
Pounding, door vibrating, Dennis’ voice slurring and yelling.
"Open the f*ckin’ door! It’s f*ckin’ freezin’ out here."
I stumble to the door turning the latch in the doorknob.
Dennis barrels in past me; flops down on the bed.
I stand watching the outline of him not knowing what to do.

"I thought you got this room for me?"
Dennis growls, clears his throat and coughs.
"What the f*ck? You think I’m made a money?"
I stare; my eyes adjusting to the darkness.
He leans on his elbow and stares back.

"Get in." his says finally, motioning to the bed, breaking the standoff silence.
"No, that’s okay. I’ll just sleep here on the floor." I reach for the thin hole-y bedspread.
"Gimmee it." He says snatching the blanket from me. "Jesus H. Christ. F*ckin’ uptight…I’ll sleep on the floor."
"I’m not uptight, it’s just that I don’t feel comfortable."
"Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah." He snarls at me as he hurls his body to the floor between the bed and the door.

I am sleeping on my stomach.
My face is in the pillow.
My mascara-ed eyelashes that I forgot to remove the night before, are sticking together.
The room is almost as dark as it was the night before.
I am half in sleep and half awake.
The weight of a body is lowering the mattress to the side of me.
A slow hand on my thigh is working its quiet way upwards.
I breathe deliberately heavy, thinking maybe if I don’t move and pretend I am asleep, he’ll stop and go away.
The hand keeps moving.
I lay still. I am an animal playing dead. I stop breathing.
The hand reaches my heat.
Instinctively, I squeeze my thighs together.
It’s all over.

He takes my shoulder and flips me onto my back to face him.
"C’mon. I know you’re awake." Brown breath exhales into my mouth.
I turn my head away.
His bony fingers pinch my face, pulling my mouth to his.
I make my lips hard and he bites me.
He tries again as I switch my head back and forth frantically.
My heart is banging my ribs, my blood is flowing fast.
His crustaceans body pins me, bony elbows digging into my forearms, skeletal knees bruising my thighs, trying to press them apart.

He wins.
Jams it inside me.

The room begins a dizzy, slow motion spin.
I mark the TV as it goes around and around, merry-go-round on the ceiling.
He is moving, in and out, in and out.
I have no words. I have no breath. I have only my eyes to plead with.
I look to find his eyes. They are closed.
I know if he sees my eyes, sees them begging him to ‘please stop’, that he will.
He won’t want to do this if I don’t want him to.

"Dennis." My mouth, my breath finally allowing words.
Two blue stones.
Two blind shark eyes turn my way.
His lids are open but he is not there.
Stones. Shark Eyes.

He is pumping.
I am not in my body.
I could grab his head, and with my thumbs, poke his eyes out.
But what if I don’t and he gets angrier and kills me?

His sharp Adam’s apple bobs near my eyes.

I could punch it in.
But if I do and he dies, I will be a murderer.
This is only rape.
I will survive this.
But I won’t survive being a murderer.

In and out.
The sharp edges of him, cutting my flesh, stabbing my bones.
My spirit, like a vapor going back into a bottle, hisses small inside a secret chamber inside me.
Wetness splats on my face. He has spit on me. He is out of me and standing above me.
"F*ck you." His face is contorted. "Can’t you even get into it? F*ck you! You’re the worst f*ck I ever had."

I watch the saggy flesh of his buttocks go into the bathroom.
I listen to the water go on in the sink.
He comes out dressed.
I haven’t moved.
"I’m headin’ with Bob to pick up a load. We’ll be back in an hour."
The metal screen door creaks and slams behind him.

I am paralyzed.
I lay there just as he left me starring at the water-stained ceiling.
The TV is on.
How did it get on?
Good Morning America.
A guest.
Someone famous, talking about what makes a great marriage.
How is life just going on?
How are normal days starting right now?

Life is oblivious to me.
I am nothing.
I am invisible.
The world goes on as if I never breathed.

An hour.
He’ll be back in an hour.
I get myself into the bathroom and take the longest shower I’ve ever had.
I look at the wash rag, white with the words "Chief Motel" embroidered into it with bright, blood red thread.
I hide the washcloth in my purse.
Notice the phone.

‘Time’ becomes real again.
I hold the phone to my ear. Two rings, three rings. Will the front desk pick up?
Ring fourteen, ring fifteen, ring sixteen.
I listen to the rings.
No one is answering.
I will go to the Police.
I will get dressed and go to the front desk and they will call the police.
I look for my bag.
It is gone.
He took it with him.
I have no clothes but the yellow terrycloth dress.
No shoes.

The screen door croaks.
The white door bangs into the wall.
Dennis stands framed in the doorway.
"We’re ready. Let’s go."
I am meek. My head is down. "Dennis," I whisper, "I don’t have any clothes."
"They’re in the truck." He says, turning to go.
"Dennis." I say louder.
His head faces me.
"Could you get them for me?"
"Gettem yourself."
"I don’t have shoes."
"You can put ‘em on in the sleeper."
The metal door slaps closed behind him.

Barefoot and on tiptoe, I sprint with my purse dangling from my shoulder, on the hardened snow to the rumbling truck 300 yards away. Stepping on the metal step to the passenger side door, the icy layer threatens to tear the skin from the pads of my feet.
I don’t look at Dennis. I look up in the sleeper area of the truck.
My bag is sitting on top of disheveled three-day-ripe male-odor sheets.
One has a light blue teddy bear pattern.
I climb up and change horizontally.

Fully dressed, coat buttoned up to my throat, I stare straight ahead out the foggy dash window.
Dead bugs hit by the wipers get shifted to a new resting-place.
Dennis finishes writing on a bill of lading, takes the glasses off his nose and tosses them to a bag next to him. He starts talking about nothing. Talking about the weather. As if nothing happened.
My fingers twiddle a loose thread on my coat seam.

"You raped me." I say it softly, contrite.

But I say it.


Then suddenly, he grabs my collar with one hand and opens something in his other.

I don’t see what the ‘something’ is.

I assume its a switchblade.

"This is what we’re gonna do." Shark eyes penetrating. "We’re goin’ ta breakfast with Bob. You’re gonna order biscuits and gravy and coffee and that’s all you’re gonna say at breakfast. I’ll drop you in Chicago. That’s it. Say anything else, and that’s it."
He puts the ‘something’ I don’t see, in his pocket.

"I didn’t rape you." He informs me.

At the diner, I do as he instructed. I order biscuits and gravy.
I don’t eat.
I stare intensely at Bob, desperately sending him an SOS with my eyes.
He doesn’t get it.

Back on the road, I huddle close to the door, resting my forehead on the freezing window.
I am silent, thinking only of getting to safety.
Dennis chats lightly on the CB.
His laugh makes me want to vomit.
I watch the day fade into darkness, the car lights go on.

We pass a city sign that says "Cedar Point."
"Where are we?" My voice comes out hoarse.
"Roads are too bad to go further north. We’re spendin’ the night."
We pull into another motel parking lot. My stomach fills with a bitter orange fear.

At the front desk, Dennis gets he and I a room. Bob signs in for himself.
Everyone working at the motel seems to know them.
High fives all around.
"Denny! Bobby! How’s it hangin’?"

I stand in the corner gripping my purse and bag with white bloodless hands, alert for an opening, a chance to call the police, a moment without Dennis near me.
He doesn’t let me out of his sight. His hand closes on my arm as we walk to the room.

"Throw your bag there. These are my friends. We’re all goin’ out to party. Smile and behave yourself."

The owner’s 18-year-old son has a Park Lane car. We all pile in: Denny, myself, Bob, Mark (the owner’s son) and a girl named Joyce whose dejected posture makes her look like she has lived in a small town too long.

We arrive at a cheap disco with mournful somewhat damaged colored lights and a disco ball moving too slowly, out of sync with the music.

Dennis gets up to dance with a girl we don’t know.

I scan the room for a pay phone.
There is one by the ladies room. I need a dime. I ask Joyce. She is already drunk.
She searches her wallet but instead of a dime, she pulls out a picture of her boyfriend, newly ex-boyfriend and begins to weep on my shoulder. She screams the saga over the music into my ear. My arm around her shoulder, I pretend to listen and sympathize, one eye glued to the where-abouts of Dennis.

It occurs to me that I could just call the operator.
I wouldn’t need a dime for that.
I excuse myself to go to the washroom.
As I stand, Mark comes over asking me to dance.

The world is surreal. I am not here. This can’t be me.
The music slows and I lean into Mark and whisper,
"Please listen. Dennis raped me this morning. I’m trapped here. I have no money. I have to stay in the room with him. Could you call the police for me?"

I don’t know what response I am expecting but it isn’t this:
"Denny? Our Denny?" Mark says, a little too loud.
I pull him back to me.
"It’s the truth. Or please, just stay up tonight and watch the room. It’s just one night of your life. If you hear anything, you could bust in or call the police."
I am pleading.
"I’ve known Denny all my life. He would never do something like that. Man, are you drunk or somethin’?"

"What’s goin’ on?" Dennis is breathing on us. I stare hard at Mark.
"No man. She just drunk or somethin’."
"C’mon. Let’s get outta here." Dennis throws me my coat then grabs me by the scruff of it, leading me out to the car.

In the room, just Dennis and I, I sit on the edge of one of the double beds---the one closest to the bathroom, boots and coat still on, my purse and bag in my lap.

Immodestly, he undresses down to his long underwear that sags loosely around his bony body.

He climbs into the other bed, pulls the blanket up and looks at me, waiting.
"Take your clothes off."
"I don’t want to."
"I said take your clothes off."
I stare at my bags.
He sits up.

"If I wake up in the morning and you still have your clothes on, you’re dead. Got it?"
He turns out the light.
The moon falls on his bed in slats.
His snoring begins.

Quietly I lay on my back on top of the polyester bedspread, fully clothed.
My eyelids will hardly stay open. I am fighting sleep. I stare at the ceiling and pray,
"Mick, if you are there, please help me. God, if you are there, please let me be safe tonight. Mick. I miss you so much. I need you. I don’t know who I am without you. I don’t know how I got here. Mick, please watch over me tonight. Mick?"
I drift away with the word ‘Mick’ on my lips.

The brightness of the room opens my eyes. It is morning.
I am untouched and still dressed. Dennis is not here.
Maybe he is at breakfast with Bob?
This is my chance.
I don’t know where I am going to go. I’ll just run.
I have to pee.
I hurry into the bathroom still clutching my bags.
From inside the bathroom, I hear voices enter the room. Two voices.
Bob is with him.
I am safe.
I come out into the room.
It happens so fast.

Someone grabbing my face, smashing lips into my teeth.
A push backward. A stumble. Head hits the corner of something. I hear snatches of words.
"No, she likes it rough."
"You sure? You like it like this baby?"
Tugging of my pants. I hear more things.
"hot bushy wet pussy…"
"like it like that…"
"little wet bush…"
"goin’ in first…"
"tight and hot. F*ck yeah…"
Pushing, pulling, jabbing, tugging, can’t breathe, weight on top of me too heavy, yanking, dizzy, wetness spilling, distant groans, f*ck this f*ck that, explosion in my chest.

Heart breaking.


The air is still. No sounds.

Realize I am alone tangled in myself, tangled in my clothes on the floor.
I am pulling my things on, zipping my boots up.
I am wet everywhere: my face, my thighs, the back of my head.
No time to look. Grab my bag, my purse. Bolt out the door.

A cruel wind lashes my face pushing me backward.
Leaning my body into it, I head toward the road.
Snow is falling so thick it seems there is more white than air.
Cars zoom by.
I stay lower than the shoulder of the highway trying not to be seen.
Push against the wind.
Freezing air numbs me. Numbs me. Feels right to be numb. Grateful for the icy gusts.
A white, Victorian style house takes shape up the road.

My North Star.

Three steep steps up to the front wrap-around porch and I am safe, banging at the front door, chanting in my head, ‘please be home. Please be home.’

Their names are William and Marlena Crawley. They are retired. They usher me into their home.

Their home is a mountain of stuffed animals. Stuffed animals everywhere. There is no where to look that there isn’t a stuffed animal.
They make them at home for extra money, they explain.

I babble my story.
Their faces stare at me, silent, in alarm.
Marlena leaves the room and comes back handing me a damp purple washcloth.
Tells me to put it on my lip.
I touch the cloth to gently to the soreness that is my mouth.
Pulling it away, the purple is stained with red.
She tells me to drop my head forward, then touches the base of my skull with the rag.
I inhale with a pain-defying hiss.
I must be bleeding.

"You came from Cedar Point Motel? That’s seven miles." William, the husband, informs me.
"In a blizzard." Marlena finishes the point.
"I’m surprised about Denny. Known him for years. Bob too." William ponders this as he sits on his sofa with a dozen overstuffed hot-pink bears.
"No matter. She has to get home." Marlena says taking the washcloth from me.
"Could drive her to the Amtrak at Streeter." He says to his wife. Then to me, "S’about 25 minutes from here."
" I have no money but I could send it back to you when I get back to school?" I offer and mean it.

Three hours later, I’m back at my dorm room in Macomb Illinois.
In a haze, I shower. I ache everywhere and can’t lift my right shoulder or arm.
My lip has a black scab and is swollen enough to impact my speech.
I spend that night and the next day in a fetal position under my blankets.

Late that night, Cindy Victory arrives, chirping the news of her romantic weekend with her ‘Beau’.
I listen from under the covers, only my eyes peeking out at her.
She sits on the edge of my bed next to me.
"So how was your Valentine’s day?" she says ready to cheer for me.
"I was raped." I say simply.

This statement, this news, this act has no where to go in Cindy’s idea of the world. I can see her struggling with it. She puts her hand gently on my thigh and says sweetly and softly,
"Well you see? This is the kind of thing that can happen when you are kinda wild in your life."

I press my eyelids tight but a tear sneaks out.

"Oh, god! I didn’t mean it to be mean. I just meant that if you are, well, like you are, then other people get the signal and think it’s okay. You know what I mean?"
I say, "Um hmm." And Cindy gets herself out of the room.

I skip classes.
Call in sick to work.
But only for a few days.
I refuse to let them win.
They can enter my body.
They can violate my body.
But they cannot touch my Essence.
I refuse to allow my Spirit to change because of what they did.

A month later, I come back to the room after picking up my mail.
A card from Rick. The fifth in a barrage of Hallmarks, all saying the same thing:
He loves me. I am beautiful. When can I come back to see him?
Then signed the same in luxurious handwriting: ‘Siempre’, Rick.
(‘Always’ in Spanish.)

The phone rings once. I am the first on my floor to pick it up.
A voice I will never forget. Dennis.
I’m paralyzed.
"I miss ya. I want to see ya again."
Hot angry tears blur my vision. Can only breathe.
"Why ain’t ya sayin’ anythin’?"
Silent tear stream down my face into my blouse.
He is angry now. "Hey, you gave me the crabs, you know that?"
I am stunned. I gulp and finally choke out, "I don’t have crabs. So I couldn’t have given them to you. Maybe you gottem from someone else you raped."
"No. I gottem from you and I want to come give ‘em back."



Why didn’t I go to the doctor?
To a lawyer?
To the police?
What’s wrong with me?

I have no money for a lawyer.
I have no money for a doctor.
Yes, but there was the student nurse.

What about the police?

Lying in bed those two days afterward, I debated on whether to further my shame by going to a doctor or the police or a lawyer.
I had hitch hiked.
I was wearing high-heeled boots and tight jeans.
I’ve had sex before so what’s the big deal.
I flirted with Dennis and Bob day after day when they had come into Kuli’s.
I could have hurt him during the act, stopping it, couldn’t I?
I stayed in a room with him-not one night, but two.
It is partially my fault.
Now it has to be my secret.

Nineteen years later, on February 28th, 1998, I was arrested for Solicitation.
Booked for Prostitution.
In the car, on the way to the station, Arresting Officer Rhodes tosses some words off-the-cuff, in my direction.
"You probably been abused during your childhood or something. Or raped. Something like that. There’s always a reason. I see it all the time."

I let his comment settle in the air before I answer.

I say ‘no’.
I say ‘no’ because he wants a simple explanation for why I do what I do.
I can’t give him a simple explanation because the truth is much more complicated.
And he doesn’t deserve or want the real reasons.

I say ‘no’ because it wasn’t the rape that led me to my business.
I got over the rape more swiftly than even I imagined I would.
The rape was the rape.
I was in the wrong place with the wrong people.
The rape was horrible.
But it was nothing personal.

No, Officer Rhodes, the reason I am in my business is not that simple.

The most wounding events to recover from in life are those that are perpetrated by those who love us,
And by those we love.


At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel I must comment , yet I don't know that anything I say would suffice. I can only acknowledge my feeling of your pain and wish that I could provide balm for your wounds. i can only echo a previous post. We're not all like that.

numbly and shaken to the core

At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.
- Washington Irving


At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for opening your heart to the story..please don't be upset..the point of the story is just a landmark on the way to "becoming" and as I said, it was easier to pull through than events that occured with people I loved and who loved me...I let it go--where it belonged--I knew it was nothing personal--and although difficult and unfortunate, it compares little to the wonderful and horrible things that occured with and by those I shared love..thank you for your kind empathy..these things build character and a deeper understanding of life and strengthened my Spirit..that's how I see and feel it.
so much love


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