By Alicia Reese
It’s late, about 9 o’clock in the evening. I’m in my apartment, sitting on my soft plush bed, waiting for him to arrive. The lights are dim, but the wax burner that sits on my desk sets the mood with warm tones of light. It smells like a bakery filled with coffee cakes and other small pastries with a hint of coffee. All of a sudden, I hear a light tap. Dragging my feet, I walk toward the door, unlock the brass deadbolt, and turn the knob.
“Hey!” he says.
His eyes are chocolate brown, and his skin is tan as if he’d sat in the sun all day, with a smile so white that it’s blinding. He is tall and his muscles are large, making me feel intimidated, but I shouldn’t be. I’ve known him for such a long time, my childhood friend.
We walk to my living room and get as comfortable as we can on the hard floral-print couch. The room lights up as I turn on Netflix, selecting “50 First Dates,” and press play. Twenty minutes is all it takes. I feel his hand on my thigh. I ignore it. A few more minutes go by. I feel his hand moving up my leg, then wrapping around my waist. His hands are clammy. I begin to feel uneasy.
“I’ll be right back.”
In the bathroom, I lock the door, open the toilet lid, and vomit. My stomach is empty, and acid grazes the back of my throat. I am uncomfortable. He is making me uncomfortable. My mom always warns me about being alone with a guy. She always tells me that I need to be careful and make sure I am safe because anyone can hurt me. These thoughts are running through my mind while I lean into the toilet.
I get up off the cold hard floor and flush. Looking at myself in the mirror, I pull myself together and say, “You’ll be okay.”
“Hey, sorry I just needed to use the bathroom,” I explain when I return to the living room.
“Nah, it’s all good.”
I sit back down on the hard couch, and he places his muscular hand around my neck to kiss me. I do not pull away because my throat is in his hands. I go limp as he takes off my clothes.
“What are you doing?” I cry out.
“You don’t actually want to watch this movie, do you?” he says.
“I mean, yeah. I find it interesting,” I reply softly.
He continues to take off my clothes as if my words don’t mean a thing to him. His body weight is on me. I stare off into the distance at the beautiful floral painting on my wall, feeling just as lifeless. His lips are soft, but they pierce me like needles. I try pushing him away but it’s too late. Tears run down my cheeks as I grip the couch with all the strength I have left. He finishes and looks at me questioningly.
“Get out,” I say.
I scream, “Get out!”
He scrambles to put on his clothes, and leaves slowly. I lie, staring at the ceiling, scared to move. I begin to shake and cry out.
I do not know what to do, so I lie there for thirty minutes until I drag myself to the bathroom and look in the mirror. I think I could have prevented this before it started. I should have told him to leave the first time I felt uncomfortable. I should have defended myself. I look at my puffy eyes and my red cheeks.
I do not know the girl in the mirror. She is a stranger, someone who was weak and defenseless. I wipe my tears and shuffle toward the shower, turn on the hot water and let the steam accumulate in the air.
I sit down in the tub. I wrap my arms around my legs and press my knees to my chest. The hot water washes over me.
Thirty minutes go by. My skin is blistering hot and as red as a bottle of siracha. I pull myself out of the tub and wrap myself in my robe. I lie awake until the sun rises.
As the new day begins, I stare out the window, letting the sun blind me. I know what happened was not my fault. I don’t blame myself for what happened, but I do blame myself for not standing up for myself.
I go back inside where warmth seeps into my skin and flows through my body like a surge.
And gaze into the fireplace where embers glow.