Sensitive material in this essay: Mention of rape/sexual assault.
By Stephanie Santore
I can’t be in public places because of you. I can’t tolerate large crowds. I can’t tolerate loud noises. This is after almost ten years. You still linger with me. I carry you with me wherever I go. I can’t tolerate strange people asking for a beer and the simple transaction between two humans that requires getting you, that stranger, the beer you need. I’m afraid of the dark. I’m afraid of strange noises, I’m afraid that the headlights behind me having a person behind the wheel that wants to follow me home, knowing I am alone. They all know I am vulnerable. You know I am vulnerable. I carry weapons of various degrees. I never use them. They make me feel safer, just in case. But it doesn’t stop the mistrust. It doesn’t stop the fear. It’s in case you come back for me, in another form, another shape. Or even if you ever decide to come back for me just as you are. Knowing I did nothing. Knowing I am afraid. The girl you knew I was, hence why you chose me in the first place. FUCK YOU. Because you were right.
I never used to be this way until I met you. Yet it’s funny to say that, because I barely know you. I know that I am only a passing moment of supposed pleasure that happened in your life. But to me, you’ve been the bane of my existence. Everything I am. Everything I feel. Everything I do or everything I feel, or everything I have not been able to do or feel, has been because of you.
I like to feel that I am in control my life. But I’m not. I act like I am. People think I am. Sometimes, I think I am. Sometimes, I really am. But they don’t know you. They don’t know the stranger that took over my life. They don’t know what you’ve done. In the darkness. Hidden within my secrets. In the years of anything other than the truth. I don’t want to admit that you’ve won, because you haven’t. I have faced many battles and still, I have won. You were there for every single one, in the back of my mind. The many silent “fuck you’s” my conscience has voiced, to no one other than me, no one other than you, hoping you get them, somehow, some way, wherever you are.
In a fucked up way, I have you to thank for some of my accomplishments. I have done them out of overcoming you, I have done them to spite you, I have done them to prove to you that I can. I have battled you and won. I have succeeded for many things beyond you. But still, you are always here. You are always with me. Deep down, you are there. You never go away. I suppose you have long forgotten me. But I will never forget you. I think that’s how it’s supposed to go. How you always imagined it to be. You move on. But I get to live with your ghost until I breathe my last breath of this life that is supposedly mine.
You are with me because I died when I was with you. Against my will, you’ve taken a piece of me. I’m part of that chip on your shoulder. You are the beginning of the crack in the surface into my descent to hell. Thank you. You’ve tested all of the will I’ve ever gathered throughout my life. You’ve shown me I can battle a demon that has walked this Earth in human form. You’ve shown me a glimpse what hell truly is and allowed me to find the courage within myself to walk right through it. I’ve been doused in flames and came back an angel drenched in the waters of my own redemption.
I just hate the fact that you linger. You linger like a plague. I see your horrid face, the face I recall in my nightmares, every time I fail. When the panic sets in, I see your smile. It’s as if you own all of my failures and you’ll never let them go. Just like you’ll never let me go. No one knows you affect me like this. No one knows you even exist. No one but me.
You are the devil in my personal hell. You walk with me among the living. You are alive. I know. The last I checked, you live in Maryland. I found you. You work to help run a popular restaurant and bar. Of course you do, Devil man. You’ve made something of yourself other than to be the taker of girls’ lives. I knew you would. Society knew you would. Why? Because I would never end up fighting you, nor would anyone else. You’re the Clark Kent to Superman, except your work is only evil. Like Two-Face. You show the good side in the light, but in the darkness you bring only torture and pain.
Honestly, the average girl like me couldn’t hold a candle to your flame. A basketball star in a small home town. A towering six foot something man with swagger. A guy everyone wants to know, everyone wants to befriend. A guy that secretly every girl wants to fuck. Not knowing the monster within. You can have anyone and you know it. But still you take. If a girl doesn’t give in, you take what you want. Because you can. Because no one challenges you. Because you think it’s owed to you. One of those charismatic sociopaths that can fall under the radar, time and time again.
How I’d love to see your face in black and white, on the pages of a daily newspaper, sentenced to what you deserve. I could congratulate some woman, a woman stronger than I, that had the balls to step forward, to show the world who you really are. What you took from her, what you took from the countless others that are out there, including myself. Some I heard about personally, warned like a foreshadowing, but ignored just the same in my blissful ignorance. Or maybe their blissful ignorance. I look back at those moments. Wishing and praying I would have seen it. That I would have understood that I could easily ignore the tug to be wanted, to be accepted into the fold. That I could be myself, find myself, without having to be a part of what I felt was the “popular” group of college. I could make something of myself under the radar of others.
The lesson of all of this, is that you will be there forever. I will never let you go entirely. I can’t erase you or any of the choices I made that led to you. But I have to learn to live with your memory, even if it is blurred with the alcohol I drank and the drugs you gave to me that I never consented to taking. You will be there. I will wake up some days never thinking about you. Some days, I will think about you every second. Some days, I wish you death. Others, nothing at all. Karma might catch you. It might not. But the thing to remember is that I can’t control what happens to you. I will not be a part of your cosmic demise if she ever does decide to find you. I am only given the days I decide what happens to me. With or without your invasion of my privacy.
I choose to be alive. I choose to be thankful for the life I was granted after your decision to take away a part of my life that was mine. I could have died. That’s not exaggeration, it is fact. I am thankful that I woke up at all 24 hours later. I’m lucky I woke up at all. I remember your face when I opened my eyes for the first time. There was relief in yours. Relief that my eyes decided to open. That I still kept breathing in this life. The last memory I have of you is your smile. A smile that I was alive. A smile that meant you wouldn’t have to dump my body in a wooded area and pray hunters wouldn’t come across my corpse in passing days. A laugh you expressed out loud when I asked what time it was and you knew it was a day later than I had thought. Little did I know an entire day had passed since I walked through the threshold of your domain. I guess I was a girl you underestimated. A girl you needed to overdose to get what you wanted because I wouldn’t give up my consciousness, my body, that freely to you.
Maybe its bits and pieces but I remember.
What you thought I would forget, I remember.
I AM ALIVE MOTHER FUCKER.
And I am hell bent on living.
No matter the road or travels I must endure.