Sensitive material. Mention of rape/sexual/assault.
By Leila Bruch
I was desperate, so I called his cell phone three times in under an hour. I knew he was free. He was probably watching the phone blow up and crowing to all his roommates that the crazy bitch from a few weeks ago was looking for more.
Next, I sent a text: “You need to call me because we have a problem.” I’ve watched enough TV to know how to use a possible pregnancy to get a recalcitrant man on the line.
Lo and behold, my phone began to ring.
Once his name, “Do Not Answer,” appeared, my stomach turned on me. My brain followed suit, and pleaded for me to let the phone ring. My rage steeled the weaker parts of myself as I answered and spat, “You are one sick fucker.”
On the other end of the phone, my rapist was silent.
“When was the last time you got tested?” I snarled.
I didn’t feel remotely bad about the false pretense. I knew I wasn’t pregnant because the morning after he assaulted me, I ran across Saturday traffic dribbling both ways on a six-lane highway to buy Plan B.
This occurred back when Plan B was only available behind the Pharmacy counter, so I marched to the back of the CVS and muttered my request to the sneering white-coated pharmacist, who passed me a clipboard. I bent my head low and copied my driver’s license number, name, and other probing details on the first open line. All the while, I could feel the pharmacist’s eyes on my unwashed hair.
I pushed the clipboard back when I finished. After she examined the information I provided against my ID, the pharmacist picked up the slim rectangular box by two clawed fingers and dropped it into a bag. I swiped my card for the fifty dollar fee, and when it cleared, I clutched the bag and ran back across the street. I already knew what to do with the two tiny pills; it wasn’t my first time taking Plan B. It was, however, my first time taking Plan B without being certain I’d had inadequately-protected sex.
That’s one of the problems with sexual assault – sometimes, you don’t know what has been done to you.
Three days before the pills and several weeks before the call, I was in a group of undergraduate women beginning a semester away from campus with a tour of the library at one of the universities in Washington, D.C. As we stood around the library’s entrance, we talked awkwardly about our course load, the things we missed about campus, and the internships we’d just started.
Across the hallway stood an attractive Hispanic man with a wide smile. I noticed him, and he noticed me. It didn’t take long for his fixation to become the topic of spirited conversation. “He’s cute,” someone squealed. “Oh, my gosh, he’s coming over here!”
The man sauntered over and offered his hand as he introduced himself as Arnaldo.* He asked for my number and I wrote it on scrap of notebook paper.
Later that night, Arnaldo and I spent an hour on the phone, talking about our families and his career aspirations after law school. When Arnaldo asked if he could take me out the next day, I agreed.
The next evening, plans shifted from a date to kebabs and cards. Arnaldo came to my apartment with three of his friends. I invited the two women in my group who weren’t returning to campus that weekend to join us, and we all wandered across Jefferson Davis Highway to the Kebab Palace.
During dinner, I noticed that Arnaldo’s personality was different than it had seemed on the phone. The night before, he’d talked about family and school, and now he was waxing poetic about his love of partying. I didn’t have much interest in the D.C. party scene, so I zoned out in favor of considering the various items on my weekend to-do list.
Before long, the whole group trooped back to my apartment. Soon, they were all crowded around my dining room table. One of Arnaldo’s friends dealt cards while another explained the game and the third opened a twenty-four pack of cheap, canned beer.
Meanwhile, I escaped to my room, where I scoured my email for a message I’d been expecting from my internship coordinator.
The sound of Arnaldo closing my door startled me. He walked across the room, turned me around, and shoved me against my desk. He kissed me, and I pushed him away.
“Hey, don’t do that,” I said. “I don’t want to kiss you – I barely know you.” I laughed, trying to take the sting off my rejection.
Arnaldo pouted and loitered in my room for a few minutes while I puttered around with my laptop. “Are these your friends?” he asked, pointing up at a series of photo collages taped to the white wall above my bed.
“And that’s your family?”
As I walked to my door, he grabbed my waist and kissed me again. This time, I wasn’t laughing. “I’m serious, Arnaldo. I don’t want you to kiss me. Not tonight.”
Arnaldo trailed me with a hangdog look that stuck around too long.
These should have been my first clues, but I was naïve about Arnaldo’s intentions. I let him stay.
The next day, when I told an ex-boyfriend about what eventually happened, he got hung up at the same crossroads. There was a long silence, which he broke by saying my name. That’s when I knew I was in for a ration of shit; he only used my name when he was disappointed. “Why did you let those guys into your apartment?” he asked. “You hardly even knew them. What did you expect?”
In a few weeks, my ex’s retraction and apology came via Facebook message. “I just finished taking sexual assault training. I realize you didn’t do anything wrong. What he did was wrong. It was not your fault.”
Part of me still didn’t – still doesn’t – buy it. I had invited the rapist in with all his friends. I could have kicked him out at the first sign that he didn’t take “No,” as my real answer. The truth was that I hadn’t.