This isn’t a new story. It’s a tired one that you’ve heard before. You might have heard it a couple times already today. But, it’s mine.
Well, it’s one of mine.
I tend to think of that evening as the night I lost control. I remember it as a blurry, dreadful thing, a memory constantly rubbed in sand, never clean, always gritty. I know I rinsed myself clean. But there was guilt in the water. The guilt of knowing something I insisted I could un-know if I tried hard enough.
I was younger than my college classmates. I only mention this because I forget. Maybe it doesn’t matter that they were all in their 20s and I was 17 that year. But maybe with another 365 days I would have been different. Maybe that’s another mental mechanism.
I was friends with a rock star daughter. Actually two. I preferred one to the other. I have always chosen the humbler of two options. He was quite humble, as was she. They aren’t really part of this story. Except that I was with her, at his home, a home as extravagant as you would imagine if you conjured a rock star abode in Manhattan.
I thought of myself as no one. Someone as likely to be cleaning the floors in this fancy place, as to be sitting on the rooftop on a summer night. Was I thinking of my own safety that night? Of course not. I have lived with this friend on campus. We were sister-like. Plus, I was still easily dazzled by the gem skyline, I was often lost in my own self-importance that year. I told you, I was seventeen.
I impressed myself sometimes when I was a young person in the city. Walking down 34th street, catching my reflection in the store windows. Catcalls were a daily occurrence. It made little difference what my outfit was. To this day, I still relish the memory of striding down a city street on a sunny day wearing a miniskirt. I was alive and I was going somewhere. I was alive in the greatest place on earth. I was on my way. I went forth. And my walk had purpose. I was going somewhere.
Other days, wintery days or when I felt lazy, I wore a huge blue coat with a fake-fur hood. The coat covered me from head to knee. It had a shiny, durable coating and it was warm. I could throw it on over pajamas and no one would know. This men’s blue coat from the corner thrift store was my city armor. I wore it walking the dog, running to the bodega, in the morning before I brushed my hair, or any other time I wanted to disappear. I loved my big blue coat. It was my invisibility clock. My mom hated it. No matter how many times I washed it, she claimed it smelled, “like food”.
That night we were hanging out on the roof. The rock star’s daughter, her boyfriend, another couple, and these two British dudes. It was fall. They were in town for a visit and needed a place to stay. The rock star’s daughter knew them from the summer before. They had all been on another rich person’s yacht together. One of the British dudes worked on the boat. I probably shouldn’t call it a boat as it belonged to one of the world’s most wealthy businessmen. I knew his name and was appropriately impressed. I don’t know anything about boats or yachts or business. I tuned out of the conversation.
The couples wanted to go out to the bar on the corner and take one of the British guys for a pint. I didn’t want to go. I had walked over in my blue coat. I hadn’t expected company or a night out. I just wanted to return a movie I had borrowed.
But, we had a drink and one of the British guys was mildly interesting. I spent so much time at this apartment, it was practically a second home. So, when they left, I decided to make a sandwich and chill on the couch. The British yacht guy stayed, too. We talked a little bit and drank some beer. He wanted to go back to the roof, which was also where the rock star’s bedroom was on the second floor. Since the rock star was never there, we often hung out in the bedroom. You could see the view of the city, but sit inside, behind glass, warm, comfortable, relaxed. I was all of these things that night.
The yacht guy always had a beer in his hand. We talked and he went into the closet and started trying on clothes. He asked me if I minded if he dressed up in an evening gown that was there. It was, in general, hilarious. I lay on the bed, in bare feet and my crummy clothes and watched a stranger with an accent play dress up. It was something I thought might be in a New York story. I often pretended I was a character in my life. Perhaps reality was never my strong suit.
He kissed me. I didn’t really consider it to be interesting. He was a terrible kisser. I turned over and looked at the Empire State building. It was purple that night. Then he kissed me again. And I didn’t want any more bad kisses. What did purple symbolize? What was the occasion? I said that tiny, tiny word.
And it was too small. The British guy didn’t even scare me. But, he ignored me. And before I knew it, I wasn’t able to talk at all. My voice was completely gone. I tried to push him off of me. He told me to relax. I still despise that word, “relax”.
I never panicked, but there were marks on my body. Even if I didn’t remember it, my body said I fought. My body had continued to say no.
He left to get another beer and I went to the first floor and locked myself in a bathroom. When my friends came home, I refused to come out. They didn’t try that hard to get me to come out, though I wanted them to. They made a story – that I had probably had too much to drink.
In the morning, I tried to tell my friend. She was cooking eggs, early. It was just us, no one awake yet. She didn’t say anything at first. Then she asked if I was okay. Then she flipped the omelet onto a plate. She said she never would have let him stay if she had thought he was “like that”. Then her boyfriend came down and they started joking about something from the night before.
I didn’t know what to do, so I got my blue coat and took the elevator downstairs to the street. I didn’t know where to go. I stumbled on a curb and wondered what the hell I was doing in such a loud and dirty city. I walked in a circle, eventually arriving on the block where I lived. I thought about when, exactly, I had lost control of my life.
I just want you to know how lonely it is. How silence can be cold. That I love you, my friend. But that you should have stopped making breakfast.
His first name was Nigel. That’s the one other thing I can tell you about him.
This piece is part of the #52essays2017 challenge where I will share one essay a week in 2017. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out writer Vanessa Martir’s website and post about it.