In case you were wondering, I am painfully aware that this blog has suddenly turned into the electronic equivalent of an Applebee’s appetizer: the quality is bad, but at least there’s a lot of it. I apologize for that. I’m sure that very soon I’ll be feeling less traumatized about my new volunteer position, and I can shut up about it and retreat into golden, blissful silence again.
Aunty is feeling better about her second call, though, given the space of a day. The thing is—and I’m sorry that I’ll have to be vague here—that my volunteer job is kind of like Dinner: Impossible meets Law and Order: SVU. I’m trying to make Christmas dinner here, and my producer chopped off my fucking hands, and all I’ve got’s a whisk, a bag of rubber bands, and a turnip. I know part of the problem is that I’m now not only part of a system, with all the problems that entails—I’m part of The System. And that’s not good. Ask anyone. The System sucks.
So, I go into the call expecting to make a turkey dinner for the entire family, and instead I only have time to microwave a hotdog. And the hotdog was made of cat poop. And also, I ate half of it.
Figuratively, I mean.
After each of my calls, I end up feeling awful, like I said in my last post, because I wanted to do a good job, and I’ve failed. Which is bad not only because I always want to do a good job, and I always feel awful when I fail, but because part of the reason I’m volunteering is as part of an admittedly futile effort to perfect my own rape experience.
I was a dumb 19-year-old when I was raped. The spring before, I had created a shame-based Ecstasy drama in my life, in which I dropped all my classes, ran away to the East Coast for the weekend, and checked myself into the mental ward of my school’s hospital. After that, I hid from all my old friends, and the guy who became my new best friend was someone I had recently met and who was a great deal older than I was. Over 21, in any case, and a full-fledged adult, with an apartment and a job. We talked endlessly on the phone over that summer, and I drove up to the city to see him when I could. I knew he liked me. He told me as much. But I didn’t feel the same way, and I told him as much, and it was cool.
One Friday not long after my second year of classes started, my friend invited me to his cousin’s hotel room for a party. It was a party to celebrate the last day of the CPA test, and the cousin had rented the hotel room in order to study for the CPA test. Lots of CPA-wannabes had rented rooms in this hotel, my friend explained, and they’d all be ready to party. When I got to the hotel room, my friend and his cousin were the only ones there. But it was early. We started drinking and quickly drained the bottle of vodka. Then we went to the hotel bar and bought another bottle to take back to the room. We switched from mixers to shots. “I’ll drink after you, Aunty,” my friend said, and at some point everything went blurry. Which was, coincidentally, around the same time that the porn channel was turned on. I tried to put myself down on the folding couch in the front room of the suite, but my friend started unfolding the couch, as his cousin held me upright. Which I mistook for kindness, until my friend started undressing me, as his cousin held me down, and I started crying. No, no, no.
So, there’s a good deal wrong with this story, if you’re looking for a sympathetic victim. I had drunk myself into a stupor. I had put myself, willingly, in a hotel room with two men—one of whom I didn’t even know very well. I didn’t leave immediately afterward. (I passed out until morning.) I didn’t fight back, beyond the crying and the saying no. (Too drunk.) I even called the guy one last time, afterwards, just to see if he would apologize.
That was naïve of me. He didn’t even acknowledge what had happened.
What I did have going for me was: (1) there were two of them, and (2) they were black*. Number one there was what made the crisis line employee decide that I had been raped adequately enough for her to listen to me. Number two caused me no end of racial guilt and complicated feelings about race and race relations. And it was, ultimately, what tipped the balance in favor of not filing a police report. Given all my failings as a victim, I decided (rightly or wrongly) that the only reason my assailants could be convicted was because of their race and mine. And then, once I started thinking about it, wouldn’t it be wrong of me to try to prosecute two successful black men? I mean, wouldn’t it? Kind of?
I don’t even really know what I was thinking, to be honest with you. Race shouldn’t have been a factor, should it? Of course, when I got angry, my anger was parceled out along racial lines as well. Again, it makes no sense now, and I’m sorry.
The day after, I took a cab to campus and showered. I called the crisis line and was told that what I had just experienced did not sound like rape. I called my former roommate, and she (I’ll always love her for this) walked with me to the emergency room. I saw the uniformed officer, a hard-looking woman stationed at the hospital just to deal with people like me. I left. I went back to the hospital a few weeks later, and asked to be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea and get a prescription for Valium. When the Valium ran out, I smoked a lot of pot.
And … life went on like that. Life does that, I guess, when you keep not dying. But what I keep coming back to is that night, and the next day. I want to be the person I wished had been there for me.
But I’m not. I’m still me.
*Not that anyone will read this old post at this late date, but just for my own peace of mind, I should explain why I wrote (2) and why I wrote it the way I wrote it. What I was trying to say here was that I realized, or thought I realized, anyway, that some people would be inclined to look at the situation and see that here was a white girl accusing black men of rape, and immediately, without any other evidence, believe me. Now, whether that was actually the case, or whether I was relying merely on To Kill a Mockingbird and other popular literature to come to such conclusion, I do not know. I would like to believe that people (juries, in particular) wouldn't be any more inclined to believe a white victim than a black one, or to suspect that a black perp is guilty any more than a white perp tried with the same evidence. And maybe they wouldn't.
At the time, however, I thought that race could be an issue that would weigh in my favor, without merit, and that bothered me.