For fifteen minutes, the most beautiful sights the mountains could offer erased the sharp edges of the memories I wanted to vanish. A small herd of elk wandered through a patch of aspens near the road. The trees coated the mountainsides and stood so tightly together that imagining how the snow ever finds its way between them focused me on the nooks and crannies of the forest. I envisioned the scene in the winter, hiding all the wildflowers and grassy meadows, but its current summer appearance made the imagining a challenge. We curved around the edge of a lake, and the points of the treetops created a nearly perfect downward reflection in the still water.
“Did I….last night, did I, did I hurt you?” His question interrupted the tranquil view and for a moment, I didn’t even understand his inquiry. I replayed the words in my head to make sure I understood what he asked.
“What?” I guessed he meant during the night. I didn’t recall anything else about our evening that was particularly insulting or hurtful. “No. I told you that. I’m fine.”
At the moment my irritation might have increased, though, because when I awoke, I wanted today to be a continuation of what began during the night. I wanted to enjoy the pleasures of his body, not recall the pain my own endured, but that wasn’t possible. Why couldn’t we just let the ugliness of the weekend drift away so I could absorb the highlights, the beauty, and our last hour together, especially as I was enjoying the peace and stillness of my surroundings?
“I need to know. Did I hurt…” He kept trailing off.
Did he want to know that it bothered me that he rejected me? Maybe I should tell him how I truly felt about him, but I tried to make our departure from the inn an easy exit for him, and I doubted that it mattered anyway. I wanted my weekend to end without my having to discuss how it sucks to be turned down.
“You didn’t hurt me. The weather was lovely. I liked fishing and hiking. It was a nice weekend getaway and a perfect one to enjoy the mountains.” I replied flatly. Nice. Nice, nice, nice. Hopefully he would take the hint and not force me to dwell on how much I really hoped the weekend would have ended differently.
“No, let me finish. I need to know. You said Jason, those guys who wanted to drag you off the trail, and me – you grouped us all together.”
He paused, clearly not done with his thought. I stopped him anyway. I gave up the tranquil scenery and looked at him; he appeared perturbed with me. “Look, I didn’t mean to make it sound like I meant you in that cluster. I’m sorry if I grouped you in that same category with those other cretins. You’ve been kind to me, and are nothing like them. Really. And I do trust you.”
Still he persisted.
“When I ask did I hurt you, I mean, did I…” his thought still hung incompletely. His style of thinking through his question before ever beginning his sentence failed him, and I suddenly realized he couldn’t finish his thought.
“Did you what?”
“Did I force you? Did I do it, you know, against your will?” Wow, that was not what I expected.
“‘Against my will?’ Did you, did you force yourself on me?” Now, unfortunately, he knew I’d been on the receiving end of that in my recent history. How could he even compare his action last night to what Jason did to me. Why were we still talking about this?
“Yeah. Come on, you know what I’m asking you.” I really didn’t. I thought I ended the Jason conversation. When is the pie fixing going to kick in?
“No, not exactly. I think you are asking me if you…” I could barely say the word for which I thought he was searching, but I decided to try helping him finish his thought. I said it slowly so I could likewise get the word out. I never said it before, not out loud, not even about Jason, even if it was the right word. “Are you asking if you raped me?”
He kept his eyes on the road, but the look on his face showed that I said exactly what he was thinking. Why was it that I couldn’t tell him that Jason assaulted me and beat me and raped me, but I could say it to him? Probably because that isn’t what he did. It wasn’t even remotely close to what we did last night, or what Jason did to me so often.
“God, no. You didn’t. You most definitely didn’t.” I couldn’t deny his thoughts quickly enough. “I mean, I’m the one who said you should ravage me. I suggested it. I thought you were powerful and passionate. It felt really incredible.” Did I just tell him how much I enjoyed him and wanted him? I didn’t want him to know that. “You didn’t hurt me.”
He said nothing. I noticed his hands trembling as he tried to grip the steering wheel tightly. We were headed down the steepest inclines of the road and I really preferred him only focusing on one thing at a time right now.
“Hey, pull over a second. Right up there.” He pulled into an overlook tucked into a chasm in the mountains. I could just glimpse the flat plains distantly ahead. He must have known he couldn’t continue driving. He turned off the engine.