Maybe that wasn’t what he was asking me, but maybe by my saying it, I implied that he did rape me. Suddenly I felt trapped in a spiral of semantics and I wanted to make sure he understood I did not think he had violated me in any way.
“I understand saying a powerful word like that can make it feel more true – more painful. I still cannot say…” I trailed off. I still could not say, ‘abortion.’ I could say it in my mind, but I couldn’t speak it. “I terminated my pregnancy. I can’t say the other word. It is still too painful and the word seethes of hatred and controversy and heartlessness. Even if my actions came from a place of sorrow for me and hope for someone else.
“Words can be very powerful and painful. But that word, rape, that is what Jason did to me because he didn’t value me or my body. Nothing about last night felt anything close to that. He drew from hate and used it to hurt me and I cannot see you ever having the capability of hatred against me or anyone. You made me feel worthwhile to you.”
He took off his cowboy hat and set it on the dash. He ran his fingers over his face, creating a mask maybe to hide whatever he was feeling. Was it pain or shame or anger? Eventually his fingers ran through his tangled, curly locks. I could still see his hand shaking and I wanted to figure out what suddenly made him so rattled.
“What’s this about? What’s the matter? You’re shaking. I’m telling you, you’ve done nothing wrong.”
“This morning you said it was rugged and forceful. Did I hurt you?” Wow. I didn’t even remember using those words. They weren’t untrue, but I didn’t mean them as unwarranted violence.
“You were aggressive, yes, but I liked the way you made me feel like I was irresistible.” I didn’t mean for him to think anything he did was physically hurtful. Even emotionally, I felt disappointed that he didn’t care for me as I did for him, but I knew he didn’t feel negativity towards me.
“I was so wrong to clump you in the same category with other men who have treated me badly, or wanted to treat me badly. Truly, you aren’t like them. I got the impression… I got a completely different impression from you last night. I’m so very sorry if I made you feel like you did anything wrong. You didn’t.” I was so focused on my own disappointment, it never occurred to me that I might be adding to his confusion from the night.
“No, don’t you see? I don’t know what I did last night. I could have really hurt you. Those guys could have hurt you, too, and you just blow it off like you are used to it.”
I was shocked by his implication. Did he think I asked for this kind of behavior from the men in my life?
“Used to being hurt? Yeah, I’m used to it. That’s how guys are. Do I want to be hurt? No, that’s insane and I cannot believe you think that is the kind of woman I am.” I never expressed any interest in those crazy hikers. Just because I didn’t go ballistic when Eric stroked my ass doesn’t mean I wanted to be propositioned. I wanted to get away from Eric and David and Ethan, and I did it, even if it required my being more subtle and less forceful. The stupid electrician had been just like them. God, all these men were so similar. Why would he think I wanted that crap?
“I heard those guys use rock-paper-scissors to decide how they would take turns with you. They would have forced you into the woods and you may not have come back out. And without knowing what I was doing, I could have hurt you just as easily.” How was that remotely the same? They were knowingly planning to be lascivious and he lacked any capacity to be evil.
What I thought we were discussing and what he was thinking were dramatically different. We were obviously going to be here awhile.
I took off my seatbelt and removed the keys out of the ignition and set them on the dash. As I did, I noticed what looked like a darkening bruise near my wrist. I recalled him tightening his grip on it during the night, pinning it back above my head. I could still feel the sensation of his touch on my arm as if it just happened. He noticed me looking at it and he took my hand gently by the wrist, rotating it to view the fresh, deep purple oval.
“I did this.” I tried to make light of his confession.
“You didn’t hurt me, I mean, you didn’t hurt me that way. You weren’t violent. I should know. You’d be surprised how many men I have been with who do not know how to use their strength sensually.”
“I mean, not that I know that many men first hand. Okay, stop talking now.” He leaned his head backwards, banging it against the wall of the truck letting go of my arm. Where did this come from? He’d asked me about Jason, he wanted to know. I had no idea it would lead to this.
Maybe this was why he insisted on knowing what Jason did to me.
Now I sat up, and moved probably too close to him, but he didn’t pull away. Maybe he didn’t have a enough room, but I hoped he would let me be close at that moment. “But you didn’t hurt me. This bruise could just have easily been from bumping into a tree on the hike last night as I reached out for a trunk and misjudged the distance in the twilight.”
“I did this to you, though, didn’t I?” The bruise was minor. It didn’t bother me, after all, I didn’t even noticed it before now. He seemed intent on analyzing his actions, and I wondered what prompted his sudden change. Even at the restaurant, he wasn’t anything like this.
“Where is this coming from? Is it because of those guys, or what I told you about what happened to me, or is it because you were asleep and you don’t remember? I mean, sex in your sleep is probably better than sleep walking in the forest.” He didn’t find it amusing. Clearly humor was not helping the situation. “Why would you think you were violent?”
“I don’t know if I was asleep, or if it was a flashback. A relapse. It feels like I did this thing to you, like I…” he still could not say the word.
“Today I could keep those guys from taking advantage of you, but I don’t think I am able to stop myself, which, I think, is worse.” I recalled that he did little today to end the problem, but maybe he’d been more alert to the situation than I realized, and why he didn’t say anything to David and Ethan. Yes, I allowed myself to be beaten down by Jason, but I felt like I was starting to have a handle on today’s situation, even if his presence made the real difference.