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The Things I Should Have Known
“So, how did you two meet?” She asks, glancing at me from behind her long black bangs.
My attention snaps towards her, “Excuse me?”
“How did you two meet for the first time?”
The two of us are sitting on a brown leather couch, the leather pulled tight along the frame. Orange and red throw pillows match the threaded flower carpet and light filters in through washed windows. I long to get up and shut the beige curtains, cut out the light that’s burning my skin. Instead, I pick at the stitching on my arm rest and consider how to answer her question. I’ve replayed his face, his smile, the first touch so many times in my mind, yet vocalizing it seems impossible. To her, especially.
We sit in a stubborn silence, and I feel her gaze drop from me and let her eyes fall to the floor. I watch her pull the cuffs of her sweater over her hands, twisting the stretched out fabric over her knuckles and fingers in anxiety. I realize what I dislike about her so much – she reminds me of me, one year ago.
“We met at a party,” I sigh, “I was young and naive and he pretty much just swept me off my feet.”
When I had given that same excuse to my mother she had wailed and screamed. Then, she had sat down on our family couch and sobbed into her hands. Every attempt I made to speak, every word I uttered was met with a teary glare. She didn’t speak to me normally again after. I went from being her smart, bright little girl, to the disappointment.
“My mom really didn’t believe it happened that way. She thought I had somehow consciously made all these bad decisions, but, really I never knew. He was very charming and very smooth.”
“How did he ... did you guys talk for so long?” She swallows, looking at me with large, watery eyes. I can practically hear her thumping little heart as she stares at me.
“We talked for a couple of hours. He drank, but I was only fifteen, so I didn’t. Then, he convinced me to follow him. Would you like the rest of the details?” I spit.
“Well, I ... I, um, no it’s okay. Unless you feel a need to share that,” She mutters, clearing her throat.
“I guess things just ended the way they did for a few reasons,” I say, “One, because no one had ever taught me anything.”
I had grown up in a proper and prim household. My sister had worn a purity ring on her left hand and had worn it until her recent marriage. All through high school and university she held close to her oath of chastity. My mother and my father attended church every Sunday morning and I had been sent to an upscale Catholic school. I had been given a very short sex education lesson, consisting of the words “Don’t do it” repeated being many times and then a scientific power point. No one ever told me he would have baby blue eyes. No one ever mentioned that he would be very subtle and convincing with hints.
“He didn’t just say ‘Hey, let’s bang,”’ I continue, “He didn’t say much, actually, he just led by example and I figured he would stop before things got out of control. I wasn’t prepared. The next reason was the fact that I had secretly longed to be bad for so long.”
Straight As and lollipops can only fulfil a girl for so long. After years and years of that, I began to get tired of my friends talking about how “good” I am all the time and boys chuckling as I blush away from them. I was sick and tired of people making up versions of me and decided for themselves what I’ve done and what I haven’t.
“You’re just a little saint, aren’t you?” One girl sneered, applying lipstick in the bathroom mirror, “Nobody’s good enough right? Keep it up, babe, these are the best years of our lives.”
She shoved past me, leaving her red lipstick on the counter.
“You get tired of stereotypes and assumptions. I wanted to be bad for once. It was a whim, really.”
“A whim? You’d never done it before?”
“No. I thought about it, sure, but I hadn’t even had a boyfriend before it. I shied away from physical affection, like I had been told to.”
“Oh. What’s the next reason?”
“He overpowered me,” I say, her eyes widening, “No, not physically. Mentally. He made me feel like it was what I had to, what I should do, otherwise it would just make me a tease. We had gone so far and now I had to continue.”
I hadn’t even drunken anything that night. I hadn’t smoked anything, either, but he had, keeping me under his arm as he did. The sand sprinkled across my nice clothes as he danced with me on the beach. His gestures, his movements, made me feel alive and dangerous. I tricked myself into thinking I was daring and brave and wouldn’t regret the movements. I told myself I was in control all the way until the end, but I wasn’t. He was older, more experienced, and I convinced myself it would be bad if I didn’t trust and listen to him.
“I lied to myself a lot and then it was too late.”
“Why didn’t you just leave?” She shakes her head, and then quickly withdraws back into the corner of the couch as I stare at her.
“He was controlling me, simply, and I convinced myself of a lot of things that night so I wouldn’t be afraid. The fourth reason it happened was because I really liked him. I thought that sex and love went together like peanut butter and jelly, and that afterwards, we would live happily ever. I wanted to perform for him and impress him and please him, because I thought it would make him like me.”
She is still curled up on her side of the couch, peeking at me from behind of a lock of black hair.
I had woken up in a dark apartment in the early morning. He was already gone, leaving behind just a single note: Went to work, thanks for a good night. I had held the sticky note in my hand, my hands beginning to shake. My body ached, my muscle sore and taunt. I ran my hands over naked, pale and cold thighs and shoulders, shaking my head back and forth.
“I kept telling myself, I didn’t do that, everything’s going to be fine,” I whisper, touching my stomach.
I had walked through the apartment, encountering other party-goers in the hallways and living room, all asleep. I felt shy, like someone was watching me and tearing me limb from limb with their eyes. It felt like someone had peeled back a layer of my skin, making my sensitive to every touch and glance.
In the kitchen I found a terry robe and slipped it over my shoulders. I felt filthy and sick as I wandered numbly through the house, tears running down my cheeks. I found my clothes and put them on, scared to even touch myself, see myself naked.
“What happened next?” She asks.
“I went home,” I sniff, “And my mother lectured me, but I didn’t tell her what had happened. I showered for hours, scrubbing over inch and smell of him off of me, but I could still feel him on me. It was disgusted and I felt more insecure and afraid after.”
“Did you see him again?”
I shake my head, curling my hands into fists.
“Two months later I had awoken to vomit in my throat. I had thrown up in my white porcelain toilet, brushed my teeth and went to school. At lunch I threw up again and had to come home. My mother assumed it was stomach sickness, giving me a spoonful of medicine and sent me to bed. It took me another month to realize I was pregnant. My friend had helped me buy a kit at a local gas station.”
I turned the lock on the bathroom and flipped on the lights. A fan began to spin above me and the yellow lights made the grey and white bathroom look more and more washed out. I brushed aside bunched up paper towels and opened up the test. When I was done, I took it out to my friend with shaking hands. She took it from me, using a paper towel and holding it up to the light. She pointed out the single purple line on the screen.
“That means you’re pregnant’, she had told me,” I say, placing both hands on my bloated stomach. Below my fingers was the consequences of a single scary night in the dark, the single trace I have of a man I barely knew. Maybe the baby will look like him or maybe it’ll just look like me.
I didn’t hear her next questions, a buzzing had filled my ears, but it sounded like she was asking me if I was afraid. I sighed, peering down at the flowered carpet, feeling a little heartbeat below my fingers. I couldn’t even tell if it was mine or someone else’s anymore. From her side of the couch, I bet I looked like a terrified young mother, with hair falling in my face, sweat on my brow. I looked like a full grown woman to her, my body inflating with this child growing with me, but in reality, I still felt like a little girl. A foolish little girl.