Let’s Talk

I was 14. I was sleeping. You grasped my ass. Still dazed I saw nothing just heard the sound of feet running up the stairs and chuckles fading. I tried to go back to sleep but something was wrong. I felt wrong. I drifted up the stairs and into the girl’s bathroom where I stood clustered by my middle-school friends whose life stories I could recite without a moment’s hesitation. And still I hesitated: “Someone just grabbed my butt”. I said it to a crowd but the words felt as if spoken to a cave inhabited only by echoes. Foreheads raised and eyes crinkled for a second “are you okay?” I brushed the question off as one does to a mosquito “It’s fine, just weird”. I moved into the hallway, gazed at nothing and suddenly the vacuum of emptiness that had opened now yawned wider and filled with an immediate rush of panic. My body had just been felt by another. My choice never given a chance. I felt scared. In a house of more than 20 people, I had never felt more alone.

The apology you gave; the teachers had to force it out of you. The boys were put all together in one room and confronted with the choice: The boy who did it must come forward or everyone will be punished. You conferenced with your band of boys about what to do. I sat quarantined in a room rocking in a chair. I tried to soothe myself, lull myself into an abyss of peace; but I could not stop replaying my flesh being pinched by a faceless hand. Do you know that I wept? I wanted comfort but could not bear anyone’s touch. The teacher came up and said that you had been identified and it was over now. I went back downstairs. Everyone rushed to my side and asked if I was ok. You didn’t come forward. I just wanted to talk. I just wanted to ask “why?” What made you think it was funny? Did you not think it might be wrong? You heard me sobbing in the hallway, why did you not come clean then? All I needed was to put a face to that hand that pinched, grabbed and clawed. Two years later, at a party, you were leaving and tried to hug me goodbye. I cringed. You asked “why?”. You never answered my questions and now it was my turn to leave you without response. I shrugged, smiled and walked off. You keep trying to contact me. I always cut you short. I leave texts un-answered. Sometimes I feel bad. Other times I feel indignant; why do you think you have a right to repair a friendship that you so unchangeably fucked? You’ve now asked me again to pardon you. You made me play the victim. The role of the victim had always been foreign and now so uncomfortably personal. I needed you to respect my body enough to come forward and tell me that it was you. I needed you to not make me feel ashamed, not force me into the open longing for a place to hide. I needed you to not make me feel alone. I need feminism because that one touch violated my safety and forced me to realize that a friend I loved was the cause of an oppressive self-hate. I don’t forgive you.

by Emma Morgan-Bennett ’16

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