I was 26 years old. Educated. Plenty old enough, chronologically speaking, to know better. Old enough to make different choices, to not put myself in danger, to be smarter.
But I invited him in. A friend of a friend, I’d met him a few times in passing. He seemed nice although my friend said he had a temper and would get unreasonably angry fast at their workplace.
He had a gap in his bottom teeth, just right of center. I thought it was charming. We all went out together, a quad of 20-somethings in downtown Baltimore. I was the only girl. We went to at least two different bars, maybe three. I know I mixed beer and liquor. I don’t know what kind. I was having a great time.
Leaving, it was late, somewhere before or after midnight, and we all walked in the night toward our cars. He took my arm. We were laughing. I liked how it felt to walk down the street with my arm linked in his. I accepted a ride with him. He assured my other friends that he’d take care of me, get me home.
I was drunk. Not quite stumbling but perhaps if I hadn’t been holding onto that arm. Perhaps. Not slurring but definitely not clear. Drunk enough that I lost my cell phone for an hour and only got it back because it was still undiscovered on the floor beneath the table at the last bar we’d been in.
I was 26 and newly single. I’d been with the same one and only person for the previous 9 years of my life. I had only had one boyfriend and had married him. I was pretty new to drinking as I had been a devout Christian married to an alcoholic and strongly abhorred alcohol for my short adult life until that point.
I was living in a new town, I was going through a divorce, I was questioning my faith, I was in grad school and living on my own for the first time in years. I was deeply vulnerable.
I invited him in. We were still drunk. I was still drunk. We imbibed some more. The scene was blurry at the edges but in an exciting way, like there were twinkle lights around everything. My belly was doing butterfly flips.
But when it came time to kiss this man, the first new person I would kiss after 9 years of only kissing one person, I shied away. I was right there, in his arms, just the two of us in my house. I was drunk, the world was fuzzy and he went to kiss me. I turned my face away. I think I laughed, turning it into a joke for a moment.
And you know what he did? He’d been drinking all night, I’d invited him INTO MY HOUSE, I’d snuggled with him on the couch and flirted all night long.
He left. He said goodnight and left my house.
He never tried to kiss me again, which I was disappointed about at the time. But he did not assault me. He didn’t even push me a little.
The next day he reported on these events to our mutual friend. He said, “I gave it 90% but you know, the girl’s gotta at least give that last 10.”
Had he pushed me, I don’t know that I would have had the wherewithal to say no. I have no idea what actual capacity I had in that moment to speak for myself.
And had it gone a different way, how awfully I could have been portrayed.
Drunk. Out with several men. Likely promiscuous. Oh, and recently diagnosed with an STD. So definitely promiscuous. (The truth was I’d contracted the STD from my husband, the only person that I’d ever had sex with, but I can imagine how that detail would be conveniently left out.) And I invited him in.
I am so lucky to have been so safe. Safe in that moment, safe from a hideous aftermath, and safe from being told that my safety, my well-being, both physically and emotionally is only worth 6 months.
But I am her. I am a woman and my story could have easily been her story. So I was safe, but she was not, we are not. We are not safe. And I am heartsick that this is so.