I would take them a few times, feel my emotions and sense of reality fuzz, and look at my mother who had been doped up on them since we moved to Chattanooga. I would see her blank, hazel eyes, and her bright, but empty, smile with chronic, artificial, exaggerated cheer, and become scared. I often wondered if she was buried under layers upon layers of southern sugar. I would make bitchy, inappropriate statements and look for her. I would say something, anything to shake her and look into her eyes for something real. I saw it when she was upset or afraid. I saw it when she’d spot me exiting my bathroom, hair tied back, knowing what I’d done. I saw it when she found out I was raped. I saw it when I told her about the drugs I used. I saw flickers of a real person, but she quickly disappeared within herself once she gathered composure. I decided not to be like her. Even if it meant embracing my demons, I wanted to be real. After a couple doses, I would toss the meds in the garbage.
Number 23 had plenty of redeeming qualities that made falling for him a justifiable accident. But our connection had nothing to do with our similarities, our differences, our aesthetic attractions, or our emotional and physical needs. When we spoke, he was truly with me. Our egos, our personas, expected social cues, the facades that everyone builds around them that are supposed to sculpt the way the world sees us, were stripped with Number 23 and I. He was immediately my best friend, familiar and safe - an epiphany that I had been spending my life alone in crowded rooms. Our souls were naked. We initially curled into the warmth of that connection. But once we knew how real it was, we felt exposed, vulnerable, and raw. While his defense was his fearful recoil, mine was dictation.
Males were expected to be ready to fuck any hole they could slip their dicks into. Boys weren’t considered men unless they were influenced by their carnal instincts to spread their seed.
As a child, I ate up the image Carl strived to portray: An inspirational rags-to-riches tale of a go-getter emerging the hell of his sulfur-scented, Podunk Texas upbringing. With a community college dropout education, Carl managed to reach six figures as a mobile home lot manager when the trailer park industry boomed in the early nineties. He decorated his accomplishments with a large house, yachts, and weekly morale shindigs for his salesmen bursting with open bars and filet mignon. However, my mother was by far his prettiest accessory.
I’m pretty sure Number 1 wasn’t even aware that he was using a man’s deadliest weapon against women. He exposed his vulnerability. Over the years, I would repeat a pattern of chronically caving to that same behavior. It didn’t matter whether or not I liked or respected him. Every time he dared to let his guard down and unveil some of his ugliest, grittiest faces, I whole-heartedly believed I was the only person on earth being let in on a secret. It was a mirage of a connection. Despite his faults and my prior resistance, I felt an obligation to uphold that bond. No matter what kind of person he was or how toxic he could have been, I saw beauty in that fleeting defenselessness as if he were an infant, innocent and untainted by the evils of the world. I always fell in love with that face in every man. I clutched that memory tightly, despite the fact that its weight wore my arms and drug my pace. I was so focused on remembering their moment of weakness that I was blind to who they normally were.
From my first stab at second base, I became obsessively concerned for my vaginal upkeep. I began shaving the day after I felt my first tongue down my throat. The first buzz was a disaster, causing horrifically itchy dull razor breakout that made me look like I made love to a poison ivy bush. Whenever I thought there was a chance of unveiling my privates, I smothered every breakout with the same foundation I used for the occasional teenage acne face breakouts.
An eerie aspect of social media is the way the dead’s account lingers in digital space as a floating memorial. Friends post emotional farewells as if the departed will read them. But we all know that those words are for the rest of the world as if to flaunt their bond with the deceased like a new car or engagement ring. Just like any material possession that ceases production, a person’s value amplifies when they are dead. They have no future. They have no present. Their past becomes a limited resource that everyone is desperate to snag a piece of.
I always imagined rape as this violent scene of a woman walking alone down a dark alley and getting mugged and beaten by some masked criminal. Rape was an angry man forcing himself inside a damsel in distress. I would not carry the trauma of a cliché rape victim. I would not shriek in the midst of my slumber with night terrors. I would not tremble at the sight of every dark haired man or the mention of Number 1’s name. I would not even harbor ill will towards him. My damage was like a cigarette addiction- subtle, seemingly innocent, but everlasting and inevitably detrimental. Number 1 never opened his screen door to furious crowds waving torches and baseball bats. Nobody punched him out in my honor. The Nightfall crowd never socially ostracized him. Even the ex-boyfriend who’d second handedly fused the entire fiasco continued to mingle with him in drug circles. Everybody continued with business as usual. And when I told my parents I lost my virginity against my will, unconscious on a bathroom floor, Carl did not erupt in fury and demand I give him all I knew about his whereabouts so he could greet him with a rifle. Mom blankly shrugged and mumbled, “Oh, that’s too bad,” and drifted into the kitchen as if I’d received a stubbed toe rather than a shredded hymen. Everyone in my life took my rape as lightly as a brief thunderstorm that might have been frightening when it happened, but was easy to forget about. I adopted that mentality as the foundation of my sex life. I would, time and time again, treat sex as flimsily as it started. I would give it away as if it was cheap, second hand junk, rather than a prize that deserved to be earned.
The gentlemanly Number 23 would have never made such a crude statement to a lady. But I was not a lady. Sure, I was intelligent and strong, but I dared to be wide open. I was Maggie Young, chaser of boys, writer of scandal, dropper of f-bombs, tits on a stick.
While men had the right to obey their biological urges, women had to suppress theirs until the perfect moment. From television, movies, books, magazines, my peers, and even some of my relatives, I was taught that if a woman allowed a man to penetrate her too soon, she was too easy of a conquest for him. He would move on to pursue greater challenges after he was finished using her body to relieve his sexual urges. If the woman waited too long to let the man enter her body, she was a prude and the man would eventually give up on her. Women needed to time this process perfectly so that she could “keep” a man in her life at all times.It was the man’s goal to catch the woman and the woman’s goal to keep the man.