I attribute a good deal of my ability to deny the trauma of my rape to a road trip my rapist and I took soon afterward.
We had planned it before the rape occurred — booked it, paid for it, split the fees down the middle for a car, a hotel, the gas — and I felt pressured to go. My mother told me she didn’t care about the wasted money, that it was a bad idea now, that it would confuse me.
But I went.
Saturday, December 9, 2010
He carries all the bags so I don’t have to, even if it’s hurting his hands. He opens doors. He tips the valet. He drives four hours with his right arm stretched across the center console so he can hold my hand and rub my thigh and squeeze my knee. I’ve never seen someone drive one-handed for so long. I eventually put a map in my lap so he would be able to stop, but he just moved around it.
So we went on that road-trip for “dead week.” I didn’t want to after Friday, but he made it happen. He wanted to go. And he kept saying it was the best vacation he’d ever been on –– “This is the most fun I’ve ever had on a vacation. I want to take you everywhere. I want this to go on forever.”
He’s in love with me, and I don’t know how it happened. I didn’t think that was possible. I don’t know –– I feel like I should be in love with him, too, then, since there’s really nothing about him that isn’t perfect for me. And I am very fond of him. But there’s a niggling undercurrent to it all.
Why? This is a guy who tells me I’m “practically perfect in every way” and went as Indiana Jones for Halloween and enjoys gardening and carries the heavy bags and opens the door for me every single time. Like a Dickon. And he’s just artsy enough to where everything is a game, and everything is a pursuit of streamlined perfection.
I want to butt in here and point a few things out:
- This kid was going above and beyond trying to sweep me off my feet at this point. Not that his behavior up until that point hadn’t been almost off-puttingly intense and sort of stalker-y — I think, looking back on it, he had been trying so hard to get me into bed — but by this point he had dialed it down to a point where it just seemed like he was the perfect gentleman. Like, “This is how you treat a woman.” And you know what I think when I read this? What would someone who was in hot water about raping a girl days before do? Act like the perfect gentleman, right?
- This entry also drives home for me how in denial I was at this point. The entry barely references the Friday rape. I’d already repressed it. Except — I hadn’t fully, as the bolded lines make clear. I was reticent, uncomfortable, but not capable of comprehending why. It makes me sad to see how quickly and desperately I deluded myself.
He said to me at the beginning of the trip, when everything was going wrong and he was embarrassed and flustered –– “I’m a perfectionist. About everything. I want everything to go the way I planned, and if it doesn’t, I feel like a failure.” And I kept assuring him that it was all beyond his control, and I wasn’t judging him, and that I was a perfectionist, too. And he did this waving gesture with his hand and said, “No, you’re a perfectionist about papers, about projects, about school, about things that matter. I just want everything to be perfect.”
Okay, why? Why did he feel so paranoid about everything being perfect? Because, I can assure you, as our relationship progressed, this boy became one of the laziest underachieving, unromantic, last-minute effort boyfriends you can imagine. He didn’t even do anything for our anniversary. I paid for that dinner and dragged him along.
So why do I think he wanted the Vegas trip to be perfect? Let’s think a moment. What was he trying so hard to compensate for? Any guesses, anyone? Bueller?
Then, later, we were walking through a grocery store, looking at wine bottles and their labels, and he told me he knows about wine and likes it, and I told him my grandmother owns 80 acres of valley in [REDACTED] and everyone is planting vineyards because the climate is perfect for grapes, and I want to plant one if I inherit the property. And he said something about how, he’d make me a deal: I could design the label, and he would squish the grapes.
This is not normal third-week-into-the-relationship behavior. I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but I’d certainly never encountered this before. But what it did for me at the time — desperate, broken, violated me — was make me feel like my attack was almost — predestined. That it wasn’t an attack. That this guy was already so committed to me, it didn’t matter to him if maybe I didn’t love him yet. That I could, and I would. And that he would take care of me.
Over the course of the vacation, he told me I’m perfect, he told me I’m beautiful, he told me every guy we passed was checking me out. He gave me a silver necklace and matching bracelet that he bought at Macy’s with his brother over Thanksgiving Break. He told me he was quote-un-quote “too fond of you.”
Then on the way back home, about two hours away from Los Angeles, he told me he was “scared” because he’s never felt this way about a girl before, that he feels like he could just go on being with me forever, and he knows it’s weird and he doesn’t want to freak me out. He’d started the conversation off by saying he knows we’ve only been dating for about three weeks now, but he has just felt so comfortable with me from the start, felt like we’re connected and similar –– this “intense connection” –– and that it just scared him, because he didn’t know what to think.
He also said he has no idea how I feel about him –– kind of fishing for some disclosure of attachment or love or bitterness over Friday, I could tell –– but then quickly assured me that it doesn’t matter. That he just knows he’s never felt this way about any girl ever.
What does this sound like to you? Because to me it sounds like a guy who raped a girl trying to convince her that the rape was an “oopsie” moment brought about by his intense, uncontrollable passion. And since I’d already sort of planted that seed in his head when I’d confronted him the day after the rape — you know, what with me telling him I figured he was just blacked out and out-of-control and being primal and whatever — I sit here wondering — how did I eat up this horseshit so easily? I was trapped in a car with this — stranger, really — who was dumping all this emotional pressure on me. How did I not see what was going on?
I basically told him I didn’t plan on going anywhere, that I liked him, too, and everything during the vacation had been perfect. And then I just sort of changed the subject, segueing off something he had said about his mother or something, and asked about his high school girlfriend who he dated for a year-and-a-half and what had been so “weird” about how her. And he said she’d been raped as a child and he could never be intimate with her because he felt like she was “damaged goods.” And he got all hesitant, and asked me why I wanted to know about past girlfriends, and I said I wasn’t planning on searching them out on Facebook or anything, I was just curious.
Bizarre, I think, that he would see a rape victim as damaged goods when he himself had just raped a girl. Bizarre — and unfeeling. He later told me that her family had expected him to propose to her — and he never told her he loved her and never had sex with her because the idea made him sick. I think about this girl sometimes and I wonder about his treatment of her — wonder what sort of person can relegate a fellow human being to “damaged goods” status — commodity status — without paying any consideration to the fact that she was and is victim to a horrific circumstance beyond her control.
A person with no empathy, is the conclusion I draw. At the time, I remember thinking, “Oh, he was a high schooler, it was too intense for him.” But, like, if it was too intense and you saw no future with her, how about not dating her? How about not stringing her along? Or did the convenient blow jobs she willingly gave you make up for the “damaged” part enough to date her for the few months you’d still be around before heading cross-country to college?
(Last question, and just food for thought: Why was he worried I’d track past conquests down on Facebook?)
So he launched into this hour-long, play-by-play recap, telling me backstories on all these girls, all these conquests, how he’d met them, how things had progressed –– describing these girls, telling me their full names (by the second girl, I said I didn’t need to know their names). And I found out two were hook-ups, one-night things. And the other girl, [REDACTED], was this really fit blonde girl “built like Jessica Rabbit” — I think the term he used was you could balance a Bible on her her chest like a shelf — who was pretty but needed a nose job. She was older, and invited him back to her place after dinner, and had condoms and everything ready, and they had sex, and it lasted all night and was rough and mind-blowing and like something “out of a porn video” and yet she “wasn’t the girl” for him. So they went out one more time, had sex one more time, but he told her he didn’t want to date her.
Just want to insert: NICE. REAL CONSIDERATE MOVE THERE. Also, the nose job crack? If you knew this guy, you would find him judging anyone’s nose to be a pretty hilarious thing.
So, really, the kid has only had sex four times. (I make the fifth.) He said he didn’t want me thinking any less of him or something like that, that it sounded kind of bad that he’d slept with three girls in a year –– four girls –– and I had to bite my tongue from saying my ex had slept with so many more girls, and I hadn’t expected anything different.
I was just kind of boggled to learn that it was only the fifth time in his life he’d had sex. And every time before me, the girl was inviting him, providing him the opportunity –– that’s what he said, anyway –– and for a boy, it’s much more of a, “Are you sure? You really wanna let me? Okay!” type of thing. I think.
You know what else I wonder about? He openly admitted to never hearing from these girls again. Which seems odd. He’s not a bad lay — not a mind-blowing lay, but certainly not bad — so why did they blow him off afterward?
Did he force himself on these other girls, as well? The thought actually haunts me. Makes me feel even more stupid. That I was the one who was crazy enough to stay. But maybe he’d just gotten better at “handling” the fallout by the time it happened to me.
The long and the short of it is, I do like him. I don’t love him –– I’m not capable of falling in love that quickly ––
But if things continue on like this, why shouldn’t we stay together? It’s not so common, meeting someone who understands you and admires your eccentricities and quirks and supports and shares your hopes and dreams. I’ve never experienced this before, where it just seems so sensible to acknowledge that all the little grooves fit up against each other, making the gears turn and everything run smoothly. And that’s a crazy thing, because I’ve been in a relationship where it felt like I was carrying my partner on my back, uphill, in blistering heat and acid rain, you know? Pounding my head against a brick wall, until I was so bruised and bloody, so broken down, that I was incapable of figuring out what wasn’t working and why. Just, mentally incapacitated.
Banging my head on the desk right now. How deluded. I wish time travel — no, not even time travel, but, like, being able to make a phone call to yourself in the past — were an actual thing, so I could scream at myself, “BITCH, YOU NEED A REALITY CHECK.”
And here it is. The pièce de résistance:
I guess I do believe him, that he thinks I’m perfect for him. That’s why he did what he did, why he wanted to have sex with me so badly. And he seems perfect for me, really, even if he did force me into giving up my virginity too soon. AND uses words like “normalacy” and confuses his pronouns and stuff sometimes.
Banging my head on the desk so hard now, I will have a bruise.
This trip reminded me of my parents. The trips they took. I told him, it felt like an “adult” trip, my first “adult” trip –– a venture out into the world as a fully-formed, fully autonomous being. But, also, a trip that wouldn’t be possible on my own. (I didn’t say that part, but it’s just occurring to me.) Like, this is why people pair up. You need a unit, you need a partner in crime. And I think I did say that –– partner in crime. And I think it made him smile, made him chuckle.
He said he wanted to drive me all over the country, explore everything. And I was speechless for a second, because it was like that boy I described to Mom over the summer, the boy I dreamed up. The person who takes weekend trips to vineyards in the misty foothills of the Appalachians, just to sample the wine and nibble the cheese and make love in a strange, soft bed –– with everyone in the breakfast room the next morning knowing that’s what happened and assessing how in love you really seem, and admitting to themselves that you seem pretty damn devoted to each other, damnit.
I’m in love with the concept of love. Of partnership. Of crafting a unit out of nothing, and crafting a life out of nothing, and filling a life with moments of self-sacrifice for someone who is willing to do the same, spontaneously and happily.
He said he felt like he’d sacrifice for me. Didn’t use that word, but used the image. ”Give” me anything I needed, I think is what he said. (If he’d used the word “sacrifice,” I might have shit a brick.) He said, he’d been in relationships where he wanted to be nice and supportive, but this was different –– that he wanted to give me whatever I needed, would give me half a kidney if I needed it. Like family.
You know what I didn’t need? To be raped. I really didn’t need that. Because my ability to cope with it was zero.
I didn’t need some manipulative bastard lying to me, telling me I was the earth and the moon and the stars, because — not six months later, he would drop these seemingly innocuous (possibly subconscious, possibly totally conscious) critical comments into conversation — like how I would be the “complete package” if I got a boob job; that I was “an 8 out of 10, but a 9.5 when I got all glammed up;” that I wasn’t funny, but he could more than make up for that part of our duo.
And after a particularly traumatizing event in the winter of 2011, when my life was falling apart around me — and we will get to that moment, and you will understand how and why it happened, and how he contributed to it — he said, “You’re one of those girls — like [THE PRETTIEST GIRL IN HIS ACTING CLASS WHO LOOKS LIKE WINONA RYDER], who would be so much more successful if you just dropped thirty pounds.”
(I was a size 4 at the time, by the way.)
So, anyway. My mother was right. The trip did confuse me.