Gray : a personal essay
The morning after I woke up almost naked. I struggled to open my eyes buried in the disheveled sheets. There was a sea of vomit next to me, falling down the side of the bed.
I called him to make sure. “What happened last night?”
“You don’t remember?”
“No. Did we have sex?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. And then, “you were pretty out of it.”
I hung up the phone. I heard my roommate open the bathroom door. I picked a t-shirt off the floor and put it on. I asked her if he had been here the night before. She looked at me as if I were telling a joke.
“I don’t remember anything.” I pointed to the bedroom leftovers.
I had been sitting on the couch, drinking my pint of Seagram’s whiskey and chasing it with Diet Coke. I was twenty-one years old. I was alone, and he had reached out earlier letting me know he was in town. We both knew why he would want to come over. I kept on drinking.
There was a knock on the door. I let him in. I closed the door and I saw him take off his coat. As I sat back on the couch I watched him walk into my bedroom. Then I heard him fall onto my bed. The last thing I remember was getting up from the couch because he was calling my name.
This was ten years ago and I still have trouble deciding what happened. At the time I was seeing a counselor through my university because of a different matter. When I told her about this particular night that had transpired, it felt as if I were confiding in a friend. I mentioned that I had known him for a long time, and we had slept together before. Although the first time it had happened was not quite how I had imagined it either. But those words, you were pretty out of it. That meant something. My counselor knew it too and we looked at each other. When she said the words ‘date rape’ to me, I brushed it off. I had invited him over, I knew what was going to happen. I just hadn’t planned on blacking out.
The way it usually happened, though, it was always about him. Although he had never forced me to do anything, I was responsible for myself. But it is different when they barely look at you. There is no emotion, only movements. There is the justification of his actions and words in order to remain appealing. When he would ask why I was being so mean and I would immediately cower. Later he would tell me I’m beautiful and suddenly I was caught in his trap.
A couple years later I would read an article about something called ‘Grey Rape,’ which refers to an area somewhere between consent and denial. Basically, there’s no clear picture of who wanted what. We had quickly descended into a hook-up culture, and the lines were becoming blurred. I told myself that this was the best way to define what had happened that night. And then I began to think about the other times we had been together. Was the silence significant?
The majority of our adult relationship continued through the Internet with messaging and the occasional texts. I lost count of how many times I have blocked and unblocked his number. I sent him a drunken message about a year and a half ago, a desperate act for attention. I didn’t see his messages until the next morning, and apparently, he was under the impression that I had gotten married. Because getting married could be the only possible explanation for finally ending communication with him. Alas, there were things he mentioned he would still do to me. I officially blocked his number that morning and decided to have breakfast in bed with my imaginary husband.
We spend a lot of time letting other people dictate how we see ourselves, which also translates to how we treat ourselves and let ourselves be treated. Maybe he saw that in me, he must have known I was searching. I just happened to be looking in the wrong place. Even from 1,000 miles away he was able to take something away. The journey to liking and accepting who you are is not through someone else, and especially not through someone who only wants one thing from you. Once I learned to put myself first, the leaves began to change and I was free.