“I’m sorry,” she said. She hung her jacket in the empty motel closet. Wire hangers only offered.
“You don’t owe me an apology.” He was already undressed and laying in the bed, watching her while she removed her dress and fluffed out her hair.
“I embarrassed you.” She felt what she said was true.
“But anyone who’s been raped knows it’s never enjoyable. Never. It never feels natural!” She’d blurted out this little statement at a party of her date’s friends just this evening. “I wouldn’t think,” she then finished weakly as she’d sensed the silence as the group turned toward her.
Too goddamn much to drink. Everybody had had too much to drink, and then there’d been this heated discussion suddenly on the “oh so unnatural act” of men raping other men.
Right now, her date laid waiting on her to join him.
“It’s just that I didn’t mean to embarrass you or come off as some victim or man-hater or anything,” she laughed nervously and sat down on the bed to take off her shoes.
“Oh, you’re no man-hater.” Her casual lover stroked her back and kidded. “You like sex too much for that.” He kissed the back of her neck, her ear.
She tried not to rehash the mental checklist she’d reviewed just that morning. Okay, so this man was younger than she and maybe not all that intelligent. Still, the man was popular and liked having a good time. He might be known as a bit of a “ladies man” around the office building, but he was also known as charming, a “good time.”
So what was wrong with having a little fun once in a while? In today’s world, relationships weren’t, in fact, all that easy to come by. She’d been trying to imagine herself as the “worldly” older woman who’d chosen a dashing younger man for herself. Of course, one woman in her office, five years older than herself, had told her she wished she could meet someone more interesting, someone like a Gandhi or a Jesus Christ at one of these cocktail parties. What would such a couple or group talk about, the younger woman wondered tonight.
“A lot of women have told me it’s one of their fantasies to get raped,” her dashing even younger man said now. His lips brushed the side of her hair, her neck.
She didn’t move.
“So tell me about it,” he went on. His lips now touched her shoulder, her hair again. His fingertips stroked her bare arm.
“Nothing to tell,” she heard herself respond too quickly. She felt his breath next to her skin and looked away at the furniture.
The end tables were too shiny. Blond. Sharp corners. A book of matches lay in the ashtray. The television was covered with incomprehensible buttons and numbers. No one had sat in the motel chairs lately. Her date’s clothes hung on the back of one.
Taking a breath, she tried to go on quickly. “It was years ago.” She announced, “I got over it.”
Her date’s fingertips went down her spine, bone by bone, while she wondered if he was wondering what kind of act exactly or acts exactly she may been forced to perform. Was he the type who’d be bothered if she’d been raped by a man of another ethnic group? Or did he even consider her rape might have been a gang bang? Her skin prickled. She began to feel claustrophobic.
Her date pulled her body back into himself. Her back against his chest, though, he grew still. He waited. A wall.
She told herself she was being unfair, too defensive. After all, this man hadn’t pulled away from her or acted as if she’d been tarnished or something.
“I hardly remember the whole thing,” she tried to make her voice more kind. She managed in making it soft anyway, faint. Like the romantic girl she’d once been. The woman she was now was lying, of course.
Yellow light poured in the window from the parking lot outside. Suddenly, she couldn’t believe it was her own voice beginning to talk like that of a little girl. “He wasn’t all that violent toward me really. My rapist didn’t hit me or anything.” There she was, apologizing. “I was just so young.”
Her date was not looking into her face. He began to trace over her whole body again, but more firmly this time. The curve of her neck, her breasts, her stomach, thighs. He tried to roller back, turn her over toward himself.
“The man just wouldn’t let me leave the room.” She tried to pull back, thinking if her date would just give her a moment—
“Wouldn’t let you leave till he got what he wanted?” Her friend’s hand sensuously massaged her belly, cupped her breasts and rubbed her nipples. He pulled her body underneath him.
She opened her mouth to speak, but he spoke instead, “Was he forceful?” Breath against breath.
“My rapist was very good-looking.” She heard her woman-on-the-job voice suddenly pipe up. The office manager she’d worked to become. The homeowner who’d kept up her own mortgage, her own bills, and sent money to her own family.
Her lover paused then.
She continued, “The rapist was young too. A man who started talking with me while I was out shopping one day.” She hurried on, “It was springtime and warm. I browsed in and around the flower stalls along the street. I just thought he was chatting. I just didn’t know.”
Her date leaned back over her, tried to kiss her. He began to maneuver himself onto her, but she took the opportunity to maneuver herself out from under him. She managed to get herself away and up on one elbow.
“You know the sad thing?” she asked, struggling to sit all the way up. “If he’d asked me out for a drink first, or on a dinner date when we’d have gotten to know each other,” she shrugged, “I think I would’ve gone with him, accepted his invitation. I just couldn’t tell by looking at him, what he was. I just never even guessed—“
Her current date had her by the elbow now. “Sssh,” he tried, tugging at her arm to pull her back into bed.
She pulled away though, and snapped on the lights. “The saddest thing,” she said was that my rapist actually asked me if he was any good.” Tears came to her eyes. They burned. “After it was all over, he wanted to know if he was a good lover.”
She became aware of this man’s nudity. His vulnerability. Her voice sounded thin, too high as if sailing away. “I’ve seen these rapists in prison interviews on TV, and they’ve all bragged how they’d have killed the woman if she fought or resisted them.” She tried to look now at the face now watching her own, but spoke in the direction of his mirror image instead. “Big bad men. Every one.”
Her lover’s hand clasped her wrists like a bracelet. She stood but he toyed with her fingers. He examined each and every one. Stroked her lightly colored nails.
“The man asked me if he was a good lover. I said yes, and he believed me.” She heard her high voice sail up along the ceiling. Her date’s grasp did go slack then. He let go of her altogether. She stood, gathered her clothes, found her shoes. “I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened at first,” she began dressing. “Not until my best girlfriend got back from vacation. I waited for her, because I could tell her what had happened.” She turned and looked into the mirror to hook her dress by herself.
The man left on the bed looked toward the window. He did sigh then, before bowing his head to finger the curls of hair on his own chest. He lightly traced the muscles underneath his own skin.
Suddenly, she could picture her date back at the office. She’d often seen him on the floor where he worked three floors down. The way this man would sit lightly on the edge of the desk of this woman or that. The way he’d talk and joke. After all, why take life so seriously—just enjoy it, right?
The faces of the working women would gaze up so raptly then, grateful for the attention. After all, no reason to take love and romance so seriously then either, was there? Lighten up. No strings. No expectations.
The woman thought hatred was a terrible feeling, of course. A terrible feeling to have to learn. Lord knew what this man would come up with to joke about after this weekend now. She became aware of the shadows of furniture against the floor. The sharp corner of the dresser. The harsh outline of the chair. Then the doorway beyond.
“Look, I’m going to sleep now.” Her suddenly ex-lover flopped back on his pillow. He folded his hands across his chest. “You can stay if you like.” He closed his eyes.
She watched him studiously. He looked like a corpse. The woman shut the lights off for him on her way out, “No, thanks.”
The deserted parking lot spread out, an expanse before her. There was line after yellow line for her to cross. Fathomless darkness beyond.
“Shall I call you a cab then?” his voice followed after her petulantly. The man was pouting.
“No, thank you.” She stepped toward the shadows, relieved that she could see her own breath in the cold air. It was bracing. She breathed in sharply, “I can manage.”