New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve

I wrote this piece on Day 1 of Ann Randolph's "UnMute" writing course. Trigger warning - sexual assault is discussed.

“I’d love to take you home with me tonight,” he said, his ginger curls peeking out from below his flat cap.

I froze. It had been a harmless, beautiful question in a way. We’d spent a good part of the night chatting in the back garden, as he struck his extra-long matches for friends and strangers who wanted to light their cigarettes. He’d been cheeky. We’d shared a quick kiss on the dance floor. I felt drawn to him, in the same way that I’d felt drawn to few others in the past. Selected others.

Yet his question terrified me. It was the kind of thing I’d discussed with Barbara, my therapist, for months on end. What was I going to do if I was triggered? What were my triggers, and why? And here I was, standing in front of a boy whose body I know my body wanted to touch. And yet the danger of it all. It made my skin crawl. It made me want to hide, to lock myself in the basement cupboard and never see the light of day.

I told him to wait. I went looking for my sister, Abbie. I needed to ask her: what did she think? Was it safe? Was I safe? Could I ever be propositioned again without feeling like the world was going to end, feeling like I had a fortress to defend, to draw up the bridges, prepare the flint to light the cannons and summon the armies? It had taken me 9 months of speaking to Barbara, and yet I felt no closer to returning to normal. Normal was a comfortable, innocent, fractured baseline I could never return to. My old normal no longer existed. She was the shell of my former innocent self. The self that had never known the true state of the world, the true cruelty that a man could put a woman through, the truth of what it meant to be on the wrong side of a gun, the one who the gun was pointing at, the one who had to obey or do whatever it took in order to survive.

That was when a new angel came to me. Her name was Logic. Logic knew, Logic was sure, things were alright, or at least they would be. Logic knew that this boy, with the ginger curls and a wicked smile, would take me home, would hold me close, would let me live. He was a friend of Harry, who was Andrea’s brother, who was my sister’s friend, anyway. If something bad happened, word would get back. There would be some kind of accountability, surely. They would know where he lived, where he had taken me. I would see the sun rise and set again.

“Don’t get with him, Tash,” Abbie said, “It’ll be so embarrassing for me if you get with one of Harry’s friends.” It was her honest answer. She didn’t want the repercussions of me getting with Andrea’s younger brother’s friend, for herself. But the boy with ginger curls was a couple years older than Harry anyway. He was 25, only two years younger than me. Her answer barely scratched the surface of the somersaults playing out in my mind. Her answer told me. The danger I perceived was only imagined. And that Anya is thinking about herself.

I found him by the sofa, talking to one of his friends. I prodded him on the shoulder, shouted over the music blaring in the other room. I spoke in his ear,

“Okay,” I said, “But I’m not alright. I need to take things really slow. I’m kind of fucked up. I had some really fucked up shit happen to me this year.”

“I get you,” he said, leaning in closer, “I’m fucked up too. We’re both fucked up.”

I headed towards the threshold of the bedsit. He followed. Outside into the 5:30am  chirping of birds and the short houses of the Newcastle street. We were in The North, a foreign place to me. His home.

We walked. We were friendly. We chatted, and joked, just as we had in the back garden. And I felt okay. I felt grateful, in fact, for all that I had achieved those 9 months ago, at the top of that mountain in Mexico. That attempt on my life, on my body. And yet somehow, miraculously, I had survived it without even being touched. Paying $500MXN pesos, some $25USD. To keep myself intact. I had come so close to being broken. Yet somehow, I had stood up in the face of so much danger. Shown courage. Come away without his hand on me. It was more than a miracle. It freed me now.

I spent that night with Will in Newcastle. I woke up naked with him, hungover, my eyes stuck together with last night’s contact lenses, but happy. I spent the first day of this New Year exploring his body, taking in his compliments, feeling cherished. Letting myself be cherished. And when I thought back to the outcome of that incident on the mountain, I felt so lucky. So unbelievable lucky.

It took me a day to process what had happened to me, what had changed. When Will had asked me to come back with him, that was the trigger. The only trigger. It was the proposition of sex. The possibility of it. The asking that had come with so much danger in the past. But because I’d gotten away without a hand on me, in the face of the gun, I still had the joy of sex waiting for me on the other side. Unscarred, untouched, ever sacred. The beauty of two beings holding each other, as the sun rose higher through the light of morning into day.

New Year's Eve

I wrote this piece on Day 1 of Ann Randolph's "UnMute" writing course. Trigger warning - sexual assault is discussed.

“I’d love to take you home with me tonight,” he said, his ginger curls peeking out from below his flat cap.

I froze. It had been a harmless, beautiful question in a way. We’d spent a good part of the night chatting in the back garden, as he struck his extra-long matches for friends and strangers who wanted to light their cigarettes. He’d been cheeky. We’d shared a quick kiss on the dance floor. I felt drawn to him, in the same way that I’d felt drawn to few others in the past. Selected others.

Yet his question terrified me. It was the kind of thing I’d discussed with Barbara, my therapist, for months on end. What was I going to do if I was triggered? What were my triggers, and why? And here I was, standing in front of a boy whose body I know my body wanted to touch. And yet the danger of it all. It made my skin crawl. It made me want to hide, to lock myself in the basement cupboard and never see the light of day.

I told him to wait. I went looking for my sister, Abbie. I needed to ask her: what did she think? Was it safe? Was I safe? Could I ever be propositioned again without feeling like the world was going to end, feeling like I had a fortress to defend, to draw up the bridges, prepare the flint to light the cannons and summon the armies? It had taken me 9 months of speaking to Barbara, and yet I felt no closer to returning to normal. Normal was a comfortable, innocent, fractured baseline I could never return to. My old normal no longer existed. She was the shell of my former innocent self. The self that had never known the true state of the world, the true cruelty that a man could put a woman through, the truth of what it meant to be on the wrong side of a gun, the one who the gun was pointing at, the one who had to obey or do whatever it took in order to survive.

That was when a new angel came to me. Her name was Logic. Logic knew, Logic was sure, things were alright, or at least they would be. Logic knew that this boy, with the ginger curls and a wicked smile, would take me home, would hold me close, would let me live. He was a friend of Harry, who was Andrea’s brother, who was my sister’s friend, anyway. If something bad happened, word would get back. There would be some kind of accountability, surely. They would know where he lived, where he had taken me. I would see the sun rise and set again.

“Don’t get with him, Tash,” Abbie said, “It’ll be so embarrassing for me if you get with one of Harry’s friends.” It was her honest answer. She didn’t want the repercussions of me getting with Andrea’s younger brother’s friend, for herself. But the boy with ginger curls was a couple years older than Harry anyway. He was 25, only two years younger than me. Her answer barely scratched the surface of the somersaults playing out in my mind. Her answer told me. The danger I perceived was only imagined. And that Anya is thinking about herself.

I found him by the sofa, talking to one of his friends. I prodded him on the shoulder, shouted over the music blaring in the other room. I spoke in his ear,

“Okay,” I said, “But I’m not alright. I need to take things really slow. I’m kind of fucked up. I had some really fucked up shit happen to me this year.”

“I get you,” he said, leaning in closer, “I’m fucked up too. We’re both fucked up.”

I headed towards the threshold of the bedsit. He followed. Outside into the 5:30am  chirping of birds and the short houses of the Newcastle street. We were in The North, a foreign place to me. His home.

We walked. We were friendly. We chatted, and joked, just as we had in the back garden. And I felt okay. I felt grateful, in fact, for all that I had achieved those 9 months ago, at the top of that mountain in Mexico. That attempt on my life, on my body. And yet somehow, miraculously, I had survived it without even being touched. Paying $500MXN pesos, some $25USD. To keep myself intact. I had come so close to being broken. Yet somehow, I had stood up in the face of so much danger. Shown courage. Come away without his hand on me. It was more than a miracle. It freed me now.

I spent that night with Will in Newcastle. I woke up naked with him, hungover, my eyes stuck together with last night’s contact lenses, but happy. I spent the first day of this New Year exploring his body, taking in his compliments, feeling cherished. Letting myself be cherished. And when I thought back to the outcome of that incident on the mountain, I felt so lucky. So unbelievable lucky.

It took me a day to process what had happened to me, what had changed. When Will had asked me to come back with him, that was the trigger. The only trigger. It was the proposition of sex. The possibility of it. The asking that had come with so much danger in the past. But because I’d gotten away without a hand on me, in the face of the gun, I still had the joy of sex waiting for me on the other side. Unscarred, untouched, ever sacred. The beauty of two beings holding each other, as the sun rose higher through the light of morning into day.

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