OUR CELLS
by McKenzie Fletcher  People want me to talk about it. They say it will help. But I am more focused on the way the chair feels hard and cold under me, so the memories and feelings don’t touch my brain. The feelings I was holding at bay seemed like they were going to hit me like a wave, take me over and drown me. I didn’t know if I could bear it, so I didn’t. I sat in the chair and focused on it. Not on that night. Not on that boy. Not on the way I remember being scared and in pain. Not on the way his hands felt as they held my arms down. Not on the way I wished I had never gone. On the chair.

            “What happened?” my friend asked. She sounded like a therapist.

            I knew I would cry if I said something. If I said the words. So, I didn’t. If I started crying, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop. I was afraid of being sad. I was afraid of the loss that I might feel.
            I shook my head and looked down.

            “It’s okay. I’m not going to judge you,” she tried to smile at me.

            I didn’t care about being judged. I mean I did, but I didn’t. I wanted a reputation at this school, but at this point it seemed to be the least of my concerns. Or maybe it wasn’t. Was he going to tell people? Were they going to judge me if they only heard his side? He probably wouldn’t say anything because he sounds bad either way. Or maybe he would twist the situation so much and brag about it. But if he did that, would it even matter? Whoever gave him a high five and pat on the back for his story is someone I didn’t care to be around.

            Some girls I met at school invited me to a party that they got invited to by boys they had met on Tinder. I agreed simply because I wanted more friends. I didn’t have any here, and I felt lonely. I thought meeting people would help. Make me feel like I belonged somewhere.

            I only drank twice, and only with my best friend at the time who I trusted. Drinking with people you didn’t trust was a risky game to play. Boys take advantage of girls, and boys love it even more when the girls are drunk. My older sister warned against it, but in a way that my parents didn’t. In a way that said, “if you drink, be smart. Never leave your drink anywhere and never take a drink from somebody you don’t trust.” My parents warned in a way that said, “Don’t drink. You’ll end up like me; an alcoholic.” My dad would never admit that he struggled with alcoholism but they both said it was somewhere stuck in my genetics. It had found its way into my genetic code and wouldn’t leave. A sip of alcohol would stick me in the very same position my parents were when I hated them.

            I blame them for the first time I got drunk. And not because of that predisposition to addiction because of my genetics crap. Because I had to prove to myself that I would never end up like them. I feared drinking, for a good reason. I watched it ruin two people who ruined me because of it.

            I was nine. The tragedy of my mom’s little sister committing suicide was the beginning of the seemingly endless years of trauma to come. We were driving home from my birthday party in our dark blue minivan back to our middle-class home in the middle of the city. It didn’t seem like we lived a small life until we were on the opposite side of the city with all the big, expensive houses with pools and eight bedrooms and fancy cars parked in the driveways. I stared out the window through the fingerprints and sticky goop that never got cleaned up. I shoved my fingers as deep into my ears as possible so that I wouldn’t hear the explicit names yelled between my parents. Those words aren’t something a nine year old should hear, much less hear because her parents are calling each other every name in the book. It made no sense to me, but this is how they dealt with trauma. They didn’t cry together. They yelled at each other like it was the other’s fault. Somehow it was always the other’s fault. Even when it wasn’t.

            Since that dark night, I never felt the same about my birthday. Or about my family. Or about marriage. Or about people. That day marked everything falling apart. My mom chose alcohol to cope with it. It got so bad that she almost drank herself to death.

            When she recovered, she told me that if I ever tasted alcohol, I’d likely end up like her. At first, I reacted like I should have. I despised alcohol. She had just gotten back from three months of rehab and left me with the man who wrapped his hands around my neck and choked me up against the wall when he was mad. I blamed the alcohol. The genetics that somehow held alcoholism in them. The family history that I had no choice to be in. I felt like I was dropped in the middle of a nightmare that I wasn’t supposed to be in. I didn’t know what I did to deserve this. Why did these things keep happening around my birthday? I felt like I should’ve never been born. The worst things that have ever happened to me happened only a couple of weeks before my birthday. I never knew that one of the worst would actually happen on my birthday.

            I followed the girls into Tinder Boy’s apartment. It was dark, and the music was loud. I got a weird feeling, but I shook it off as nerves. I was met by a hug and a beer being stuck in my hand from Tinder Boy.

            “Kenzie, come here,” one girl said, patting the fuzzy brown couch she was sitting on.
I sat next to her and she leaned in to whisper.
            “He’s checking you out,” she beckoned toward Tinder Boy.
We had been there for one minute.
            “I don’t think so,” I said, trying to make her not worry that her best friend’s “man” was going after me.

             As the night went on, my friends got more drunk and Tinder Boy got more touchy. People say and do things they don’t mean when they’re drunk, so I brushed off his nice compliments and sweet nothings and moved on.

            The girls left the living room to go to get more drinks, and Tinder Boy sat next to me on the couch with some drink in his hand. His bloodshot eyes sparkled and he started whispering compliments into my ear. I tried to show him that I wasn’t into him. I didn’t respect boys like this because they reminded me of my dad.

            The rest of the night was blurry. I found myself in Tinder Boy’s bathroom. One of the girls I went with was sitting on the side of the bathtub with her beer. She was trying to tell me some deep sob story about her life, but I wasn’t paying attention.

            “Ya know?” she said.
Her voice was quivering. I knew that meant she was crying.

            I nodded.

            I met her a few weeks ago and now we were sitting in a random boy’s bathroom together. I was slouched against the closed door. She pulled me in so she could cry and throw up with someone.            Tinder Boy messaged me on Instagram a few days after the blurry night of people throwing up at a kick back. He wanted to hang out. The feeling wasn’t mutual. I was embarrassed of my first impression, though and decided why not clear it up, so he knows that I am not that girl. I wasn’t like the girls I was with that night. I wasn’t the girl who goes to random parties at random boy’s houses with random drunk friends. If I made a better impression, seeing him at school wouldn’t be as awkward. I knew it would be weird. But how else was I supposed to give him the true impression of me that I deserved? First impressions can’t be that important, right? I hope they aren’t. Your first impression of someone tells you nothing about their story, which is really what people are. Maybe it did, and I just didn’t want to think so. Regardless, I was going to meet Tinder Boy. He asked me out on a date, but I declined. I said I would talk but not go on a date. We could meet up sometime at school and have a conversation. Not a date. I wore leggings and an oversized flannel to make sure he didn’t get the impression that I was trying to impress him. He said he would text me and let me know where to meet him. It was probably against my best judgement to go meet Tinder Boy somewhere at our school late in the evening. A lot of things in this situation were against my best judgement, but I didn’t care. My reputation proved more important than my safety in this situation. Saying this out loud sounds so stupid.

I pulled the door open and sober Tinder Boy was sitting in the driver’s seat, smiling.

“You look beautiful,” he said.

I smiled.

Compliments from sober boys are better than drunk boys, but compliments are always a warning.
I hate that compliments are a warning about a boy who just wants to sleep with you. That’s the thing about being a pretty face. Boys are proud to “get you.” I hated being called a pretty face. Of course, being called beautiful was flattering, but I liked when I was called smart or funny or strong. I liked being told that I had a good personality, or I had a good heart. Because that was something I could control. I couldn’t control the way my genes lined up to create something outwardly attractive to men. I liked being complimented on the things I worked hard for. The things that I earned. The titles I gave myself. Not just on the pretty face that my parents gave me.

Tinder Boy and I talked for three hours that night. His story was a lot like mine. Enough like it I had to wonder if he was making it up once he finished after I told him my story. My story of my mom’s alcoholism and my dad’s domestic violence and my screwed-up high school ex-boyfriend who told me I was going to kill myself without him and my extended family members who committed suicide. His abusive alcoholic dad left him. One of his aunts committed suicide. I felt like we got each other. And that’s what got me. He got me by his story. That’s what I thought I liked about people. When they were vulnerable and told you what made them who they are. We are all a product of what has happened to us. What other people did to us made us. In a warped kind of way, we are all a product of our past, our story and what happened to us. The good thing is that we might not have control over what people will do to us or who hurts us, but we get to choose to make something out of it. So, I chose.

After our three-hour long conversation and a few dates, it was my birthday. The day I despised. There were too many bad memories; it would take a lot of good ones to make up for it. I had plans with my family during the day and plans with Tinder Boy that night. He wanted to go to the club with one of his roommates and his roommate’s girlfriend. I’ve never got to a club before but trusted the promises that slipped out of Tinder Boy’s mouth that it would be fun. I met him at his apartment, and we stopped at the liquor store where his twenty-one-year-old roommate grabbed alcohol. He came back to the car with a bag full of drinks that promised a good night. I was handed one. I told them I was a lightweight and that was the reason I didn’t want to drink. I didn’t want to just say “no” because I had turned down weed all night and they continued to beg me to take a hit. One “no” wasn’t enough.

I was handed a different drink, the can looked like a red bull. They promised there wasn’t a lot of alcohol in it. They said it wasn’t even considered drinking. You can taste alcohol and I couldn’t taste any in whatever this was.

“Finish it before we go in, babe,” Tinder Boy said to me, rubbing my leg. “We are going to have a good time tonight.”

I smiled and finished the can.

“You’re so hot,” he whispered.

It should have been a red flag that he complimented me the most when I was doing the things he told me to. But it wasn’t. because he got me with his story. His past. How we related over our pasts. The way he said he was determined to get married and be a better dad than his was. Why would that have been a line? Loving Jesus and wanting to get married is the most messed up pick up line I’ve ever heard.            After dancing in the club for what felt like a while, I realized something was wrong with the way I felt. I felt like I couldn’t see straight, my feet weren’t under me and I was dizzy. I looked at Tinder Boy’s roommate’s girlfriend with a concerned face and she asked if I was okay.   “I need fresh air,” I yelled over the music that was so loud it made my ears throb.

“Okay let’s go!” she yelled back.

She grabbed my hand and led me up some stairs that were too hard to climb and onto the roof. There were people standing at the railing looking over the city, some sitting on the couches and others dancing. It was peaceful.

I walked to the railing and held on. I felt nauseous now. I was confused. I didn’t know why I felt like this. I thought maybe it was the loud music and people or maybe the fact that they were smoking weed the entire time we were on our way to the club and maybe I got high from their hot boxing. Suddenly it hit me, the drink Tinder Boy handed me in the car had something in it.My head was spinning as we left the club and walked through the cold to get to the car. It was refreshing. The number of sweaty hot bodies dancing around us all night made me feel sticky and needing the brisk air.

“Are you sleeping over, babe?” Tinder Boy asked me.
“I am too… too…” my words were stuck in my brain, and I felt like they couldn’t reach my mouth. “Too drunk to drive home.”   

The word drunk slipped out of my mouth because I was sure blaming it on that was better than saying I was too out of it because of what he gave me.

He smirked.

I smiled back.

I thought that look was because he thought my inability to get simple words out of my mouth was funny. But it wasn’t.

I stumbled into his apartment and took my shoes and coat off. Everything in me just wanted to lay down and sleep. I was still feeling loopy but more together than a little while earlier. The blurriness wasn’t gone, but I was more aware of my surroundings than I had been when I was in the club. My feet were killing me from the heels I was wearing. I sat on the end of Tinder Boy’s bed, waiting for him to come into the room.

“Are you trying to sleep in jeans?” he asked me.
“No,” I laughed.
“Here,” he tossed me some shorts and I changed into them.
“Go ahead and lay down, baby, I’ll be back in a minute.”

I laid down and pulled the blankets up to my chin. I sank into the bed and closed my eyes. I didn’t care whether he slept in the same bed as me or not, which was something I would have normally cared about. I was too out of it to think rationally. I held myself to high standards because I respected myself. I was too tired to even peel my eyes open as I felt him slide into bed next to me.
            “What happened?” my friend asked again.

I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to think about what happened to me that night. The chair was still cold and still hard. My focus on the chair faded as the feelings came streaming in. I scratched my arms as I remembered the feeling of his hands holding my forearms against the bed. I remember how violated I felt as my shorts were ripped off of my body.

“He…” the word was too hard to say out loud.            “No,” I said pushing him off of me, “I’m not like that.”
“I’ll go slow,” he whispered, “You know you want it.”
“Stop,” I said.

The blurriness was back, but not because of the alcohol. I felt a tear leave my eye and stream down my face. I couldn’t breathe. I was hyperventilating.

He got my pants down and then held my arms down as he violated my body.

“No. Stop,” I tried to push him off, but I couldn’t.
I had a lump in my throat.
“You’re so hot,” he said.
“Ow,” I whispered, “You’re hurting me.”
“It’s okay, this is good. I really like you,” Tinder Boy said.

He was just spitting out every line that he had ever come across to get a girl to sleep with him. I remembered telling him I had never slept with anyone when he asked how many people I had been with. I remembered how he told me he respected that. I remembered how he said he messed up in the past but was different.

But now here I was, in random Tinder Boy’s apartment, in his bed, losing something I knew I could never get back.

“I really really like you,” he whispered in my ear.

This wasn’t me. It wasn’t but I couldn’t stop it. He was too strong, and I was too out of it to scream. And what would happen if I did? I was in his apartment with his roommates that I didn’t trust to do anything. You’re always told to scream and bite and kick if you’re getting raped. But that was only when it was the random creepy old man who was hiding in the bushes. Not the boy who was almost your boyfriend. Because those people didn’t rape people.

The tears were still in my eyes, the lump was still in my throat and I could feel my face burning from anger. But I gave up. I knew fighting him would get me nowhere. I already tried, and it didn’t work. He wasn’t moving, and I was too weak to shove him off of me.            I went into the bathroom and switched my light on, forcing me to squint. I couldn’t sleep. I looked in the mirror and saw the dark circles under my eyes and my puffy cheeks from crying. I pulled my sweatshirt off and climbed into the shower. As the hot water hit my body, I prayed and cried.

I didn’t know how much of this was my fault. Tinder Boy called to tell me that it was a drunken mistake. That we both were to blame for this. Were we? Was I? Did the fact that I was intoxicated make this somehow my responsibility as well? I sure hoped not. Tinder Boy said I asked for it. I know that I said no. I said no so many times. But I was drunk and drunk me wasn’t as credible as sober me. At least in the court of law.            “He raped me,” I said. The words were harder and colder than the chair.

As the words fell out of my mouth, the fear of judgement hit me. I couldn’t bear being told that this was in some way my fault. After all, I went over. I took the drink. I got into the bed. I changed my pants. I was wearing that shirt. I didn’t report it. I didn’t scream. I didn’t leave. I saw him again after it happened. The shame that was being cast upon me because of my decisions had led up to this moment that was so judgmental and raw. But before this happened to me, I would have said the same thing. I would’ve gone through the if you hadn’t’s and the but you shouldn’t’s the same way they were going over with me. Until it happens to you, you can’t understand the mind of a girl who gets raped by her almost-boyfriend on her birthday.

I didn’t know how to feel about any of this. My mind spun wondering how this could have happened to me. How all of this could have happened to me, but especially this. Throughout my entire life, I’ve never had control over what happened to me. What people did to me. How people hurt me. I never imagined that someone could take this from me too. Take something that was mine that I could never get back. Take something that I had kept and was supposed to have control over. I wanted to have control over myself, because I never had control over my life. And something this cruel world taught me through Tinder Boy was that I never had full control over anything.

It didn’t matter if you didn’t deserve it. You aren’t any different from the girl who lives across the street and lived the perfect life with the perfect family and the perfect grades who met the perfect boy and fell in love and got married. She didn’t deserve that life any more than you did. She just got it and you didn’t.

There’s not much of a difference. In a sense, we are all the same. You and your eyeballs and brains and feminism and gender and race and theories. Me and my knee-caps and ideas and fears and religion and writings. We were all cells, and what makes the difference is where our cells end up. We can’t control the crap our cells are born into. We can’t change the what our cells have to go through in this life. And even more so, we can’t understand this crap. It’s a lot to comprehend. Too much for the human mind. Too much for our wildest dreams. Too much for logic or our fears. We can come up with theories on why. But we can never know why. About the Author:My name is McKenzie Fletcher. I am a nineteen-year-old junior in college, studying Psychology. My goal is to earn my Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling and be a published writer. I have loved writing since I was young, and I have always dreamed of my writing being read. I believe that part of my purpose in this world is to write and share the stories of my life to in some way impact and inspire people. 

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