My sister and I call them “grey areas.” The whispered talks we have when it is all fresh, and then, later, a summary, a condensation into two words.
“Back in February. You know, right after the grey area.”
Back in February, I said to my sister:
“I’m gonna ghost him. He entered me, you know, back there, without asking.
What an asshole.”
My sister laughed at this. At my tone.
The greyness would come later, like a slow rising of bile. Then we would have a different talk.
“I didn’t say anything in the moment. I didn’t see it coming. I knew him for, what, a year. Well, I didn’t really know him. We Snapchatted. God. He’s never done anything like this before.”
In the moment, I was shocked. Months later, in the kind of casual conversation that college feminists have, a girl mentions the four Fs of danger responses.
“Okay, there’s flight, fight, freeze. What’s the fourth one?”
I nod. I know exactly what she means.
Odd to feel ashamed of what someone else did to you. Odd to admit that, technically, you consented.
My therapist asks, “Do you think he was being malicious?”
I shake my head.
She says, “From the way I’m hearing it, it seems that there was a misunderstanding. And he was selfish, obviously. He was just thinking of himself.”
I tell her about the shame.
She asks me, “Why do you think you didn’t say anything at the time?”
I pause to think. I go back to that dark room where I am bent, almost as if in supplication.
“I wanted to please him,” I say. “I guess a part of me didn’t want to ruin the moment.”
“Is it bad to want to please someone?”
I pause again.
Back in first year, I wanted to please a man.
I said, “That hurts.”
He said, “Shut up.”
It was not fear I felt at these words. The sex continued.
The fear came later.
The next day on campus, I flinched at the sight of a red coat like his in my periphery. I sent him a long text, then I blocked his number.
Another grey area, this time with a boyfriend, a man I’d known for four years. It was after a fight I didn’t know we were having.
He had been drinking steadily throughout the evening. He asked if I wanted to try ropes.
Months later I write:
“I said yes to the ropes
And then I said nothing.
And afterwards he said
That I made him feel like a monster
With my silence.”
Watching a TV show, I have a flash of recognition. A girl walks around her boyfriend’s apartment for the first time.
She says, “This place is just, um, I don’t know. It’s depressing.”
Silently, he watches her talk, watches her appraise him unfavourably.
Then he says, “Get on all fours.”
Ciku Gitonga is a fourth-year creative-writing minor who has been using her latest writing class to work through some sexual trauma.
Published in Volume 77, Number 13 of The Uniter (January 5, 2023)