Tragic Happiness 1: The Tragedy

New York City, New York: 1975 

It is such a cliché, but life doesn’t always go as planned. You may get what you want, but not always the way that you expect it. As I sit here, I am not sure how something so destructive could ever turn good, but I have always been annoyingly positive despite my socially unaccepted life choices, and I know part of the optimism comes from my family history in dealing with hardships. 

As I lay in the florescent room, I notice how the harsh light reflecting through my wet stained eyes is making the brightness hard to withstand. I cover my eyes with my arm hoping to block the light, while also hoping to stop the steady stream of tears running down my face. When my arm touches my face, I flinch realizing at that moment I will be bruised in the morning. The darkness provided by my arm only proves protection for a moment. Without the light, my other senses take over. Now I feel cold from the draft provided by the scratchy paper gown they gave me when I was brought in. I can smell the disinfectant that had been used to clean up the same room from its previous occupant. All the data from the other senses are proving to be too much for me to handle. 

A droplet makes it way down my check, passed my jaw, and onto my neck. I take my free hand and swipe at the tear. As my fingertips reach the runaway, the liquid feels not only wet but warm and sticky. I remove my arm from my eyes to look at the spot on my finger, and notice that it is deep red in color.  

With that visual, the memory of the night hits me hard, and suddenly it is like I am there again. I remember the cold sharp steel against my face. He used it to subdue me while he ripped my pants and pulled them below my hips. Once again, just like watching a movie of the moment, that hand returned to hold my wrists above my head. The next thing I feel is him inside of me. The events, that happened only hours before, slowly play in my mind’s eye once again. I see myself fighting to stay strong hoping the moment will quickly be over, but soon I can no longer keep the sobs quiet. This only causes the knife to penetrate on my cheek. 

“Miss Donaldson,” a voice infiltrates my thoughts yanking me back to where I lay on a padded examination table. “The doctor said he was still going to be a few minutes. He told me that I could come in and get a statement from you before the examination. Would you like me to contact your family?” 

I open my mouth to talk to the officer, but was quickly interrupted. “Abby! Abby, where are you?” I hear from right outside the curtain. 

“I’m right here Lana,” I say. Looking back to the officer I say, “No need sir. I called a friend. My family does not live in the city.”  

I hear the thump of Lana’s platform shoes and swish of her bell bottom pants moments before the curtain is pulled back, and Lana rushes to me and pulls me into an embrace. 

“Are you ok, Abby? Are you hurt?” Lana pulls back and looks at me. She notices the cut on my cheek, and I see her wince. “Sweetheart, what happened?” 

“Miss…” the officer interjects questioning who this new woman is and what she has to do with me. 

“White. Miss Lana White.” 

“Miss White,” the officer begins again. “I was just getting ready to find that out from Miss Donaldson here. As your friend, I am sure she is happy for the support.” 

“I’m her girlfriend,” Lana tells the officer. This time it is my turn to wince.  

“Not now Lana,” I say to her. This was not the time or the place to be a loud and proud gay woman. Lana is not shy in her opinion on how we should be treated. We have only been dating a few months, and we are still getting to know each other. Lana is a very active in protesting for the rights of others. While she was in college, she protested against the Vietnam War and racism and marched for the rights to free speech and equal rights for women. Most recently, she was even part of the 1970 liberation march in New York. It was the very first of its kind for gay and lesbian rights. I admire her strong opinions and desire to fight. I am even proud of her most days, but not today. I cannot afford this officer treating me differently. Not now. Not after everything I just went through. It is bad enough that I am a woman, and I am about to state how I have been brutally raped by a man, he does not need to also know that I am gay.  

I look up at the officer and see that it is too late. His features have changed, and I know whatever I say from this point forward will be logged and set aside for a different case. “I see,” he says simply. “Well why don’t you go ahead and tell me what happened before the doctor comes in. I can be out of here in a few moments time.”  

I sigh as I begin to retell him the story knowing honestly that no matter what I tell him, the police department is not going to have him or any other officer looking for the man who did this. Prejudice is an unexplainable emotion. 

… 

Moments after the officer left after taking my statement, the doctor pulled back the curtain. Bracing myself for more judgement I look up, but instead of the male doctor I was expecting, there is a female doctor. “Abby,” she begins, “I understand that you have had a rough night. I thought I would spare you any more ridicule.” She looks at me with a sweet smile, but you can see from the lines on her face, she has fought for everything she is too.  

I can feel myself relax a little. “Thank you,” I say to her. She goes on to explain to me the procedure. She is just going to give me a quick exam simply to verify to the police what we both already know. I was raped. After she is finished, she pulls up a stool beside of Lana and me and takes my free hand. 

“Abby, I feel I need to be brutally honest with you,” she begins, “I want to tell you that you were very brave to come in and to subject yourself to an examination. The exam can only show that you are not a virgin, which given your age, 28, I would suspect there is probably another reason for that. The officer took your statement, but in all honesty, there is no way to know who raped you. Your only hope is if there was a witness around that will come forward. Even then, given your gender and your sexual preference, they are probably not going to go out of their way to find anyone to corroborate your story.” She pauses to give me a moment to collect all the information.  

After a few seconds, she begins again. “My advice, woman to woman, try to move on with your life. Overcome and heal. It was a terrible, awful thing that happened, but you survived to live another day. Now you must stare adversity in the face every day and choose to push forward. Take care of yourself, Abby.” She gets up and starts to walk away. “Please feel free to reach back out to me if you need to.” I try to say something to thank her for her kindness, but I am unable to jolt myself into action. 

“Thank you,” Lana tells her and squeezes my hand. “Thank you so much!” 

To be continued…

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