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!”
Soon after the doctor left, I am discharged. Outside of the hospital Lana is doting all over me, trying to get me back to her car. Even after the day I have just had, she is still determined not to hide our connection. She is kissing my head and stroking my arms. It would be impossible for those around us not to see that we are together.
“It’s okay,” she says. “I will take care of you until you are healed. You can stay with me a while. You don’t have to go home. You can move in with me.” She looks up at me beaming. I can tell how excited she is about the step she is taking by asking me to live with her. I am just not in that happy state of mind right now. She has no idea what it has been like for me. Now is not the time to discuss relationship steps. I am angry, and upset about what happened to me and that she thinks this is the right time to talk about this. I cannot do this anymore. I cannot stand to be around anyone. I do not want to be around her right now. I just want to be alone.
“Lana,” I begin trying to keep my emotions out of what I am about to say. She does not deserve the anger I feel. Not really. I know that, but I feel it any way. I need to be as gentle with her as I can while explaining that this is no longer right. “I can’t come live with you right now. I need to go home. I am taking a few days off to recuperate, and you have own life to live. Without me. Go on. I can take care of myself.”
The disappointment in Lana’s eyes is immediate, but my eyes must also be sending a secret message because she doesn’t question me. Giving in she asks, “How will you get home?”
“I am only a few blocks from here. My legs are fine, and it is still daylight out. The streets are busy with people. I will be safe.” I walk closer to Lana. I lean in and give her a light kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for being here.” And I walk away.
I know in that moment, it will be the last time I see her, but I cannot deal with that thought right now. Without her, I will be completely alone. I have no family since I moved from my home town in North Carolina to the Big City last year. I know if I called my Mom she would come stay with me for a few days, but I need to be alone now. I think to myself, maybe I deserve what happened to me. My way of life are the reason I am alone, and maybe they are the reason I was targeted for my attack.
As I walk towards my apartment my attention is focused on the thoughts in my head. I am not paying attention to my surroundings. Although there are lots of people around me, I finally feel alone. No one pays mind to another in this city. The way I like it best especially as a gay woman. I am especially grateful for this today. I am not feeling very chatty.
Just as I pass the coffee shop door, a woman walks through it causing us to bump right into each other. “Umpff,” I say as I try to catch my breath from the impact.
“Oh my goodness! I am so sorry!” the other girl says. “I was not watching where I was going. Please let me help…” she looks up at me, “…you. Wow, you are beautiful. Oh, sorry if that was forward, but you are.” She must be crazy if she thinks I am beautiful. I can only imagine how ragged I must look after just leaving the hospital despite the nurses and Lana trying to help me clean up.
I look up at her and look into her eyes. Before I can speak, she begins again. “Wait! Are you okay? I know we don’t know each other, but something is definitely wrong. My name is Jane. It looks like you need this more than me.” Handing me her coffee, I hesitate to take it from her.
A little taken aback, I say to Jane, “I am not exactly in a place for company right now. I am just on my way home. Thanks for the coffee.” I begin walking toward my apartment again, but I am quickly joined by Jane. “What are you doing? I told you I wasn’t up for company.”
“Don’t think of me as company. You look like you could use a friend today. We don’t have to talk about it, but just let me walk with you,” Jane says while keeping pace with me. “I am pretty stubborn. I won’t take no for an answer.”
I look up at her and despite everything, I smile. It turns out she was right. I cannot be alone right now, but I could not be near Lana anymore. After I sent her away, I just did not have anyone else to turn to. “Thank you.”
We walked together towards my apartment, but once we got there, I could not force myself to go in. “Would you mind if we kept walking?” I ask Jane. “I do not want to stop yet.”
“Of course. I will walk as long as you like, Eeyore,” she responds. I stare at her. “I’m sorry,” she says touching my cheek gently. Rubbing her thumb over the bandage causing me to flinch a little. “I just met you and I don’t know your name, but I already feel connected to you. I can tell that whatever happened to you was catastrophically bad. I can see the bandages, and I know the light in your eyes has dimmed. I was trying to cheer you up by downplaying the obvious. I do that when I am nervous. I like you, and I want to make the pain go away. I just thought if I call you after a book character who has the characteristics of being sad, but is most definitely not alone or any less loved, I may be able to make you forget for just a moment what it is that is bothering you. And maybe even make you smile.”
When she was done, we begin to walk again. I notice that the dreary, cloudy day had begun to clear and the sun was starting to peek out from behind the clouds. Having Jane near me had somehow made the day better on the outside, as well as, inside of me. Finally feeling like I could talk about what happened, I opened my mouth and said to her, “I was attacked and raped.”
Jane said nothing. Honestly there is nothing anyone can say to make it better, but once again she surprised me. With a silence that was warming me, she reached out, grabbed my hand and squeezed. She didn’t let go for the rest of the walk. We walked all day.
The doctor was right that day in the hospital. There were no repercussions to my attack. It has been three weeks, and I haven’t even seen or heard from another officer since that day. I have been coping. I went back to work this week, which, according to my therapist, is a huge step in my recovery. The day that it happened, I pushed Lana away. I believed that I needed to get through this on my own, but by happenstance I ran into Jane. Somehow, she has become important in my life. She could not bear to let me go through this alone.
We may have never met before that day, but she understands me like no one has before. She suggested that I see a therapist when I was unable to leave my house for three days after the incident. Now I am on a path to being able to deal with the pain. I eventually did call my family, and although they wanted to come stay, I insisted they stay away. They agreed, but only after my Mom insisted on giving me some of MomMom Anna’s inheritance after she passed away last year. She told me, “Pain is stress enough without having to worry about surviving. Besides, you know your MomMom’s story. We have plenty of money to help.” Of course she was right, about all of it.
The physical pain has long since healed, and somehow having Jane in my life has made it easier to cope with the emotional stressors. She has been unbelievably patient with my triggers. She has stayed with me since the day we met. She told me after a while that she was only treating me the way she would hope someone would treat her in the same predicament. “Doesn’t hurt that I like you so much,” she also tells me.
“Hey,” she calls to me as I walk in the front door of my apartment, “how was work today?”
She has asked me that every day this week since going back to work. “Boring and mundane. Just the way I like it,” I respond. “I have had enough excitement for a lifetime.”
“Oh Eeyore,” she says as she walks over to greet me. “Don’t talk like that. I expect to have a long life of excitement with you. Maybe starting with tonight?” Winking at me.
I blush with both embarrassment and shame. “I’m sorry Jane. You have been so patient with me.”
“I’ve tried to tell you how you make me feel. Now I want to show you how I feel. You are missing my best features,” she says with a sly smile. “I’m sorry. I am not trying to pressure you,” she continues after a few moments of silence from me. “It probably doesn’t matter anyway. I am starting to feel my bubbly attitude fade, and I am a little sore. I will probably be menstruating before bedtime. Here I am rambling again. It is one of my more annoying qualities. I just…I’m trying to say…Abby, I love you.” The silence stretches for what seems like days.
“I can’t believe I just said that. After everything you have been through. Love may be hard to grasp right now. Let’s just forget about what I said. We can take this as slow as you need. I really care for you. The words just came out. You know I talk too much.”
“Jane,” I interrupt before she can continue to ramble, “I think I might be pregnant.”
Here I am again, sitting wearing one of these scratchy, paper gowns in a florescent room that smells like disinfectant. It brings back so many unpleasant memories. Jane isn’t here. I wanted to do this on my own. I am not sure how I feel about being pregnant by a man who forced himself on me. I must make sure I really am pregnant before I can decide my feelings. Jane cannot be a part of that. She is trying to be respectful and give me my space, but I am not sure what to do next. If I push too hard, I will lose her. If I am pregnant, is it too much to ask her to stay?
I did not say it back, but I do love her. At least I could have before discovering about the pregnancy. Despite how hard it would be to overcome having a child on my own from a horrifying tragic event, I already know that I am going to have this child. No matter what, this imaginary idea is already a part of me. I guess I have already made peace with this pregnancy even before the doctor comes in. Now to decide how or if Jane fits in.
“Miss Donaldson,” the doctor says walking into the room, “I have the results of your test. Congratulations. You’re pregnant.”
Now that I am home, I am not sure what to do. The quiet of my apartment is giving me too much time to dwell on my predicament. I find myself longing for Jane. I have gotten used to her and how she rambles on to fill the silences. She is so cute. She’s kind and lovable. I do not think I could have made it through these past few weeks without her. I barely know her and she has become permanently imprinted on my life.
I have to go see her. I have to tell her how I feel. I want to tell her I can’t do this without her. I want her to be a part of my life and the life of this unborn child. I grab my stuff and rush to the door. I turn the knob running out the door, and I run smack into Jane.
The memory of the first time we met comes flooding back, and the irony is not lost on me. I look up to her and smile. For the first time in a long while, I am happy. I grab Jane and pull her to me before she has a chance to speak. I want to show her what I am feeling, the same way she tried to show me just a few days before. After the best kiss of my life, I pull back just far enough to see Jane.
“I don’t want to spend another moment of my life without you. The doctor confirmed, I am pregnant, but what you don’t know yet is my decision. I am going to keep the child. I want you to be a part of this with me, but if you can’t, I understand. It is a lot to ask of anyone else. I just want the last moment we share to be one of pure love because Jane, I love you too.”
Jane looks up at me and for the longest moment in my life, I waited. I waited for the woman who has never been afraid to speak to say anything. She would either make me the happiest woman in the world or one more obstacle to overcome. I knew that I could get over her if I wanted to. She has made me stronger and I would survive without her, but I hope I wouldn’t have to.
Finally, Jane looks up at me and says, “Oh thank God.” And with that she kisses me again. Slowly we move into my apartment. Tonight, we will start our life together. All three of us.