Friday, November 17, 2017

Here's why I always had to drink my way through the holiday season #tipsdown2017


I was on top of the mountain, ski's pointed straight out in front of me so that the tips hovered out like a ledge over the steep face.  My instructor, Jim, put his hand on my shoulder and said in a deep, booming voice (so deep and booming that I feared it might cause an avalanche), "Okay Champ, chest forward, poles back, tips down, bend your knees and stay away from the trees." I chuckled thinly at his glib rhyme, but remained motionless (or frozen, as it were).  Then, suddenly afraid that he might push me, I closed my eyes and forced myself to lean forward. My skis automatically pointed downhill until the bottoms were flush with the slick, powdery white stuff  All at once the wind was whistling past my ears and my breath steamed up my goggles.  I heard my heart beating in my head as the bracing air whipped across my cheeks like ice cold fingers. The mountain top had become the jumping off point and no matter how scared I was, there was no going back.

That's kind of what Halloween is like for me every year.  It's the jumping off point to the holiday season trifecta: Thanksgiving, Christmas (and the like) and New Year's Eve.  On October 31st, I'm always filled with a vague, panicky feeling, followed by a strong desire to flee and hide until January 2nd.  Because from November 1st on --  it's tips down.

The holidays -- they're baaa-aackkk...

I'm not sure of the best way to convey how I really feel about the holidays.  Some of my friends think that I hate them.  That's not exactly true.  There are many aspects of Thanksgiving and Christmas that I truly love and enjoy.  But I really have an issue with the obligatory parts, the spending money I don't have on people I don't really know and the Paperless Posts holiday party-invites, especially the ones with the hidden guest lists, (Really! How am I supposed to know if I want to go, unless I know who else will be there??).  Once upon a time, those holiday "social obligations" were just good excuses to drink unabashedly.  Now, at age 53 and nine-plus years into my sobriety, a holiday cocktail party invitation feels like some sort of moral imperative, rather than something that I look forward to doing.   So here's where I am - I have a huge life with a man that I love.  I have wonderful, authentic relationships with my family and friends.  I wake up excited for the day ahead and snuggle next to Scottie into bed at night, sleeping soundly until morning.  I love my life.  But every time I am confronted with the holiday season I feel a distinct sense of dis-ease.  This feeling is magnified by the fact that very often at dinners and holiday gatherings, Scottie and I are almost always the only ones in the room not drinking (yeah I know, there's sparkling water and Diet Coke.  But even sparking water and cranberry juice seems kind of "meh" when everybody else's faces are flushed with fragrant, red wine).  So even though I don't want to drink, year after year, I just can't seem to shake the thick feeling of intense discomfort that comes when I'm facing the holiday trifecta. During the rest of the year, I don't even think about whether people are drinking or not.  But in November and December, there are just so many parties, dinners and gatherings clumped into a short period of time -- and drinking is always the main event.  Take the first holiday for instance:

Thanksgiving: 

Thanksgiving is a food-centered, family holiday (based on how the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims to become acclimated to this new place they called "America" (of course, the Pilgrims later made servants out of the Native Americans and stole their land, but that's another story).  But gnarly beginnings aside, Thanksgiving is probably my favorite meal of the year.  I love mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and sweet potato pie.  I love gravy-drenched turkey.  I love the green beans and collard greens. I love, love, love buttered biscuits and Parker House rolls.

But...

 Thanksgiving is also a drinking holiday.  Look at any Thanksgiving ad.  You think that turkey is the star of the show?  Uh-uh, the real spotlight is on the cocktails that are served before, during and after the turkey.  On Thanksgiving, wine is poured and consumed in the kitchen all day and night during the cooking and preparation.  Bourbon and whiskey are cradled lovingly in short glasses (neat or maybe on the rocks).  Bottles and cans of beer are opened with that comforting POP sound and swigged in front of the TV.  The more interesting part (for Scottie and I) comes after the other guests are a few drinks in and people start getting confidential and argumentative.  But as an observer, even the spiciest of family drama gets dull when too many drinks are imbibed and people start getting sleepy or belligerent.  That's when I start checking my watch to see if its time Scottie and  I to say our goodbyes and head for the movies.

Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza:

I'm sure I'm missing a December holiday, but my point is that these holidays all appear to be about family, friends, togetherness, brotherly love (and of course) presents.  And to some extent that is absolutely true.  Hanukkah and Kwanza illustrate and celebrate miracles, journeys and principles.  Christmas is midnight mass, a thoughtfully decorated tree, presents and a beautifully planned dinner.  "Season's Greetings" and "Are you going away for the holidays?" become common salutations in December.  The December holiday season is a collection of festive, warm, colorful, generous days, all strung together like cranberries and popcorn.

Christmas and Hanukah promote family togetherness and goodwill, but for many of us, all of that enforced connectedness can (rather ironically) create feelings of loneliness and inadequacy.  Drinking is the number one, society-prescribed, go-to solution for treating any undesirable feeling (and some desirable ones too)!  But when you're an alcoholic, without warning, this society-approved solution to holiday angst, this invisible liquid barrier and mood enhancer, can quickly become the problem.  And even though there are holi-days when I would be grateful for anything that would help make all of the small talk more bearable, for me, that something isn't booze (anymore).   And yet, during all twelve days of Christmas, I find myself surrounded by well-meaning people who are constantly offering me drinks as a salutation ("Hi! What'll you have?").  And why not?  Every Christmas commercial shows  people with champagne or wine glasses embracing each other and tossing their heads back with laughter.  Budweiser and Jim Beam ads give the viewer permission to do something "nice" for themselves this holiday season (aka drink).  Of course!  You deserve it! (a drink that is).   And here's the subtext to all of that text.  Most people really can't fathom the idea of being around their families for more than a few hours without some liquid courage (i.e., a drink) in their hands.  Yeah, sorry jingle bell-laden, Clydesdale horses, but no — that ice cold BUD is definitely not for me.


New Year's Eve:

Okay, I'm sure even non-alcoholics can admit that this is at the ultimate drinking holiday (and as Frank Sinatra once famously said: "New Year's Eve is for amateurs").  I completely agree.  I've never cared for New Year's Eve, it was the ultimate set-up and let down.  Midnight toast?  Dude!  I started drinking at 4:00pm and always overshot the mark well before midnight.  In fact, midnight was usually a hazy, forehead-smacking-embarrassing memory that hit me the next morning as I peeled my face off of my pillowcase.

But nowadays, everyone "pre-games" on New Year's Eve (for you people my age and up — that's when you get drunk at home BEFORE the party).  So by the time people jump into their Ubers, most of them are already pretty tossed. And by the time we might see them at the dinner party, instead of talking to them,  we're talking to at least 4 gin and tonics and a glass of champagne.

So, no thanks — we'll pass. Scottie and I stay home every New Year's Eve and invite friends over for tamales and sparkling apple cider.  We usually have upwards a couple dozen people who just want to be around other like-minded celebrators and not have to dodge drinks or drunks all night.  It may sound boring to some people (I mean yes, we are always in bed by 12:30.  I know that sounds boring). But I'll be a boring b*tch for an obligation-less NYE party and a hangover-less New Year's Day.

And just so you know, every year, that October 31st "tips down" gets a little easier.  More and more, friends of mine are considerately conscious of making sure to have mock-tails available for us and not making a huge fuss when we politely excuse ourselves after dinner.  That comes with my being better at setting boundaries and making sanity-preserving exit plans ahead of time.  Now we can show up for our wonderful friends who graciously want to include Scottie and I in their respective holiday celebrations, but we can still head home before the all of the other guests get too drunkity-drunk.


Friday, November 3, 2017

You'll never guess why I'm not the "right kind" of Black



“Prospective members must be sponsored by a current member in good standing of the chapter in which they are seeking membership…”

I stop reading and look down at my feet. 

Oh boy, she's asking me to join some kind of club.

I pick up the pamphlet again and stare at the caramel-skinned, sleek haired woman on the cover.  She's wearing a silk, fuchsia top under a grey, power suit with a string of pearls.

“We are an organization of mothers dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by supporting children through...”

Oh  -- and it’s a Black club. 

I try to remember to smile, but Jessica has caught me off guard.  I normally like to be braced for these "right kind of Black" encounters ahead of time.  You see, my parents were Bob Marley singing, no-white-flour using, dashiki and sandal wearing, natural hair having, hippies.  So I really missed out on the stereotypical Black experience while growing up in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  We were poor, but never lived in the hood and money was always scraped together for private school. Back then, I would have describe both of my parents as "agnostically inclined,"so I never even entered a church until I was in my early twenties (and that was for a wedding).  The Black people I grew up around were more about individualism, art and politics than church, community and Sunday dinner. And for that matter, I have just never been a "joiner" (as it were).   So I knew that I was an enigma to someone like Jessica, who seemed to like me a lot, but was confused by how best to categorize me.

“So what do you think?” She says.

Jessica is shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand.  She’s about a foot shorter than me with shiny, straight hair extensions that hit the middle of her back and smooth, cocoa brown skin. 

Yeah, I'm about to disappoint her again…

I had already disappointed Jessica once at the beginning of the school year when I told her I didn't go to church.


Jessica: Really?  (Her voice scales up with thinly veiled indignation) May I ask why?

Me: (thinking) Why don't I go to church?  Isn't that a personal question?  I would never ask you why you go to church!

Me: (Out loud) Actually I never really... (I stop myself mid sentence when I remember that I have the perfect excuse).  I mean to say, that well, my husband is Jewish.

Jessica: Your husband is Jewish!? (she looks at me with a stung expression).  I just assumed he was Black.

Me: (thinking) Okay...

Jessica: You know (she pouts) your boys really don’t look mixed. I would never have known.

Me: (thinking) Sorry.  It wasn’t like I was trying to fool you.

But now apparently she’s gotten over the shock of my Jewish husband and mixed kids, because she wants to sponsor my membership into this very sadiddy-looking Black mom’s club.

“Thanks so much, Jessica,” I say indicating my messy ponytail, jeans and grape jelly stained t-shirt.  “But I don't see myself as the 'club' type.  I mean it looks lovely and I appreciate you thinking of me, but I don't think that I can join something where people look so --  proper and put together."

Plus they would see though me in a minute.  It would be like that scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers when the zombies all point and scream at the imposter.


*  *  *

"Did you hear about Donna?" Karen is whispering to me and Savannah, who is sitting between us.

The three of us are bored with the woman at the podium at our Parent's Association meeting.  I leaned in closer so I can hear the gossip, I have to move Savannah's long, blond hair to one side like a curtain in order to see Karen's face.

"What happened?" I say excitedly.

"They finally asked her step down!"

"Thank God!" shouts Savannah with a fist pump.

"SHHHHHHHHHH!" says the woman in front of us.

The three of us get up and move a few rows back and resume our conversation in whispers.  Never a fan of Donna's, I'm happy to hear that she's no longer in charge and I'm eager to find out why.

"Well, it was getting so that you couldn't even say ANYTHING without her getting offended.  She had that nasty chip on her shoulder when it came to anything racial!  So I think they just had enough.  She was just always so angry!"

Whaaat?

"That's why they asked her to step down?" My voice sounds like it's coming from far away.  I feel like I suddenly have a hot light shining down one me.  A swirl of confusion has started to churn in my stomach.

"It was always just too much with her," says Karen, grimacing as though it pained her to even discuss it.

Wow.

"But you're mixed, right?" Savannah suddenly pivots toward me.   "I mean you're not all Black are you?"

Really?

My smile drops slightly as I steel my insides against whatever is coming next.

"Yes! You're so pretty," says Karen, pressing her face closer to mine and lowering her glasses.   "I'm just looking at your features.  Is one of your parents White?"

She looks around and lowers her voice when she says, "White" as if it's a dirty word.

Are you saying that I can't "just" be Black if I'm pretty?  That I've got to be mixed?  

"I'm just Black," I say loudly, looking them both in the eyes.  "Both of my parents are Black."

Karen's face freezes into a smile.  Underneath her glasses, her eyes are an extraordinary popsicle blue.  Her short red hair is sprayed within an inch of its life, moving all in one piece like a helmut.  I catch a whiff of the minty gum she is chewing.

I can tell I've disappointed her.

She's wondering now, if I have a nasty chip on my shoulder too.  She's confused because she thought I was that right kind of Black.

Savannah is looking around now as though she doesn't want anyone else to hear what's going on.

"It doesn't matter Laura," she stage whispers.  "What are we even talking about!?   I really don't see color, you know?  When I look at you I see a beautiful, obviously intelligent woman, that's all.  I know you understand what I'm saying, right?"

I take a deep breath and force the corners of my mouth to turn up slightly.  I know that Karen and Savannah don't know that it is an insult to a Black person, a PERSON OF COLOR, to say that you don't see color (as it means that you don't see us).  I know that Savannah really believes that she's giving me a compliment.

I put my hand on her shoulder and smile warmly.

"Don't worry, Savannah.  I know exactly what you're saying."


*  *  *

"That's your man?"

I follow his line of sight over to where Scottie is standing.  Scottie is wearing cargo shorts and a light blue t-shirt. He has a styrofoam coffee cup in one hand and his skateboard in the other.  He's smiling and talking to our friend Lee.

"Yeah, that's Scottie.  I thought you'd met him before."

"Yeah I met him before," he says flatly.  "Just didn't know that was your man."

Alfred is tall and brown and close to my age.  He and I always have nice, cordial "Blackcentric" conversations, being that often times we are the only two Black people in the room.

"Well, he is!" I say brightly.  "For the past nine years."

"So... you go for White guys, huh?"

What is that on his face?  Distain? Disappointment?

I snap my lips close before I answer.

And why is he throwing shade all of the sudden?  

"No, I don't GO FOR anyone.  I just love who I love." I put my hand on my hip and take a step back.

"But your baby daddy is White too, right?" He steps forward toward me, closing the gap I'd created between us.

Baby Daddy?  Who actually says that?

"Yes, my ex-husband is White.  But I'm not sure what your point is."

Alfred smiles and puts his arms out to the side, as if to hug me.

"Ain't no thing, girl, I'm just messing with you.  It's just there aren't too many fine Black women left on our team, you know."

I'm momentarily distracted by how white his teeth are.

Sometimes I feel like I'm seen as a traitor when I'm walking down the street with Scott.  I've heard the  fuc*ed up comments my people make about other mixed couples.  I'd like to say that it never bothers me, but sometimes it does.  I want to shout out at all of them:  "My White man doesn't make me any less Black!"

"I just hate to lose another one to the other side," continues Alfred, as though he were reading my thoughts.

"Well, you never had me, anyway Al," I say turning around with a smile.  "So there was nothing to lose."

*  *  * 



THE RIGHT KIND OF BLACK

A POEM 
BY LAURA CATHCART ROBBINS 


Black people see me and they wonder “Are you the right kind of Black?”

Do you check all of the boxes that a White person may lack?

They do not ask if I believe.  Instead they simply want to know…

Why I don’t choose to wear a weave and to which church my family goes.

When they see my blue-eyed boyfriend, they talk smack behind my back.

No church, no weave, no brown-skinned man.  She’s NOT the right kind of Black!



White people see me and wonder, “Are you the right kind of Black?”

You’re not too dark and you speak like us!  You’re a keeper, that’s a fact!

These people are relieved, when they see me enter rooms. 

Sit down, let’s talk!  Stay here with us! You are our Ace Boon Coon!  

You’re so pretty!  You must be mixed.  I’ll bet your mother’s White.

See with you, we can say these things.  Other Blacks might want to fight!

We don’t like those angry Blacks.  We’re glad you seem so calm.

You people are so sensitive when racial talk goes on.

You know we’ve got your back, Laura. With you we can relax.

Because we know for sure now, that you are the right kind of Black!


Okay, real talk?  -- I’m sick of it.  I don’t want to be “the right kind.”

I don’t want White people to tell me, that with me they’re colorblind.

I don’t want to make them comfortable.  I don’t want to be preferred.

I’m a woman, I’m a mother, but I’m Black first — and I’m not looking for a “cure”.


I’d like for my Black brothers and sisters, to see me with new eyes.

I don’t go to church, I don’t straighten my hair and my man’s that surfer guy.

So, what?  Am I not Black enough?  Did I fail your paper bag test?

Do Sunday services and Jack and Jill prove my “Blackness“ best?

I’d prefer if you didn’t need to know.  To me, it’s all just fronting.

In fact, I don’t like them apples at all — a nod to Good Will Hunting.

It would be nice -- to be myself, without inviting an attack.

When you look my way, can you just see me?  And not what kind of Black?










Friday, October 20, 2017

Here's why I never told anyone when I got raped #metoo

Me, age 24
Mirriam-Webster.com

Rape: Unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will of the usually female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness or deception.

Under threat of injury…?

Incapable of valid consent…?

Can’t it just be because I didn’t say YES?

I mean, true his hands were forceful, but there was no threat of injury. Yes, there was trickery going on, but I didn’t know at the time that deception was one of the things that might have qualified what happened to me as rape.  And other than the fact that I was really hung-over, I was fully capable of giving valid consent.

 But the thing is, I didn’t give it.  

I might never have written about this if it weren’t for the flurry of rape and sexual assault conversations that started when Harvey Weinstein’s first accuser came forward.  But it was really when Donna Karan was interviewed on the red carpet 13-days ago and posed the question, “Are we asking for it?" that I felt compelled to head for my computer keyboard.  I knew it was time for me to pull this story out of wherever it’s been hiding inside of me and release it into the universe.


*  *  *

I would like to blame the fact that I never told anyone about my rape on my stepfather.  While growing up, it was he who angrily challenged my resistance to his religion, my fierce desire for privacy and all of my grand longings to shed our hippie lifestyle and become rich enough to pay someone else to clean our toilet (which he used to make me scrub with my bare hands).  Growing up in his home, I didn’t learn that it was possible to disagree with a man and have him still like or respect me.  So eventually, I became someone who agreed with men easily.  Whenever a man caused me to feel slighted, afraid, angry, hurt or embarrassed, I would wordlessly exit said situation and thusly escape one of the things that I had grown to fear the most: male disapproval. 

But I can’t (and don’t) blame my "not telling anyone" entirely on him.  There is also the fact that I never really felt like I appealed to men sexually — not the ones that I wanted, anyway.  And when I did occasionally catch the eye of someone who made my stomach flutter, I was so scared of messing it up that I would often contort my personality to fit with his.  I knew that by doing this I was selling myself out, but I didn’t think that I could find love otherwise.  So once I was old enough to date, instead of disappearing when I was hurt, embarrassed or angry like I did with my stepfather, I learned to smile brightly whenever I felt compromised and pretend like everything was all right.

*  *  *

“Why are you driving all the way over to West Hollywood to see this tender?! You said you was sleepy!”

My roommate, Kelly is sitting on the sofa eating Top Ramen from our only ceramic bowl.   My head pounds and my stomach turns as I pick up my empty Pepsi liter and our capless bottle of Tylenol from the coffee table and walk toward the kitchen.

“He says working out will cure my hangover,” I yell back at her.

“That’s why you’re going over there in those booty shorts? Does he even have his own place?"

“I think so.  Anyway, I’m about to find out”.

“You know he’s going to try and Fu@#.  You ready for that?"

“I really just want to work out, snuggle and watch TV.”

“Hmmm.  And you think that young, ni@@a is going to go for that?  Call me if he acts up.  Somethin’ about him I don’t like…”

“I’ll be fine!” I laugh, kissing her furrowed brow.

“I’ll wait up for you,” she says stubbornly.  “Remember, call me if you need me.”


*  *  *


I show up at Brandon’s apartment around 4:00pm in my new, pink, aerobics outfit. 

“Yo! You look good in that get up,” he says smiling and licking his lips.

He likes it…

Brandon is tall and light skinned with close-cropped brown hair.  His eyes are big and round and so are his lips.  His long, muscular frame is hidden beneath a navy blue, over-sized, Polo shirt and baggy Levis. All at once, I hear male voices coming from inside.

“The fellas came by to watch the game for a minute, hope that’s okay.”

You have company?

“Of course!” I say (quickly) with a smile.  “That’s no problem, maybe I’ll just go down and work out by myself while you guys watch the game?”

“Aright,” he runs his finger up and down my flat, bare stomach.  “But come say hello first, okay?  I want to show you off.”

His living room is brightly lit and smells like weed, beer and ranch dressing.  There are several opened Coronas and a bottle of Hennessy on a coffee table in front of a big-screen TV.  Seven or eight men, all around our age (early twenties), are lying around on a large, brown sectional sofa.  My stomach lurches at the smell of booze.  Kelly and I had been drinking tequila until almost 5:00 that morning.

“You smoke?” One of the men asks me.  He has the front of his white t-shirt pulled up around the back of his neck like a shrug, exposing velvety, six-pack abs.  His gaze is fire and threatens to ignite me, so I decide to focus on the object in his hands instead.

Is that a cigar?

“No thanks,” I say waving my hand at him.  “I don’t smoke.  Thank you though.”

“Hey, hey…” says one of them. They are all looking at me now.  My insides flutter as I looked from one pair of sleepy, red eyes to another.  My fingers are trembling slightly.  I dig my nails into the palms of my hands to keep them from shaking.

Stop freaking out.  Nothing’s wrong.

“Fellas, this is Laura. Laura, the fellas.”

“Hi,” I smile, backing up against Brandon to show that I am with him.  “I’m going down to work out, I’ll see you guys in a minute.”

*  *  *

My memory picks up later on in the evening.  By now its dark outside and they've started watching a second game. I‘m sitting next to Brandon, leaning on his shoulder, but find that I’m so sleepy (and bored) that I can’t keep my eyes open.  I am also hurt by Brandon’s lack of attention, so I excuse myself and go into his bedroom to lie down. 

You really need to kick all of those boys out and follow me in here.

A cozy looking comforter covers his neatly made bed.  I take off my shoes and socks and snuggle under it quickly,  instantly sinking into a lovely dream as soon as my head touches his pillow.

His pillow smells like him…

Sometime later (moments, minutes, hours?) I feel lips on the back of my neck. 

 He’s here!

I try to wake up and make an “mmmmm” sound to show that I am pleased, but I feel myself getting sucked back into my deep, sleepy abyss.

Time slides by and later (moments, minutes?) I feel nuzzling again.  As I'm trying to make myself wake up, I can hear the drone of the game in the living room and the occasional cheer and grunt of outrage from the boys.

They’re still here? 

Without notice, I feel a smooth, bare chest sliding under the covers behind me and pressing flush against my back.  The harsh smell of cognac fills the air around my face as his mouth hovers next to my lips.  I struggle to open my eyes, but they feel like they are filled with grit and plus the room is thickly, pitch black. 

Eyes open, eyes closed it doesn’t matter.  I am so sleepy.

Suddenly, a burglar alarm sounds in my head as I feel rough, calloused hands expertly moving my workout shorts to one side.

Brandon?!

The act is over in moments.  As it starts, I try to turn over and look at him, but I am pinned back down and forced to face my pillow.

Brandon!!

I think I say Brandon’s name a couple of times and get no response.  Seconds later, he leaps off of the bed, throwing the sheet up over my head as he does so.  I sit up and frantically tear the covers away with a loud cry.

“Hey!!!!”

I catch a glimpse of a man’s silhouette exiting quickly.  The cheering from living room TV blasts into the bedroom when the door opens, causing me to flinch.

“Hey! I say again softly as the door closes.  Suddenly the bedroom is unbearably hot.  A film of sweat has formed along my hairline.

Was that Brandon?!

I’m scared to turn on the lights as I don’t want to draw any attention to myself.  I tremble as I slip down off of the bed and begin to pat the gnarled carpet by the baseboard feeling for my socks. My heart is a bass drum rattling my rib cage.

Maybe he’ll come back in and apologize for not letting me turn around.  For doing it without asking me if it was okay…

By the time I find my socks, my hands are shaking too bad to slip them on.  I sit on the floor in the dark and wait until the waves of panic that are starting to engulf me subside a bit.  Then I slip on my socks, grab my sneakers and press my ear against the bedroom door to listen.

“Yo, Magic ain’t SH#$ tonight, yo!”

“Aw, he’s still making more baskets then any of these fools. He’s a fuc##n’ workhorse!”

"Pass that, Ni@@a!"

“Naw, Rodman the workhorse, Man!  21 boards tonight?! Whaaaatttt…?!”

Don’t they even know what’s just happened!?

I stand there motionless for what seems like forever.  I can still smell him — the cognac, the mustiness of his sweat, the faint cologne.  I cover my mouth with my hand and dry heave silently for (moments, minutes?) before I can muster up enough courage to turn the door knob.

I freeze for a second when I open the door, as I can’t make out anything against the sudden brightness of the living room lights.  And even though I can’t see them well, I can feel all of their eyes on me. 

“Hey Babe,” Brandon gives me a toothy smile as he gets up from the sofa.  “You’re awake!”

He walks over to me and puts his mouth next to my earlobe and whispers, “Man, you were out.  I tried to wake you up.”  He winks at me and puts his arm around me, pulling me closer.

Don't. You. Touch. Me.

“Oh,” I say, stiffening my crossed arms so that he can’t get too close.  I feel another wave of panic rising. I look down at my feet.

“Um, sorry, yeah.  I think I’m going to go home now.  I don’t feel that great.”

“Are you sure?  The game is almost over.”

“I just need to go to sleep in my own bed.”

“Okay, that’s too bad tho,'" he says moving his face closer to mine.  "I was hoping to get some time witchu.  Sorry about the second game going so long.  But this double overtime is crazy."

"Its fine," I say stepping backwards.

Fine? Really, Laura?

"I’ll call you tomorrow for sure, okay, beautiful?”

I see his mouth moving, but his words are trailing by my ears.

Was that you in there?

“Yeah,” I say finally.  “Sure.”



*  *  *



I shouldn’t have worn these booty shorts…

I'm heading down La Brea toward the 10 Freeway. The line at Pink's Hot Dogs is blocks-long as usual.  A local news crew is setting up to interview the people toward the back near the corner.

I should have left as soon as I saw those boys…

I look down at my bare thighs while sitting at a stoplight. 

They'll say I was asking for it.

I reach over and grab my sweatshirt from the passenger seat and place it over my legs. Disgust and shame take turns pounding on my chest with invisible fists.

I don't even know if it was Brandon...

I bite my lower lip to stop the tears from coming.  There's an accident on the 10 freeway onramp. Two cars are pulled over to the side.  A man and a woman are outside, inspecting their cars.   I slow down and swerve slightly to left to avoid them.  

What if they were all in on it?

I watch my speedometer needle waver around 90MPH.  I ease my foot off of the accelerator and turn on my right turn signal as I move out of the fast lane.

Kelly told me not to go.  She'll say it was my fault.  It was my fault.  What was I thinking going over there like that?  Dressed like that?  I got into his bed!!  

I find a rare parking spot right in front of The Castaneda, our apartment building on Rose Avenue in Venice.   I crack the window slightly and a lazy stream of marine air snakes its way into the car.  I can't see the water from where I'm sitting but I can smell the brine of the ocean.  I lean back against the headrest and turn off the motor.

What could I even say?  

Oh yes, officer.  This imbroglio began when I went over to see this one guy and he may or may not have had sex with me while I was sleeping, but it also might have been one of his friends?   Yes, sir, I was wearing a slutty outfit.  Yes, sir, I did willingly get into his bed.  And YES all those drunk and high ni@@ah's were right there in the other room.  But no, your honor, I did not consent to sex.

Who would believe me?  Who would even care?

I close my eyes and try and imagine what Kelly will say.   I feel the crushing weight of defeat descending upon me.

I can't tell her...

The fist closing on my heart suddenly relaxes as an idea pops into my head.

Then don't tell her.  

In fact, don't tell anybody.  

No one can blame you if they don't know.

I'm starting to pull my sweatshirt over my head when a breeze coasts by me and gives me goosebumps on my arms and legs.  I tilt my face up toward the hazy sky.  The cool air is so fresh and it feels like maybe it's cleansing all his stinky, sweaty smell off of my body.  I stay looking up at the sky for a while (moments, minutes?) before going up the front stairs.

Only the kitchen light is on inside our apartment.  I tiptoe in and quietly reach forward to close the door to the bedroom where Kelly is sleeping.

Thank God. I don't have to deal with her tonight.

"Is that you, Laurda?" she calls out sleepily.

I fuc@#in hate her bionic hearing!

I clear my throat, "Yeah."

"How was it?"

I open my mouth and am surprised to find that the tears I've been suppressing have broken free of my emotional dam and are now streaming down my face.

"It was okay," I croak, grateful for the door between us.  "He had people over to watch the game, then there was another game."

"Ewwwww," she hisses from the darkness.  "See?  You wasted your good, booty shorts for nothing.  Does he have his own place or not?  Did he at least take you out to get some food?"

"Yes," I manage.  "He has his own place.  But no, we didn't go eat or anything.  I mean, he had some snacks for the..."

"Snacks!?"  Kelly's voice rings with outrage. " You drove your hungover ass all the way over to Hollywood for some snacks and the game!?!  UNH-UHH! I'm telling you, there's something about him I don't like..."

I sit down on our sofa and wipe my face with my sweatshirt.  I can still smell him on me.

"Yeah, Kell. You were right.  I'm going to take a shower."