Sunday, September 27, 2009
SHORT STORY XIV
The war between the sexes and the races will continue to be waged, and casualties are inevitable.
CASUALTIES OF WAR
My name is James. I am being called a rapist and a murderer. But the truth is, I’m a good person. Not a saint by any means. But a rapist? Not at all. A killer? Ridiculous. I am innocent, though there is blood on my hands and I am responsible for it being there. But how responsible? Any minute now I should wake up from this nightmare. Except that I am awake, this is no dream, but the end result of things getting way out of hand. My wrists are in cuffs. I am being led by police officers to a prison cell. It isn’t fair. It wasn’t my fault. Why is this happening to me?
* * *
I am Dawn. My friend is dead and I am to blame, though it cannot be truly seen as my fault. David was standing up for my honor. Perhaps I should not have said anything, but I was so angry. Not at first. My initial reaction was confusion, and yes, acceptance. If I had remained in such a state, David would still be alive. As for my good name, this was given away as much as it was taken from me. I was raped, of this I am certain. Sex was forced upon me without consent, and although circumstances caused my refusal to be less adamant than the situation demanded, I nonetheless did refuse and was ignored. It is equally true that I got into that position of my own accord. James resorted to force only after his advances were encouraged for most of the night, and David need not have been involved at all.
* * *
It all began one week ago at a fraternity party. I stood next to Dawn at the bar and made two observations. She was real pretty and real drunk. I'd never been with a black girl before, never even tried. I figured they wouldn't be interested, so why make things harder for myself? But I could tell from the start that Dawn was definitely into me, and before I knew it we were headed to her dorm room. We started kissing, touching, you know the drill. Everything was going great.
* * *
I went well over my limit, that's for sure. My intention was to get a nice buzz going, but I was trying for a bee and ended up with an entire hive. That's not to say I wasn't in control of my actions, for I was. James was cute and funny, with a decent butt for a white guy. The overabundance of beer was no more than an accomplice to my curiosity and hormones. I wasn't planning to go all the way, not with some guy I just met. But I was feeling good and inclined to feel even better. I refused the offer to go back to his room, but didn’t want the night to end just yet. So I invited him back to mine where I would feel more in control. I would get a little crazy, but just a little.
* * *
We were half naked, and I was more than ready to get busy, when Dawn started having second thoughts. You know the thoughts I’m talking about. She was willing to fool around some, but when I tried to take things to the next level, she wasn’t having it. A lot of girls are like that. They want you to put in some overtime, so you won’t think they’re sluts. They’ll usually get with the program eventually, but they want you to work for it first. I guess they think this earns them respect, or love, or something. But they have to be careful, cause once a guy has been stirred up enough, it isn’t easy for him to just stop, and it isn’t really fair to ask him to.
Since guys have no choice but to play the game, we do. She said no, I said fine. A little later I tried again, another red light, once again I was cool about it, all the while about to bust out of my jeans. The third time was different. The beer had stopped bringing her up and was quickly slamming her down. Her body language still showed resistance, but it wasn't very strong, and her mouth didn't say much of anything I could understand, even if I had been paying attention. I suppose she did say no once again, but without much conviction. The time was right, though her light was not exactly green. I saw it as yellow, and it's perfectly legal to go through a yellow light. You just speed up to make sure you can get by.
* * *
In no time, James had made it as far as I was willing to go and trying to proceed further still. I let him know it wasn't going to be like that. Not rudely, but firm. Not firm enough apparently, for minutes later he was at it again. I repeated my stance and he backed off, but after that things get kind of blurry. My high had turned into a low, my head was spinning as was my stomach, and all I wanted was for James to disappear. He started to come on strong again, and I vaguely remember trying to keep him off of me, but there wasn't much I was able to do. Next thing I knew he was putting his pants back on, while I lay spread eagle with something warm and sticky on my stomach. We looked at each other, neither of us knowing what to say, so not saying anything. I was asleep before he reached the door.
* * *
I woke up the next day with Dawn on my mind. One whiff told me that she was on my body as well. I love the smell of sex. I examined a fresh scratch on my forearm and briefly wondered if I had done anything wrong the night before. The thought passed and I dragged myself out of bed. I had classes to get to, friends to meet up with. I hopped in the shower. By the time I stepped out, Dawn and my concerns had been washed away. She had wanted it, I decided, in fact, practically begged for it. I went to class, relaxed, refreshed, without a worry in the world.
* * *
The first thing I was aware of upon awakening was the pounding in my head. The second was the state I was in. Both of these were potent reminders of the night before. Many of the details were fuzzy to downright forgotten, but one fact remained clear. I had broken my rule and had sex with someone on the first date. Hell, it hadn't even been a date. That wasn't like me, sober or not. I tried to recall the moment when I changed my mind and gave in, but nothing came to me. All I could remember was holding fast to my rule, but having it pried from my fingers.
Someone knocked at my door. It was Michelle, who lived down the hall. We were supposed to study together that afternoon. I confided to her what my previous night's activities had been, for only by confessing could I make sense of what took place. When I was done, Michelle looked shocked, then furious. I knew she didn't approve of me fooling around with a white boy, and figured this was the extent of it, until she brought up the R word. That isn't what happened, I tried feebly to protest. But the longer I thought about it, the more real that word became. Raped.
* * *
Gary saw me leave the party with Dawn, so of course wanted details. “Did you? Was it hot? Is what they say about them true?” I told him what he wanted to hear. I never suggested that she was a sweet girl in a weakened state, and that I had sort of taken advantage of her. I didn’t want to own up to the thoughts that nagged at my conscience. They would go away after awhile.
I know I can be somewhat overaggressive at times. Ever since I was little, I’ve never handled being teased very well. The kind of teasing being done by Dawn is the hardest for a guy like me to take. I guess I did get a bit out of control. But she made me get that way. I think she wanted to get me worked up. She wanted to submit, which meant she needed something to submit to. I just did my part as she directed.
This isn’t quite how I described it to Gary. I painted broader strokes. I made Dawn out to be everything I ever fantasized of. Gary may have suspected me of embellishing, but I had myself totally convinced.
* * *
First shame set in. How could I, who took such pride in both my intelligence and common sense, have allowed this to happen? Too many girls from my neighborhood had gotten knocked up while barely in their teens. They had served as a powerful warning. I would never throw my life away on account of sex. I would take my body and mind seriously, so that others would as well. I had studied diligently all throughout high school to create opportunity for myself. Now here I was, the first member of my family to go to college, one of a minuscule percentage of blacks on campus. Up until last night, I had been very proud of my achievements and intelligent choices.
The words of Michelle on the morning after got me to view matters in a much different light. Not only had my indiscretion caused me to be raped, but raped by a white boy. They respected us so little to begin with, and here I was adding to their sense of entitlement and omnipotence. I might as well have been one of those slave women forced to bear light skinned babies by their masters. Only in my case, I had a say in the matter, I had the right of choice. But I did not, Michelle reminded me. My say and my choice were forcibly taken. Then she suggested a plan of action, and I wholeheartedly endorsed it.
* * *
I was going over my chemistry assignment when a knock came at the door. Without thought I opened it to the sight of the biggest, blackest guy I had ever seen. My first thought was - Isn't he on the football team? I didn't have time for thought number two. That’s because I spent the next several minutes getting my ass kicked. In between body slams, my new friend let me in on why he was torturing me. As he put it, I had disrespected a sista and would now have to pay. When finished, he left me in a sore heap on the floor, uttered some extra threats for good measure if I even looked at another black girl, then was gone.
An hour later when the door opened again, I thought he was back for seconds. But it was my roommates and some friends. After they completed repair work on me, I told them what had happened.
* * *
I holed up in a remote corner of the library for several hours. Being with those who knew, and that seemed to be just about everybody by the time Michelle finished spreading the word, would force me to think of what I wanted to forget. In the midst of my rage was a measure of guilt over what David had done to James with my stamp of approval. James certainly deserved it. What he had endured paled in comparison to what had been done to me. But I couldn't stop feeling that had I been more responsible, none of this would have happened. I also wondered to what degree I had allowed, or even desired certain things to take place, rather than James completely taking matters into his own hands. I should have spoken to him before getting caught up in the emotions Michelle had stirred. I could have told James how I felt, given him a chance to explain or express regret. Who knows, I may even have forgiven him. Now it was too late for such a notion.
* * *
My friends were really pissed. Football star or not, how dare David Jordan walk into the room of a white student as if he and his kind were the ones calling the shots, dispensing justice as he saw fit? That's not how it was supposed to work.
I was oddly unconcerned at first. Perhaps I felt I had brought it upon myself, and should consider the matter settled. But as one slur after another was spewed, I began to get into the spirit of things. My friends were right. David needed to learn where his place was, and who better to serve as tutors? Who cared if he was a campus hero because he scored a bunch of touchdowns? This did not grant him special privileges to mess with us as he saw fit.
David was a bit more cautious about opening his door than I had been, but the five of us managed to push our way in. I just watched while my friends jumped him. But once they had him down to his knees, I was invited to finish him off.
I already considered the situation to be adequately handled, and would just as soon have left it as it was and gone home. But everybody was watching and waiting, so what was I to do? I struck David hard, then again, then again. He barely budged. He was solidly built from head to toe. It was like punching a statue. I was probably causing more pain to my knuckles than to him. Then I noticed his football helmet on the bed. I grabbed the facemask and took every ounce of my frustration out on David’s skull with the very thing meant to protect it. By the time my friends struggled to contain me, the damage had been done.
You have to believe me. I didn't mean it, just as I had not entered Dawn’s room the night before intending to make her do anything she didn’t want to. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me. Adrenaline starts pumping and common sense goes on vacation. In ordinary circumstances I’m just a regular guy, no different than anyone else. I am not what people are now calling me. Am I really to blame for regretful actions taken in the heat of the moments? The cops who picked me up later that day certainly seemed to think so.
* * *
It's over now. The chain of events has been completed. David is dead. James is in prison. And I am left to contemplate my role in their downfalls. If at any point I had acted in a manner other than which I did, it would have made all the difference in the world. It's too senseless for me to claim a lesson learned. Sure there are things I will be certain not to do again. But will that stop such events from recurring, if not to me than to someone else? The war between the sexes and the races will continue to be waged, and casualties are inevitable. My name is Dawn, and I am a victim of these never ending clashes. If you are interested, I will allow you a glimpse into my heart so that you may see my battle scars.