Turning trauma into creativity ...

So a Friday night some time ago I went out with my resident best friend, Super D. D is pure fun because she is open to almost anything and is, well, pretty much everything I am not. Standing 5'10" and weighing more than twice what I do we are physical opposites. She shares my brashness and brutal honesty but is much more vocal about it. Anyway, she is a lot of fun to hang out with whether we are watching movies, playing board games or just shooting the proverbial shit. It has been our tradition to go out once a week, usually to the Mallard, just to catch up on each other's lives and maybe try to find an adventure of sorts. Lately, however, D has been more vocal about her insecurity, often referring to herself as "fat or "unattractive" and insinuating that she cramps my style. This insecurity has influenced her into thinking that I am some kind of vamp that is irresistible to most men (I can only assure that I am far from that).

When Friday rolled around, D and I trekked to the Mallard after 9pm and with a decent amount of champagne coursing through our systems. As per usual, we ordered a mixed vodka drink and took our seat outside in the designated smoking area. We chatted for about thirty minutes before we were approached by someone who I will deem Q for this story.

Q could not be any taller than 5'7" and had a pudgy physique. A smile was firmly planted on his face for (nearly) the entire night. Q is a white-collar businessman who knows when to be professional and when to let loose, so to speak. Already drunk and swaggering in that way that drunk people do when they think they are looking sober, he approached our table and asked me for a light for his cigarette. This spawned a brief conversation before he asked to sit down. I, already, could not help but notice how instantly fond he was of D. From the moment he came over, he was completely taken with her. Qs friends appeared shortly thereafter. They will be known as B and J.
B is an attractive, young looking black male. He fondled a cue stick (clearly not belonging to the bar) all evening. He was incredibly polite and soft-spoken. He was mellow to the point of being slightly boring.

J was in his thirties and stood taller than Super D and was thick as a brick wall. He had dark, intense features which gave him a hard, brooding look. Although he sat still, his eyes darted around constantly.

We all chatted for a while in a friendly manner until I made mistake #1. I introduced D to B and J and got J's name wrong. This angered him. At first, he did not talk at all for a while but then his mood morphed into one of a total jerk. When Q asked my age, J said, "She's 26." He hit the nail directly on the the head. Then, he added that I looked about 30. This started a chain of insults flying from both directions. I would talk politely to Q and B and then J would say something mean to get my attention. I ignored him some of the time but mostly tossed cold remarks to him. At another point, he referred to me as being "chubby". I am not easy to offend but he was doing a crackerjack job of it. He said, "you're really gorgeous, though" shortly thereafter. Not taking him seriously, I said sarcastically "Yeah, right... So are you." Needless to say, he did not appreciate that.

J would occasionally get up and disappear for periods of time and then would return. This was fine with all of us. Poor D. She meets a guy that she is totally into and was totally into her and she had to deal with the stress of us fighting. It was nearly impossible to help myself, though. At this point, I had consumed two vodka drinks and some champagne which allowed my id to break down all the barriers of social graces I had. I could not let him get away with saying that stuff.

Q explained that J was only nice to the girls who he was not super attracted to and that he was verbally abusive to the ones he was. "Like a second grader?" I asked to which he replied "Yes exactly!" At another point, B took me aside and said the same thing.

All night, Q was cajoling us to go to the Sky Lounge because he preferred the atmosphere there. It was plain to see that D wanted to continue the flirtation as long as possible, as did Q. She was reluctant to leave the comfort of the bar and even more reluctant to go anywhere in a car with a drunk person at the wheel. Q told us to think it over after an Irish car bomb, which we all three chugged (D was the clear winner).

Meanwhile, B asked me to watch him play pool so I did. I could not help but notice that J was chatting up two girls behind me. Neither one was very attractive and one was morbidly obese. I could not help but feel better about the situation. I was "chubby" and there he was flirting with someone who was clearly the biggest girl in the room. J noticed my stare and came over to me. He said that we should go to the Sky Lounge. I said that I was not going anywhere until I finished watching B play, as promised. He said, "Oh, she likes the dark meat" and insisted on me watching him play.

Q and D were soon at my side discussing our next course of action. Angry that I was not watching him, J commented that I had "burnt hair". This is a true statement some of the time. I have kinky Jewish hair which I straighten, sometimes causing it to be frizzy. That night, however, it was straight as a board.

So we left the bar and took off for the Sky Lounge. There was one detour standing in our way. J had to let his beloved dogs out to do their business. Both dogs were quite friendly and nice but he was reluctant to show them off, pulling them out of the room and locking them in his yard. D told him that he should let us play with the dogs more and he quickly shot her down. I started to utter the words, "Come on" but he yelled before I could finish that we were scaring his dogs, that they were where they needed to be and if we did not like it we could "get the fuck out".

We promptly left the house and stood near the car, fully planning to leave the situation as soon as possible. I had finished nearly all of my cigarette by the time J came over to us, his puppy cradled in his arms. He apologized for his gruffness and explained that the the puppy is unnerved by strangers and that he was extra protective of him. This was a logical explanation (still, he could have made the point without swearing at us). Q played the negotiator card and tried to remedy the situation. He was quite good at it and was hard to say no to.

We gave J a second chance (mistake #2) and went with them to the Sky Lounge. As we were going inside, D whispered to me to please be nice to J. I begrudgingly granted her request. J bought me a beer and I chatted politely with him. I explained that I was a nerd and he enthusiastically said that he was one as well. We discussed everything comic books to Battlestar Galactica and managed to find some common ground. I remained polite but still moved away when he tried to hug me. He asked, "How much do you hate me right now?"

"On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being unbridled hatred and 1 being 'eh'? I would say that earlier it was a 6 but, after seeing you trying to pick up on all the ugliest girls at the bar, I realize that you are not mean but pathetic. So now you are a 2.5." As soon as the words escaped my lips, I was appalled that I had said it. The 2 vodka drinks, 2 beers and the Irish car bomb had officially brought out my true nasty side.

He asked what he could do to lower the number. I looked around the bar, immediately noticing the table of girls behind me. They were four young Latinas, obviously on a girls' night out. I nodded in their direction, "Tell them what you told me. You've said three incredibly mean things to me tonight. You called me old looking, chubby and said my hair was fried. Go tell them at least one of those things and I will think about letting you off the hook." I only said this because I thought I knew that he would not act on it. I was wrong.

He approached the table and said to the heaviest one, "Damn, your hair is fried! How old are you?"

I turned away, mortified that I had caused him to do that. I joined in D and Q's discussion, although I was not really listening. I was too busy feeling guilty about possibly hurting the girls' feelings.

All of a sudden, I hear a loud eruption of laughter from the table. I turned to see that he had not offended the girls at all. They were all laughing, hugging and talking excitedly. I was utterly stunned. This guy was the least charming person I had ever met and here he was charming a table of girls he had insulted.

Noticing my stare, he told me to come over. I declared that I did not respond to orders and then he led me by the elbow to the table.

"Oh my God. You're Lee, aren't you?" the prettiest one asked excitedly. "She IS pretty! J was talking all about you. He really likes you."

"He's a really nice guy. You should give him a chance." said the one he had initially insulted.

I shifted my stare of disbelief between the four enthusiastic young girls. "Do you know this guy?"

They explained that they had just met him when I sent him over there. One of the bartenders was watching this exchange. I pointed to J and asked if they were all friends. She shook her head, "No, I have never seen them in here before."

I could not hide how impressed I was. "You're really something" I nodded.

Just in time for last call, we all left for Q's house. I had not fully realized that was our destination until we turned up in the El Cerrito hills. We went in through the garage to his small kitchen. A tiny bathroom adjoined one side and a very large living room the other. Everything was immaculately clean and furnished with very modern furniture. We went into the living room. Noticing that I was checking out his large plasma television, Q turned it on to the Comedy Central roast of Pamela Anderson. I heard D commenting on a glass top table with several rather expensive ties laid out.

I saw J tying one around D's neck. I, in turn, grabbed one and went in the bathroom to attempt to tie it. J appeared behind me and volunteered to do it. Since he was very respectful with D, I nodded. He tied it loosely and then unzipped my shirt halfway to tuck it into my shirt, groping my right breast in the process. Instinctively, I spun around and slapped him rather hard. Due to the angle and height difference, I ended up hitting him in the jaw and ear. (mistake #3)

"Fuck!" he clutched his ear. "You hit me in the fucking ear! Argh! Fucking bitch!"

I cowered, slightly. I had not even thought about hitting him. It was literally an instinctive reaction to his groping me. This is one of the very few times I had ever hit anyone and the only time to someone that I did not know.

He leaned forward and began explaining emphatically, "All I wanted to do was tuck the tie in so you could see what it looked like! I was trying to make you look nice and you fucking hit me! I wasn't trying to touch you!"

I genuinely apologized profusely. Although he was out of line for being so forward, I should not have hit him so hard and, for that, I was sorry. I told him that I would not do it again.

Then it hit me that we were alone. Surely, Super D and Q would have responded to his shouting if they were around. Panic hit hard. I was in this tiny bathroom with an angry man well more than twice my size blocking the doorway. He placed his hands on my waist and began rubbing me. He nuzzled my neck with his face. Trying my best to play it cool, I made a move to the door. He pulled me close and kissed me. I quickly tried to get by but he pulled me back and kissed me again. My panic grew as I realized how he was able to pull me back with little effort. He was incredibly strong; much, much more so than me. In my drunken logic, if I acted unafraid and kissed him back, I could get out of there. So I reluctantly kissed him back and then edged past him into the living room.

I sat into a leather recliner and pretended to be engrossed in the television program. He asked to sit with me as he was sitting down and pulling me into his lap. I acted like I did not notice he was there, like I did not notice him kissing my neck or lightly rubbing my crotch. So then I tried to turn him off by acting crazy (It works with the homeless. I pretend to be talking agitatedly to myself and they leave me alone). I started saying that ducks had cute butts, that Canadian geese recorded our actions with government tracking devices and that I wanted to beat Jimmy Kimmel with a tire iron and then piss in his face. I don't mean any of this except for ducks having cute butts. (I guess this proved to be mistake #4) It was seeming to work. The more I went on, the more still he became.

"Would you really do that to someone you hated?" He solemnly asked.

"I don't know... Maybe..." I said offhandedly.

He sprung to his feet and began pacing behind the sofa next to the chair I was sitting in. I tried not to look at him overtly and did the best I could out of the corner of my eye. He grabbed D's purse and began frantically riffling through it. Protectively, I asked "What are you fucking doing? That's D's purse!"

His dark eyes focused on me, "Where are the fucking cigarettes?"

"D doesn't smoke, fool. She doesn't have any." Shit, why did I say it like that? Do I have a deathwish?

"Where are the fucking cigarettes?" He shook her purse in my direction.

"We smoked them all. There are none left." I lied. I was saving one for the end of the night just for myself.

He was growing more frantic and agitated by the second. "Where are the fucking cigarettes?"

"There's no more left-" Before I could finish saying this, he was by my side roughly grabbing the hair on the back of my head. He wrapped it around his hand and pulled not quite hard enough to pull it out but close.

"Th-th-there's one left that I was saving but that's it." I stuttered.

"Where are the fucking cigarettes?" His growing impatience gave his question a sing-song effect.

"If you asked nicely, I'd have given it to you." I dug myself deeper in the hole with that one. His grip tightened and he lightly shook my head. He repeated the question a fifth time to which I quickly answered, "It's in my bag."

"Where's it?"

"It's way over there. I'll go get it."

"Where's the fucking bag!?!"

At that point, I was more scared than I have been in a very long time. I had been in this situation many times before. Me and a friend meet two men. My friend and one of the guys hit it off and I get stuck in the awkward situation of being left alone with someone who I am not into. It is awkward but never a violent situation. They feel obligated or compelled to try to hit on me because the friends have hit is off so well. So, the try to put their arm around me and once they feel the rejection I am sending their way, they leave me to my own devices. Men have always treated me with a great deal of respect. Sure, a lot of them try to be forward and steal a feel or kiss but they have never forced anything (except once a very long time ago, which I will leave out of this story).

"I'll go get it for you." I sounded relatively calm in my own mind.

He pulled my head to the fly of his pants and rubbed my head there. I could feel the erect penis underneath on my cheekbone.

"Where's the fucking bag?" His voice turned slightly more calm. He leaned down and kissed me passionately. This went on for a minute before I slowly pulled away until my forehead was resting on his and out lips were an inch apart.

"Let me get it for you." I said as sweetly as I could muster. I pressed my luck by slowly rising to my feet, my hair still gripped in his hand. I kept my movements as fluid and calm as possible. He let go of my hair and ever so gently pushed me in the direction of the bag.

I carefully walked toward the bag at a slow enough pace so I could try to make a gameplan. I have read a lot of true crime books about serial rapists and killers and have entertained the notion of what I would do in the victim's case. I wanted to scream for D but I could not let him know that I felt threatened. If I did that, who knows what he would do. I had to get past him to get to the stairs leading to where Q and D were. I had to be fast because he could easily catch and restrain me. Once he had me cornered, I would be at his questionable mercy.

I looked over my shoulder as I opened the bag. He was watching me from where I had left him in the living room. I grabbed the all but empty pack, removing the last cigarette, and my lighter. I trepidaciously approached him, holding the filter of the cigarette out to him. His dark eyes bore into me. With a coy smile on my face, I placed it in his mouth. We stared at each other briefly before I made my move. I tossed the empty pack and the lighter on the floor. (The Kansas City shuffle: make them look one way and then go the other... Or at least that's what Lucky Number Slevin taught me...)

His eyes moved from mine to the pack and lighter as they were flying through the air. I dashed down the steps calling out for D.

"Just a minute-" Q said but they were meeting me in the hall within seconds. "What is going on?"

"D, we have to go. We gotta get out of here." My voice sounded like a stutter because I was hyperventilating from the severe anxiety.

"Okay." Super D did not even question why.

"He- he- he messed with me!"

Q said something I can not exactly remember. It was along the lines of, "Come on we are all having fun here."

My tone was grave, "He tried to mess with me."

I had a difficult time making out Q and D's faces in the dark hallway but I could tell that Q's constant smile had dropped into an open mouth of shock. In fact, he looked horrified.

"Is everything okay?" J's voice was behind me. I turned to see him carefully descending the stairs. It was not until much later that how drunk he was. He walked down them as carefully as a woman in her third trimester. The room was slightly illuminated from the lit cigarette he held.

D pushed me up the stairs at a rapid pace. She grabbed her bag from the couch while I did the same. She was at my side in the kitchen, ready to bolt out the door. I opened the door I thought we had entered in but it was a pantry. "Oh, no!" I shouted.

"No, it's this one!" D opened a coat closet. We exchanged glanced and then turned to what looked like the front door. We ran to it and dashed out of the house and down the street to an intersection. One of its corners was adorned with a large bush. We climbed behind it an called for a cab.

They did not come after us, nor have we seen them again.

I realize that I am pretty lucky. Nothing too bad happened in the scheme of things. I was not raped or physically violated. I cannot help but feel scared even now. It is like when someone broke into my car and stole my ipod. I was more freaked out about my personal space being infringed on.

D really proved herself to be an excellent friend. As soon as she realized that I was in trouble, she remedied the situation by getting us out of the house as quickly and calmly as possible

Looking back on the situation, I made a few mistakes and I was very cruel to him but did that warrant what he did to me? Plus, who is to say that he would have done worse. I really don't know. I know his name, where he works and where he lives. It would be immensely stupid to attack me with those circumstances. It was also obvious that his friend did not approve of what he had done. Would he just risk everything to rape me and certainly get caught?

Immediately, D noticed his rage and pointed it out. He was a loose cannon; getting so angry over such minor things. I should have known better than to test that. It was just so exciting to see Q's true affection for D that we both ignored several serious warning signs. Q was so accommodating and pleasant that we assumed that J was just simply an asshole, not a brute or much worse.

Bottom line: All the cliches about your instincts being right are true. When someone is having difficulty containing rage within minutes of meeting you, do not test them. Q, to this day, probably thinks that what made me run out of his house was J being as verbally nasty as he was all night and that is really sad. He thinks that he knows his friend but he probably never will.

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