It was a mantra she’d started to recite on the way home. His mere presence in the front seat of the gargantuan jeep they were in was making her feel the desire to quake, but her muscles were thankfully abiding by her mental instructions to keep her body in check.
The liquor should’ve left her system, but it felt like it had blended with her blood. She felt the same way she always felt when she got off a long bus ride—dirty to her very core. Usually, a hot shower and whatever fragrant, floral shower gel was perched on her little shower stand had served as an immediate remedy. She had an inkling it might not be quite as effective this time.
Her best friend clutched her hand. She’d only been able to piece together her dismantled thoughts to tell her about it in the morning, when she'd finally mustered the courage to burst in on her, as she was finishing up her liaison with her indefinable 'friend'.
As she’d stumbled through the words in front of her shocked, naked friend, set to the soundtrack of running water and the visual effects of shower steam, she felt for the first time what it might mean to be ‘handicapped’. Her body was betraying her mind, failing to act as the vessel of communication it should, and it was making her want to scream—but again, she couldn’t.
She hadn’t been able to all of last night. She could count how many times she had wanted to. It was a feeling she would remember all her life, that rhapsodical yearning to shout aloud in protest, with not one crumb of the strength she needed to do it.
She had wanted to every time her friend had left her drunk and immobile, in the darkened room she had deposited her in, folded like a calzone in a threadbare mattress.
She had wanted to every time he entered the room after he’d ascertained she had left. Every time his six-foot-two football player’s figure slid into the sliver of space beside her, and took it over with the immenseness of his frame.
The same eyes she’d commented on as being attractive in a private whisper to her friend now glinted occasionally at her in the shades of the black the room had settled into, and she had wanted to every time they darkened a little more with every touch.
She wanted to every time he left with a nervous quickness at the sound of approaching voices, and every time her friends returned to ‘make sure she was okay’. Her unintelligible squawks were classified as drunken attempts to join in the chatter, and petted away via friendly strokes of her disheveled hair.
She had wanted to when he came in again. And again. And again. Moving in a fluid pattern of timing and precision and once upon a slip, the pretence of ‘checking up’ on her. It became a circle of hell in its litany, and she was frozen.
She wanted to when they came in and spoke to her in hushed tones, telling her they were going to go over and sleep in another friend’s house, but that she shouldn’t worry. He would stay with her. ‘Look after’ her. Drive her home the next morning.
She had taken all her screaming-strength and sent it to her legs, that buckled in myriad ways as she fumbled chaotically for support to stand. She had clung to her friend’s neck and not let go, and she had let them take her away with them.
She had wanted to when her friend lay her down gently and with the innocence of oblivion and good intent in a room, and gone off to fuck the man that had been waiting to all evening, in the room next door.
She had wanted to when he came in lay down beside her, charged afresh by the frantic moans flowing relentlessly from the adjoining room.
She had wanted to the hardest when his girlfriend came in, the after-tones of happy conversation in her voice and called out for him. Her body had never felt as exhausted as the last four hours had made it. With the battered breath of someone who had just returned from battle, she had gone to sleep, her arms clutched around her body by default.
Her friend finding out had made her Fort Knox herself, and he couldn’t come anywhere near her without her friend almost emanating a near-feline hiss. (It hadn’t touched the mood of the rest of the collective that was gathered around coffees and last night’s leftovers, the tenor of the soiree unsuspecting and dynamic.)
And now, the car they had piled into (simply because they had piled out of it together last night) had skidded to a stop outside her house. She started the short walk up the narrow artery that led to it, and her friend scrambled out of the car to walk with her. After assuring her several times that she didn’t, in fact, need her to stay, her friend hugged her tightly for many minutes and said:
“You can’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault.”
And she knew, with the fire of a thousand burning suns, that she was right.
And she knew, that for everything she wrote about, rallied about, talked about and preached about, she still felt like it was. And that made her want to scream the most of all.