but the thing is
CONTENT WARNING: MENTION OF RAPE
I can only listen to the Yonder Mountain String Band version of “No Rain,” because once you told everyone in the bar that I was the little girl in the bumble bee costume in the Blind Melon “No Rain” video. I don’t remember the first time you said this. But I remember the second time. I always wonder if there really was a first time or if you were fucking with me because you could. Because I always wanted to believe in you. Fake it til you make it, amirite? Now, that song reminds me of a version of you we always wished you actually were.
That would have been easier for both of us.
Even though we haven’t talked to each other in years and haven’t seen each other in even longer, I almost answer when you call me at 5 am on a workday. Instead, I lay in bed and stare at the glow of your name displayed on my phone. You were my friend longer than you were my rapist. We were us for years—the kind of more than friends but less than lovers vibe that was equally obnoxious and endearing to everyone around us. We had a riff and a rhythm and a shtick that seemed to be built into our bones. It’s probably still there. It is still there.
I tried to be friends with you after you held me down and made me bleed. Honest to god, it must have been a miscommunication. If we could have just talked about it, I was so sure you’d apologize and love me just as you always had. Part of me still thinks that whenever I smell someone who smells like my body remembers you smelling. We would have been able to move on.
But the thing is, you never could say you held me down and made me bleed.
But the thing is, I remember you wiping my blood off of your body as you looked out the window, that night sky casting shadows everywhere but on us. I remember you tossing the wash cloth smeared with blood and cum and sweat on the window sill because...what? You couldn’t manage to rinse it all away and hang the damp washcloth in the bathroom like a goddamn human? I had to know it happened. You had to be able to toss it away.
Your name is still glowing on my phone. That memory is never too far away. The recall is instant. I am reminding myself of all these details and all the other ones that I don’t talk about to keep myself from answering this call.
But the thing is, I also remember all the times we fucked after that night. Sure, the first time, I pushed you away and started to cry. We didn’t talk about that.
But the thing is, I remember all the other times you felt like home. I remember the way you’d grab my arm and use it as a microphone anytime Michael Jackson came on. I remember when you microphoned me to “Man in the Mirror.”
That song makes me cry now.
I wonder if Yonder Mountain String Band does a cover of it.
When my phone stops glowing your name, I use it to google you, and then to look up obits and commitment reports in the city we used to be in together.
Your mom died.
I call you back before I can stop myself.
You don’t answer.
You didn’t actually need me. You just needed someone to feel as bad as you do. You know how much I love you. I bet you remembered my dead dad and thought that made it ok for you to call. That I would extend you some sort of dead parent pass, some recently-orphaned, discount entry back into my life.
But the thing is, “has dead parent” and “rapist” are not mutually exclusive. They exist together now in your middle-aged body. A body I know as well as my own. A body I can still taste when my beer is just warm enough. A body I can’t allow to come near my body anymore. Even if it is only over the phone. Even if I know your body is 2,000 miles away. Even if I know my body is safe now.
I’m glad you didn’t answer. I would have cut you all the breaks, and we’d slip into us—or whatever that would look like now: older everywhere; softer here; harder there; deflated in the places we can’t bring ourselves to look. You knew that when you called. You knew that when I called back. You knew that when you watched my name light up your phone. You knew that when you watched your phone go dark again.
I’m going to think about you all morning and more frequently and fondly than usual for the next few weeks. Then, I will notice my shoulders soften, though I won’t have realized how tense they had been. Your birthday is coming up. It is going to be hard not to text you about it. I will type the message a hundred times. Because I love you. But the thing is, I can’t send you joy anymore, so I will delete it each time.
I still text to say I’m so sorry about your mom though.
You haven’t responded, so I’m going to get out of bed and brush my teeth.
17 February, 2021