|This skillful piece by Allison Linne highlights not only the experience of sexual violence, but also all the complicated emotions that come after. Linne tells the all-too-common story of feeling isolated as a survivor in a world that overlooks this experience. Small sensory details in the piece highlight the nuances of the speaker’s reaction to what they’ve experienced, and the piece develops as a powerful example of how something such as a “normal” bus ride can be home to an invisible struggle.|
This is a normal Bus Ride
by Allison Linne
I’m trying to recall the sequence of events. I had one more beer and instantly felt the bubbles bounding off one another in my stomach. He had agreed we could finish the movie instead of having sex, then I would go home. Maybe we could hook up another time. I had trouble keeping my eyes open, so I asked for a coffee. His friend had no coffee grounds, so he asked “How about a pill?” I don’t take pills that aren’t mine but he insisted it was a caffeine pill. I’m lonely, I’m sad; I’m desperate to connect with a member of the opposite sex. I want to feel like I’m worth something to this world. I took the pill and as soon as it slid down the back of my throat, I felt my whole body tighten.
I flash back to the night in college with my first college boyfriend, Nick. One of the last few nights we spent together before he left for China and married our mutual friend. It was after Christmas and we had just returned to my house after seeing a movie. I broke down in hysterics to the soundtrack of Little Miss Sunshine and confessed I didn’t know how to survive without him. He comforted me; he was always so good at that. We sat in his red Volkswagen Jetta for hours. My tears mixed with our warm breath and formed a balmy mist. We sat like that in my driveway while the snow and ice crept over the windows. He held me close and told me,
“Be careful of other guys out there. There are a lot of them who will want to hurt you. Don’t let yourself get hurt.”
I’m brought out of my thoughts as the bus picks up speed and turns on to Lakeshore Drive. The music in my ears crescendos and the morning sun beams through the window. It seems to pick me out- a single ray across my crumpled body. Snapshots flash through my mind: his tight abs, flailing tits and blankets. The voice in my head trapped behind a wall of drugs, screaming. Had he even used a condom? Oh my god, I wasn’t on birth control. The bus pulls up to its next stop off the drive. More people are boarding- now the morning rush. Professionals in casual business attire shuffle down the aisle in small herds. Most are half unconscious and unaware of anyone else’s presence, not that they would care anyway. I hug my backpack tighter to my chest. The cool steel of one zipper presses against my throat. The tears come again as the bus pulls away from the curb. I realize the scariest part of this experience is what my big sister said on the phone. I play her words on a loop in my head.
“This is normal, it happens to girls your age all the time.”
I wonder if my sister ever found herself on someone’s couch without her clothes on. I wonder if my mother, at the tender age of 18, had a choice the night my sister was conceived. I wonder what my grandmothers, both gone, would say if they saw me on this bus sunken and defeated. What will I say to my four-year-old niece if twenty years from now I find myself on the phone with her at five am? What will I tell her I did? Why does this problem span so many generations and why was my initial feeling, shame? This is normal?
People crowd into seats next to one another. The smell of morning coffee hangs in the air. The man next to me drifts off to sleep, his head grazing my shoulder with each sway of the bus. He smells like expensive cologne.
Allison Linne is an aspiring comedy writer and performer. Currently, she is co-producing the live lit series, This Film is Not Yet Rated. When not writing or producing, she also performs with Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLLAW) as “Cousin Becky”. Allison lives in Oak Park with her endlessly supportive husband Jake, and two fur babies.