|Karissa skillfully writes about the experience of living as a silent survivor and, when she felt ready, breaking that silence. With “In November,” she illustrates the process of enduring violence while not feeling able to speak out about the complicated nature of abuse. Overall, Karissa makes sure her readers know that silence is not weakness — it is a part of one’s experience, and it does not take away from anyone’s capacity to survive and heal.|
I was silent for a year after what happened. I kept things to myself, let my mind hold its own conversation, create its own chatter. I listened to the world around me. People would laugh, talk together, make jokes, and I would sit in silence. I read a lot, and wrote a lot, and spent time in my mind. I pondered my situation, myself, and what’s to come.
It wasn’t until a year later that I spoke of what happened in November.
I was sixteen years old. It was my first job. A small fast food place outside of the town I lived in. The town I was in being much too small to offer any real work. The place I worked at was small, not very busy, not many employees. It was an easy job, simple, task based, thoughtless. I worked in the evening, taking the days and afternoons to work online in the classes I had been enrolled in. I work with two other people, my assistant manager, and another man.
I was shy, quiet, ‘hard to read’ as they said. I prefer my own company and it was a shock to my system to have people around me, talking, asking me questions, wanting to get to know me. I made friends with a man I worked with, we’ll call him what I call him now, unable to say his name anymore. Camaro guy. He didn’t have his camaro just yet.
I thought he was my age, maybe a bit older. He spoke like a teenager, and talked of his parents the same way I did. He seemed nice. He wasn’t the brightest, understandably, education in smaller towns isn’t known for being great. We talked on shift, working around each other pretty well, sharing tips of the jobs, getting to know each other. He told me often about his dad was going to buy him a car, a green camaro, one he begged for.
He pulled up to the store in it one day, flipping his keys around his fingers, winking at me and asking if I want a ride. I was naive, not thinking he was any more than a friend. I had never had a guy really be interested in me, so the signs were unclear.
I took him up on his offer, one night after work he showed up to pick me up and drive me around town. He talked about his car. He talked about his life. He talked about me. Instead of taking me back to my car, still parked at the store, he took me to a parking lot somewhere in town.
“I wish you were older.”
He said, and I was confused.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m twenty-two, and you’re only sixteen.”
I understood after he spoke. I didn’t speak again that night.
I should explain something about me. I chose to take classes online because I wasn’t a fan of people. I wasn’t a fan of conversation or friends or relationships. I had a single friend online who I thought was attractive and I even would have considered my boyfriend. He said he loved me but I wasn’t enough because I wasn’t there with him. He said it would be different if we could be together physically, but the space between our screens was too much so he was with someone else. I felt worthless a lot. I was in therapy for depression since I was fourteen. I had tried medication. My mother worried sick. Everyone in my family tried to push me to make friends and go out and do things. They were so excited to hear that a boy I worked with wanted to be my friend. Cautious, of course, their daughter and a boy together.
He kissed me in his car. He placed my hand on his pants and reached under my shirt.
I remember my thoughts, pulsing like blood in my veins, rapid as they ran through my head, beating my skull until it was numb.
“What’s going on?”
“You don’t want this!”
“How old did he say he was?”
“Only people you love are supposed to touch you like this!”
“What if no one ever loves you?”
He asked if I’d put my mouth on him. I looked away. I felt weak and small and shattered. My heart was pounding and I felt like my tongue wasn’t mine. I couldn’t speak.
He took me back to my car. He said he really liked me, thanked me for a good night, and I stood by my car as he drove away. I had never seen a penis before. I had never been touched like that before. I didn’t cry. I didn’t speak.
It became a regular thing. He’d invite me out with him, or pull me into the back room of where we worked. I never said no. I never said yes. He never asked again. He took what he wanted. Even today I feel weak for what happened. Even today I blame myself sometimes. I run through my mind with everything I could have done. Everything I could have said.
“It’s not real sex if it’s in the ass.”
He said this a lot. His excuse for getting away with rape. His excuse for bending me over against a metal shelf and tearing me open until I bled and cried.
Until January. Things continued.
Until one day I was leaving work and my assistant manager asked me how camaro guy was doing. He had quit just a few weeks ago and had only seen me outside of work, asking me to come meet him, catching me on the drive home. I was confused, pausing for a moment. I looked up at my assistant manager and asked him to repeat his question.
“Oh you know, he said you guys have been,” He made a motion with his hand, putting it by his mouth and sticking his tongue into his cheek. He laughed. I felt sick. I left without another word, getting into my car and pounding on my steering wheel, screaming, crying as I drove away. For a moment I felt big. I called him, told him I needed to see him, that we needed to talk. I was going to confront him.
He met me at a park, and he put me in his car and he held me and took my pants off and he said,
“I want to put it in your pussy this time.”
I pushed him away, beating at his chest, climbing out his car, fixing my clothes, punching him in his chest and arms and shoulders. He stood over a foot taller than me. He didn’t fight back, he only shielded himself. He asked what was wrong.
“You told someone? Made it seemed like I wanted all of this?”
“You disgusting piece of shit!”
I got into my car and drove away. I blocked his number and sat in silence.
He came by the store a few times, asking for food, everytime I refused to serve him, my coworkers confused but not daring to ask why. The last time I saw him was a few months ago, driving that green camaro down the road. I live forty miles from him now. I think of him sometimes, but I never speak his name.
I told my mother a year later, and she cried in my bedroom by my side. I told my therapist and she asked if I wanted to report it. I said no. I didn’t think it’d make a strong case, and I didn’t want to reopen old wounds.
I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to cry anymore. I didn’t want to tell the story. I wanted it to go away.
Anymore, November comes, and I feel it in my chest, the weakness I felt. I feel it in my heart, the way I blamed myself. I feel it in my head, pounding again at my skull, the way he took what was mine, and I didn’t fight back as hard as I should have.
It’s June, three years later. I’ve discovered what consensual sex feels like. I’ve discovered what it’s like to be loved, not only by another person, but by myself. Every year November still comes, and I still remember that pain. But every day, I continue my life, stronger than I was, smarter than I thought possible, better than I ever knew. I know what could have been done, and what probably should have, but I can’t change the past. I can only keep going forward, and when November comes again, I’ll remember, but one day, maybe it won’t hurt.
I was silent for a year. But that silence ended. I’m not afraid to cry anymore. I’m not afraid to tell my story.
That is what happened in November.
About the author: “My name is Karissa, and I am nineteen years old. I work in a fast food place, and I work for a postal service during the winter. I have four younger siblings, and I live with two cats in a house of my own. I’m five feet six inches and look exactly like my mother. I’m in college, working towards being a kindergarten teacher, while also furthering my interests in marine biology. I love animals, and have learned animals love you back better than people. I write more than I speak, but I’m definitely not silent.”