A lack of consent is a betrayal of trust–especially from supposed friends–and it can alter not only one’s relationship with those people, but one’s whole self and life. An event like this leads to irreversible change, but writing about it in a way that acknowledges and parses out the small moments where consent was overlooked is a part of healing. With great care and attention to detail, Gardiner helps us understand how we can all continue to change and heal by acknowledging and understanding our complex truth.
by Jessica Gardiner
I had to meet her boyfriend eventually, so I decided it might as well be on a night where alcohol would be involved. The bar served $4 long island iced teas; mine was pink, his purple, and hers a lime green. We sipped, chatted, and sipped some more. His tasted the best, then hers, mine the worst. It was nice to meet him and it was nice to meet me too. I’ve heard a lot about him and he had heard much about me— I know things that he doesn’t know I know. It was funny that I knew her much longer than him. I had memories of her that she had forgotten and that he was never there for. They were mine alone: The days in middle school where she’d get upset if I wouldn’t hold her hand; when I choked on the Korean lettuce-wrap her mom cooked for me; when we were in the mall parking lot Freshman year, just trying to find a spot, and she told me she knows we will be friends forever.
The iced teas now buzzed through us, we ordered shots, and now we were getting along. I made fun of him for being old. Because he was. Lightheartedly of course— we were on that level now. He paints, like me. He bragged about how long each painting took, scrolling through his phone’s camera roll. Abstract paintings, dark colors— of monsters, of figures of things he just “threw together.” I felt open now too. I didn’t have pictures of my paintings, but I talked about them— my inspiration, discoveries of technique and colors, and why I started in the first place. He leaned over and whispered to her. I demanded to be told what he said. She laughed— I was his favorite friend of hers.
On the walk back to her place, the moonlight blended with the city, and she and I were laughing over nothing. He kept grabbing her and stopping for a long kiss. Then he would look in my eyes and laugh at my awkward expression. She would blush and gently hit his arm. I would stare at my feet.
After stumbling upstairs to her bedroom, he gave me a shot of vodka that we washed down with warm grape juice. With the three of us on the bed, her on top of him, they began to kiss. I stared at the ceiling, mouth open, and they laughed at how drunk I was. Soon, I got up to go home. They sat me down, said I should stay, and gave me more vodka.
They decided it would be funny if she and I kissed. It was quick. Her lips were thin. Her hands were cold, her breasts were bigger, mine smaller, his hands were rough. My hand got placed, my head held. I asked what was happening. After she finished her moaning, they decided it was my turn, and unbuttoned my dress, bottom up and top down, as a team. He laughed at her because she had never done such a thing. He pinched and pulled. I asked what was happening. When it was over I dressed and left the room. They continued on.
I wandered down the stairs with both hands on the railing. By the entry door I kept asking where my shoes were. The housemates in the lit dining room just looked over, not wanting to help a person like me.
Jessica Gardiner is currently a student at the University of Michigan, and this is her first publication.