35 Million This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     There are approximately 35 million pores on the human body, I told myself, staring into the mirror. My eyes were filling with tears and my face was red with the effort of suppressing them. I could barely see my image behind the sheet of water threatening to spill from my eyes. I willed myself to breathe.

“Thirty-five million,” I whispered. The gush of tears came pouring out. My mouth was open as I lay gasping on the floor of the library bathroom. I felt as if I were drowning in the shimmering, crystal beads that were racing down my face into my hair, my mouth, my nose.

“It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault, Cara. Everything will be okay,” Molly* whispered, stroking my hair gently. Her hands were so cool and steady. I thought I was dreaming. The brown tiles smelled of ammonia, and the air had the bittersweet scent of a just-sanitized restroom. It was surreal. I had never lain on a public floor before. I knew I ought to care, but I didn’t.

“Molly, rape is not a joke. This is serious. Think of everything that might happen: pregnancy, AIDS, STDs ... Why is it that I’m the one who’s bawling, Molly? Tell me that, please,” I begged.

I looked into her deep brown eyes that were still and unchanging, a mask of solemn but strong defeat. If I hadn’t smelled the essence of her fear, I would never have guessed that she was terrified.

“Damn,” she said softly, standing. “I’m bleeding.” She turned and walked stiffly into the stall. I sat up and brushed my tears away.

“Oh, God, Molly. Oh, God,” I kept repeating. “Molly, how can you forgive me?”

“Cara. Stop. I need you to get yourself together, okay? You are the brains here. I need you to think,” she instructed me firmly. I tried to calm myself, to focus on her. I was being selfish. I should have been taking care of her, not vice versa.

“We have to go to the cops, Molly. You have to tell them. What if he goes after someone else? What if he thinks he can get away with this again?” I cried.

“No!” she shouted, bursting out of the stall and letting it slam shut behind her. “You swore on our friendship that you wouldn’t tell a soul, cops included. I’ll be fine. I can hold my own.”

“Molly, you could be pregnant!” I screamed. “You were just raped in the back of the library!”

“I know that! God, don’t you think I know that?” she yelled. In one movement, she turned, punched the wall, and slid down to gather herself in a ball. She began to sob, shaking and convulsing with each racking cry.

“God, oh God, why me?” she cried between her anguished spasms.

“If not the cops, a clinic, at least. Please. You have to think of how many things could be wrong,” I said, as gently as I could.

“Don’t remind me. And no, no clinic. No one can know about this.”

“But Molly, this isn’t your fault.”

“That doesn’t matter. He threatened me, my friends, my family,” she told me, shaking her head.

“He doesn’t know where you live,” I reminded her. “You’re being ridiculous, Mol. You can’t just let this go.”

“Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do. I’m the one who’s actually composed right now,” she shot back hotly.

“Molly, I’m trying to help you,” I replied. “You don’t know what you’re thinking. You’re not in your right mind.”

“Not in my right mind?” she screamed. “I knew it was a mistake to tell you. I thought I could trust you, but I can’t. You left me here while you went to your boyfriend’s house. I went to do my research and I got grabbed and raped. Right in the travel section. Everyone’s lives are at stake here and you want to tell someone? Go ahead,” she sneered. “But when he comes knocking at your door and attacks you, I won’t be there for you. I’ll be dead.”

“Wh-what do you mean?” I stammered, desperately craning my neck to make eye contact with her.

“If you tell one soul,” she whispered, leaning in so close to me that I could feel her warm breath, “I will kill myself.”

“Molly-” I began. She turned and walked out the door. For a moment, I couldn’t breathe or think. Then I dashed to the toilet to vomit.

“Thirty-five million,” I gasped, panting as I fell back with my body against the toilet. “There are 35 million pores on the human body, and every single one of Molly’s has been violated. Oh, Lord, God, please, God. Please. Hail Mary, full of grace ...”

I continued my feverish recitation until closing time.

*Name has been changed

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the March 2005 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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