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The "What If" Game
I dread nights. It's during the inevitable time before I fall asleep that I'm in the most pain. It's the most all-consuming, permanent kind of pain, and it reminds me daily that I'm not better, even after a day of pretending that I am. It's at night when there is nothing to distract me. My mind takes a meandering, agonizing path for which I have no control, a path that usually wanders right into my sleep, settling itself into a nightmare that wakes me up and starts the process over.
It starts by going back to the worst day of my life: September 2nd.
I try, fruitlessly yet earnestly, to get into the mind of my perpetrator. Did he really know what he was doing when he sexually assaulted me? The more I think about it the more apparent it becomes that he knew exactly what he was doing. When we first met he told me that he was waiting until marriage to have sex. I trusted him, and I never would have expected it. I was so confused when I realized what he was doing. I told him to stop and he knew that I wasn't kidding. I can remember so clearly the look on his face. It was scary because I had never seen anything like it and I haven't since. He knew I wasn't kidding, but he didn't care. How could he not care? How could anybody not care?
I could think about just that for a long time. I was 15 and I foolishly believed that the world was a decent place. It didn't make sense that this could happen to me. No, this wasn't supposed to happen to me. But it did, I know because I spend every night trying to figure out why.
He doesn't make any sense. Actually, none of this makes sense. I had always believed that life was a really simple equation where you received consequences as direct results of your actions. Back then everything was plain and simple, black and white. Everything made sense. But if people get what they deserve, then what did I do to deserve this? Everything that I used to believe doesn't fit into the new puzzle piece in my life; I was raped.
Isn't it infernally ironic? He made me feel so mature because he was almost 3 years older than I was and because we talked about dirty things, when really the thing he liked so much about me was that I wasn't mature at all. I was so naïve. I made it easy for him. I never ask myself “Why didn't I know better?” but instead I tell myself “I knew better.” That hurts so much more. It reminds me that it was in my hands to stop him. I knew better. I knew better. I knew better. I knew better than to say those things, to do those things, to go along with that. My parents raised me to be smarter than that. What in the world made me think that I was so wise?
When I lie there at night my thoughts always go to the million wrong decisions that I made. What if I had listened to my friends when they told me that I shouldn't talk to him? What if I never met up with him at the mall that day? When he told me at the last minute that he was coming to see me, what if I had told him that it was too late? What if I had typed “we're over” instead of “I'll meet you outside”? Could my fate really have been held in a 21-character text message?
I remember looking into his eyes and being scared because they were so empty. To this day it scares me to think about it. What if I had listened to my instincts when they told me that he had bad intentions? I was nervous to go into the bathroom when he suggested it. What if I had been honest and told him that I didn't want to? What if I had run away as soon as I was uncomfortable? What if, after he told me to “be quiet” for the 5th time, I had decided not to listen to him?
What if, what if, what if: I could play the “what if” game forever.
I should have screamed and fought the second he kept going when I told him to stop. Why didn't I? Because I was scared that he would hurt me. Well guess what? He hurt me anyways. In fact, I can't imagine a way he could have hurt me more. He took something from me that I will never get back. In less than 10 minutes he caused the things I now battle every day: anxiety, flashbacks, PTSD, self-injury, recurring nightmares, and depression. In less than 10 minutes he ruined me.
Just going to school is hard for me now because I see everyone else and I know that they are just like I used to be. They are so lucky. They get to be these kids who just have fun and try to get good grades and make the varsity sports teams. They're over there, where everything is all fun and games. But I am over here, remembering a time when my biggest problem was getting in a fight with my parents, losing a volleyball game, or failing a history test.
In less than 10 minutes everything changed. I went from being this girl who plays volleyball, tries hard in school, and likes math class to this broken girl who cries herself to sleep at night, cuts where nobody can see it, and hates more things than you could ever imagine.
But don't you get it? I just wanted to be the girl who plays volleyball.
Nothing will ever be the same.