Finger Patterns

I never went to the police. Who would believe me? What evidence could I give? I can’t remember dates and, thanks to the way I used to put my earbuds in and let my feet take me to where I wanted to go, I don’t know the address. He doesn’t live there now anyways. I can tell you that he had fat fingers, that he ate with chop sticks made from tiger bones, that he had birthmarks scattered over his penis. He only taught me songs that he wanted to teach. He bought Morrisons own brand condoms that came on a roll, but he never used them. His laugh was high-pitched; his breath tasted of chewing gum and roll-ups; he had green eyes, I think.

I learnt young that you can say no to a man you love but still, he might just smile, place a fat finger over your mouth and push into you anyway. He said please at least. One time, mid-July, I arrived at his door and sung carols playfully through the intercom because I knew he hated it. He came down to let me in, grinning, wearing only a dressing gown. He said he was just about to bath and asked if I wanted to join. I declined, reminding him that if my hair was wet then my mum would wonder where I had been, but really it was because I knew that he would try to have sex with me if I went with him. I waited in his front room, drinking vanilla coke until he was finished but he raped me then anyway. Once home, I would scrub away the smell of smoke under painfully hot water. My grades dropped. Friends didn’t believe me. Catcallers called me jailbait. He called me angel and spoke of impossible futures; he told me that feminism is man-hating bullshit. So it went for five months.

I never struggled, or cried. I saw it as inevitable. I thought this is what adults did in adult relationships and I didn’t want to seem stupid or immature, not after he had told me how much older than 15 I seemed. This was what love is, right? I had had sex with my boyfriend but that was all teenage elbows and caught hair, tender and careful, tangled in bedsheets that made his mum despair; I didn’t know it then but that sex felt different because it was consensual, I wanted it and I never felt pressured. With the guitar teacher it was all pressure. Pressure to be better at the instrument he was paid to teach me; pressure to hide our phone calls and msn chat logs from my family; pressure to keep him interested by letting him fuck me as I stared blankly at the ceiling; pressure to stay silent as he spoke to his other girlfriends on the phone when I was there; pressure to be okay with him having other girlfriends; pressure to eat with chopsticks made from tiger bone; pressure to never get tattooed because that would ‘damage’ my ‘perfect’ ‘virginal’ skin; pressure to be adult; pressure to be young; pressure to lie; pressure to take pregnancy tests alone; pressure to panic for years afterwards about the chance of HIV; pressure to still, almost a decade later, hide this from my parents and family.

Every time I kiss a smoker, I’m reminded but I’ve stopped taking scalding showers now. My new friends believe me. I listen to the songs. I cry. A counsellor told me that I have to make peace with my younger self, forgive her, love her, convince myself that it wasn’t my fault. I was groomed, I was deceived, I was raped by a man who was probably abused in his childhood and so on. I am diagnosed and prescribed. Relationships suffer. I listen to the songs. I am distrustful of people who approach me with sexual intent. I am not sex-posi, however hard I try. I have tattoos. I will never eat with tiger bone chopsticks again. Anti-feminists tell me that I’ll falsely accuse someone of raping me one day and that feminism is man-hating bullshit. I listen to the songs. I play them on ukulele. It’s like the guitar but the finger patterns don’t remind me so much of him.

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