Assault By Attrition
I was always the fat friend, and I watched with great interest as the eyes would pass over me and land on a more attractive option. The smiles seemed similar enough, but the eyes were always so transitory, so brief, and reserved at a safe distance, like the space between a handshake and a hug. I learned to live with it, but it was hurtful to be so unwanted, especially during those early years of teenage exploration.
I was on house arrest, again. No ankle monitor this time, so I had the nights free to sneak out once my parents had fallen asleep. I waited in my room anxiously. My heartbeat was dense, and it seemed I spent the majority of my time in this hyper-tense state–– always something to watch out for. I snuck out the side door and cut through the elementary school behind my house instead of going down my street, which was too exposed. I didn’t get on my skateboard until I was well past earshot of my house, then I jammed down the corridors like a marauding Khan on horseback.
The school was empty at midnight, but that increased my paranoia tenfold. The field looked like an eerie swamp as a low moon cast baleful shadows through the high redwood trees standing guard around the perimeter like sentries. On the blacktop, a slight wind slithered through the open space, just enough to sway the chains on the tetherball poles and give them the appearance of a row of nooses, eagerly awaiting their royal performance. A soft clinking was heard as metal kissed metal. I stayed tight to the buildings where orange high-pressure sodium lights guided my way and the wheels of my skateboard created a rushing echo down the corridor.
Justin was waiting for me in front of his apartment, smoking a Camel in the shadows, with a backpack full of Old English stashed close by. He told me we had a place to hang that night instead of our usual loitering ground on the railroad tracks, and it happened to be in the apartment complex where he lived.
Justin was dating Lindsey, who lived with her sister, Haylee, and their mom. Their mom wasn’t home that evening, and the sister, much to my surprise, was a year older than Lindsey and cuter than I expected. Haylee had short, straight hair down to her neck, and the color was always changing in keeping with the grunge scene look of the early nineties. At present, it was jet black with blonde roots and her bangs had recently been trimmed. The hair framed her soft face with a gentle accent; her cheeks were a little puffy and her skin was Scandinavian pale. Haylee didn’t look at me for very long at first, but eventually I saw her bright blue eyes, magnetic and luminous, a stark contrast to the forceful black hair surrounding them.
The party was in full swing. One of the sister’s friends was also there, and everyone was drinking from the supply Justin had brought over. Everyone except me, that is, because I was being piss-tested every other day by my suffocating probation officer. Eventually Justin and Lindsey made their way back to a bedroom, the friend fell asleep, and Haylee and I were left to chat the night away.
We were talking about my current predicament of house arrest, and our general distain of authority, when Haylee shared her heart-numbing history. She looked down at the floor when she spoke.
“Up until two years ago, I was a good student. I was always top of my class, I took ballet, and my dream was to go to Stanford and become a doctor. In sixth grade, my house changed. My parents’ marriage became toxic. They were never home, and my dad became angry and moved away. During that time, a neighbor would look after us a lot. He did things to me, nasty things, and I was too scared to tell anyone. I tried running away a couple times, but I had nowhere to go. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I thought it wasn’t fair to ruin anyone else’s life. My grades fell off, everything fell off, and eventually I tried to kill myself. I was hospitalized, but I still couldn’t tell anyone about what happened. I came home from the hospital and the neighbor had gone on with his life and smiled when he saw me. He was dating someone, looked happy, and he had a new job, so there I was feeling all fucked up and alone. “
The sadness was heavy when she let it pour out, and I sat there in silence as she opened up.
“I made a friend when I was in the hospital. She was planning on running away with her boyfriend, and I thought I should go with her just for support. The boyfriend was another nasty guy. For two days, I was locked in a garage. I don’t remember a lot. I remember it was cold. Someone gave me a jacket. I remember the sound of a car pulling up outside the garage. I remember his glasses and him laying on top of me.”
After a pause, she shook her head and laughed, then dismissed the moment as overly-depressive and changed topics with her teenage pseudo-confidence. We went back to more digestible topics of conversation for a while.
A little later, with her friend fast asleep on the couch, Haylee looked at me with a devilish grin and those wide blue eyes.
“Hey!” she said with her pointer finger to the corner of her mouth, as if expressing deep contemplation, then giggled a bit. I looked at her and waited. She asked me a question that I had never been asked before, a dirty question, one I never expected to be aimed at me. It was said so nonchalantly that I wasn’t sure I had heard her correctly, but emotion doesn’t need assurance. I blushed. “Uugghh. What?” I stuttered.
She laughed again and focused in on my eyes. “You heard what I said. Yes or no?”
The real answer was a resounding NO, but I tried to play it cool enough not to explode with nervous laughter. Of course I’d never done that with a girl. Was she looking at the same person I knew myself to be? I was the fat guy who waited patiently as his friends explored sexuality and pretended it didn’t affect him.
“Uughh. No.” I mumbled under my breath with my eyebrows standing high at attention.
She smiled with flirtatious eyes. There it was; there they were. Interested eyes. It was the first time I had seen that look directed at me. She stood up, grabbed my hand, and led me back to her bedroom.
What had started innocently enough with young Haylee offering me my first sexual experience quickly turned into something else down the road. I didn’t know what was appropriate in that new one-sided relationship, so I just kept going to her house hoping for status quo. Conversations quickly become vapid when boys are only after one thing, and you can hear the same thread of banal pretext all the way through adulthood. We would labor through small talk until I worked up the nerve to ask her for another blowjob. The conversations afterwards were even more abysmal as I tried to disregard the truth.
I could see the difference in her eyes after the third time. Gone was the silliness of two teenagers innocently exploring, and all that was left was a sense of forced obligation––but I didn’t care. I kept going back. Eventually, she would casually avoid me or try to change the subject when we saw each other. Still, with a sense of entitlement and determination, I saw those passive rejections as a reason to convince her until she acquiesced.
The last time I saw Haylee was at a place called Blackberry Farm. It was a picnic ground in the middle of a trough that cut through Cupertino. In the summer, the pools were crowded with children and the barbecues were smoking late into the long days. Adjacent to the communal area was an open space reserve, and between the two was a small wooded section where we used to hang out to drink and smoke in seclusion. A small creek guarded three sides, and towering oak trees provided us with enough cover to do what teenagers did. A blue tarp was left next to a massive stone, and an unkempt fire pit still held the rock circle originally positioned.
I took her there because her mom was home that day, along with the mom’s boyfriend, so the prospect didn’t look favorable for a lewd little boy and his lecherous intentions. Haylee didn’t feel comfortable out in the open at Blackberry Farm, or maybe she was tired of being used, or maybe I had become a predator and couldn’t register the hesitation in her eyes as stemming from the fear in her heart, but the end result was that my blowjob was looking less and less likely. I implored and I persuaded, and we kissed as I tried to reduce her apprehension and get her to sit with me on the blue tarp. I sucked on her neck and gave her hickeys. I sat down and tried to pull her with me. When she tried to leave, I held on to her hand and continued my coercion. She walked away briefly a couple times, but I refused to join her, choosing instead to be petulant until she returned. Finally, she capitulated and gave me what I wanted.
We walked back in the same direction, then veered our separate ways as I headed for my place and she went home. Two hours later, I was home alone. The doorbell rang. Two officers were at my door, and they questioned me about my whereabouts that day and my relationship with Haylee. They said her neighbor had called the police because Haylee came home with bruises on her neck and arms, and when the police pressed her, all Haylee said was she had been hanging out with me. She didn’t say I had caused the bruises, choosing instead to stay silent yet again.
I told the officers we had been hanging out at Blackberry Farm. Naturally, I left out the part about my pressuring her to perform fellatio. When they asked me if I had hurt her or forced her against her will, I answered with an overly dramatic “No. Of course not.” They believed me.
Haylee had been taken to the hospital to undergo a rape kit procedure in which they swabbed her and took pictures, and all the while she stayed silent. She changed schools shortly after because the anxiety had gotten so bad, but her only reward was then to drive by the house of the man, the original neighbor, who had assaulted her years before.