Dear J*****, Hey there, it’s me Harriet. I know it’s been a while since we talked, about 25 years in fact, but I feel it’s time to talk about what happened that night in Dallas. And no this is not with the intention to out you, as I hope you’ve grown to become a marvelous man, husband or father and if you remember what happened perhaps you aren’t proud of it either. The time has come that I needed to get this story out of me and just let the world know that this happened and you were part of it. Because the world inside of me has been suffering quietly from the after effects for far too long and it’s time to let go.
Can you believe it’s been 25 years since that night you assaulted me and I never told anyone? I know, a long time, but ironically the discussion is quite timely because of what’s happening in the world and media right now. Women are finally speaking up about traumas from long ago, so I feel they're all coming up to heal, so it's time for mine to come out and heal too. And though 25 years may have passed, trauma and unwelcome sexual advances, such as what we experienced together feels as vivid as though it happened yesterday. So J*****, with all that being said, let’s go back to that night in October of 1993 in Dallas and revisit what happened so that you understand how your choices affected me and my life. I wish I could say I remember how we first met, but I don’t. But I do remember you went to ESD (Episcopal School of Dallas), a coed school about 10 min from Hockaday, the all-girls school where I went. I remember I’d have my one of my parents drop me off at the theater to go to a movie with you, and I wouldn’t watch the movie because I’d be hyper alert about the different levels you were exploring with me when we sat next to each other. First you’d lean close enough that our shoulders would touch, and then you’d place your hand on my knee. From there I could feel you pausing and glancing over at me to see how your moves were being received. And then you’d slowly lift your hand from my knee and extend your arm around my shoulder. From there I could smell your “Drakkar” cologne; I knew the name because all the guys wore this smell, the commercials said it would hypnotize women. From there you’d pull me slowly in towards you, so that your hand over my shoulder could graze the top of my tiny boob (I was 14) over my bra. If I turned my head to look at you you’d be there to kiss me, and I knew that because on 1 occasion I turned and it was as though your lips pounced on mine and I felt your tongue dart in and out of my mouth. It was exciting but not entirely enjoyable. Our mouths would move around each other in the back corner of the movie theater for 2 whole minutes, which felt like an hour. I’d feel your body shift directly towards me and the hand that wasn’t around my neck would wander down to my waist and reach under my shirt and touch my skin. But that’s as far as I’d ever let this movie make out go, and then we’d go our separate ways. I’d always be picked up by a parent, and you’d often call a friend or have your older sister Jen***** pick you up.
It was 8th grade when we first met and we’d continue to stay distantly in touch and see each other every few months when we’d arrange for one of these movie make out nights. You were one of the few guys who got my car phone number in 1992 and you’d often call in the evening and not leave a message, making me wonder what you were seeking. You weren’t the first on my list to inform that I’d moved away from Dallas to Utah, because we just didn’t know much about each other. Some guys I’d spend hours with on the telephone, but our conversations were only about coordinating when and where we were meeting up for a movie rendezvous. It had been several months since we talked and I’d since began to spend time with a guy from another school. So I was surprised when I answered our house phone on one of our last days in Dallas, and I heard you express sadness that I was moving away. You told me you’d always liked me a lot and wanted to get to know me better. Wait, what? Now you’re telling me this? I told you I kind of had a boyfriend but I’d be back soon to visit, so we could keep in touch. And you wanted that too, so I held onto your number.
In October of 1993 I’d already broken things off with my Dallas boyfriend who came to visit me in Park City (see day 29), and it was time for a Dallas visit. I’d told my parents I wanted to go alone, because I wanted to spend some time with my grandfather, who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a cruel illness that takes muscles away one by one ending with the heart & lungs. The first I heard of this disease was when he got sick. But shortly after I kept seeing mentions of it. I watched a lot of Oprah after school and loved when she’d interview the authors from her book club picks, and one day in particular she interviewed Mitch Albom, author of Tuesday’s with Morrie, his story of finding out his favorite teacher from college was sick with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and thus scheduling several visits with him at the end of his life to discuss life and share thoughts. I loved the book and I wanted my whole family on my dad’s side to read it, so that we could all come together and connect around what we were experiencing but not talking about with regards to my grandfather. Not that that kind of thing was common in my family at all, but I was optimistic. So I bought a few copies of the book and asked my parents if I could go to Dallas by myself, and the goal was to have a similar style life chats with my grandfather Jonathan, my dad’s dad. I got to Dallas for my 3 day solo weekend and had a few copies of the Tuesday’s with Morrie book with me, but no one in my family ever really came together in the way I’d envisioned. But I did get to hang out extensively with my grandfather, which was a blessing because I loved talking with him and being around him. Jonathan was a talented oil and canvas artist and would paint pictures that looked like photographs. My favorite was a painting he did of he & my brother standing on a peer together in Nantucket overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. My whole extended family used to vacation together a lot, and had rented a house in Nantucket for our family. In the painting my brother was maybe 5 years old and my grandfather was dressed in khaki pants and a white short sleeve button up shirt, and he had one hand on my brothers shoulder or head, and in the other he's holding and smoking his pipe. Both my grandparents smoked; Jonathan smoked a pipe and Gammy smoked cigarettes. I loved the smell of the cigars but hated the smell of cigarettes, but I loved both my grandparents immensely.
Growing up we spent so much time at their house in Dallas. Their house felt like it was in the middle of a jungle because of all the trees and vines around it, and its location was on an island of a street, meaning it existed on a corner but it had streets intersecting from the left, the right and the center, so coming in and out of the driveway took great care cause you had to check 3 directions. Their house had 4 bedrooms, an office for my grandfather and a few living rooms. The back porch opened up to a forested backyard that had deep & mossy city drain pipes my cousins and I would explore, and from the living room off my grandparents bedroom was a pool, a jacuzzi and a pool house. In their open air covered garage, they had 3 to 4 cars lined up one by one in front of the house. On the far right was the two toned gold Rolls Royce from the 50’s (my grandfather would put on a chauffeur cap and drive us kids around), a small two toned pickup truck they named “Violet”, a long blue Lincoln town car and a bright orange VW bus with a white top. My grandparents were very social and very classy, but not over the top; they always had people over, from kids to grandkids, and there was always a puzzle being worked on, someone playing the organ or my grandparents playing a game of Backgammon while each drinking their Scotch on the rocks. From the outside they appeared to have a sweet kind of love and they were surrounded and adored by their friends, 4 kids and myriad of grandkids, which included me. When I’d visit I’d stay upstairs in the bedroom that had my grandfather’s art studio in the bathroom. The sink was stained with paint, as was the floor, door and door handle. The bathroom was a pale yellow green and almost every surface had dried paint on it. Often his paint easel had a half completed canvas on it and I loved the idea that I was sharing space with my grandfather’s creative process. I also enjoyed drawing but just with pencils, so I’d sit by his bedside in the afternoon during my visit and either read to him or show him my own portfolio of drawings. He loved that. During this 3 night visit I felt like time with my grandfather was important because his time on earth was coming to a close. So during the morning, afternoon and first evening I’d hang exclusively with my family, but the second night I’d made plans at night that had 2 parts. First I’d go out with friends and be back at my grandparents house by 9, and then once I knew they were asleep and I’d sat in the lounger in the living room and watched every movie they owned (Airplane, Tootsie, Neverending story, & Cocoon) and scoured the tv channels, I snuck out and went to my friend C*****'s house. Her house had been the parent free gathering spot for 2 years. That night I used her phone and got the nerve to call you and tell you I was in town, along with several other guy friends I had in the Dallas area I wanted to see. I had one night open and I wanted to spend it well. The first guy to answer his phone was G****. He was from a coed school called Greenhill, and I’d met him when I showed up the previous year with a girlfriend to their school dance because she had a cousin there. We just kept talking to guys there, and G**** was one of them. He and I became great friends and he used to come over to my house, lay next to me on my twin bed and listen to U2 Joshua Tree on my stereo. Nothing ever happened between us but it felt like we always wanted it to. It was innocent and romantic. G**** wanted to see me so we made plans for he and his friend Jared who had a car and a license to come over to carol’s house later and hang out. They’d had other plans but I wasn’t often in town so they changed their plans to see me. But then you called me back At C*****’s and I felt a magnetic pull to hang out with you. And when you told me you were going to another party, but I could come along, I said hell yes. Totally forgetting that I’d just told G**** to come over to C*****’s later. I’d double booked. I gave you her address for your friend’s friend who was driving, and you and your friends came over at 10pm and picked me up. You looked startlingly different and more handsome than the last time I’d seen you; it was like you’d transformed from being a skinny 14 Year old boy with awkward movie makeout moves to a mature looking 15 year old guy who wanted to take me out on a date. It had been over 8 months since we’d seen each other and you wore a leather coat over a button down shirt and jeans. Your brown hair was shaggy now, but you still smelled of Drakkar cologne, which helped you feel more familiar. You looked like a model that night and I was so excited to be with you, and you seemed to feel the same about me. We had to sit close together in the back seat of the car on the way to the party and I sat on your left and found myself playing with the silver bracelet on your left wrist. It gave me something to focus on because I was a little nervous. I saw the bracelet had chain links and then a silver piece about the size of a piece of gum with your initials, JBJ inscribed on it. I didn’t know your middle name but I did know your last name. As we pulled up to the party we saw there were a lot of people there so you held my hand, which I loved. This was a party of a friend of your older sister’s, so neither of us knew anyone, which made us feel closer. We made our way through the crowd to the keg in the kitchen, and got our beer. We spent a lot of time in that kitchen and I kept drinking from a cup that kept getting refilled and leaning closer into you. And I also kept holding onto your silver bracelet and smiling, laughing and inching closer to you. When I went to the bathroom you met me in the hallway on my way back and you pulled me towards you and picked me up so my toes were barely touching the floor and leaned my body against the wall, with you leaning against me. “Do you know how good you look?” You asked me. “I was thinking the same about you.” I replied, because it was true. And I smiled at you and flirtatiously kissed the corner of your mouth and reached down and slid your silver bracelet off your wrist and playfully put it on my left wrist. You joked that I was yours now and you began to kiss my neck; I loved it. I felt so special; like we’d finally found each other again and now we’d have a blissful long distance relationship, probably go to the same college and live happily ever after. But no, that’s obviously not what happened. You paused from kissing me and guided me down the hall and when we reached a door, you turned the knob and my back opened the door as you continued to kiss me and we backed into a room. I could tell by the smell and dim light coming from the hallway that it was the laundry room, and you closed the door behind us. You put me up against the wall and the corner of the dryer and your body weight was pressing into me as you kept kissing me more and more aggressively. This was starting not to feel as romantic as it did in the kitchen or hallway just a few minutes before, and I began to dodge my head around to miss your kisses and I pushed against your chest to try and push you away from me, but you didn’t budge. Instead I felt your cold hand pull down my leggings and underwear, and out of nowhere I felt your small penis against the skin of my inner leg. I was shocked that things had progressed this fast without even a question from you if this was okay or what I wanted, and I felt dizzy and confused. Your hands held both my shoulders as you held me against the wall and you bent both knees to get below me, and as you stood up, I felt your little penis stab into me and insert itself inside me. What the fuck. It was then that I came to my senses and realized how out of control and wrong this was. I didn’t know where I was, who owned this house, and I had no id, wallet or phone on me. I was there having this experience I didn’t want, in the laundry room of complete strangers and I wanted out. You weren’t in me long because I screamed out in pain from the unlubricated penetration and perhaps my scream was what made you snap out of your sex coma. “This is what you wanted right? This is why you called me?” And I felt my eyes well up with tears because yes I wanted connection, but not a laundry room penis stab. I pushed you forcefully away and hurled myself towards the laundry room door, while pulling up my pants, and I ran out the door and closed it behind me. I wished I could have locked you in there. One in the hallway everything was spinning around me and I didn’t recognize anyone or anything. The people, the house, and the noises, were all foreign to me and I felt like I wanted to throw up; but instead I kept moving looking for the door to get out of the house and further away from you. When I reached the yard I got more confident that I was safe and I yelled out to the people approaching me that I needed a ride back to highland park high school, because that’s where carol’s house was. I didn’t know who I was asking for a ride from; it didn’t matter. I just needed to leave. I didn’t know the street names to my grandparents address, but I knew how to walk back from C*****’s and cut through backyards and bypass streets. A stranger from the party took me back to carol’s house but I have no recollection of who it was and I don’t remember the drive back. What I remember is pulling up to the front of her house and seeing G**** and J**** sitting on the roof of their car yelling my name and cursing at me because they thought I was upstairs at C*****’s and wouldn’t come out. Oh my god; I’d forgotten about them and had just left C*****’s with you. And for what?! A laundry room penis stab? I got out of the car I was in and just ran, because now I knew where I was. I watched my feet hit the pavement and I felt warm amid the chill in the air from running. Before long I saw the point of the island where my grandparents driveway was, and I picked up the key from under the mat and let myself in. I didn’t have a phone with me, no one other than my parents knew this number or knew where this house was, so I felt safe. I walked slowly up the creaky stairs to the upstairs bedrooms, past all of my grandfathers art along the stairway wall, hoping I wouldn’t wake up my sleeping grandparents. I walked into the bedroom and straight into the bathroom with dried paint everywhere and just looked at myself in the mirror and began to wash my face and cry. What the fuck had just happened. I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling, and it wasn’t long before I heard my grandmother moving about downstairs, so I took a shower, changed into comfortable clothes and went downstairs and sat with her as she read the morning paper and drank her coffee. She asked how I slept, and I looked down at my left wrist and saw your silver chain link id bracelet on my wrist with JBJ inscribed, and I said, “fine.” She had no idea that any of the night before had happened. And no one else ever did either until I first told my husband 20 years later. I never spoke with you again after that night but for some fucked up complicated reason, I held onto your silver bracelet for several years. What was it symbolizing to me? I still don’t have a clear answer about what my 16 year old brain was holding onto, but perhaps I held onto it as proof that it happened. I finally gave it away in Utah in a donation pile of some sort, and when I saw it again I thought of you. I hoped giving it away would help me forget about you and what happened. But it's stuck around in my head and I'll always remembered you, bracelet or not. But the difference now, after finally going back and writing this all out, it feels like I’m letting go and allowing this to heal, and thus create more room for love.
So that’s what I wanted you to know about that night J*****; that you were a quiet monster and you were the second person I’d ever had sex with, and that was the experience you gave me. I hated you for years, but I was too ashamed to say or do anything about it because I participated in the orchestration of it all. Yes, I liked you, but not the you who showed up that night in the dark laundry room. So now you know it wasn’t what I wanted and you should have known that. I’m sorry for us both that we shared that experience and I wonder if I ever cross your mind and if you were sorry too. I guess I’ll never know. But J*****, if you ever read this and recognize yourself in this story, know that I have forgiven you and I have released you from my experience. And to my friend G****, you were right to be so mad at me that night and yelling at me out your sunroof. I’m sorry I forgot about you and ghosted and as you can see, I wish I hadn’t. But you and I have since reconnected and I see you and your beautiful family on Facebook. This is a letter to you J*****, but it's also to any woman who has ever gone through a sexual trauma; maybe you don’t remember all the details so you've stayed quiet. I get it, I stayed quiet for 20 years. But know it’s important to speak up and share your story with someone, even just for your own healing. Because that's what will keep healing women and humanity. Namaste