What Happens in High School Doesn’t Stay in High School

Somewhere in America. Nic McPhee/Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday around noon, as I watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford speak about the additional front door she had installed in her home as a way of dealing with trauma-induced claustrophobia, a notification pinged on my phone: a DM from the man who assaulted me when we were both around 16 years old and in high school.

I wasn’t as surprised as I suppose I could have been. I’d been tweeting all day, angrily and effusively, about the horrific facsimile of due process unfolding on television and had mentioned my own experience in passing. He asked if my tweet was about him.

“It made me worry…that we may have had some sort of nonconsensual interaction in high school,” he wrote. “I truly don’t remember any encounter like this, so hopefully I’m being paranoid, but I wanted to check to make sure – and to deeply apologize if anything like that occurred.”

I wrote back, first thanking him for reaching out to me. I told him that I had indeed been referring to the night he and I and a few other kids had drunk beer in the unfinished basement of a friend’s house, which had been under construction at the time, later retiring to my parents’ pickup truck where we’d kissed enthusiastically before he’d fingered me hard and to the point of acute pain despite my wanting to stop.

I remember with uncomfortable clarity the tone of voice I’d used when I’d asked him to slow down. From nowhere in my body, maybe emboldened by alcohol, I’d conjured a film noir drawl to whisper “things are moving a little bit fast for me, I think.”

He didn’t listen, or didn’t want to. (“I’m incredibly, incredibly sorry. At the time, I don’t think I understood your expression of boundaries and where you were setting them.”)

Next, he and I moved to the truck bed so two other friends could use the backseat to hook up (the accounts of debauched hedonism from Kavanaugh’s classmates are all too familiar) and I continued to make out with him, by that point resolved to subsume my total shock in an avalanche of sensation.

The truck was parked in a sleepy suburban street and it was very late, so I didn’t care that I was naked from the waist up until a car pulled around the corner and blinded us both with the glare of its headlights. It slowed, the window rolled down and two men, strangers, howled their approval, screaming with laughter. Pinioned by shame, coated in sweat, I was reborn to my own humiliation.

I got dressed and drove everyone home. He texted me right before I fell asleep: he’d left his iPod in my car, and would I mind bringing it to school tomorrow?

Yesterday, when he and I first began to talk over the phone at my request, he asked quietly and deliberately whether I was writing about the incident (I was), whether I was recording the conversation (I was not) and if I could guarantee that his name and identifying details would be omitted (his name, yes; telling details, probably not).

I responded patiently. When he continued to press the issue I told him that though his concerns were valid, I’d contacted him in order to ask questions and that he needed to start answering them. The call ended up lasting over an hour.

I write all of this not to taunt him, or even contribute to some sort of imagined ruination. I believe his remorse is genuine and am therefore happy to forgive him unequivocally.

When he’d leaned towards me, smiling, in that moonlit construction site years ago, I felt like I’d been launched out of a t-shirt cannon into an ecstatic crowd. When he betrayed my trust a few hours later I could still feel the residual high from that kiss.

And I don’t begrudge him his concern about protecting his identity; I’d act the same way were I in his place. And I’ve always admired a certain degree of duplicity in people. 

I write this for no other reason than it now feels impossible not to. What Happens in High School Doesn’t Stay in High School