It's important to me to state off the bat that I recently got back in contact with H., we had a very long talk about what happened, and she really didn't know what was going on. I believe her, and her not knowing his intentions explains a lot of her words and actions during all this. Pt. 1 covers what happened, Pt. 2 covers the aftermath and the effects of going into denial, and Pt. 3 covers how I managed to finally find a sense of peace with it all. The whole story covers almost 23 years, so I needed to break it into smaller sections for easier reading.
I was drugged by someone I thought was a friend many years ago. I had just turned 19 about a week and half before and I was roommates with both of the people I'm going to mention, one male and one female, although they weren't the only ones living there. Lee is the male, and the female I'll call H. I knew her from work and she introduced me to him there. He very quickly became one of my "refuge" tables that I'd go to when I needed a break from the patrons, and I was always happy to see him come in, which he did with increasing frequency. We'd end up talking the whole night and then go wander around Walmart together when my shift ended. By the time everything went to hell, I had known both of them for a total of maybe two or two and a half months, but I only lived in the house for about the last month of that period. The entire time I'd known him he'd been this consistently gentle, friendly, funny guy who I'd thought I was forming a close friendship with. I knew he was interested in more but I'd made it clear I wasn't and he seemed to respect that, so I still felt safe moving in when she offered me that room. He always came off as a perfect gentleman, always so respectful of the boundaries I had set. We'd hung out in my room alone just to talk with no problems numerous times, so the side I saw that night came completely out of left field. I actually thought he had given up and moved on to a friend of mine.
There were several red flags along the way, but I missed them. My therapist years later didn't, though. When I described his behaviour, she told me I was giving textbook descriptions of traits associated with sociopathy and narcissism, although she couldn't say for sure that's what he was without actually talking to him. I started looking into it and saw exactly what she'd been talking about. For one thing, he'd been gaslighting me from the word go, but if you've never encountered someone like that before it's almost impossible to recognize it for what it is. He had been toying with me since we met without me realizing. We had talked about a lot of things in the club over those first few weeks, but he didn't start changing what he said until after I was in the house. I remember once fairly early on after I'd moved in he did that with the city he'd told me he was from during one of our talks between sets at work. He'd told me one thing, but then when it came up a few weeks later during one of our now near--nightly talks in my room and I asked what high school he'd gone to in that city, he looked puzzled and told me no, he was from XYZ, not ABC. I could have sworn he said ABC, but he convinced me I must have forgotten or that I was thinking of someone else. It was such a simple thing, the sort of thing anyone could make a mistake on with a new person so I decided he must be right and let it go. That's how it all started and it only escalated from there. It seemed like the harder I tried to pay attention and keep my facts straight with him, the less I was able to do so.
Before long, I had also gotten where he was stationed in the Army wrong, and I couldn't keep his work schedule straight to save my life. He would tell me when he'd be there so I could pop in, then when I got there I'd find out he'd been scheduled off. I thought maybe it was a last minute change or something, but no, I'd be told that the schedule hadn't changed since it came out, I'd just gotten mixed up on what he'd said. Towards the end it turned into him snapping at me when my back was turned and then denying it when I tried to confront him. By the time I turned around, there was nothing about the way he looked that supported him being irritated or anything, so I'd figure I must have misheard him and apologize. It was always little stuff, easily dismissed, things that were totally out of character for him or that wouldn't make any sense for him to lie about, so I figured it really must be me. I thought it was just sleep deprivation from adjusting to working nights. I almost wanted to start using a tape recorder or take notes every time we talked just for the sake of my sanity. It got to the point I was constantly double checking with other people too, thinking I must be getting things wrong with them as well, but he was the only one it was happening with. Of course I questioned it, but it didn't make sense. I tried asking one of the other roommates, (I think it was Kyle) how well he knew him, if he'd ever known him to do things like this or caught him in a lie, but he couldn't shed any light on it since they never really saw each other that much. I felt wrong even asking, that I could even suspect him like that. I decided I was being silly and dismissed it. After all, what would be the point of him confusing me on purpose like that? What would he possibly stand to gain? Nothing, at least not that I could see. It must just be that I was tired by the time we usually had our really long talks and I just wasn't tracking well. That had to be what it was.
It's important to note a conversation I had with two of the other roommates, Jason and Mercedes, a couple who moved out shortly before "that" night. I came into the kitchen where they were some weeks before everything happened, and some comment I made started them teasing me about Lee's very obvious interest and asking why I wouldn't give him a chance. I got embarrassed and tried explaining that the chemistry just wasn't there, that he was too much like my brother for me to feel any attraction, that it would be weird, etc, but they wouldn't lay off. It was all good-natured joking around, but it embarassed the hell out of me. I knew Lee was a good guy and I felt a degree of guilt that I couldn't return his interest. He would have been perfect for me if it hadn't been for a few things and I knew that. For the sake of full disclosure, Lee had a severe weight problem, and I have to admit that his appearance was a factor in my lack of attraction to him. I knew it was shallow of me and I felt guilty about it, I knew it wasn't fair, but it was one of those things I just could not get past. Of course, even if he had been smaller it wouldn't have mattered because of the other issues, but I'm sure he thought my wanting to just be friends was only about his size. I was trying to shut them down and finally told them to stop, that it was never going to happen and that the whole idea was disgusting. The problem was that I said that last just as he was coming out of his room into the kitchen where we were. I froze and my stomach dropped through the floor because I knew how awful it would have sounded and I wasn't sure if he'd heard it. I knew he wouldn't have heard the first part about my brother at all and I knew why he'd think I said it. I felt horrible, but he didn't act like he'd caught it, and I was too mortified to ask. A day or two after that was the first time he snapped at me, and my first thought was, ok, he did hear me and he's pissed. He has every right to be, but now we can get this straightened out. I thought he was being what we would now call passive aggressive and tried to ask if there was anything we needed to talk about, but he said no and denied he snapped in the first place. I very stupidly let it go at that.
The other red flag was that he told me he'd been accused of sexual harassment in the Army. He said it was dismissed as groundless, that she had misinterpreted what he'd said or something and reported it, but that his superiors had cleared him. I was dumb enough to believe his explanation. It was Lee-- it had to be a mistake. He wasn't like that. The one that really struck me as odd was one he told me not long after I moved in. We were sitting in my room as usual, talking about who we lived with before and why we moved. He told me that he had lived with another couple but that the wife was crazy, that she'd go off for no reason. He said one night she started screaming at him and hitting him with a cast iron skillet. What threw me was what he said his reaction was. He said he just stood there and took it until she ran out of steam and then calmly looked at her, totally deadpan, and asked "Are you done?". It almost felt like he was bragging about his reaction, but the way he talked about it gave me the creeps. It's hard to describe how he looked when he got to that part, but he was almost glowing, like he enjoyed the effect it had had on her. If he'd said he got angry and yelled back or defended himself, I would have understood that. That's what most people would do, but no reaction at all, not even to block the pan or get it away from her? Looking at it now, I think what bothered me was that he seemed proud of being able to intimidate her that badly rather than it just being something he used to get her to back off. It bothered me that he took pleasure in it. On the other hand, the lady was hitting him with a frying pan, so I thought maybe I shouldn't judge what he did in response too much. Maybe it was better for him to make her believe he was crazier than she was to get her to leave him alone. He said she steered clear of him from then on out, but it wasn't long before they asked him to leave anyway. It crossed my mind that maybe he was exaggerating, that he was trying to make himself sound tough or impress me with his self control. Ultimately I dismissed it, not giving it another thought until after everything happened. Again, I had dismissed something that I should have paid attention to because it was incongruous with who I thought he was. I was getting very good at that. After what he did to me though, I had to wonder what the real story was on what caused her to go off.
I had decided not to go to work that night. It was a strip club, I had only been at it a few months and I was still adjusting to it, and for some reason that night I got to the door and I just could not do it. Lee had given me a ride in and I decided that since I'd had to work on my birthday, I wanted to get a bottle of something and go back home to hang out with him and H, like a belated sort of thing since it had only been a week and half or so before. I gave him money and sent him to the liquor store next to the club. Once we got home, he was making my drinks all night, although H. decided not to drink at all and he stopped after the first one. I kept going and they just sort of kept an eye on me. Everything was fine through the first several, but at some point I went too far and went into the bathroom feeling sick. H. came with me, I was ok, and she went out ahead of me. I don't want to go into too much detail about what happened, but when I came out there had been an accident involving one of the cats' kittens that upset me badly. It just happened to be the same one I'd been playing with earlier, the same one I'd been considering adopting from H. once it was old enough. I do remember Lee's reaction though, or his lack thereof. He was leaning up against the counter, arms folded, just watching it with this weirdly neutral expression. No concern, no upset, just...nothing. That wasn't like him at all and I couldn't understand it. I sort of chalked it up to shock because he was the one that caused the "accident". I went to it, asking why they were just standing there, trying to convince them that it needed help, that we needed to get it to a vet, and H. kept trying to tell me it was gone even though I could see it wasn't. It was very still but it was still breathing, it still had muscle tone and it wasn't losing heat. The only thing wrong with it that I could see was that it was unresponsive. I know their version of what happened to it, that it was a completely accidental head injury, but there were no marks on it at all and it just didn't add up. I'm not convinced he didn't test the drug he gave me on it first. From what I saw, it was in exactly the same condition I was going to be in later on.
H. pulled me back into the bathroom, still saying I was wrong and it was gone, that Lee would take care of it. She got me somewhat calmed down, accidents happen, etc., and again, she went out first. When I came back out a few minutes later, Lee was at the counter with his back to us. I noticed his movements were odd though, like he was trying to keep his arms too close to his body. I sort of looked at her and asked what he was doing and tried to cross the room to see. As soon as I stepped forward, she stopped me and steered me back against the wall, saying he was making me another drink, that it would help me calm down, just to let him bring to me because I'd fall if I tried to walk across the kitchen. I was very intoxicated by this point so I decided she was probably right and stayed put, talking to her, and when he came over to us with it I noticed that weird look he'd had was gone and he was back to the Lee I knew. I wondered if I'd really seen it at all, or if I was just so flipped out that I misinterpreted it. I knew that damn drink didn't look right, but I blew it off, thinking it was probably just a little stronger or something. I downed it, and I've never had a drink make me feel that sick that fast. It turned my stomach almost as soon as made contact, way too fast for it to have even begun to be absorbed, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't even remember leaving the doorway after I drank it.
I must have passed out because I woke up in the bathtub, undressed and leaning against the far corner with the rest of me in the water, disoriented as hell. I tensed, trying to clear my head and figure out what was going on, then I saw both of them standing there and relaxed. I knew it was ok, that they were looking after me, and I slipped back out. The next thing I knew I was waking up on her bed in her room with both of them standing over me. I asked where Michael was, (the guy I was seeing), for some reason thinking he was in the house. My eyes were closed and I heard him say, “I’m here”, but when I opened my eyes to respond, I saw it was still only Lee and H. in the room with me. I must have looked confused because H. told me no, he’s not here, then glared at Lee and told him not to mess with my head like that. It seemed to piss her off that he did that, and I remember him not looking too happy with her, either, but I thought he was just playing because I was so drunk. I didn't understand why she came down on him like that. I found out the next day that I was half hallucinating, not making any sense before I wound up in her room, so it’s not surprising I was convinced Michael was there when he wasn’t.
I remembered waking up for those few seconds in the tub, and I asked them about why I'd been in there. I was still completely undressed, uncovered, and they told me that my heart rate had spiked while my breathing had gotten sporadic and then slowed almost to a stop, only a few shallow breaths per minute, to the point that they that would start to get worried it had stopped entirely and then suddenly I'd inhale again. They told me I was undressed because they had put me in the tub until my vitals settled down, but when they tried to get me dressed again I wouldn’t let them, saying I was too hot, so they left them off and laid me out on her bed as I was. I really wasn’t too worried about it to be honest. I thought I was among friends and it really wasn’t much more than they’d seen in the club anyway, so I let it go, too far gone to give it much thought.
I remember the three of us talking, joking around like always after that, and I think they were amused by how out of it I was. I know I was laying down the whole time and I kept wanting to close my eyes. It feels like there's a blank spot here, it's fuzzy, like I was going in and out. I can’t remember what we talked about, just that the overall mood was good and they were sort of teasing me about overdoing it. I know she left to go call James and then came back. Everything felt very far away, like I was 20 feet below them, sort of dreamlike, like nothing was quite real and everything they said seemed so funny.
She came back in, we kept talking, and the conversation turned to sex at some point. It was nothing specific that I remember, just in general, just friends talking, and I remember her asking me something but I can't remember what. I remember still feeling so far away, kind of in a haze, eyes still closed, but the exact question and my exact response has always been a big blank. I know I was only half paying attention and said something about using protection before drifting back out, but that's all I've ever been able to recall. I don't know how long it was after that, but I remember being annoyed that she wasn't leaving, like I was expecting her to go. I think focusing on why she was still there snapped me back to reality and I had this this moment of panic like, "oh god, wait, what did I just say", remembering where I was and who I was with. What the hell was I thinking? I opened my eyes and went to correct it, to take it back, but it was like it hadn't happened. I was relieved because there was nothing in their behavior or the way they were talking to indicate I'd even spoken out loud, so I thought there was nothing to worry about. H. wasn't leaving, Lee wasn't acting any differently, so I thought it must be ok, that I didn't say anything that needed to be walked back. They'd already moved on in the conversation, talking about a bill that came in or something, so I didn't bother to say anything. I thought it was settled, a non-issue, and didn't think any more about it. I didn't really want to talk anymore, anyway. I was happy just floating there; it felt like I was sort of cocooned in this big, soft black cloud.
At some point later Kyle stopped in the doorway and made a crude comment about me laying there like that, making me stop floating and open my eyes when I heard him. I paid attention, thinking I was going to need to say something, but H. froze him out before I had to. She seemed irritated, as did Lee, basically telling him, "hey, she's drunk, we've got her, you don't need to be in here". I remember being relieved and feeling grateful to them for being so quick to look out for me that way, like ok, I'm fine, they're taking care of me. It was the same feeling I'd had during those few seconds in the tub. He left, but it seemed to open the door to the subject and I heard Lee start telling her about how he'd been trying to get with me for weeks and gotten nowhere. I thought H. would shut him down, too, for the same reason, but she didn't. I heard "Well, she's right there if that's what you want to do", and I immediately tried to sit up, to tell them that all I wanted to do was sleep this off, but nothing happened. I hadn't felt anything change, but suddenly I couldn't move and I couldn't make a sound. My body simply would not do what I was telling it to do, like a computer with the keyboard unplugged or a remote with no batteries. It was just suddenly non-operational and I was trapped inside, down to nothing but my thoughts with no way to express them. Confusingly, I could still open and close my eyes at will, but that was it, that was the only movement I could produce.
I was panicking, I couldn't figure out why I was paralyzed, but I kept thinking it would be ok, that she wouldn't leave without asking me if I was ok and then when I didn't respond they'd know something was wrong. They kept talking about various things that were unrelated, just like before, but neither of them said another word to me. I kept closing my eyes, thinking that they'd try to wake me if they thought I'd passed out again, but as far as I know neither of them even looked down again. I couldn’t get their attention to let them know I needed help. I desperately wanted them to just look down, to just check in with me one more time before she left, to ask if I was sure I was ok. I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t. I kept thinking surely one of them would say something directly to me. I had turned him down so many times that it would only make sense to check with me, to make sure I was really ok with this, but neither of them did. Maybe because I wasn't saying anything they thought I was fine with it? My mind was racing and I kept looking for saving graces, thinking she'd at least tell him to move me to his room if she really thought this was about to happen and then when I didn't get up to go with him they'd question why. I thought surely she wouldn't let him use her own bed, right? Nope. She just kept bitching about that stupid phone bill and going on about how pissed she was. It was like I was no longer in the room at all. In fact, neither of them said another word to me until well after it was already over. I heard her say she needed to call James back about the bill and then she left, telling him she'd be in the living room if he needed her.
I wasn't even worried about him right then, just scared because I couldn't move or speak and I couldn't figure out why. I thought that it would all be ok, that once he started trying to do something he'd figure out I couldn't respond and he'd stop, that he'd call for help. I was sure he wouldn't go ahead once he knew. He was my friend, he cared about me, he’d been taking care of me all night so I never for a moment believed he’d react any other way. I kept thinking he'd make sure I was ok with it before he did anything, but he ignored me, never said a word, just started getting undressed right after H. left. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t looking at me or talking to me, trying to get me to engage. I was right on the edge of the bed, so I thought at the very least he'd ask me to move over to give him room and then he'd know something was wrong when I didn't respond, but he didn't. I kept trying everything I could think of to get his attention. I tried looking like I’d passed out several times, but he was never looking down at me when I did it. I’m not sure he ever even saw that my eyes were closed. I tried looking like I’d stopped breathing, but I couldn’t keep it up long enough. I was having trouble with that as it was because my chest felt so heavy, like there was a weight on top of it that I was having to fight against. It felt like I was having to drag air in, and so not breathing at all was nearly impossible for more than a few seconds at time. I was perpetually feeling like I’d held my breath underwater too long as it was.
God, I gave him the benefit of a doubt right up until he actually touched me, thinking he couldn't possibly know the condition I was in and still do this. That wasn't my friend, that wasn't the sort of person he was. I honestly thought that as soon as he realized what was happening that he'd stop and get me help. My mistake.
When he finally did look down, he didn’t look right. He was completely blank, almost bored looking, like he was just observing me in this remote, expressionless way. Minutes had gone by and he still hadn't said a word. I started to have this sinking feeling right then, but I kept hoping. I kept telling myself this was Lee, he wouldn’t. Surely he wouldn’t. There was this profound sense of disbelief that kept growing by the second, this inner war that was starting between who I knew he was and the reality of what seemed to be happening. He just watched me for a minute longer, then reached down and ran his thumb over my lips. It was weird, but I thought, ok, now he’ll get it, now he’ll ask what’s wrong, but he didn’t. He didn’t react at all to me not responding to that. He didn't even seem surprised. That sinking feeling was getting worse and I was beginning to lose that inner war that was raging inside. It was getting incredibly difficult to maintain the belief that he didn’t know, that he’d stop as soon as he did. Then I realized I had felt it. I had felt it when he touched me. I'd had this idea that maybe since I couldn't move I wouldn't be able to feel anything either, that if he did go through with it, all I had to do was close my eyes and it would be like it wasn’t happening, but now I knew that wasn’t the case. Whatever he did, I was going to feel it. It hadn’t occurred to me that paralysis didn’t necessarily mean numbness.
When I didn’t respond at all, he quit looking at me and moved towards the end of the bed, only stopping to move my arm off my stomach as he went. As soon as he did that, I felt this sickening shock as the thought hit me that, oh my god, he already knows. He already knows the condition I'm in and he doesn't care. He knows I need medical attention and he's going to do this anyway. I remember how crushing that realization was, that he knew I was in trouble and instead of calling 911, he was using it to his advantage. I hadn't been willing to give him a chance and so now that he had the opportunity he was forcing me to.
I was trying so hard to stay calm. I remember having this thought that it might be something like a spider bite, that maybe if I could slow my heart rate I could slow it down if it was something in my bloodstream. I thought ok, he’s not the main concern here. I can't help that. Whatever’s wrong with me is what I need to focus on. What he's going to do is nothing. The circumstances are horrible, but at the end of the day it’s just sex. It’s not like I’ve never done it before and it’s not like it’s fatal. I can ignore that. I can block that out and just focus on trying to figure out what’s causing this. He’s probably just going to take what he wants and then he’ll make the call. This can still be ok. He can’t just leave me like this.
When he’d reached for my wrist to move my arm, I’d dreaded it, expecting his hands to be sweaty, nervous, but instead they were dry and cool. I knew that was odd, it surprised me, and the thought ran through my mind that maybe he'd done something like this before. He was just too calm and too methodical, which in a way only made the whole thing more frightening and confusing. It occurred to me that he might have drugged me, but I couldn't think of anything he could have gotten hold of that would do this. But then how did he seem to know in advance that I couldn't move? Had he seen someone react to alcohol this way before? Either way, I knew if he went through with this, he wasn't going to be calling anybody. He couldn't. He had to know this was wrong and that if I recovered I could refute whatever story he told and he was not going to want that to happen. Was he counting on me not recovering at all or maybe just that I wouldn't remember enough for it to be an issue? I had this fear that maybe the longer I was like this, the more likely it was to become permanent without medical intervention, that there was a finite window of time before it would be too late for them to do anything for me. I remember screaming at him in my head, begging him to stop and think about what he was doing, reminding him that we were friends, asking what the hell he was thinking, to just stop and pick up the phone. This wasn't him, this wasn't the person I knew, this couldn't be happening.
I still didn’t even know how serious this was, if this was as bad as it was going to get or if it was progressive and it was about to shut down my heart and lungs the way it had shut down everything else. I had no idea how much longer I really had, if the rest of my life meant years or if I was down to my last few minutes and I just didn’t know it yet. I remember being worried about what would happen if he put any of his weight on me. I was already having trouble getting air in as it was, so any significant pressure on my ribs or abdomen was going to be impossible to overcome. Just having that little bit of weight from my arm being moved off to the side had made a difference, so I knew if he wasn’t paying attention I could asphyxiate underneath him and there would be no way for him to know it was even happening until it was too late. There would be no outward sign at all. It was at that point I decided the only thing I could do was start trying to accept that I might not live through this. There were just too many ways I could wind up dead by the end of it. I remember making that decision and then realizing I had absolutely no idea how to do that. It was like knowing you have to change a fan belt when you’ve never worked on a car. I had no idea where to start. I felt stuck, trying to find a way forward with it, feeling like it was my only choice, and then I was furious and frustrated that I was having to think about it at all, then realized how useless anger was in that situation. Anger is energizing, it makes you want to move, so feeling all that with no way to release it was just making things worse, more tortuous and frustrating.
I wondered if it was true what I’d always heard, that you saw your relatives when you died. I hoped it was. I’d never met my grandfather and I missed my grandmother terribly. I remember latching onto that thought hard, how good it would be to see her again. It allowed me to calm down and think that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I went. It certainly sounded better than where I was now. I didn't even bother praying that it wouldn't happen, that I wouldn't die or that he'd come to his senses and not go through with this. I knew things didn't work that way, so I just prayed that someone would be there waiting for me and that it would be fast, painless, and hopefully before he actually did anything. That was what I really prayed for, that if I was going to die anyway, I would go before he started. I realized it was the only way I was going to avoid having to go through it, and it wasn’t long before I found myself actively hoping it would happen. It wouldn’t matter what he did to my body then; I’d be gone. I wouldn’t feel any of it.
I still wasn’t scared of him, I was mainly just angry and unbelievably hurt that he was doing this to me. It felt vindictive, like it was in retaliation for something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Why else would he not be calling an ambulance? There had to be a reason. He could see that I needed help and instead of showing concern, he was using it against me. I had to have done something to make him turn on me like this. Then I remembered that stupid comment I made to Jason and Mercedes. It was the only thing I could think of that I could possibly have done to piss him off enough to do this, and that had to have been so hurtful coming from someone he considered a friend. He'd probably been pissed at me the since it happened and now he saw a chance to get back at me for it. I hadn't acted like a friend, so he didn't feel any obligation to either. I couldn't help but think that if I just hadn't been so awful about it then none of this would be happening.
I kept hoping he’d snap out of it, that it would click how wrong this was and he’d come to his senses and help me, but he didn’t show any signs of slowing down. I watched as he got a condom out of H’s drawer, and once that happened I knew he really wasn’t going to stop, that he really did intend to go through with it. I don't think he cared what condition I was in as long as it meant I couldn’t say no. He barely touched me, he just moved the parts of me he needed to aside like I was a piece of furniture, never saying a word and barely glancing at me the entire time. My feet had been together, and I remember him going all the way to the end of the bed to pick up my leg by the ankle and move it away from the other. I had tried so hard to push back against his hand when he did that, thinking maybe that little bit of momentum would allow me to pick up control of the muscles, but of course it didn't. I might as well have been passively allowing him to do it, not trying at all for all the good it did me. He was treating me like an empty shell, like there wasn't a real person in there at all.
No matter what I was trying to tell myself so I could keep it together, I was still scared, and I know at some point I got overwhelmed and teared up in spite of trying so hard to suppress it all. It was the worst thing that could have happened because it sealed my nose off completely and made it impossible to breathe. I could not get air in at all and in seconds it felt like I was suffocating. I panicked and quit thinking at all except that if I didn't get air soon I was going to die, which only made me panic harder and produced more tears that continued to keep my nose closed.
It turned into a vicious cycle, but during the worst of it, out of nowhere, the panic vanished. It just stopped and suddenly there was nothing, just dead calm. It was such an abrupt change that I was startled and confused as to what had happened, but at the same time I could hear this voice in my head, gently telling me that if I could stop crying my nose would open and I'd be ok, kind of talking me through it, getting me back to where I needed to be. It sounds bizarre, but I swear I could feel someone else "with" me, this reassuring, comforting presence telling me exactly what to do and letting me know I wasn't on my own. I couldn’t see it, but it almost felt like static electricity all along the right side of my body, opposite him, like what you feel on an old TV screen, except the static “felt” like a person, calming and stabilizing. It’s hard to describe. I thought I was losing it, but I listened anyway. As I calmed down, my nose did open and I could breathe again, but I didn’t stop feeling the sense of that “other” with me. It stayed the entire time, helping me stay calm so that didn’t happen again. Every time I started to lose it from that point forward, it was there, reassuring me, pulling me back. Years later I would find out that that’s a defense mechanism the brain sometimes employs during situations of extreme physical duress, particularly with oxygen deprivation, that it’s not an unknown phenomenon, that I wasn’t losing it all when it happened, it was just a desperate effort to try to survive. It’s a way of splitting off a part of yourself from the chaos and giving it a voice so you can literally hear yourself think.
I know he saw it, but it didn't make the slightest difference. I remember that once I stopped I had trouble clearing the tears out of my eyes. I couldn't blink hard to enough to force them out so they just sat there, blurring my vision until he moved me again and my head shifted slightly, just enough for gravity to help. I remember the way some of them pooled in the curve of my ear, how irritating it was to feel the liquid just sitting there, getting cold, how desperately I wanted to get it out and then realizing what a stupid thing to focus on that was in light of everything else.
I think him seeing that I was able to cry concerned him, because after he positioned me, he bit me, presumably to make sure the drug wasn't anywhere near wearing off. I still have the scar to this day, and I remember how much it confused me that it didn't hurt. I could feel everything else like I normally would have, but as painful as that should have been all I felt was pressure. He'd looked completely blank, almost bored up until this point, but his entire expression changed in an instant when he did that.
It was the only time he made direct eye contact, and I've never seen such a look of intense hatred and fury on anyone before or since. His whole face was contorted with it even after he let go and sat back. He was looking at me like he wanted me dead, like I'd personally and purposely caused every single thing that had ever gone wrong in his life. I thought maybe I'd been wrong, that maybe this wasn't just about him taking what he wanted and then that would be it. He looked like he wanted nothing so much as to tear me limb from limb, and my mind flew back over everything, every conversation, trying to figure out what I could have done or said to piss him off to this degree. That look went well beyond what a simple stray comment he might or might not have overheard would merit. This was a deep seated sort of rage that had to have been building for a lot longer than I thought. Before right now I didn't think he was out to hurt to me physically, but now he'd purposely tried to inflict pain and looked absolutely enraged when he did it. Now he had my attention. Now I was afraid of him. I really thought he was going to skip everything else and just start hitting me, that he had snapped and he was going to beat me to death right then and there. He didn't hit me, though. When I still didn't react he sat back on his heels and just kept looking at me with that intense hatred, still keeping eye contact, and then suddenly all that malevolence vanished as quickly as it had come on. I remember watching as his distorted features gradually reverted back to normal and being relieved that ok, he's calming down, it's going to be ok. He went right back to looking blank, but just before he did, once all the anger was gone, just for a split second I swear I saw a smirk flash across his face. It was so fleeting, it was there and then it wasn't, but that sick, split second expression of enjoyment terrified me more than anything I'd seen from him so far. The rage and hatred I understood. I didn't see how he could do this without hating me a little, but that twisted little smile was so surreal and so out of place with everything else. It told me he just how sick he really was, and made me realize that I was not dealing with a sane individual. That look was what convinced me more than anything else that he was absolutely going to kill me when he was done. There was not a question in my mind anymore.
Assuming he was capable of the worst and preparing for it seemed safer than betting on a better nature I was no longer sure he had. I had tried that when this first started and I'd been very, very wrong, so I didn't dare hope for the best with anything else. It was too crushing when it didn't happen. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that he couldn't do this and then just let me go. There was no question now that he knew I didn't want to do this and it wasn't like I couldn't identify him. I knew his name, where he worked, where he lived, everything. If all that was occurring to me, then it could easily occur to him, too. The only way I could hold on to my sanity was to operate under the assumption that he was going to do it, that he was going to kill me when he was done. I knew that was extreme, but he had done such a one-eighty on me that I didn't dare underestimate him twice. I thought it would make it easier in case I turned out to be right, that if he did it, it would make those last few minutes less horrific if I was already at peace with the idea. I knew I couldn't fight him physically if he did, so why make things even harder on myself by fighting it mentally when I knew there would be no escape? What would it do except make me spend whatever time was left being even more terrified, desperately trying to read his every move to try to figure out if he was going to do it or not? I think when you're in a situation like that, where all you have are your thoughts and you're completely at the mercy of someone who clearly wishes you harm, your mind can take you to some of the darkest possible places very, very quickly.
I think I blew through the stages of grief in a matter of seconds. I had already started working through them when I thought my heart might stop at any second, but now I tried to rush to acceptance because allowing myself to feel anything else meant tears, and I'd already learned that tears meant I couldn't breathe.
After the denial and the anger, the fear kicked in, not of dying or what waited once I was gone, but of the means he might use. I knew there weren't any weapons in the room, but that didn't mean anything. He could still strangle me, suffocate me, if he was smart he could make it look like an accident, like I just got drunk and passed out face down on the bed or drowned in the tub, and there would be no way for me to stop him. How long would it take? It had been so torturous not to be able to breathe, to feel so desperate for air, to feel it being burned up as I struggled against it and not being able to get more in no matter how hard I tried--how long would that last before I passed out and couldn't feel it anymore? Would I pass out any faster if I tried to not breathe too deeply now? Would it help me to reduce the oxygen I already had? Then the hope that I'd be found, that he would make it look like an accident, that I wouldn't end up at the bottom of the river a short distance away, that I wouldn't just disappear, leaving my family to wonder what happened. I didn't even care if no one ever figured out he did it as long as my family wasn't tortured like that. Then realizing none of it mattered. I remembered there was nothing I could do. Whatever was going to happen was beyond my control.
By the end of things, I'd done such a thorough job of accepting it that I convinced myself I would actually be better off if I didn't survive, that it would be better if he did kill me. If this really was a permanent condition, if I wasn't going to recover and this was the best I could hope for, then a relatively quick death was infinitely preferable to being forced to continue to live this way. I couldn't tolerate the thought of spending the rest of my life locked out of my own body, imprisoned in my mind with this being the last thing I ever experienced, never even able to tell anyone what happened or express the horror of it. If that was the alternative, then death would be a mercy. Even if I did recover, I knew I didn’t want to live with this.
To make matters worse, my body responded even though that was the last thing I wanted it to do. I didn't want it to do anything encourage him, I didn't want to give him any reason to think that I wanted this, but as hard as I tried to fight it, it still rebelled. It was infuriating and I didn’t understand it. I have never hated my body more than I did that night. It felt like it had grown a mind of it's own, like it had become a separate being that was betraying me at every turn, a defector that was doing everything it could to make this easier for him and harder for me. It wouldn’t let me fight, it wouldn’t let me say no, at times it wouldn’t even let me breathe, but it would react exactly the way he wanted it to? I knew how he’d interpret that and there was nothing I could do to make it stop, in spite of how hard I was trying, begging it to listen to me, to obey me on just this one thing. That had been the last possible deterrent I thought I had, the last thing that might possibly make him stop, even if only because it was uncomfortable for him, and now it was gone.
I felt him a few seconds later, and as soon as that happened all the fight drained out of me all at once, like someone pulled a plug. I gave up. I'd done everything I could think of, I hadn't stopped trying to move the entire time, but nothing had worked. I heard that voice again, tugging at me, telling me I didn’t have to be here for this, that I’d know when it over. I was pretty sure he wouldn't kill me during the assault itself, and I just couldn't handle being "present" for it. What was the point? The damage was done now. I checked out and pulled inward hard, into some little deep corner in my head where the outside world couldn’t reach, where it was just me and that comforting presence, just waiting. I remember making random lists in my head of anything I could think of; words in foreign languages I knew, historical figures and dates, that kind of thing. Anything to keep what was happening out there blocked out. That was such a strange time out of all of it, it set up such an internal conflict. One one hand, of course I wanted it over as soon as possible. On the other, I knew I could be facing a very brutal way to go once it was. After however long, I became aware he'd stopped and I tried to brace, expecting him to either reach for my neck or a pillow, thinking if he was going to do anything it was going to be now, but nothing happened. I waited, trying to decide if I should open my eyes or not. Did I want to see it coming? Was it better not to? Did it matter? Still nothing. I could feel my calm starting to slip and anxiety starting to creep in. Come on, I'm ready, just get it over with. What are you doing? Just do it before I lose my nerve, before the fear comes back. I can't hold it like this forever.
I opened my eyes, and I saw that he had gotten up and was getting dressed. My mind started racing again, and the first thing I felt was confusion, panic, and denial, frustration. What if this really is permanent and he just walks away and leaves me like this? Does he know what caused this and that it isn't going to get any better? Is that why he's not concerned? No. He has to finish it. I need him to do it so I'm not stuck this way. I can't live like this, just do it already. To put me through that and then not kill me, to gut me the way he had and then just leave me to rot, trapped in a useless body, seemed unimaginably cruel. I'd been so focused on accepting the possibility that I was going to die that I never prepared for the possibility that I might live, and the thought of what that would be like terrified me. That thinking didn't last long. Those thoughts flew through my head in seconds before survival took over, and it clicked that I had at least a few more minutes while he was getting dressed, that I had time to keep trying to fight whatever this was, that maybe there was still a chance. Around the time he was reaching for his glasses, it finally broke. My breathing eased and I started being able to move. I could finally open my mouth and really breathe, get the oxygen I'd been needing. My whole body felt heavy and leaden, but at least I knew it wasn't permanent. I had tried to get up, I wanted out of that position so I wouldn't be so vulnerable, but all I could do was turn on my side. At first I was just relieved, pulling in air and knowing I could at least put up some semblance of resistance now if anything else happened, but on the heels of that was the most stunning surge of anger, of outrage that he had done this to me, that he had put me through this. It was white hot and blinding, and I all I could get out was "no" over and over again. I didn't care if it provoked him, I didn't care what he did at that point, all I cared about was finally making him hear me say it. He looked so startled that he almost looked scared. I thought good, now you know what I've been feeling. It's about time. He froze with his glasses halfway to his face and just stared at me, but I must have passed out before he could respond.
When I started to come to again, I was aware of this sound coming from off in the distance, sort of like when your alarm clock goes off and invades your dream. It starts off sounding so far away, but then it gets progressively louder and more insistent, dragging you upwards out of sleep. I kept trying to figure out what it was, it sounded horrible, but it was nothing I could identify. I didn't think it was a person, so maybe an animal? Had it gotten run over-- why wasn't anyone checking on it? As it got louder it started to sound more like one of those old war movies where someone is covered in napalm or they've lost a limb, it was that sort of inhuman, agonized sound. I was getting annoyed. I was trying so hard to stay asleep, to not get dragged to the surface and that sound wasn't letting me. Why the hell would have the tv up that loud this late? Right before I opened my eyes, I realized it was coming from me. I was screaming and couldn't stop. Everything that had happened came flooding back and I kept thinking ok, I'm awake now, I can stop now, but I couldn't get control over it. It was completely involuntary. It was like everything I hadn't been able to express when I was in that room with him, all the hurt, all the anger, the terror, the confusion, the panic and desperation, everything I'd had to keep clamped down so I could keep breathing was coming out now, condensed and then released in that one sound. At the same time though, I didn't actually feel connected to any of it, almost as though my body was a completely separate person and I was just being dragged along for the ride. It was like I was sitting three feet back watching someone else scream, unable to do anything but give up and just wait them out. Before I'd passed out I'd had full control, I'd thought that part was over, but now I was partially locked out again. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to regain full control and keep it. I was in the bathtub with it full of water, and he was nowhere to be seen. H. was in there, though, kneeling at the side of the tub, looking upset. I assumed she was must have thought I was ok with it and was probably very confused by reaction now. I was still convinced he knew better, but maybe she didn't. She could not have known I couldn't move and that's why I didn't speak up, but he definitely did know. Now that I was reacting the way I was, I thought she realized that she made a mistake in leaving and now she was trying to help me. If I could just stop screaming I could explain what happened and she could get me out of there. I could see her talking, but it was so loud I couldn't hear what she was saying.
Eventually I started to run out of air, and as the volume dropped I could hear what she was actually saying. She wasn't trying to console me, she was telling me over and over to shut up before the neighbors called the cops. She sounded so angry. There was an urgency to her voice, a hard, sharp edge that made me desperate to stop, afraid she'd push my head under if I didn't and I knew I wouldn't have the strength to fight back. How could I have been so stupid? In the state of mind I was in I thought it meant she was on his side. Of course they didn't want the police showing up. They wouldn't want anyone knowing about this. Her fear of the police made me think that I wasn't out of the woods yet, that she knew and she was doing damage control, protecting her friend. Why else would they have put me in water immediately after? What little evidence there might have been was now gone, literally about to go down the drain as soon as the plug was pulled. I couldn’t afford to run out of air. What would happen when I did? Would I even be able to inhale on my own? Would I inhale automatically? The force with which that awful scream was pushing air out was astonishing. I kept trying to force myself to inhale against it, but it was too strong. It was almost painful, like it was straining my vocal chords. I was feeling light-headed. Again I started to panic as I felt it running almost completely out, and again, there was that voice, telling me it would be ok, that it would stop soon, but that once it did I needed to say whatever I had to not to scare her, to keep her calm and let her think I was compliant, that I wasn’t a threat. I could feel it again too, but this time the static almost felt wrapped around me. Once I ran out of air completely, it all just stopped. I paused, realized I could breathe again, took a breath and waited, but nothing else happened. It was like whatever had had a hold of me finally let go. I wanted so much to yell at her, to ask her how the hell she could have just left me like that, but I felt I could either yell at her or I could try to make myself safe and walk away, not both. I decided to play it safe. I didn't have the strength for a fight and I knew it, and I didn't want to let them take anything else. I didn't want to alarm her any more than I already had, so I pushed everything down as best I could and forced myself to apologize, to say I didn't know what that was but it wasn't on purpose, that I was fine.
Even as I got everything under control and started trying to reassure her, I could feel how badly I was shaking. I knew she could see it but I couldn't help it. I couldn't suppress everything completely so all I could do was try to palm it off as just being sick from over drinking. It felt very important to make her think that I didn't remember too much, that it was all a blur and I wasn't upset over anything that had happened, that I knew it was just misunderstanding. That seemed to get her to relax, and as she was getting me out of the tub this massive wave of exhaustion crashed down over me like nothing I've ever experienced. It felt like it came out of nowhere, and I was suddenly so physically weak, like I was in the middle of a severe case of the flu. I felt numb and unsteady, and all the turmoil inside just stopped and went quiet. It was like I'd been completely hollowed out, and nothing around me seemed as solid as it had been minutes before. Even the floor under my feet felt strange and infirm as I tried to walk on it. I remember having to hold onto her arm for support. We were about to leave and she had her hand on the doorknob when she stopped and looked back at me. Her expression softened a bit, and she told me that her ex had done that to her twice, that it was really no big deal, that I'd be fine. In my mind, that confirmed that she understood that it hadn't been voluntary, that there was no misunderstanding, but I was so paranoid by then I was afraid she was only saying it to get me to admit that I knew it, too. I know now I was just in severe shock and not thinking clearly, but at the time I wasn't sure whose side she was really on and I didn't want to risk saying the wrong thing. I was way too scared of both of them to trust her, so I think I just nodded and said something like I was sure I'd be fine in the morning, that I just needed sleep.
I saw him as we left. His bedroom door was open and he was sitting there with his head in his hands, and I wasn't sure what that meant. I wasn't sure if that was remorse of if my reaction had scared him and now he was worried. That's one I've never figured out, and his behavior the next day definitely didn't shed any light on it. Anyway, after that, she got me up to my room and that was it. The presence was still there, staying with me until I fell asleep, but when I woke up the next day it was gone, like it had never been. I'm sure a lot of that had to be the drug itself, and I guess it finally completely wore off as I slept. As hallucinations go, at least it was useful. It gave me what I needed at the time to get through what I had to.