This Is What Happens by Audrey Lentz

Editor Matty Byloos, Fiction, January 9th, 2017

"It sounds like you don't know if it was consensual or not."

Audrey Lentz Fiction Nailed Magazine
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“Oklahoma City police department. Is this an emergency?”

Yes. “No,” I say. “I need to report a crime.” I’ve learned to dissociate—to force the motions and words to do what needs to be done while my mind is elsewhere.

“What’s the crime?”

“A rape.” My voice falters.

“Who are you calling for? Who was raped?”

“M-myself.” Maybe I haven’t learned well enough. I’m glad this is over the phone. My entire body is shaking with shivers. But that’s not unusual. Confrontation makes me cold. During fights with ex-boyfriends, I’ve had to wrap up in blankets while we argued, completely unable to conceal my discomfort.

“I’ll send a squad car over.”

I tell the operator my address before hanging up and grab a blanket to wait. They’re going to ask me why I didn’t scream and I don’t know what to say. Any self-preserving human would have. I should have. Why didn’t I scream? Why didn’t I even try to stop it? I was barely conscious—drank more than I can ever forgive myself for. But even the parts of me that were conscious didn’t fight.

I move from my bedroom to the couch in the living room so I can watch out the window for them to arrive. I had been avoiding him all night. I knew what he wanted. But all of my friends were there—everyone was having a good time. Why should I make a big deal of it? I thought if I managed to go to bed alone, I could avoid his advances. I didn’t let him corner me alone, where any move of aggression makes me immediately docile, like a limp mouse playing dead. I hate myself for that. But I had managed to avoid him making a move and went to bed alone. And I guess I get no reward for that; it was all for nothing. So it was a complete lack of surprise when I woke up to find him on top of me. Of course he was. This is what I was trying to avoid all night, and I was unsuccessful. I didn’t have a choice at that point. Why didn’t I scream? Because this is what happens to women, and tonight it happens to me.

My heart doubles its speed every time a car passes. But why didn’t I scream? Someone would have heard. My house was full of people that could have stopped it. But how could I scream when I think of shoulds instead of wants? What should I say? What’s expected of me? What’s polite? What doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings? How can I keep this man, who can effortlessly physically overpower me, happy? It’s like my body recognizes this fact of weight class unconsciously and in an effort to minimize damages, relents.

The police car pulls into my driveway. I focus on breathing in and out as slowly as I can, trying not to panic. Two officers get out of the car. They are young and white and handsome and wearing sunglasses.

They’ll ask me why it took three days to call. I want to say three days is nothing. Last time it took me a month. A week to realize the gravity of what happened—that it wasn’t a drunken mistake. That I wasn’t consulted. I can blame myself for not being awake but I can’t blame myself for all of it. It took another week to say the word “rape” out loud. I still can’t hear it without a jolt of panic running through me. The third week debating if it’s worth it to relive it and have to defend myself in front of others and the fourth week to work up the courage. Three days is a miracle.

They are walking coolly toward my front door. This morning he texted me. His name on my phone knocked the wind out of me. Why is he still allowed to exist? He said he was “a little uncomfortable” about what happened and wants to talk. Now, he wants to talk.

The knock on the door is so loud I jump even though I was expecting it. I breathe in and open the door.

“Good afternoon. We got a call from someone who lives at this address.”

I step aside and say, “Yes, come in. I called.”

They look strange in my living room. I wish they’d take off their sunglasses.

“Do you want to sit down?” I ask.

“No, we’re fine,” the first one says. “So tell us what happened.” He takes off his sunglasses.

My mind shuts down so I can relay the events. I’m a stoic. A cold, shaking stoic, and I’m not really here. There is no good or bad, there’s only what you perceive. I went to bed with clothes on and I woke up sore and without. I woke up asking him what happened. He told me and I laughed. He left and I kept laughing. Again. It happened again. How can this not be my fault if it happened again? The key to peace is not having preferences. Your past doesn’t define you. Breathe.

I’m not sure what I’ve said out loud and what I’ve just said to myself. I’m pretty sure I’ve said the word “penis” several times to police officers. It’s sounds absurd now. My voice sounds absurd.

“What were you wearing?”

It doesn’t register to me the cliché aspect of this question and I wonder why they need to know. Do they want to take it for DNA? For evidence?

“A dress. A red dress. Do you need to take it?” Truthfully I just want it out of my house so I never have to encounter it again.

“No, that’s okay,” the first officer says.

The other officer that has been silent speaks. “It sounds like you don’t know if it was consensual or not.”

I wonder what I’ve said that made it sound like I was unsure. I told them I was passed out. I went to bed alone (I did it! Why don’t I get credit for that?)—that I barely remember it happening—that I just have a vague memory of him on top of me.

“It wasn’t consensual.” I whisper this, barely making a sound. I’m not sure if they hear me.

The second officer speaks again. “Well, were you attracted to him? Was he attractive enough that you would have slept with him if you’d been awake?”

I stare at him. I can’t believe he’s not joking. I open and close my mouth. I shake my head. I can’t speak.

“Well, we’ll write a report and someone will call you.” The officers put their sunglasses back on in unison and walk toward the door.

Last time, no one called me. I secretly hope this time will be the same. I beat them to the door and open it for them. “Thanks for your time,” I say.

But as they walk away, I want to tell them to wait. I haven’t explained myself properly. They think I made a drunken mistake and I just regret it. They don’t understand, and it’s my fault.

I say nothing and let them leave, closing the door behind them. I thought I’d feel better after they left, but I don’t. I thought standing up for myself now, even though I couldn’t at the time, would make up for something. But once again, I couldn’t protect myself. Once again, I failed.

I watch them pull out of the driveway and think, maybe next time, I’ll be more confident.

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Header image courtesy of Karsten Fatur. To view her photography feature, go here.

Audrey Lentz Fiction Nailed MagazineAudrey Lentz is a copywriter and freelance writer in Edmond, Oklahoma. She writes fiction, poetry, and is currently working on a magical realism novel. She has previous creative work published in Westview and Inner Art Journal. Visit her website, here.

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Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).