color key — red: assault. the contrast of light and dark correlates with bright and somber tones of voice.

Does She Know?

Does She Know?

Does She Know?

Does She Know?

My first kiss took place on a threadbare couch, the lights dimmed as my favorite movie, “The Great Gatsby,” was projected on the living room wall.

We held hands under blankets full of childhood memories and my heart raced a staccato anthem in my chest, running wild with fear and anticipation. My eyes were wide open, his tongue was heavy in my mouth, and I remember wondering is there supposed to be so much spit?  Mere moments earlier I had met his mother, and I can recall nothing about her except how we fooled her into believing I was a college student. My gangly limbs and boyish stature spoke otherwise and she later remarked, “She looks young.” I was. 

At age 16, I fancied myself in love. My whirlwind of a crush had morphed into a brief, clandestine love affair, complete with unsatisfactory make-out sessions and hidden hands held. It was heaven under the sweltering southern sun. We messaged day and night on Facebook, hung out at our small-town youth group meetings and even made each other old-school mixtapes, burned onto silver CDs that we decorated in permanent marker. I was overjoyed that, for once, my affections were returned because age is just a number, right? I knew exactly what I was doing, so there wasn't anything wrong with it, right? We never slept together, so that fact that I kissed my high school teacher, ten years my senior, couldn't count as rape or harassment or assault, right? 

The last time I saw him, I was running out the door of his parents’ house, because my mom had called me demanding that I return home, her stone voice echoing from the phone. I was busted. He held my face in his hands and stared into my eyes — he was fascinated with irises and the individual colors that swirled. He kissed me again, messily, no sense of urgency. My sense of self-preservation finally rang through. “I have to go,” I said. “My mom is going to kill me.”

My mother grounded me, indefinitely, and cried because for the first time in my life, I had lied to her and gone behind her back. Even worse, I snuck around with an older man. I was furious when she made me go to the police because he didn't do anything wrong — he wasn't a bad person. I told the female police officer that he didn't try to touch me inappropriately, which was the truth, but I don't think she believed me. The shame and embarrassment burrowed under my skin and into my bloodstream where it lived for ages. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't still there. 

It took me six years to understand that I wasn't at fault, at least not entirely. My roommate has two young sisters. They're twins, fifteen years old, the same age I was when I met him. The first time I saw them, I was shocked by how young they looked and acted. They're beautiful girls, but they were shy and small, so petite and young. They're babies! I thought. Is that what I looked like when I was fifteen? Did I ever look that young?  Yes. I did. 

I look at students in high school now, like my roommate's sisters, and I know there's no way, as a grown adult, that I could ever be attracted to someone that young. A child. It churns my insides so violently with a rage I don't know how to handle. My classmates still reminisce about how wonderful of a teacher he was — some of them are friends with him now, as adults. I know that he got married too, to another teacher. What would they say if they knew? Does she know? Does his wife know what he did?

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