Except for black rubber skid marks on the floors, the terminal was all white and sanitized; its huge walls reminded one young woman of very square, carefully-brushed teeth. It had high ceilings with long fluorescent bulbs and sunlight shining through the glass panels looming at the front of the building. On the second floor, several security personnel manned two arches and x-ray machines. Twenty people waited their turn to go through security. The young woman at the front of the line, Brier, walked through the archway. She set the alarm off.
“Please empty everything from your pockets, miss.”
“Yes, I did. Oh wait, maybe it’s my earrings,” Brier unhitched the studs from her ears and walked back through the plastic doorway.
It buzzed again.
“Step over here, please, Miss.”
“I’m so sorry,” Brier said, as she jammed her feet into her ballet flats, hurriedly smushing the backs down. She was meeting her boyfriend in Chicago while she worked on a movie set; then they’d both fly back to their respective universities.
Grabbing a container with the contents of her pockets, she dumped it in her purse. Coins and lip balm fell in between business cards, a skull wallet, pens, and Altoids. She’d had to throw out her pepper spray. A security guard asked her to spread her arms and legs like an X. Brier set the purse by a wall and held up her arms, flushing as he outlined her rigid body with a black metal wand. Though she considered herself to be of average height and weight, she wore button-up, size 3 jeans paired with her favorite size-small band t-shirt. Her hair looked like curled chocolate shavings.
Brier watched the guard screening her, narrowing her eyes on his very even teeth. She winced slightly when the wand beeped and flashed a red light twice. The guard went back over the warning areas, and again the wand beeped.
“Are you wearing an under-wire bra?” he asked, studying her chest.
She raised her chin, “Yes.”
He said that he thought her pants buttons and under-wire were what was showing up, but they’d have to check. Just a moment. Brier reached for her purse and dug out a necklace. Slipping it over her head, she listened to the muffled click clack as she ran a charm up and down its chain.
The guard flicked his fingers in the air and called over another security guard, a thick woman with a tight blonde ponytail. He introduced her as Valerie, and said that since metals on her person were picked up by both the archway and the wand, she’d need to be physically screened. Brier felt strange; her stomach made itself into a fist.
“Physically… screened?” She asked, beginning to roll the dinosaur charm in between her thumb and index finger.
He explained that it’s a standard procedure, probably nothing, of course, but they had to check — airport policy. “Valerie will take you into a private room and you can keep your clothes on; she’ll use the back of her hand to screen you for weapons or dangerous materials.”
No. The idea was out of the question. “Yeah, sorry,” she told them, rubbing her pinky knuckle. “I’m not doing that.”
Four years ago, Brier had gone to the dentist for x-rays and an estimate. Before she had even opened her mouth, he said that he’d get her braces if she was his child.
A few weeks later, she was again reclining in the big chair with blue plastic upholstery, waiting for the dentist and hygienist to return. They were going to extract one of her teeth before gluing on brackets the brackets.
The dentist walked in and greeted her. He began fiddling with a syringe on the tray near Brier’s head.
“That’s a cool picture,” she pointed to a drawing on the wall. It was a cross-hatch drawing, something she’d learned to do in her ninth-grade art class.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” he said of the drawing. “I love women. They’re all beautiful.”
Brier raised an eyebrow.
The dentist apologized if it hurt as he injected the anesthesia into her cheek. He said the hygienist was with Mrs. Coleman in chair five, and she’d be back in ten minutes to help him extract Brier’s tooth. Then he took off a glove and felt Brier’s jaw, saying that at least her bite was correct. She tried to keep her tongue in place while he poked around, but felt distracted and a little drowsy. Then his un-gloved hand brushed her neck and meandered down to her hip. Brier gasped. His fingers played with the hem of her shirt. She clutched the armrests, trying to push herself up. Instead of an adrenaline rush, she only felt sleepier.
“I know the first time is scary and uncomfortable, but you won’t feel anything once the anesthetic sets in. Don’t worry. You’ll be asleep in a second, or almost asleep. Now open up wide.”
Brier had to fight. She had to stop him. She tried to scream and bite his fingers, but he pushed his large hand into the back of her mouth, gagging her and holding her head firmly against the headrest. The tips of his fingers gently edged under her top. Brier’s eyes fluttered. She flung her legs up at his head and pawed at his hands. She panicked as the clear lines of the cabinets and blinds melted into each other. She aimed a wild punch at his face, but her hand only fell back in pain.
Please, don’t. Please, stop. Her body relaxed against her will. Expecting the mercy of unconsciousness, her eyes drooped shut. She tried to calm her chaotic mind, tried to enable the anesthetic. If she was asleep, she wouldn’t feel him and her mind would be spared part of the memory. A hand ran softly over her hip. Please, I’m not asleep yet. Please wait till I’m asleep. She could feel her clothes getting tugged off.
“Hm,” she heard him. “Besides that bicuspid that needs to go, these aren’t in bad shape.”
She had to stop it, she had to save herself, but she couldn’t move and she realized that she couldn’t even sleep. Still, she had to jump out of the chair, she had to push him away and open the door and run down the stairs and out of the office and across the sidewalk and past JFK Street and Gilmore. She had to move; if only she could move a finger, just one finger.
Something pushed in. A soft heaviness pressed her into the chair, and she knew she wasn’t dreaming. Oh my God, stop! I’m a virgin. I’m a virgin. I’m a virgin. I’m not a virgin.
He was warm like a fever. Crushing pressure on pelvis and stomach and chest and face — he was all over her and she couldn’t breathe.
She didn’t believe it. She had just been studying Algebra at the table an hour ago. She hated him. She had to bite his fucking lips off; she had to scream and cry and rip out his hair and stab him with needles and dental tools and kick him in the head over and over and over and over until the blood splattered and his teeth were gone and he was as still as she was, only dead.
Something tingled. Get him off me! I don’t want this. I don’t want it even… I… it.. why is that… She felt a burning. Her own heat. No, I don’t want to… please stop. This was a part of herself she didn’t know about, a darker part. It shocked her. She hated that she betrayed herself. She was so ashamed that she thought maybe she had deserved this. She wanted to die. She wouldn’t be able to feel him if she died; she wouldn’t hate herself if she died. It would all stop if she died.
Still rubbing her knuckle, she tapped her toes on the airport floor in an attempt to ground herself. I am at the airport. I am here.
“All right,” the guard said. “Then you’ll have to go back to the waiting area. I’m afraid we can’t let you on the plane with unidentified metals on your person.”
Shit. Shitshitshit. If she skipped the plane, she’d miss the call. She had ten lines! Ten! She thought of all the auditions she went to; she would have to do another twenty-eight, if not more, to get a part again.
But she could never get it again. In this movie, she was set to play one of Laura Dern’s students. Laura Dern had been her all-time favorite actress since she saw Jurassic Park when she was eight. This was her dream job. It would springboard her into the acting world. She twiddled her necklace as she glanced at the other people going through security.
“But didn’t you say it’s just my under-wire and buttons?” She bit the inside of her cheek. She wasn’t a dangerous person; she tried to cajole the guards into letting her through. They insisted that the screening was a strict security policy.
“I…. er..” She said, squirming. “I have… I really can’t do that.” She couldn’t tell them, she still couldn’t tell anyone. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway. She tried to take a deep breath. It was just another one of the coping methods her old psychologist had recommended. She had also pushed Brier to talk about what happened, but if she had, the psychologist would have be able to analyze Brier and know what she was thinking — giving her the upper hand, like the dentist. Nobody will ever have that much power over me.
Six days after the dentist, Brier sat on the living room ottoman, her right hand in an ace bandage. Her parents on the couch, grading biology papers and scrapbooking. Brier stared at them for a long time. She had only told them that she banged her hand into a wall, nothing more.
She shut her eyes and set her jaw forward; she was about to torture their imaginations, slashing up their brains with words like scissors, and chopping out every other thought.
“Mom,” Brier had to tell them.
“Yep,” she continued to flip through a set of last year’s vacation photos. Brier’s father circled a paragraph on an essay’s third page.
“When I was getting my tooth pulled… um…” Brier started, and stopped, and talked her way around it several times. Finally, she managed to say she wasn’t going to the next dentist appointment.
“Uh, yes, you are,” her mother raised her chin and squinted at a group picnic photo.
“There’s a fee for canceling on less than 48 hours notice,” her father informed her, dropping the essay on the stack of stapled pages next to his knee.
“I’m not going back,” Brier said. “Ever. At the dentist’s, on Tuesday…” Her throat hurt, and she stuttered, as if her own body was working against her again, trying to keep her from saying it. “Something happened. He…” She strained, clenching the ottoman. She dug her nails far into its upholstery, squeezing the stuffing out along with the words she was going to have to pronounce. “He…” She stared at the beige carpet and concentrated on shoving out the next two syllables. “Touched me.”
“What?” They both said. Her father clenched someone’s term paper in his fist, deeply creasing it. “Who’s he? What did he do?”
“Nothing,” Brier cried on impulse. Everything.
“What’s ‘nothing’? Who’s ‘he’?”
“The dentist… he…. he,” Brier felt like she should be screaming.
“Touched me,” she repeated, hoping they would understand because she felt unable to expand on it.
“What happened?” Her father yelled, still holding the crinkled pages in his hand.
Brier torqued a wrist out on the upholstery.
Her mother raised her voice. “He didn’t touch you,” she sounded frightened. “Anywhere… private, did he?”
One sentence had been hard enough, and they couldn’t even believe that he touched her anywhere private. She couldn’t explain that he’d stroked, rubbed, and kissed her everywhere private.
Her mother stood up, “Brier, I… I should have sat with you. It wouldn’t have happened… Why didn’t I even check on you?” She walked over and knelt down, hugging Brier close. Brier couldn’t move. She felt the skin of her mother’s arms locked tightly around her, pinning her own limbs down. Their shoulders touched. Their knees bumped. She squirmed against her. He’s on me again, maybe he’s on me again. Stop. Stop! “Let go!” She said, pushing her mother away. She slid off the ottoman and away, hyperventilating. Her head throbbed. She needed the air and space around her. She needed to see everything in the room.
“Baby…,” Her mother’s eyes and mouth were wide open.
Brier backed against an old chair. Its rough cover rubbed against the back of her legs. She didn’t want it to happen again in their minds. She didn’t like that if she told them, they could see it for themselves whenever they wanted. She hated the thought of them imagining her rape behind her back, without her permission. They would make it their business, they’d think of her differently. She would forever be the damaged daughter, the one with a past.
“Did he rape you?” Her father yelled, crumpling the essay even more. “Answer me!”
Brier’s hands shook. If she told them, she could never pretend it didn’t happen. And she couldn’t ever see or control exactly how they imagined it.
Now, Brier wanted to say no, of course not. Nothing like that. She pressed her lips together, struggling against her body to keep the lies in. “No,” she rubbed her nose with the wrist of her bandaged hand, glancing at the arrangement of carnations on the wooden side table. But she wouldn’t go back. She wouldn’t ever go back. “Yes.”
They stared at her. “Bri-” her mother said. She covered her mouth with her hand, turning Brier’s name into a horrible sound. A horrible shame. Her mother shut her eyes. Brier’s father pushed his glasses up on his head and went to her mother.
There, Brier cringed; she knew they were picturing her splayed out under someone, limp and naked, or maybe she was writhing and screaming in their minds.
“Oh, sorry,” Brier said, beginning to breathe faster. “Um.. could I just change into something from my bag? Something without metal? Something–“
“Ma’am, I’m sorry,” Valerie interrupted. “You don’t have to comply with the screening, of course, but we cannot let you on the plane if you don’t. Even if you switch clothes.”
Brier remembered a small souvenir shop in the other half of the terminal, by a McDonald’s. She hurriedly suggested that she take the tram over there, buy some other clothes, and come back for the screening.
Valerie looked doubtful.
“AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 166 — DEPARTURE IN 30 MINUTES,” announced a loudspeaker.
Brier froze. Oh God.
“Ma’am, if that’s your flight, I’m sorry, but there’s no way around it. Do you want to do the physical screening?”
Brier breathed in sharply. No. She tightened her grip on the bags. Think. Be rational. Maybe she should go. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. She could move and see what was going on. She could just leave anytime, right? And she would be clothed. But Valerie would actually touch Brier’s chest and crotch. No.
She really needed to get on that plane. She knew Kale would want her to do it. They had an agreement that someday she would touch people. That someday they could touch.
She wanted to run out of the airport, to blow Kale off. But how could she? He was her best friend. He never called her a freak, like her past boyfriends had. He never hurt her. He understood her, and when he didn’t, he tried to.
A year and a half ago, Brier walked out of the dressing room with the rest of the cast, her duffel on her shoulder. Families and friends kissed and embraced their performers in congratulations. Brier found Kale and halted in front of him. “Hey,” she said, looking at the ground and the space between their sneakers, unsure of how he’d react. She’d had a kissing scene with Darien, the male lead.
“Hey. Good job.”
Darien walked up behind them and slapped Brier on the back. “Hey, great job, Desdie. You really broke that leg.”
“It looked more like she broke your lips,” Kale said.
“Oh, yeah,” Darien winked at him. “Kale, right? Lucky guy.”
“That’s right,” Kale pointed at his chest. “Because-“
“Kale,” Brier interrupted, but he talked over her.
“-when there’s a script nearby, she’ll let you suck her face all night long, but I, I don’t even know wh-“
“Kale, stop,” she thought she was going to cry. She pulled on his hand, turning him away from Darien. “Kale.”
She dragged him over to a wall and tried to explain again that she’s not herself on stage. She’s a villager, she’s the Girl in the Red Dress, she’s Waitress #3, she’s Mrs. Shaw, she’s Mushu, she’s Annie Oakley. And when I kiss him, I’m not Brier-the-girl-who-got-raped. I’m Desdemona-the-wife-of-Othello.
They stood off from the crowd, by the rough, brown brick wall. She tried to explain that on stage, she was always in control. If she wanted to stop kissing, she stopped. No questions asked. Nobody was mad. Nobody was hurt. Nobody thought something was wrong with her. Nobody called her a freak. She could kiss if she wanted to, how she wanted to, for as long as she wanted to. She was in complete control.
He stared straight into her eyes. “You mean, you think I’d make you kiss me if you didn’t want to? You think I’d do that?”
“No,” she looked at chalk marks on the floor. But it’s different because it’s real. The blue-chalk S in “Seniors” twisted around their feet. She couldn’t explain it to him any better than she already had.
He stepped in and leaned down, breathing close to her face. They were standing in the same S-loop. Her heart fluttered about. No, no, no, this is why I only do it on stage. She felt sick, and yet she wanted to prove that she trusted him. Just a little. Just a little touch. She lowered her eyelids, lifted her trembling chin, and touched her lips to his. I’m touching him, he’s not touching me. I can run if I need to.
She started breathing too fast. I need to. She stepped away and began running towards the double doors. I could’ve stopped it on stage. Her head throbbed once for every step she took, but she kept running through the doors, across the concrete, into the parking lot. She skidded up to her car and fiddled with the keys. She opened it, slid onto the seat, and slammed the door. Leaning her forehead against the steering wheel, she wiped her eyes. She’d felt him again, she’d felt the dentist’s flesh on her mouth. She groped for the handle and swung open the door. Leaning over, her she threw up on the asphalt. Vomit and phlegm dripped from her mouth. It wasn’t the dentist it was Kale but still he touched me. He touched me, and I let him. She gasped for air and brushed her hair away before her stomach contracted again.
They discussed this afterwards, and made an agreement that someday they could touch. It made sense; if they ever decided to get married, of course she’d have to be okay with touching him. Still, she dreaded the process.
Kale encouraged anything that would help her recover, like movies with hospital scenes and sets with big, close crowds. Sometimes they even practiced a little. She would let him rest his hand on her shoulder for a little while at a time, but only when she was standing up and staring at him — comparing every one of his features to how it was not like the dentist’s. She hoped she’d eventually be comfortable with it.
She thought they made some progress — they held hands if he asked permission first. She even kind of liked that. They were touching, but she could easily pull away if she needed to. Also, the dentist never bothered with her hands.
Although Kale knew it would be a long time until she was comfortable with him, Brier thought he got impatient sometimes, especially around spring and fall — play season. He went to all of her plays, even though she sometimes tried to convince him out of it. She knew it killed him to watch her make out with the actors, but he kind of tried to convince himself that it might help.
She fiddled with her dinosaur necklace. What was she thinking, she’d be getting touched again. Of course it would be bad. But, what was she thinking? She already knew that waiting for the next plane was not an option, and even the nearest airport was too far away to drive to. What would Kale say when she missed her first small role because she refused to be searched by a security guard? What if he broke up with her? If she’d give up an acting break before she’d be touched, he might think that she’d give him up before being touched. He would think that. He might be right. She shut her eyes. He would be right. I’m not letting that happen.
“Okay,” she said quietly, staring at the creases in the front of Valerie’s light blue pants. The other security guard left. Brier stood up very straight and followed Valerie into the back of the terminal. She took a deep breath in an attempt to stave off the hyperventilation overtaking her. She tried to pretend everything was all right, but soon failed. Drumming her temple, she stared at Valerie’s heels and frantically ran over all the causes for the screening and every way out of it and all the reasons why they wouldn’t work. Metals, under-wire, buttons, change clothes, new clothes, another airport– no time.
She saw a straight row of white doors with metal lever handles. Her head started to hurt. Valerie pulled a gold key from a string around her waist. She stuck her hip up near the handle and unlocked the door.
Brier walked inside the small, grim, grayish room; it had a darker gray carpet that was snagged near the door. Two dull blue plastic chairs sat near each other. They had round, metal legs, and no arm-rests.
Brier lowered herself into the chair, knees clenched together. She set her bags by her feet; it was so brightly lit in there that it looked like an operating room. She shut her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She needed to get to Chicago. She needed to act. She needed to prove to Kale that she could recover. She knew she couldn’t ask him to exist like this forever; she needed his love. She tried to fold her hands in her lap, but her fingers shook against each other.
Valerie looked a little distracted, but she explained again that it was nothing, really. She would only use the back of her hand to feel around Brier’s breasts and crotch. Oh, no. Brier’s vision blurred. Her forehead and stomach ached. She couldn’t do this screening. She couldn’t handle it. She simply would not be touched. She swore that this wouldn’t happen again; that’s how she got better — by consoling herself, promising herself, swearing that that had been the last time. Four years later, and she wasn’t even recovered yet. This would just make it worse. She already hurt horribly inside. She hated it. She hated the shame, duplicity, her own doubts and reservations.
She tapped frenzied, shaking fingers on her jeans, hating the crazy-person looks she got. She hated the Dares she ended up performing to avoid the Truths she was tired of lying about; she hated the crying that she couldn’t stop when an Avon lady brushed her face with powder; she hated the shivers she got when people talked about doctors, or when ambulances passed her on the road. She was tired of the crying.
Valerie knelt down by her side. Brier pressed her toes into the carpet. She hated that she wrestled with her mind every time it was referred to as “rape,” because some little thing in her head kept asking her if she secretly wanted it, if she deserved it, and another little thing said that if you liked it, it wasn’t rape. She hated that she’d had to resist his body as well as her own, but she could not stand how much she’d hated herself for it afterwards.
She’d sworn she’d stand up for herself, and she had, so far. She’d been disappointed, lost things, but she’d gotten through it before and she could do it again. She was not going to get touched. She still tapped her knees. I won’t hate myself for letting this happen… I can’t hate myself that much again. She rubbed her pinky. I can do another twenty-eight auditions. She made fists. But I can’t be touched.
Brier lay on the mat doing situps while Roxanne, a junior, held her feet down.
Quatre-six, quatre-sept, quatre-huit… “Okay, thanks,” Brier leaned forward, over her knees.
“Ten more,” Roxanne urged, nodding her head.
“No, no, I’m done, thanks,” Brier put her hands down to stand up.
“C’mon, you gotta push yourself,” Roxanne still clasped her white and pink athletic shoes.
“No, sorry,” Brier stood up and wiggled her feet out from Roxanne’s grasp. Walking away, she raised her shoulders up and forwards, towards her ears. Her blue T-shirt looked empty, hanging off her concave shoulders. She walked over to the side of the gym and stood near the scale and an exercise bike. She put a dusty hand on the wall above her head, letting her arm dangle between the wall and her shoulder. She took quick, shallow breaths, trying not to expand her ribcage.
“Hey, you okay?” Her gym coach asked.
“Yeah,” Brier said, still concentrating on her breathing. “I’m good.”
“Yeah… I’d have that breathing thing checked out if I were you.”
Coach Gerri wrote out a note and instructed Brier to go to the nurse’s office.
Brier dragged her feet to the 300 building, trying to breath regularly and figure out any way out of it. She’ll ask me to sit on the bed, she’ll listen to my heart, she’ll listen to my breathing, she’ll put her hand on my back, she’ll ask me to take off my shirt… she will not touch me. She will not touch me!
By the time she got to the square, tan building, she only felt a sharp prick in her chest when she breathed in deeply. I can’t get off campus. If I’m reported for not going, then Coach will tell them I was supposed to go because I was breathing funny… and then my parents will force me into going to a doctor… so… I need to be sick, but not with whatever it is I have. By the time she leaned into the glass doors, she also had a plan. If the nurse had to touch her, she would only touch her extremities.
She began limping down the hallway to 318. The hall was painted beige, and lined with blue-framed doors. Each door had a small plastic plaque stuck next to it.
317, 318, Brier pushed in the door; she started to breathe raggedly again, worrying she’d be found out. The nurse greeted her and took the note.
“Are you okay? You’re breathing hard.”
“Oh, yeah, no,” Brier gasped. “My ankle hurts really bad.”
Brier rolled her eyes around the room gray room and took in a deep breath. Valerie reached out her hand and Brier’s eyes jerked back to hers..
“Actually,” Brier stood up, bumping Valerie’s hand with her thigh. “No. Sorry.”
Brier was so relieved. It felt good to say no without anyone challenging her. Just one word — no. Her breathing seemed to steady. She lifted her chin and picked up her bags, turning towards the door. Let them try and touch her. Just let them. There was nothing you could stop her from doing once she made up her mind. There was nothing you could do to her if she didn’t want it done, and there was nothing you could make her do if she didn’t want to do it. She didn’t want to do the screening, and she wasn’t going to.
She put her fingers on the metal door handle. How she hated him. He’d fucked her up. She wouldn’t have had to make this decision if it weren’t for him. It was his fault that she was like this. It was because of what he forced on her, in her. It wasn’t just his dick. He forced this hatred, this life. He controlled her life. She pressed down on the handle.
From her boyfriend to her acting career, to her own thought process… He was the reason she couldn’t be touched. He was the reason she had her hand on the door. If it weren’t for him, she’d already be on the flight. If it weren’t for him, she wouldn’t be like this; she wouldn’t be doing this. No. I am leaving; I made the decision. You can’t touch me. They can’t touch me. But… if it weren’t for him to begin with, she wouldn’t have a problem. It was because he had… Say it. Rape. Raped me. I don’t know.
“Let me escort you out,” Valerie said from behind.
Raped her. It was because he’d raped her that she feared contact, hated contact. She died of contact. Because of him. And now she was missing her future because of what he’d done to her. He was fucking controlling her life.
She slammed her shoulder into the door to open it.
He began controlling it four years ago, the second he gave her the shot. He’d been making her decisions ever since. He’d decided who she’d first have sex with. Then he decided who she could date and what activities she’d do, what movies she could watch, even how well she could breathe at times. And the fucker decided her own feelings for her — he determined what made her happy and what made her upset. She knew the books said that rape was about power, not sex. Her rape gave the him complete power over every moment of her life after he pulled out. And she had thought she was free when he got off her, when her eyelids fluttered and her fingers moved.
She looked out down the blank hallway, at the white walls and the floor, dirty, like plaque.
She felt nauseous. I won’t be raped again. I won’t be assaulted. I won’t be touched. She didn’t trust many people, and not being touched was her one way to stay in control. She squeezed he eyes shut, furious. Or rather, his last way to control her. Because of him, every choice she made erred on the side of avoiding human contact.
Half in and half out of the doorway, she clenched the handle as if she wanted to crack the thing open. But not this choice. I’m not letting him fucking control my life anymore. He made me lose my virginity; he made me lose my self-respect; I’m not losing control.
She yanked the door back shut. Quaking with anger, she slowly eased the handle up. It latched. She wouldn’t cry over him anymore after this. She hated him. Four fucking years of my life belongs to him. Four years of my life, nine months and fifteen days. No more. Not another year. Not another month, not one more day. Today’s the day I break it. Today’s the day it ends.
She turned to Valerie. “Sorry,” she focused on the words. She would do as she wished. She would take the call. She would keep her boyfriend. She would take back the needle. She would take back control. “I — will do it.” Stiffening her jaw, she flung her purse and small duffel across the room. She sat.
“Okay,” Valerie hesitated, waiting for Brier to stand up again, then squatted by the side of the chair and apologized a second time, looking like she probably meant it. Brier tried to ignore her own head. She glared into Valerie’s eyes; they were light blue with white specks splattered throughout. She had short eyelashes with mascara that didn’t help much. Small and angular, they were set far behind the brow bone. Brier ground her fists together and pushed them into her legs. She hated her almost as much as she hated him, almost as much as she hated herself. Valerie rubbed her hands together and grasped her own knees. Her hands were medium-sized and a little wrinkled; they looked rather motherly. She had wide knuckles and short nails. There was a blood clot on the nail of her left index finger. She shook her head slightly, “Are you ready, then?”
“Yes,” Brier hissed, hoping her nails would make her own hands bleed, because some people said it made you feel better. Her eyes narrowed.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Just do it,” Brier yelled, thinking that Valerie might waver.
But Valerie lifted her right hand, palm facing inwards. She touched Brier’s chest. Brier’s shoulders jerked.
“I’m so sorry, honey,” Valerie said again, patting her down.
Like hell you are. Brier’s nostrils flared. I hate this! I hate him! I hate him for raping me! I don’t want to think about it I don’t want to think about him I don’t want to remember his hands on me, hands that wouldn’t come off, hands that I feel right now, I know where they were, I know where he had them on my hips on my legs on my waist hands on my chest they don’t come off because I can still feel them, her hands feel like his hands, her hands are his hands!
Valerie moved to the other side and gently pressed her hand into the crease between Brier’s ribs and left breast.
Brier tried to calm herself and channel her fury into convincing herself she was at the airport, not the dentist’s. But the chair’s even blue. Shut up.
She took in the hard chair and smashed her feet into the floor, bubbling the carpet. I am in control. I am not with a dentist. I am not with a dentist. I am in control. Her hands are her hands… At least I have clothes on. At least I have clothes on. The tendons in Briers wrists bulged out; her face was pinched and her throat constricted. Valerie pulled her hand back from Brier’s chest, cleared her throat, and stood up. Brier’s mouth twitched. She didn’t move. She didn’t turn her eyes.
“Sweetie, I’m sorry, but your plane leaves in about fifteen minutes…..” Valerie’s square eyes softened at the edges, and she wiped one of them. Brier’s breathing came regular and paced, though loud. It’s not sexual at all, she rationalized. It wouldn’t effect her anymore. It wouldn’t control her life. He would not control her life.
She spread her legs and wrapped her feet backwards around the supports. She slid her fists down and clenched the sides of the chair. She held on as if she was being tipped over the edge of a cliff, and holding on to the seat was the only thing that could save her. She could do this. She could stay in control.
Valerie leaned over and touched Brier’s crotch. Brier stared straight ahead, concentrating on the second joint in the door’s lowest silver hinge. She told herself nothing was wrong; she was in control; she’d chosen this; she’d made the decision. But she could feel the light touch of Valerie’s hand on her pubic bone through the pants. She took a short breath and her eyes glazed over. No, no, I’m not losing control. She hated him. She hated him, and Valerie and security measures and guards and metal detectors, and the gray room. Brier hated the metal and hated her body for drawing attention to itself all the time and then betraying her and shaming her. She tightened her muscles even more, holding this hate in so it wouldn’t seep out as acid through her pores, or burst out of her mouth, splitting her head in half, it was so immense. But she wanted to let it go. She wanted to burn everything up with her hatred. And her jeans — she could still feel Valerie’s hand in between her vagina and anus! She wanted to dash out the door, but that would mean he’d win. She would live her own life without him. She would brave anything to defy him. To stop him. She wanted some paper nearby so she could scribble on it so hard that the pen poked through and ripped across it. She wanted to tear it up, huge pieces of it, and then she’d shred it with her teeth. She wanted a punching bag so she could hit it over and over until the seams opened and then she’d tear out the stuffing and light it and she wanted something with lots of little parts like a computer so she could smash it against the concrete to see the sparks and watch the plastic crack and metal pieces and circuit boards come flying out and she wanted to rob people and hurt them so they would know what it felt like, so they would understand her and her desire to control things because she had been controlled, so they would understand her desire to destroy things because a part of her had been destroyed. He wouldn’t destroy her anymore, he wouldn’t control her anymore.
Valerie gave Brier some space, about to say that she was done. Brier still clenched the chair with her hands and feet. Black hatred dripped down over her contorted face and eyes and poised to jump out of her.
I’ll never let him touch me again! I’ll never let anybody touch me! Don’t you touch me, I don’t belong to you and you can’t control me and what I want to do, I’ll do it, I’ll just do it and you’ll have to deal with it because I’m doing what I want and I’m not going to be touched. you have no right to touch me. don’t touch me, don’t humiliate me, don’t violate me, don’t degrade me, don’t hurt me — but you won’t have to worry about avoiding that because i won’t let you, i won’t let you have a chance, i’ve done it before and i won’t fail myself again i won’t betray myself again and live with the hatred it brings because it wasn’t my fault it wasn’t my fault no matter what i did or how much I hated myself it wasn’t my fault and it won’t be my fault again it’ll never be my fault because it’ll never happen again and i’ll never feel like that because i’ll keep myself safe and i won’t let it happen again because i hate you for making me hate myself i hate you for touching me any of you all of you and i’m telling you i’ll die first you can kill me first before you can touch me…
Brier leaned far over her knees and opened her mouth. She finally screamed the hate. She sensed the commotion but couldn’t feel the hands on her shoulders or hear the men or see through the blackness and still she screamed.
Caroline Mays graduated from UCR, interned for Inland Empire Magazine, and is currently an MFA student at CSUSB. Her favorite books include Emma, House of Mirth, A Proper Knowledge, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. She enjoys martial arts, dance, pirates, and traveling.