This story addresses rape
The Morning After
The door opens downstairs, and I freeze with a fistful of freshly washed underwear poised over the drawer. After twenty-six years of hearing his familiar feet entering our home, I know it’s not Jack, coming back for his wallet, his coffee, a file. I’m realizing that my phone is downstairs in my bag and scanning for a weapon or a place to hide when she calls out to me. Her voice in that one wavering syllable is worse than a home invasion. Worse than a serial killer picking this house at 8:07 in the morning on a Thursday.
I clatter down the stairs, and Maddy is already at the kitchen table. Her eyes are empty blue horizons as I take the seat across the table and wait for her to tell me that she failed her final exams. That she got a huge speeding ticket. That she has an expertly hidden drug problem. But her stillness whispers how much worse, how very much worse the circumstances are that drove her home, two hours south on the highway, and dropped her across from me. Everything inside me clenches into a fist as I wait.
She tells me, and the first thing I think is what a monstrous cliché it all is. A frat house. Too much to drink. Waking up on a couch in a back room with no underwear and a blanket laid sideways across where her skirt was shoved up around her waist, her mind and thighs sticky.
We sit together while the clock on the wall ticks with a reassuring metronomic rhythm. I match my breaths to it. One, two, three — in. One, two, three — out until my face is a pool of water without a single ripple to mar its calm. Until I can reach across the table and stroke her wrist with my thumb and not grip her to the bone, not try to squeeze out the poison.
Beneath the surface I am Truman with my finger on the red button. I am Edmond Dantès, crushing the lives of my enemies. I am Alex Forrest, stroking the silky rabbit fur. I am Anton Chigurh, and the coin has come up tails. I am Shiva, destroyer of worlds.
But she’s a little girl again, sitting in that chair on that quiet morning, waiting for her mom to tell her what to do. The choices hang in the air between us. I want to tell her to get in the car right now. I want a rape kit. An investigation. DNA. I want every male cheek at that university swabbed and tested. I want justice, vengeance, retribution.
Maddy asks if it ever happened to me, and I deflate like a balloon because I know there will be nothing that can redeem what was taken. I nod, tasting the Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler and feeling the length of my ponytail wrapped around his fist. I’d walked past my mother, curled under a blanket on the couch, asleep in front of Johnny Carson while she waited for me to get home, to make sure I was safe.
That Maddy would come straight home, come to me, is a bitter affirmation: I’m a good mother. I hold the thought between my teeth as I tell her I’ll do whatever she wants to do. All her choices were stolen from her, and I have to give her this one back, an impossible, inadequate gift that I hold out.
“Do I need a prescription for a morning after pill?”
I have no idea, but I tell her I’ll find out.
“I just want to take a shower and go to bed.”
I pick the words and put them in an order that sounds matter-of-fact and informational and tell her that taking a shower will destroy evidence if she wants to file a police report.
She nods and says maybe she’ll just wash her face, and she heads toward the stairs.
I pull my phone out of my bag with shaking hands and Google “rape crisis center” just in case that’s what she wants to do. Then I look up “emergency contraception” to figure out where and how we can get it. I’m glad the car is full of gas and the state line is close, but the anger rises in a tsunami of rage that we have to go any farther than the pharmacy eight blocks away. I keep counting with the clock and hold back the tide. The bathroom door closes upstairs, and I hold my breath, listening for the sound of her decision.
Andrea Rinard is a mother, teacher, and feminist who wants a better world for all her kids. You can follow her on Twitter @aprinard and check out her blog at writerinard.com. She’ll be commemorating the publication of this piece with her 17-year-old daughter with ice cream and a hefty donation to NARAL, who’s fighting for all of us. Please join her with your own donation to preserve women’s body autonomy and safety.
Art Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres CC3.0
This story is part of our Pro-Choice theme. If you are interested in helping support women’s right to autonomy, consider checking out these websites and if you’re able maybe even supporting organizations like these:
Alabama’s Yellowhammer Fund https://yellowhammerfund.org/
Planned Parenthood in the US https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
Alliance for Choice in North and South Ireland http://www.alliance4choice.com/
Marie Stopes International https://mariestopes.org/what-we-do/our-services/safe-abortion-and-post-abortion-care/
and many other pro-choice organizations and charities. We are looking forward to expanding this list as we learn more.