Broadsword

The following day Callie and I meet at BeBe’s place to cram for our Chemistry twelve final. It is a gorgeous summer’s day and we sit in BeBe’s backyard and work on our tans as we study. The phone rings and BeBe goes into her house to answer it.

“Griff. Phone for you,” she sings the words and smiles at me.

I think that it is Sé. I think that he has heard what happened to me and he is finally calling me. I go to the phone sure it is Sé. But how did he know I was there? It isn’t Sé. It’s Uva. He and BeBe are longtime neighbours in the Westmount area. She has told him that I would be coming to her place to study. As soon as I hear that voice, and realize who it was, I sink to the floor pressing the phone to my neck. I want to throw up.

“You know what happened between us the other night? You wanted that to happen,” he says. “I didn’t force you.”

I never say a word to him. I listen in silence as I sit in a crumpled ball on the kitchen floor and clasp the coiled phone chord in my hand. I feel hot and clammy. I perspire and feel as though I may pass out. Eventually, I hang up.

With the following day dawns the morning of my Chemistry exam. The minute I awaken, I know that I want to vomit. I spring from my bed and run for the toilet. The nausea is caused by the morning after pill. It brings on my period too and I am cramping badly. As I throw up in the downstairs toilet, my mother comes in and slaps me hard across my face.

“Yer bloody writing that bloody exam!” she screams. “Never mind pretending tae be bloody sick!”

“I am writing it,” I say.  I rock back on my haunches and fall against the wall landing on the bathroom scales.

I am not pretending to be sick. I am sick. It never occurs to me that I might have the right not to write the exam because of what happened to me. Griffins do not get out of things. They got on with things. As I write that exam, I sit three rows behind Sé, and I cannot focus on the exam. I hide behind my left hand that balances my forehead as I try to read the exam paper through tear-filled eyes. My tears splash onto my examination paper and blur the lines. I watch Sé as he writes his exam and then rises, hands in his paper and walks out of the room. He is going out west for the summer. Everyone is talking about it. The word is that he is going to get laid in Banff, Alberta; he is going to get ‘Banffed’. My heart is broken.

After exams, there is an end of the year outdoor assembly at CCH. I am drinking vodka in Kool-Aid with my friends as we sit on the grass and watch the bands play. As Sé looks on, one of his buddies who has always had a thing for me, grabs my foot and drags me around the CCH track caking the seat of my jeans in dirt. Sé gets up and leaves the assembly after that. As Callie drives me home later, I plead with her to take me to Sé’s house. She tries to talk me out of going there but I cry and beg her to take me and eventually she does. I stagger across his lawn, looking disheveled and Sé stands at a car in his driveway bidding the driver farewell.

“Sé Keen! I want to talk to you!” I shout across his lawn at him.

I wave Callie off and she departs. Sé and the driver of the car look my way and it is then that I see the person to whom Sé is speaking is Father Thomas, one of our teachers from school. I feel ashamed of my drunken demeanor and pitiful appearance, and I put my head down as I walk toward Sé’s front porch where I know he will join me once Father Thomas leaves.

I watch Sé walk toward me as Father Thomas’s car chugs away. He looks nervous. I know what I need to say, but don’t know whether I will actually be able to articulate my feelings. I want to tell Sé what happened. I heard that one of my friends, Jane Shure, told Sé that I had consensual sex with Uva, and I need to tell Sé myself what really happened. But when he reaches me, and sits next me on his front porch, I start crying and cannot speak. His mother comes out and sees me weeping. I am a mess and feel humiliated in front of Sé’s mom, who has always been sweet to me. Sé takes me inside and we go downstairs to his basement where he and I end up fooling around. I let him use then discard me. I don’t care anymore. I am lost. He gives me one of his graduation photos and drives me home. When I walk through my front door, my mother takes one look at my disheveled state, thinks me a slut, and slaps me hard across the face. She saw Sé drop me off in the driveway, and she knows I’ve been with him.

“Yer a bloody sight!” she screams. “Get oot o’ ma sight! Bloody disgrace!”

I reel back against the front door. My grandmother, who is visiting from Scotland, sits in the chair watching me. Undoubtedly, I appear to be a slut to her as well. I regain my footing, collect myself and go downstairs to my bedroom where I cry myself to sleep.

I change high schools during that same summer of 1982. My mother protests initially but I weep and scream that I will not return to CCH. She is so unnerved by my outburst that she backs off of me. I am going to the local public high school, Laurier Secondary, for my Grade twelve year. I can’t bear to see any of those girls again, the girls who were with me that night, the girls who should have protected me and come looking for me sooner than they did. People chalk up my change of schools to the heartbreak over Sé but it cuts much deeper than that.

Jane Shure encourages my leave from CCH. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” she tells me. “Sé will miss you if you go.”

When Sé and I date, he and Jane give each other the finger in the school corridors as they pass one another. They hate each other. They went to a formal together two years before, but Jane liked another boy and ended up dating him. I think she hurt Sé. I try to talk them into liking one another for my sake but I secretly like it that they seem to hate one another. I don’t know then that love and hate are two horns on the same goat, but perhaps I sense it. As soon as I am absent from the hallowed halls of CCH, Jane Shure goes after Sé. He returns from Banff with an earring, and on crutches. I have no idea if he managed to lose his virginity in Banff or not, but guess that he did. At the opening year CCH picnic at Springbank Park, Jane Shure places Sé’s crutches in her car and proceeds to fuck him senseless for his Grade thirteen year.

While Sé dates Jane that year, she tells him that after he and I broke up I used to call his house from my place or drive by, but it was she who did these things. It was she who called Sé’s house on my bedroom phone, and it was she who would drive by his house, sit in her car at the bottom of his driveway as I became increasingly agitated with her.

“He’s coming down the stairs! I can see him through the window! Drive! Drive!” I would scream at her on the verge of panicked tears, and she would wait until he saw us before she peeled away.

She wants to make me look crazy in his eyes, and she manages that. She is more obsessed with my relationship with Sé than am I. When she and I are friends, she asks me all about my relationship with Sé and tries my panties from my underwear drawer when I am out of my bedroom. When Jane sleeps over at my house shewants me to tickle her back and then asks to do the same to me. I don’t want to touch her and I don’t want her hands on me. It reminds me of my teenage cousin molesting me for a summer and I want nothing to do with it. Jane steals her brother’s Playboy magazines and brings them in the car with us.

“I just want to see what I should look like,” she says

“That’s gay,” Fannie Lurh says.

Rumours go around that Jane Shure was seen kissing a butch girl from Sé’s class, Lia Finn, at a party. Sé’s best friend defended both girls.

“Don’t say shit like that. Shit like that can ruin a person’s life,” Sé says to the person spreading the rumour.

I don’t know if it is true but knowing what I do about both girls, I guess it is. I keep mum about Jane’s desire to be physically stroked by me when she spends the night at my house, and of her obsession with my slender hips and panty drawer. I don’t want to add to her torment, but when she and Sé start dating, I feel some satisfaction at the thought that Big Man on Campus, Quarterback, Sé Keen, will have his heart broken by her again.

When my Grade twelve year starts in the fall, I cannot get out of bed in the morning. I stay in bed until the last possible second and then I jump up, shower quickly, pull on my jeans and a sweatshirt and run to school with wet hair and no make-up. I am trying to erase myself. I want to disappear. If boys ask me out, I refuse. I barely speak in class. The school quarterback, a nice African-American boy, takes a shine to me in a Grade twelve history class we are in together. He writes a poem to me and delivers it before the entire class.

“Angela, oh beautiful, Angela. You’re so quiet. I think you’re on a talking diet.” He asks me out but I refuse to date anyone. I’ve no interest in any boy, especially the school quarterback again. That’s all I need. I want to be left alone.

I am usually late for school in the morning, which leads to me getting a three-week detention with the school stoners and reprobates. I call Cissy from a payphone at Laurier after I am given the detention.

“They are picking on you because you come from Catholic Central,” Cissy says. “They are making an example of you. Don’t go to their detention. Tell them to stick it.”

She makes me laugh despite my distress. “Okay,” I smile through my tears.

I do attend the three-week detention. I take my books and study rigorously the entire time. That year I pour myself into my studies. My academics become a welcome distraction from all the pain I feel. I then decide that I want to study journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. My teachers at Laurier, who see talent in my writing that teachers at CCH never did, encourage me to become a writer. I want to travel to foreign lands and write about my experiences. That desire never goes away. I have always wanted to go somewhere else and write about the experience of it.

My McDonald’s workmates tell me that some strange girl is frequently stopping by and asking weird questions about me.

“Like what?” I ask.

“Like….have you gained any weight? Are you seeing anyone? Are you going back to CCH? Shit like that. It’s fucked up, man!” one of my workmates says.

I don’t know who is asking these things about me until Jane Shure shows up at my house at the end of the school year. It is June and after months of stalking me at work, she walks through the front door of my home. When she stops by my house, my dad, not realizing who she is or what is going on, lets her in to see me. She walks into my basement and I am sitting there in my baby-doll pyjamas. I don’t know what to say. She hands me a necklace that she claims belongs to me but knows does not, and then she leaves. I stand there dumbfounded. I resolve in that moment to go to the CCH party the following weekend and publicly embarrass Jane Shure in front of all of CCH.

The next Saturday night the big party is at Sé’s house. At least I know my way. I have spent the year growing out my hair, it is really long by this time, and I curl it in long spirals for Sé’s party. Jane Shure has a short, boyish hair-cut, short legs and a dumpy ass.  I buy a new outfit and make certain I look beautiful. At the party, Sé’s friends swarm round me like bees to a flower.

“You looked good when you left CCH,” one of his close friends tells me. “But you look like a million bucks now.”

I laugh and flirt with all of his buddies. I realize then that men have no loyalty when they want to bed the former girlfriend of one of their buddies, and I use them to make Sé jealous. Sé, who can’t take his eyes off of me, follows me wherever I go. He bumps into me on purpose, as he did the first night we met, and presses his back into mine as we stand close together in his kitchen before I move away from him. I have already learned to always be the one to leave first. These things alone give me tremendous satisfaction but I have come to humiliate Jane Shure in front of everyone and I am not leaving until I do.

As Sé and I sit in his living room with others all around, Jane enters the room and climbs behind him on the chair he occupies, strokes his back and kisses his neck. She wraps her short, stubby legs around him from behind. It hurts to see that but I hold strong and pretend not to notice. The record plays and all I can think about is the last time I was there listening to that stereo with Sé on top of me, trying to persuade me to sleep with him, telling me that he loved me. I am sitting in the same corner where he had slid me to the floor and climbed on top of me, trying to seduce me the last night we were together.

The music stops and there is relative silence in the room until a new record can be placed on the turntable. That provides me with ample opportunity to do what I have come to do. I am shaking as I prepare to open my mouth, which is completely dry. I have not let one ounce of liquor pass my red lips. I need to be in complete control. I put my soda on the coffee table, clear my throat and stand.

“So Shure! When can I expect you to drop by my house again?” I spew across the room and she turns to me with fear in her eyes. “My dad didn’t know who the hell you were when you dropped by last Saturday night uninvited and unwelcome. I had to fill him in. I told him you were just some messed up, insecure psycho who is dating my sloppy seconds! Yeah everyone!” I look at my captivated audience and gather them in with my hands. “Jane not-so-Shure has been coming to my house and work to ask all sorts of questions about me, like is my ass as huge as hers. It isn’t. Or if I’m seeing anyone. What’s up, Shure? Not so sure of your new relationship?”

Silence smothers the room.

I face both Sé and Jane. All eyes are on me and Sé. It is just like old times. I am at centre stage with the CCH quarterback again. Jane Shure starts to cry into his back.

“Kick her out, Sé!” someone shouts. He means me.

“No one has to ask me to leave. I can see the door from here. I never wanted to step foot through that door ever again. You keep away from me, Shure!” I turn from them and walk out of Sé’s house with my head held high. I feel somewhat satisfied though I am trembling, my adrenaline pumping through my veins.

As I walk across his front lawn, Sé chases after me and Jane tears after him. She stands trembling before me with her head down and I feel powerful towering over her hobbit frame. If he has come after me to give me a piece of his mind he finds himself surely lacking and mute in my presence. Neither he nor Jane utter a sound, and it suddenly occurs to me that I am too strong for him and for her. I fill him in about his girlfriend’s extra-curricular activities and I can tell by the way he looks at her that he has no idea she has been coming to my house or to McDonald’s asking questions about me. Then I turn to her. She never raises her head. She cannot look me in the eye. I bend low so my lips are next to her ear. “If you ever come near me or my family again, I’ll end kill you,” I hiss. With that I walk off of Sé’s lawn, climb into my car and drive myself home. I shake with rage.

I think to myself that if London had any doubts about my emotional stability before my appearance at Sé Keen’s that night, there are none by the time I leave. I know I scared Jane Shure but truth be told, I scared myself. I know that my anger is out of control. At the same time, it becomes clear in that moment that I am no longer a victim. I am fighting back. I am breaking free of the prison I’d erected around my shame as a survivor of rape, and I come out of my self-imposed exile brandishing a Griffin broadsword of fury.

 

 

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