Friday, January 27, 2017

You Are Not Alone - A short story

Hi fellow followers...to the few that may be out there! It's been a while since I've written, but I am back as well as my twin sister, so I hope you continue following and reading about our lives! We hope to revamp soon to include a vlog and youtube channel, but for now...I hope you will read :)

I wanted to write about something that I haven't been able to speak about without being cryptic or ashamed. And while the embarrassment is still there, the experience I have had with sharing my story publicly and the impact that it can have on just one person has given me some courage to share in moderation with those who may need to hear they are not alone. 

There was a small fire sparked within me last night that I never saw coming. I have been on a work trip with a fellow co-worker, male co-worker to be exact. This man is fun, and exciting and completely chill. The kind of person that you just want to be around all of the time because of his outlook on life and the love that he has for all. I am not relaxed around the opposite gender and would never use those words in the same sentence, especially if I do not know them. I am generally always on edge, and anticipating their next move. However, with this gentleman, I was able to be myself and share things I never expected to share. 

     The drive to the airport Monday morning was full of anxiety. To the point I was in tears the whole way there. Since I was traveling when I received the news that my sister died, I haven't been able to go anywhere without feeling like I am going to explode into a million pieces. The added stress of meeting up with a fellow male co-worker, whom was much larger and older, and spending the time alone in the same hotel was enough to make me vomit. We planned to meet at the baggage claim as our flights arrived at the same time - or so that was the plan. I board the first flight with expectations of turbulence because of the wind, but was not expecting the drops and jolts this flight so kindly provided. I was white knuckled the entire flight.

My second flight arrived to our destination but his was delayed by an hour. I still waited in anticipation for him. I walked around the baggage claim, gathered my belongings and went on the hunt for some coffee. With my luggage dragging behind me, I made my way up the escalators and found Caribou Coffee, but opted for an unsweetened green iced tea since the baileys and coffee I had on the plane added to my nausea. I was pacing up and down the airport for what felt like an eternity. My co-worker finally arrived and after a few exchanges via text, we were face-to-face in the baggage area. I had met him before...just once...seven months ago in a group of people so I didn't truly know him. He greeted me and we walked outside to head to the hotel. I did not say much. My anxiety was at an all-time high...my stomach was doing somersaults and I was for sure about to vomit up the spiked coffee I had for free on the plane. We pick up a taxi outside and his first gesture was to put my bags in the trunk for me. I stood there not knowing what to say. I often travel alone, and more than ninety-nine percent of the time I do not require help. However much of a nice gesture this was, in the back of my mind I couldn't help but think there was an ulterior motive for his kindness. And then the thirty-minute taxi ride began. He struck up conversation almost immediately as if we had been friends our entire lives. The ride flew by and in no time we were at the hotel. We checked in at the front desk, and what do you know? We were on the same floor, about four rooms apart. All of the laughter and ease I had inside of the taxi immediately faded...he knew where I was sleeping. 

We head to the elevators. I have my purse strapped over my shoulder, my backpack sitting on my back and my luggage being towed in my hand, with such a tight grip that Mike Tyson wouldn't have been able to pry it away. As we step into the elevator we discuss meeting up in ten minutes to go grab a bite to eat. I push the button for the 10th floor and my stomach feels like it's falling with the movement of the elevator. My body felt heavy and I didn't know if I would make it to my room. We walk down the hall and I purposefully take the long way so that we reach his room first, I watch him walk in and close the door and I sprint to my room, key in my free hand and lock the deadbolt and chain behind me. I gather my emotions and remind myself that I am overreacting. It's okay. I close shades on the windows, put my luggage on the ottoman at the foot of the bed and grab my purse to head back downstairs. I wanted to make sure I was down there before him since I didn't have my luggage and backpack to protect me. I step off of the elevator on the first floor and walk into the lobby. I sit by the fireplace waiting for my co-worker. He arrives and we decide to walk a few blocks to a quaint little pub not seen on the east coast. 

As we walk, I can barely breathe, the combination of the thin, cold air piercing the inside of my nose and lungs and my unending anxiety was getting the better of me. He starts talking in his cool, calm, collected way and it somehow eases me. I am able to converse back. We step inside the door and it's a dimly-lit wooden pub that had a perfect seat near the window with a great view of 16th Street and the Pavilion. To my delight, all of the trees were lit up with white lights. The walkway reminded me of being in Mexico City and the flood of happiness that coursed through my body made me forget the anxiety I was letting myself get into. I order a cocktail, he ordered his and we started talking. Long, in-depth talks about work, life, and our partners. This was a turning point in the short trip for me. To be in the company of a male that genuinely cared about just listening and talking without any inferences to sex or joking about the possibility of taking advantage of our alone situation took me by surprise. Any time that I have traveled, there was always such a thick layer of uncomfortability because one of my male counterparts would feel it was acceptable to comment on my body or joke about work affairs, or how they could get a key to my room without me knowing. We remained in constant conversation for about two and half hours over cocktails and soup. We paid and began our journey back to the hotel. As we stepped outside, the cold bit our noses and hands. An audible burr came out of our mouths that made us both start laughing. We arrived at the hotel and headed back to our rooms taking the same route we previously did. 

The next day we head to the office to meet our new hire and spend about ten hours getting everything set up and moving about the day. We decide to do some team building and invite the team that resides there out to dinner. We chose this restaurant where they serve authentic Mexican food and offer happy hour all night! We order tacos and cocktails and have such great conversation. After dinner my co-worker and I head back to the hotel and say goodnight. The next morning we run through the same routine, we meet up in the lobby for breakfast and coffee, chat and eat while reading the newspaper. As we head to the office in our Uber, we discuss what we want to do for the night. By the time we arrive at the office, we have poured over dozens of restaurants through Google. One of the native Coloradians recommended this local place on 16th where those gorgeous lit trees are. We decide that this is where we will go for the night. 

We stayed later than usual at the office and were the last two people to leave. Others had prior commitments so it was just myself and my fellow traveler heading to dinner. We arrive at the restaurant and are seated near a stage. We order this incredible Chile Verde and some cocktails and continue our conversation that hadn't stopped since the first night. After our second drink he looks at the tattoo on my arm and continues to stare. He then looked at me and asked me if it is okay if he says something about it because he wanted to when he saw it the first night of our trip. I was uneasy about saying yes because although I intentionally got this tattoo as a reminder to myself of how strong I am, I hadn't really rehearsed what I would say if someone asked me what it stands for. He said, my girlfriend has the same tattoo but hers is on her shoulder...he was very polite and told me that he didn't want to pry but he understood the reason behind it and is open to hear about my story and how I am able to function the way I do. I took a sip of my tequila on the rocks, put it down on the table and looked up. He was teary eyed. This 6-foot tall, muscle man of a human. My eyes started to well with tears because I couldn't understand how this person could empathize with me knowing that I had been through what his girlfriend had; knowing that I had been taken advantage of, knowing that there was a possibility for vulnerability. Instead of pressuring me to talk, he began telling me how it made him feel when his girlfriend told him about what happened to her. I sat there and listened so intently. 

Then it happened, I just said it. I was raped. I was sexually abused as a child and I was raped. I have been drugged and taken advantage of. It has not been an easy recovery, but the tattoo served as a daily reminder that I am still here. I immediately wanted to throw up. What the hell did I just say?! When I told him, the tears in his eyes started streaming down his cheeks. Unafraid and unaware of those who may have been looking at him. The anger that plagued him showed, not toward me, but toward those who have hurt me. He asked for the addresses and was fighting the words coming through his teeth. He talked for a while, but I cannot remember much after that. I had ordered another two Don Julio on the rocks and was feeling quite numb. I was so focused on how I could tell my co-worker the deepest secrets of my life after only spending three days with him. I tried reasoning with myself in that he knew what the tattoo meant so I couldn't lie and had to tell him.

As I think about it now, it frightens me. I let my guard down, I drank, a lot, and could have ended up in a terrible situation as I have been before. But on the positive side, I found a place within myself that BELIEVES there is a greater good in people. While I have always believed it, I believed with skepticism. He gave me an opportunity to see the better side of the human race, especially those who I am so quick to place judgment based on my biased view on them because of past experiences. This guy bared his soul and compassion for another human being without any expectation in return. 

We walk back to the hotel, and I am so numb from the amount of alcohol I consumed. I am coherent, but well aware of the lack of strength I had. I tried as hard as I could to appear normal, and it worked. He walked me to the end of the hall and watched me walk to my room this time - from a distance. Though he wanted to make sure I was safe, he made sure not to be right behind me, as if he knew that was a trigger. I waved back to him and closed my door. I laid on the bed and the room was spinning as fast as my mind. I couldn't help but think of how I was supposed to face him tomorrow after he knew that I was really weak? Did he think my outward display of being strong was a facade? I came down to the lobby the next morning to face him and I was scared of it being awkward or him feeling embarrassed, and me being so ashamed of just unleashing such intimate details. How was he supposed to take me seriously now that he knew how disgusting I was?

As I approach the table where he is sitting, I smile, he smiles, and I walk to grab a cup of coffee and some fruit. I come back to the table and sit down. He sparks up a conversation as if we never talked about it. I felt a bit of relief. The days goes on, we work and then say our goodbyes. We head to the airport, and just as he put my bags in the taxi the first day, he did the same heading out to the airport. He opened my doors, carried my bags and was just plain decent. We arrived at the airport a few hours early as we had conference calls that we needed to be on. We sat down at this amazing restaurant where we could watch the planes land and take off while working and grabbing a bite to eat. Instead of going to his terminal, he came to mine and sat with me until it was time for me to board. As they called my group number, he gave me the biggest, unexpected hug. He whispered in my ear to remember how strong of a woman I am, and that I am such an impeccable example of how to overcome. He reminded me that I am proving that what happened doesn't define me. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and said thank you for showing me your soul. And then I boarded my flight back home with tears in my eyes. 

Though this may not seem significant to many, it impacted my soul in a way that is so difficult to describe. It compelled me to write about it because there are so many of us that often feel so alone and isolated because of being raped. The journey of recovery is long, but there are facets of hope along the way. Unexpected people can show up and remind you of the decency you once believed in within the human race. He did just that. A kindred soul who shared themselves because they too, believe that everyone should be loved and that everyone is good, everyone is human. I am working on remembering that I am, too...that maybe it wasn't my fault. That maybe I didn't ask for it. That maybe I am not weak because I couldn't fight it...that maybe I am strong. 

Thank you, my friend. 

xox

1 comment:

  1. This is so incredibly moving, Patti. Thank you for this window into all that travels beneath the surface for you. Rock on, unstoppable one.

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