When I was 15, I had been dating my boyfriend for over a year. I remember it was fall, just about to get cold enough for a jacket. It was my favorite time of the year, when the leaves are falling, and it's so saturated in warm tones. We went to a pumpkin patch, and a maze, and dinner with his family. One night he asked me if he could touch me beneath my underwear, and I said no because I was nervous. I didn't know how to act in that situation, and looking back, he probably didn't know either. He asked me a few more times, and finally I said okay. He was my boyfriend, after all, and we had been together for over a year, and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
We went outside, and it was dark. Did he know I was afraid of the dark? We laid in the grass near the lake and looked at the stars. Growing up, I always loved romance novels, and all I ever wanted was for my life to become one. We kissed a little, and he asked if I was ready. I took a deep breath and nodded. I wasn't ready. But he didn't know this, so he reached into my pants. I kind of liked it, but he wasn't good at it, and everything felt wrong, my body felt wrong. I felt exposed and unclean, but I was supposed to do this with my boyfriend, right? After what had felt like hours, but had to have been minutes, we went back inside. My mom would be there to pick me up soon.
At home, I obsessed over this feeling I had never felt before. I didn't like it at all, I was a broken toy, no good anymore. My anxiety took me over and I couldn't sleep. He didn't know how I felt, no one did, and no one ever has. So was it his fault that I felt violated?
When I was 16, I fell in love with a boy that drove a pickup truck. Everything was new and different, and it was summertime, the time for freedom and taking chances. We dated for two weeks before I let him take my virginity. I thought I would be with him for the rest of my life, we had this connection. And when you're 16, and acting on the influence of hormones, you make choices like this. I felt comfortable and safe. I had severe depression, but with him, I forgot about it all. Going 90 in a 45, singing country songs, eating at the diner in town, and staying out late.
In books and movies, they tell you your first time will be special. A king sized bed, clean white sheets, surrounded by candles and rose petals. I thought it would be slow, romantic, careful. I had an idea for a long time, a movie I made in my mind, of how it would be. Ever since I found out about what sex was, I had my life planned out. But it didn't happen like that at all.
He laid down on the couch, my mom was at work, we had the house to ourselves. I wasn't on birth control, and neither of us had a condom. But I wanted to feel this feeling that everyone loved. It was in songs, movies, all around school. It had to be amazing. He asked if I really wanted it. I did. So bad. He suggested we just do it for a second. Just so it happened. I agreed. I went on top, four or five thrusts, and I got off. Then we left to get dinner. I felt so much older, and the rest of the day I ran on adrenaline, and I couldn't wait to do it for real.
We dated for a year, and during that time, the relationship was hell, but I loved him. Every time we had sex I felt like an object, like a toy. But I liked to feel close to him. I liked hearing "I love you." He cheated on me and abused me every single day. But I was loyal.
When I was 17, I was suicidal. I met a boy who was a new different story. He played the guitar, and I had wanted to be a singer my whole life. We listened to The Beatles, and I wore flowers in my hair. It was sunny for the first time in a long time, but I couldn't stop thinking about the boy from 16. I missed him every day, but I couldn't tell anyone that. And I knew what was good for me, and being abused and cheated on wasn't good, and only ended in new scars on my wrists. So this new boy was sort of a distraction. I thought he was sweet and cute, but he wasn't really my type. I just liked when he hugged me and when he played the guitar. I just wanted real true feelings, real true love. And I guess I always knew I wouldn't find it in him, but I was closer to my intended destination when with him, than when apart.
I didn't want to date him, and I didn't like it when he kissed me. And I didn't like how he acted when he was high. I didn't like his best friend, the one I drove to a fight that one time. I didn't like much at all except for the attention and the music. But one day we were sitting in his room, listening to all of his favorite songs, and he asked for me to be his girlfriend. In my head, I repeated, "no." Over and over, thinking about the boy from 16. I heard myself say yes.
We laid kissing on his bed, and he put my hand on him, through his pants. I didn't want to do this with anyone else, so I moved my hand away after leaving it for just a moment to make him happy. He put my hand back, I moved, he put my hand back. Our kissing got more intense, and I knew what was coming. I wanted to say no, without hurting his feelings, I wanted to say no, but I didn't know how. "I'm not on birth control or anything." For some reason, I thought he would stop then, and we would listen to music for a few more minutes, and then I would drive home. "Don't worry, I have a condom." He pulled one out of his drawer and slipped it on. And it happened. And the whole time I thought about the boy from 16. I pretended to like it, making my breathing heavy, pretending to conceal my moans. His dad almost caught us, so we didn't finish. And I punched the steering wheel and cried all the way home.
I wanted to only be with one guy ever, and now that was impossible. I betrayed myself and the boy from 16. In the morning I told him I didn't think we should make our relationship official yet, and I wanted to wait for a while before we had sex again. We had sex nine more times.
When I was 18, the boy from 16 came back. We hadn't talked for 7 months, but he came back from basic training, and he came back to me. I believed the things he told me. The military changed him, he regretted everything he did. He promised me new promises, complete with a promise ring, and I felt safe while I felt like I was drowning. He told me the boy from 17 raped me. I didn't think he did, but I didn't know what to call it. He healed all of the wounds that he had made the years before and then made new ones. We kept our old anniversary date because we never stopped loving each other. But history always repeats itself, and it only took a few weeks for him to turn into his old self. I felt like a toy again. And one day he told me he wanted to have sex, but I was upset with him that day because he kept calling me a bitch and making me feel insignificant. So I said no. He pushed me down on the bed, laying on my stomach, he pulled down my pants and thrust. I told him to stop over and over, but he didn't stop. He moved to kiss my neck, and that's when he saw that I was crying. He stood up right away, and he said he was sorry, he thought I was joking. I wasn't joking. He asked me if he raped me. I said I don't know. And then I said no, because if I had said yes, he would have yelled at me all night. But I sat there, afraid of him as usual. But I had lost all of my friends, and without him I was alone.
And now I am 19, and I think about my teenage years every single day. I obsess over it, and I cry over it. They all took something from me. But what can I call it when I told the boy from 15 "yes," and I didn't tell the boy from 17 "no"? And what did the boy from 16 and 18 do to me? What can I call that? All I know is that even now, for the first time in a healthy relationship, I'm still cry when he moves my hand, or when he's in the mood and I'm depressed. I shouldn't be this way, I should just say no when I don't want something, and I do now. But my life is mostly flashbacks, rarely do I snap back into reality. I asked the boy from 19 what he thinks the boy from 16 and 18 did, I asked him if he raped me. He said he didn't know. How could he? How could anyone? Am I the only person who can decide this significant statement? Whose life could I ruin, and do I need to ruin more lives than my own?
And it's things like this that I wish I couldn't see with the lights out. I wish 15 to 18 didn't destroy me. I wish I wasn't full of hatred and hurting, but it's not my choice, and sometimes I wonder if it ever was. Even with a new boy, the boy from 19, even with something that is real for the first time in my life, I can't escape the darkness of my past. The abuse, the invasion, the things I didn't consent to, and the things I did. Even with someone holding me and giving me every reason to trust them, even with him saving my life. With him, I am the safest I have ever felt, but when I'm alone I'm not safe from myself. Because I'm the reason this all happened to me.