Your Rapist has Famous Parents
a-movie-from-yours-and-everyone-else’s-childhood famous. Like,
silence-was-the-only-choice-in-the-aftermath-famous. You could never survive that public
You are with your parents when you first meet him. You are on vacation, a spring break trip to a big city you are going to live near next year. You are seventeen, and certainly, you look it, if not younger. He is working at the shoe store you have stepped foot in. He is immediately interested in you, and it is exciting because you are seventeen and someone is looking at you like you know more than you do. You talk for a while. He says, my parents are actors. I am too. You know everyone in this city is an actor. Before you exchange numbers, he asks you your age. Seventeen, you say, and he smiles like he knew.
A Google search of his name and then you know everything about him. He is 24 and the son of some well-known. Your mom lets you go out with him that night because that is enough to feel like you really know him. You’ve seen the movies, and it’s enough proximity. You adrenaline leave your connected hotel room and take a cab to the bar because Uber does not yet exist. You are certain everyone there can tell your age from your cheeks.
At the club after the bar, he leaves the table for the bathroom and disappears. The people he has left you with are kind. They dance around you and offer you juice and vodka combinations, water, whatever you need. It has been over an hour. Then two. When he reappears, there is little answer. You don’t know what drugs specifically, but you know that they are wherever he has been. Later at his apartment, after an unsuccessful encounter, he passes out, and you walk down the quiet 3 am street to find a taxi.
You see him again on your next trip out.
He is less charming than you’d like to admit, but the charm is being liked at all, and by someone so much older. At his apartment again, you meet his roommate, an actress you’ve seen on TV and everything feels surreal.
You convince yourself of an age you are not, of wisdom you do not have. He does not romance you much, but at seventeen, you already understand the importance of low expectations.
You keep in contact, and then it is summer, and you are in the same city. You are finally eighteen. You meet for dinner by the boardwalk and the rest of the night is not magic.
You remember it more than you’d like to—retreating to the bathroom afterwards, finger-brushing his cum out of your hair, a silverfish crawling out of the sink. He gave no warning. He laughed as he did it, his knees casing your ribs. When he is finished, they feel crooked, sore. You told him you were on your period, and that worked, but only partially. As you washed the rest off your face and brow, you could hear him singing a song by Disclosure, the permanent song of that summer. You understand that something in your very core has changed in this moment, but it will be years before you are able to confront it. Three showers in a row are all you know how to do. You fall asleep in the bed where it happened. He doesn’t contact you again.
The person you see after, a man in his mid-thirties you met on set for a film that never comes out, does not object to your age, instead seems enamored by its minuscule. I’m not sure there’s anything sexier than eighteen, he tells you over the phone. One day he stops talking to you out of the blue, indefinitely, and for months you wonder if he found that thing sexier than eighteen.
You start college, and you survive. You go to classes, and you survive. You date, and you fuck, and you cry when your boyfriend accidentally aims in the wrong direction and because he is compassionate and caring and understanding of why, you survive. This relationship and others end, and you survive. You carry the knowledge around like a cat-eared keychain, and even as it expands with time, comes into greater focus, better light, you survive. You grow up, you graduate, survive.
You are fine now. You’ve been to therapy for this. You’ve talked it out with yourself late at night while your fiancé sleeps in bed next to you. You don’t seek to forget but imagine what that might look like, forgetting. It would probably be easier if there weren’t that connection there, the one that lent you initial safety. It seems everywhere you look and don’t look is a reminder of some sort. Your mom sends you articles, mostly tabloids, about him whenever they are written. His drug use issues, eventual sobriety. Over dinner she asks about him, your friend, if you ever talk to him. You call him an asshole without particulars, and your dad seems to understand something unsaid and tells your mom to stop pushing for a reason. You still get the texts with articles. You could say something, but you don’t want to break her.
He has a kid now, a daughter, you think, but aren’t sure. He is a parent. You are not sure you ever want to be one. You think about his parents, whom everybody loves. You love(d) them. What a complicated relationship to have with people who don’t even know you exist. You still watch their films, enjoy their work. It isn’t their fault. At one point, it was yours. Now it is his. What you create can’t remain your responsibility.
He was probably high off whatever he went to rehab for. He was definitely drunk. An unreliable perpetrator. It has been years, so many, that he probably doesn’t even remember. But you do. What to do with that?
You are now not much older than he was when you first met. You are a college professor. You teach first-year English and most of your class is fresh out of high school, eighteen, and obviously so. Your students look young. They are young. You can’t even imagine. You can’t imagine, and yet, you know.
Danielle (she/her/hers) is an MFA alum and professor of Disability/Queer Rhetoric at Chapman University, forever trying to make the transition from poetry to fiction. She has a fear of commitment in regard to novel writing and an affinity for wiener dogs. Her work has been published by MTV, Crab Fat Magazine, Hobart, Split Lip, etc.