Denny* and I had a turbulent relationship. We had fun, so much fun – until 2009 began to unfold. Surviving Black Saturday traumatized Denny. His uncle had committed suicide a month earlier. He was experiencing his first hardships as an adult, and I was too young and naïve to see how it was destroying him. He became distant from his friends, our friends. They too were blind to the truth. I was burdened with the blame for his absence, from everyone. Even William*. I looked up to William. I wanted so much to be a part of his life. Being shunned by him for consequences outside my actions hurt deeply. I was desperate to befriend him again. To be forgiven for wrongs I had not committed.
Denny and I broke up. Years went by. William and I were on the outskirts of one and other, infinitely crossing paths. My grief for our friendship stayed strong. He and James*, the person I’d considered my own closest friend, grew a strong bond. They may have even became best friends – a friendship I initiated in 2008. I remember convincing William to apologize for bullying James in high school, to accept him, befriend him. He did. By 2012 they were living together as housemates in Kew. I’d visit sometimes. William would be polite enough, yet the door to me was closed. I slowly accepted the futility of ever reconnecting again.
The lease at their Kew house was coming to an end. I drove over to celebrate a house cooling with William and James. I’d drank some alcohol and smoked a joint or two. This turned out to be one of the last nights I ever smoked pot. At the time, I was sleeping with my boss, Tony*. I had hoped Tony and I were in a relationship, even if it was a kind of cold, distant one. In retrospect, we weren’t – it was no more than a shitty “friends with benefits” scenario. I shudder to recall it. That night, William filled with booze and disregard, he and I finally had the conversation I’d been waiting for. I felt heard. Accepted. Forgiven. I believed this was our breakthrough; we had finally resolved the past. We could be friends again. Joy and relief filled my heart.
The night began to wind down. We were all intoxicated and tired. It was just William, James and me. I stood near the wall inside for a moment. William walked over to me with a look in his eyes I’d never seen before. He pushed me against the wall. Panic. Sheer panic. No, not now! We have just become friends again! I’d been down the road of hooking up with friends and it never worked out well. I did not want this. I said “No, I can’t. I have a boyfriend”, referring to Tony. I slipped away.
I had always admired William. Admiration is often confused with love. I had been sexually attracted to him in the past… but this was not how I wanted him in my life. He was stubborn and aggressive. His group of friends were a pain spot for me. We couldn’t be in a relationship. It would never work. And if it were to work, this is not how it could begin.
I found James and confronted him with William’s remark. I urged, “I don’t want to sleep with him, we have just reconnected” (James knew how much I wanted to be a part of William’s life) “can we make me a bed on the couch?” James agreed. William advanced once more while I was waiting for James to fetch the linen.
He touched me. He invited me into his bed. I explained “No, I can’t. I’m sleeping on the couch.” He wandered off, drunkenly. James made up the futon for me. The lights went out.
I lay on the futon for a while, trying to sleep, thankful that William had gone to bed. Then I heard him. He was crashing into furniture, making his way to me. He made it to the futon. He began kissing me, furiously yet tenderly. I was somewhat surprised by his gentle kiss. He then urged me to come to his room again. I declined, so he climbed onto the futon with me. He stripped off all my clothes. He wasn’t wearing any either. The creaking of the futon was loud.
James left his room for a moment. I’m not sure if he saw what was happening; if he did, he did nothing.
“We can’t. It’s too loud,” I tried.
He stood up. He grabbed my arm. He pulled me from the futon and dragged me, naked, through the house and into his bed.
I don’t remember much. I was asleep, unconscious or too stoned for most of it. I remember it felt like hours. Over and over again. Tears streamed from my eyes. I tried to get up, to stop. He pushed my head back down. I remember him waking me at times and once saying “if we’re going to do something taboo, we may as well make the most of it”, before starting again. It seemed to go on all night.
In the morning, I woke up in his bed naked and alone. I don’t remember how I got my clothes. I was upset. I still wanted that friendship we’d found again. I was not emotionally equipped to react appropriately or see clearly. This was not my first unwanted sexual experience. I decided it would be best for me act as though this was normal – a one-night-stand type thing. I approached the morning with James with boast, making jokes and complimenting William’s sexual gusto. I did not feel this way. I was lying to myself. It seemed easier to do so. Maybe we could pretend it didn’t happen?
We couldn’t pretend. William felt uncomfortable that we’d had sex. Ashamed. I don’t know if he admits to himself he raped me. He seemed to be more concerned that he’d slept with Denny’s high-school ex.
Our moment from the evening before had become infected with this insidious disease. It was terminal. I felt desperate. It needed to be erased. I left that day, pretending I was okay. Pleased, even. I felt the icy stings in my heart, my body. I had been betrayed and violated.
Weeks later, I felt ill. James was over. My family weren’t home. I had decided on taking a pregnancy test. James waited as I peed on the fabric of the little plastic stick.
“No. NO. NOOOO!”
It was positive. Tears poured from the depths of my heart. I’d always wanted to be a mother. I’d been told my symptoms (not diagnosis) of PCOS would make it difficult to conceive. I had been struggling with that reality. I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to be a mother.
I called William to tell him. I think he knew what was coming. I had never called him before. He sounded irritated that I’d called. He was relieved I wanted an abortion, and thanked me.
Going to the GP for confirmation, making the appointment for the termination, all the logistics are a blur. I know it felt yuck. And uncomfortable. I didn’t like it. I felt sick from the pregnancy, and I wasn’t going to take what might have been, at that time I thought, my only opportunity to be a mother as I had dreamed.
William came with me for my first appointment. He paid for the toxic pills. He was neither kind or unkind that day.
Back to my home. My mum was overseas. James had come over to support me. As the pills dissolved between my gums, I became nauseated. Cramped. I began vomiting and bleeding profusely all at once. I cried. Standing up was painful, just as much as sitting down. I crouched awkwardly between the two positions in an unbearable agony. James held me that night. We slept in my mum’s bed.
After a week or two, I still had an uncomfortable cramping feeling. My body was still producing an environment to bear a child. I took another dose of poison. It wasn’t until my mother returned and I’d tried the medical approach twice, that she took me to have the surgical vacuum procedure. Three attempts to rip this life from my womb. Each time, breaking a piece of me deeper and harder than the last.
The last night I smoked marijuana was after the surgical procedure. I was in pieces. The smoke found the cracks, and forced the trenches in deeper. My world, my reality, slowly left me, becoming something different. A terrifying alternate universe where my body combusted into trillions of pieces and re-formed endlessly on loop. Where James had sat, a tree began to manifest. The floors and ceilings became a forest. I had never been so frightened in my life. It took every ounce of my might to hold onto what I had known to be the world, and a sleepless sweaty night.
It has been five years now. I have only just begun to feel myself recover. I live in fear of William. I live with remorse toward James. But I have found myself again, and the pieces have finally come together close enough to mend.
* Names have been changed.