Less Than Butterflies, No. 12
Less Than Butterflies is a regular sex column that follows the real-life sexual encounters of its author, Anthony Ramirez. In this case, unfortunately, the encounter was non-consensual and the story contains information that may be triggering to the readers. While it does not outline in graphic detail the sexual assault itself, it does speak about the events leading to it and that followed. Reader discretion is advised.
I swear to God I predicted it. Or maybe I jinxed it. I’m not sure if this is one of those things you can Beetlejuice—as my friend Hope might say—but it had been on my mind a lot lately.
After all, just the weekend before I’d been sober at a bar where a friend was hosting karaoke when a man and his “wife” came stumbling out onto the patio shit-faced. The man tumbled directly into me, spilling some of his drink on my shirt. Then, as he reached for leverage as not to fall, his hand fell below my waist and cupped my genitals. It may have only lasted a few seconds, but it could have lasted an eternity as far as I was concerned. Hell, it could have lasted two eternities. How long is an eternity, really? Sure, he let go, but even as he did so, his hands fumbled around my torso, thumb grazing my nipple through my shirt.
I wanted to push him off of me, uncaring as to how drunk he was, but I stood there immobilized, frozen. In the back of my head, I could hear the nails-on-a-chalkboard-like chirp of a cuckoo clock, something I’d not heard in nearly half a decade. His wife, a woman boasting some sort of eastern European accent, grabbed her husband (albeit too late) and pulled him away from me, spouting off nonsense about how she’d put her stiletto through the eye of anyone that her husband ever laid his hands on, regardless of what the case was.
Was she blaming me? I’d been standing there alone smoking a cigarette when he’d bounced out the patio door like a Weeble, wobbling and falling into me. Besides, if she couldn’t tell that her husband was clearly a flaming homosexual, she had more problems than I could roll out onto the table for her.
That was the first uttering of Beetlejuice.
The following Monday, I’d been invited to an exclusive party at a new bar called Victor at the corner of Montrose and Richmond. Joining me as my date was my friend Taylor Kyle, whom I never saw much of since he worked all the time and lived all the way out in Cypress. We stayed at the party for a short while before heading over to Guava Lamp to catch another friend’s singing competition. After we left there, Taylor and I traveled up to the Room Bar in Spring to catch a few drinks before last call, where we met a few other friends I don’t often see.
When my friend Jeremy joined us on his way home from work, the three of us were having a nice little reunion of sorts. But on my neck I could feel eyes from across the bar. It took everything in me not to turn and look to see who the eyes belonged to, and eventually I conceded and turned upward. Staring directly at me was a man I’d seen at the bar a few times before. He was a bit pushy, I’d heard, but harmless nonetheless. Still, his glance was invasive and the smile he bore was nothing short of predatory as he drilled holes right into my skull with his gaze.
The others noticed it after a while, as well. A girl named Kelsey who worked at the tattoo shop next door kept catching my eyes and mimicking his face as a joke, which at first did make me laugh. Taylor told me not to pay him any mind, and Hope shrugged him off as nothing more than some pervy old man who hung around the bar to look at boys. A moment later, Jeremy and Taylor both had to use the restroom, and went together, leaving me sitting alone at the end of the bar. Hope asked me if I’d keep an eye on things while she ran into the back cooler to grab a bottle of liquor she’d run out of behind the bar; and in that moment, the man staring from across the bar took his chance to approach me.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been formally introduced before,” he told me, that ghastly smile curving into an ugly, crescent shape. I didn’t turn to look at him as he ran his hand across the small of my back before introducing himself and asking me my name.
“Please don’t touch me,” I muttered out in breathy, broken fragments.
“I’m sorry,” he said, although he never took his hand off my back and traced his fingers up my shoulders and around to the back of my neck. “I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re very cute.”
I was frozen, again. Every muscle inside of me tensed as if they were exercising and my breathing quit completely. I may have given him my name—I can’t really recall to be honest. What I do remember is hearing the bathroom door open behind me and the laughter of both Jeremy and Taylor coming from the bathroom. As they approached, I was finally able to untense and to exhale. And from behind I could hear the man asking Hope if he’d done something wrong once she reappeared behind the bar. I couldn’t tell what she was saying to him; but for the rest of the night I sat in near-silence turned away from both Taylor and Jeremy. No matter what I tried to change the thoughts in my mind to, no matter how I tried to distract myself or get drunk, I couldn’t stop feeling his thick, invasive fingers trailing me all over my backside.
A few times Jeremy and Taylor would ask what was wrong, and Taylor was sweet enough to put an arm around me and ask if I needed anything. But the two of them were not the problem. They’d done nothing wrong at all. I was just stuck inside my own head, where cuckoo clocks resounded like a child banging pots and pans together so loudly that I couldn’t stand to direct my attention anywhere else.
That was the second mention of Beetlejuice.
On the ride home, Taylor was drunk, and I was sober enough to drive as I’d not been drinking much at all that night. I was finally able to engage in conversation that was lighter, that didn’t send me into hysterics. And I did my best to apologize for coming off as a dick at the bar earlier.
“What was going on with you?” Taylor asked me as we were driving down the highway back toward Cypress.
I knew that if I chose to share it with him, if I chose to let him know that there was an actual person somewhere inside this cold, sarcastic shell I put off for the world to encounter, I wouldn’t be able to unshare it with him. But I also knew that there was a good chance he might not remember me telling him, at all … or, at least not in great detail. And somehow, that comforted me. I needed to get it off of my chest and to breathe a bit easier. What I did not know, however, was that by telling Taylor Kyle that I’d been raped by a friend at 19-years-old, before I’d come out of the closet, before I’d even really accepted myself as a gay man, I’d be uttering my third Beetlejuice conjuring.
And in not knowing, I shared it with him. I told him about the person I’d called a friend who took advantage of me. I told him how I had only recently begun sharing that story, because it only recently seemed okay to do so, and why it scared me to ever come forward in the first place. I did not, however, tell him that when I was reminded of it, when men groped my dick on bar patios or when strangers complimented me and ran their hands across my back I often heard the sound of cuckoo clocks drumming in my mind. It’s one of the very few things I remember clearly about that night: the old-timey cuckoo clock that hung on the wall and rung the hours as they passed both before and after I was raped.
Flash-forward a bit, and my day was going exceptionally well. I’d been busy work-wise; a radio interview, a work function, and had decided to round off my evening with a little karaoke at the Room Bar. A few of my friends were there, and Hope was all smiles behind the bar as she made drinks and poured shots. I wasn’t drunk when I arrived having just come from the aforementioned work event, although I imagine that by the time I was ready to leave, I was running on a strong buzz. Still, I didn’t want to spend the entire night getting smash-bag asshole drunk, so I left a while before closing to make it home, as the next day was set to be a busy one. I did make the decision, however, to visit a friend on my way home that I hadn’t seen in a long time who’d been asking to hang out for quite some time. But now as I reflect on it, all of that seems like nothing to me.
And I don’t mean that in the way as to say that it feels like nothing happened. I mean it to say that I can’t recollect a lot that happened in the moments after I left the Room. In fact, even being at the Room is a bit hazy. I can recall the songs I sang at karaoke. I can recall bidding everyone farewell and leaving, feeling fine. But the memory itself is rather foggy. I don’t think I felt foggy at the time, but trying to recollect on it sort of is.
I remember seeing my friend briefly—that is, the memory is brief—and I don’t believe the interaction was long. I remember telling him goodbye. I remember how tired he was. I think he may have even gone off to bed before I left. And I remember that, too—leaving. I didn’t at first, but now I can. But everything after that is just … black.
This is what I do remember:
I remember waking up the next morning in an near-bare apartment. In the middle of the floor, where I laid, there was an air mattress with no sheets. Across the room there was an old, ratty-looking couch. The walls were all bare and white as far as I could see, and there was no sign of anyone in the kitchen.
I wasn’t sure what was happening or how I’d gotten there, but from the moment that I jumped off the air mattress, I knew something was wrong. My head felt like someone had laid cement inside of it, and I fell down immediately upon trying to get to my feet. The room was acrid with the scent of disinfectant and it was cold. In fact, I could feel the draft against my thigh where I noticed a tear in my pants from knee-to-waist. As I finally put myself on both my feet, a sensation as if I was being split in half resonated from my anus. It hurt. And it hurt bad. My legs were sore on the insides of my thighs, as if someone had tried pulling them apart like a wishbone on Thanksgiving. I fumbled around in my pockets for my keys, but nothing was inside of them.
As I searched the room around me where nothing seemed to exist, I suddenly took note of some sort of table standing next to what appeared to be the front door. On it, all placed neatly as if done so by Mary fucking Poppins, I found my phone, my cigarette pack, my lighter, and my keys. Beside the odd table on the floor sat my shoes.
Snatching everything up, I took one last look around the room, then unlocked and darted out the front door.
More peculiar still was that the car was parked outside the apartment. As I raced down to it and jumped inside, I found that it was unlocked. The car was nearly out of gas—which made sense to me later when I realized how far I was not only from home, but from the Room and the friend I’d visited the night before—and in the passenger’s-side floorboard sat my wallet and my ID. When I opened up the former, however, I found that there was no money inside, nor were either my debit card or my credit card in their rightful place. For a moment I wondered why someone would take the cards and not the expensive Louis Vuitton wallet that couldn’t be traced back to me. But that thought was fleeting, as all of the thoughts were that went through my head while I navigated my way home. I tried tirelessly to call my mother, to call my best friend Gwen, to call anyone who could help me, but none of my calls were going through. The service on my phone was out; if I hadn’t been so good with direction, I might have had to stop at the nearest McDonald’s to use the WiFi to find out where the hell I was. But I knew the general area. Somewhere off of Airtex and I45. I’d been in the neighborhood before, but not for whatever reason I was there then.
I think for the first time since I was a child, I actually prayed on my way back to my mother’s house. I’m not sure if I was praying to God or if I just needed to hope that someone could hear me when I couldn’t speak, but nevertheless I carried on an inner-monologue asking for help, asking for the pain to subside, asking that I make it to my mother’s without running out of gas while I had no credit card.
And when I arrived without issue, my mother sat on her front porch smoking a cigarette as she said something to me. Maybe she asked why I looked so bad; maybe she asked me where I’d been; I couldn’t tell you. Because when I finally opened my mouth for the first time since waking, a jumble of words fell out that were meant to sound something like, “I think someone drugged me last night.” And when my mother leered at me from her perch, I added, “I think someone ra—”
But I couldn’t bring myself to finish the sentence, because that’s when I lost all control. I don’t know that that’s when everything sunk in, but that’s certainly when it all came to the surface. In crooked fragments, I tried to relay the information I knew then and there. That my pants were ripped. That all of my money and cards were missing. That I was in insurmountable pain. That I couldn’t remember anything past being at the Room. And as I reviewed it all over-and-over again both verbally and in my mind, I began to understand what had happened.
For the second time in my life, I’d been raped.
And soon, I’d be in a clinic not having showered or eaten since the morning before where a doctor would put a large piece of paper down on the floor and ask me to disrobe in front of her. She’d take my clothes, and she’d brush through my hair, and she would swab me both externally and internally. She’d poke and prod me; and she’d find the new bruises on my waist and knees and tell me after having a thorough exam, it was not a question of whether or not I was correct about what had happened to me, but now a question of who did it.
I would be humiliated. I would leave there, and I would go about my business as the rest of the day carried on, unable to shake off the feelings of filth and embarrassment even after showering, even after throwing myself into a routine. And I wouldn’t tell anyone who didn’t need to know. Gwen, because I told her everything. My friend Ezra, because he’d been worried about where I was when I wasn’t answering texts because my phone wasn’t working. Lauren, who needed to know why I’d gone MIA on such an important work day and when I’d be back.
And although I didn’t break down over the next few days—not really, not as I should have; although Ezra came to stay with me because being alone terrified me, and didn’t mind sharing my bed or when I laid my head on his shoulder; although I’d wake up screaming and sweating every night since, I did my best to present myself as the person the world knew me to be.
But that’s just the very thing about it all:
I don’t know who I am anymore.
It isn’t like it was when I was nineteen and already carrying around so many secrets about myself that one more made no difference. This time, I am an egg that has been thrown with great vigor into a wall. And while the pieces of the shell are still here, still accounted for, what was once inside of me, what once made me who I am has been vacuumed out and has dripped away to somewhere I fear I may not ever be able to find it again. Nothing seems funny to me anymore; nothing makes me smile. Eating is an aberrant thought to me and showering is a task I have to force myself into. I want to stay in bed and hide beneath the covers when I am awake, but sleep as much as possible. I want not to be left alone for fear that someone else will find me and do to me what’s already been done, the unspeakable, unthinkable horror I can’t even conjure a memory of, but that haunts me still. I want to scream from my brain, but not have my skull quiver as it holds the sound inside of me. I want to not look at every man that passes by me with disgust as if he were the one who did this to me. I want not to question whether or not I brought this on myself by being a shameless, openly, sexually active person. I want the deafening silence of being alone to subdue. I want to not to need someone by my side at all times. I want not to wonder if I Beetlejuiced this by worrying so much about it as of late before it ever even happened. I want not to question why the men that I fall in love with want nothing to do with me, and yet there are men out there so sick and disgusting that they’ll go so far as to drug and rape me just to have sex with me—why I’m not good enough to fall in love with, to share a life with, but good enough to be raped by a stranger. I want not to feel like I can’t dress nice or wear makeup or wear something that rides a little higher or is cut a little lower just because some creep might take advantage of me.
I want my life back. I want my heart back.
And though the time that has passed since I sat down to write this has been short—incredibly so by the standards of many—it’s the only thing that I can do to keep myself from going insane.
And it’s killing me. I feel it killing me. I feel it extinguishing my soul.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who I am.
What I do know is that I was raped, and now I’m walking around as the ghost of a person who existed before that cannot stop hearing the sound of cuckoo clocks beating against the inside of his head.