I slide into a plaid sundress and at the last minute grab my favorite purple Banana Republic cardigan, the one with the tiny pearled buttons that stop just above the peplum. Though it is warm for May, the wind in Philadelphia turns on those who fail to prepare for nightfall.
I’ll bring the wine, you bring nothing but your beautiful self.
We meet at my favorite BYOB, a tiny Italian place in Old City that refuses to put cheese on fish. He’s already sitting at our table when I walk in, though I don’t immediately spot him. I’m used to the game of searching out who I’m meeting for dinner, since men’s profile photos tend to be younger, thinner versions of themselves. In my date’s case, a much younger and much thinner version.
Dinner is amazing – a salad of bitter greens, creamy seafood risotto, strong cappuccino and a cannoli — though the Merlot he chose fell flat. If we ever went to another BYOB, I’d be bringing the wine.
Whether we’d meet for a second dinner, I’m not sure. He’s charming in the manner of most trial lawyers. You never quite know when it’s an act, but suspect most of it is. I lean toward this guy being one and done. In any case, I have work the next day so there won’t be a second act to this date, a point I make clear as we order dessert.
I’d parked a few blocks down and he offers to walk me to my car. Sweet gesture, but the armor I’ve constructed for myself denies dates the opportunity to corner me in a dark parking lot. He offers an alternative. It’s still early. How about a nightcap? We’ll take a cab over to South Street for a margarita.
Well, it’s not that late, I thought, and it will put me closer to where I parked. I like the bar he suggested. “Ok. ONE cocktail.”
He hails a cab. We dart into the bar ahead of a cold gust of wind. I shrug more deeply into my cardigan and we have a margarita. The rest of the night becomes a film trailer, five second snapshots of poorly edited clarity.The wind in Philadelphia turns on those who fail to prepare for nightfall. Click To Tweet
His hand slipping under my dress as cobblestone streets thrumbled beneath the cab. I slide across the seat even closer to him when the cab makes a sudden turn.
His walls open to the city. I stand in the windows, admiring the view from his riverfront condo. Streetlights twinkle as the wind brushes tree branches against them.
His arm wraps around my waist, his lips on my neck.
Him naked, laughing, pulling the top of my dress down and me fighting him. Not being able to speak, feeling tongue-tied.
Him asking me to bite him, hard. Him pulling on my dress again.
Where did my sweater go? I’m cold. And in his bed with my dress askew.
You don’t remember?
I lie. I remember watching a ship slip up the river, the lowing of foghorns. Being turned on for a second, and then repulsed.
You drank too much.
Did I? I don’t feel drunk. I feel drugged.
Getting up, attempting a dignified stumble in the direction of the living room. Grabbing my sweater, my shoes, my purse.
Him, still laughing from the bedroom, calling me back.
I walk away from his condo, down grey windowless hallways, until I find an elevator. I don’t understand how to work it, which button to push. I have no idea where I am in relation to my car, or how I will get to it, or what time it is, or how to explain to a cab driver where I am.
I feel relief when the elevator opens to a security guard sitting behind a desk. He smirks when he sees me.
Can you call a cab for me? I don’t know where I am.
Rough night, huh?
My reflection in the lobby mirror answers: tousled hair, smeared eyeliner, smudged lipstick, crumpled dress.
It’s not what you think. I don’t know what happened to me or how I got here.
He smirks again.
I smooth my hair with my hands and take inventory: two glasses of wine. There was one bottle of wine at dinner. At most, two glasses.
The first salty sips of a margarita, the too-sweet tartness making my jaws ache. Going to the ladies’ room. Things getting fuzzy shortly after I returned, and swiftly.
I don’t remember where my car is, but if you take me to this restaurant I can find it from there.
The cold air clears my head. Trying not to catch my heels in the cobblestone streets, I retrace the path to my car.
Double vision blinds me as I drive home. I know I shouldn’t be driving, and part of me doesn’t care if I make it. I hide under my quilt at 3:41 a.m. and try not to dream about lost hours.
My alarm goes off minutes later. I don’t feel hungover, only disoriented. Fine enough to go to work. I barely think about what happened until he texts me:
Did you make it home safely? Would you like to have dinner again next week?
Embarrassment fills in the edges of details I can’t recall.
As I change into my workout clothes at the gym, I am not surprised to see a smudge on my arm midway between my armpit and elbow. My bicep had been achy all day. Twisting for better light in the mirror, I see the bite mark. The skin isn’t broken, but a dark bruise outlines where someone’s teeth sank into my arm. His teeth.
A friend said I should go to the police.
And tell them what?
Legal secretary of prominent Philadelphia firm accuses popular criminal defense attorney of something bad, saying, “I’m not exactly sure what happened but I know it was wrong.”
Not worth the headline in the local bar gossip column.
All those years ago I was content to have done nothing more than politely decline the several dinner invitations he extended.
My “I’ve had enough” threshold was crossed when we elected a President who embodied the traits of every man who has abused me. I’ve become fierce. This was a surprise to my husband, who the other day accused me of enjoying drama. When things outside my control are not causing drama, I create some. This may be a fair criticism; I do tend to live in a roiling vortex of upheaval. (Lest you think my husband is a giant jerkface, I should tell you that this comment was made in a loving and teasing way, not intended as a slight. I think.)
My husband’s accusation discounts that the only opportunity I have to return to myself is when things around me aren’t demanding my attention. I get angry about things now that I should have been angry about eight years ago. I see the real beneath excuses I’ve made for other people’s poor behavior. So, I don’t enjoy drama, but rather the navel-gazing bit that leads to it. Had my life been less traumatic, there’d be less drama.
This accidental rummage through old wounds is unfortunate, but also a blessing, in that I’ve resolved to fight back in a way that would have embarrassed my younger self. At summer camp, I was known as the girl who never cried. The other kids saw a challenge in provoking tears, and it became a game tacitly endorsed by the camp counsellors. The harder they tried to hurt me, the more I resisted. After three years at camp, I was proud that I cried only once, and even prouder that it was because I hurt myself.My “I’ve had enough” threshold was crossed when we elected a President who embodied the traits of… Click To Tweet
Perhaps this is why I am so angry now.