That Kind of Light

by Maureen O'Leary

september 2015 story of the month

The one small lamp on his night stand cast the kind of dim light which glazed over the bit of cellulite on the back of my thighs. He'd been all compliments as we touched each other in the near darkness and said he couldn't handle it, had to have me. I said no. I'd never had a one night stand, didn't plan to start, but he went in anyway. I took a sharp breath, amazed. I wanted to punch him in the nose, make him stop, but then it would be rape. Then I would have to report because I was always lamenting about the high number of unreported assaults and wouldn't be a hypocrite. That would mean a trip to the hospital to mine for evidence. Hours of the same conversation over and over with nurses and cops annoyed by the late hour. My brother wouldn't speak to me for a while or look me in the face. My parents would carefully analyze my wardrobe to see what made me a risky girl, and toss the offending pieces in the trash. My father would yell, but later say he didn't. This was the short list of things I didn't want to go through again.

Plus, unlike last time, I'd gone with the guy of my own accord. I'd climbed the precarious spiral staircase to his bedroom, been quiet not to wake his sister who also lived there, smoked my pot on his balcony and didn't plan for anything more exciting than some basic tongue action.

We'd met an hour or so prior. My friends were talking to the bouncers outside the bar and taking their time about it when I'd walked up to him in his too-orange shirt and asked about his tattoos.

You're pretty tatted up, I'd said. What's the cause?

He said he'd gotten them in the navy. I said, of course, because I'd called it before I'd started the conversation. My one and only ex-boyfriend had been a military man and told me how to recognize the haircuts and the tats of a veteran. The guy told me I was beautiful and should come home with him. I said no at first because I never went home with strangers, but especially not from the parking lot of a bar after last call. Then my friend came bounding up to us arm in arm with his roommate. Apparently she knew him and liked the way he fucked.

You should come too, she said. Together, she and orange-shirt convinced me to ride with them to the guys' house to drink beers. I didn't see the harm. His name turned out to be Drew. I had to ask a few times to remember.

This was the exact kind of situation people don't have sympathy for, the type of shit people read on the internet and say, she knew what she was doing. She left with him for Christ's sake.

So I decided I wasn't being raped. I suppressed the initial urge to grab Drew's keys from the nightstand and push the biggest one into the soft part of his throat. Probably would've splattered blood on the low vaulted ceilings. I wanted to collect my clothes from his wooden floor where they were scattered, slip out, and follow the train tracks back to town, but I didn't. He was too strong in any case and could've stopped me. Could've made things worse if I got him mad. He said he was a welder and looked like someone who worked heavy metals all day. Tan from the heat, blonde, blue eyed, an attractive guy. Probably not used to hearing no. I knew all too well the damage a stranger could do when things don't go to plan. I should've remembered that lesson before getting in Drew's car and riding out into the woods.

Besides, I thought, my number had already been upped. The damage was done. I would have to include him in the number of people who'd been inside me. A number which I supposed would be important to some man someday when I wanted to settle down. I thought I might as well get some actual sex out of it, which I hadn't done since my ex dumped me, though I knew since our split he'd been balls deep all over town. I closed my eyes and told myself Drew was probably a great guy, but I couldn't enjoy it for a second. His dick was curved in a way my pussy wasn't and it hurt.

I can't do it, I said. It's too big or something.

That's what you have to say. He pushed for another minute or so, going deep, watching my face, smiling just a little every time I breathed sound that signified it was too much. Afterward, he wanted to cuddle, and I thought this gave my not-rape scenario some credence. I tried to let the closeness be a comfort, assuring myself rapists didn't brush away the hair fallen over a girl's shoulder to kiss it before falling asleep. My head was on his arm, a sweaty cloud the way the muscles bulged and curved. His other arm was heavy over my waist. As I tried my best to settle in he whispered, I'm going to fuck you in the morning when I make you give it up again.

The damage was done, I thought as I pulled my knees to my chest under the covers, feeling already I'd be sore the next day. He snapped off his lamp and left us in the dark, except for his electric clock which burned neon red numbers. I closed my eyes and saw the parking lot of the bar where we'd met. The street lights throwing off a dingy yellow glow that barely lit up the metallic fragments in the pavement. In that kind of light, it's hard to see much of anything.

BIO: Maureen O'Leary is a recent graduate of Georgia Southern University with a degree in writing. Her work has recently appeared in Gravel. She previously interned at Split Lip Press and enjoys sitting on porches.