I don’t remember how I wake up. Maybe it’s his unexpected weight on the narrow twin bed, maybe he touches my arm — I don’t remember. But I was asleep and now, I am awake. I blink and squint into the darkness
There is someone sitting on my bed — a boy. Mostly blind without my glasses I recognize him by his height. He’s so tall that even sitting down he looms over me like a live oak. This boy who has never spoken to me in daylight (and will never speak to me throughout our 4 years at the Academy) is seated next to me on my bed.
It is late, some nebulous time between taps and reveille, a time for sleeping and dreaming but I am no longer doing either. My roommate is awake in the twin bed across from us. I can tell by her stillness which echoes mine, like we’re both holding our breath waiting to see what happens next.
He proffers me a drink, cold droplets falling on my sleep-warm skin. (Three years later another man will offer a drink after waking me up and I will discover that the drink is to mask my sleeping breath when he sticks his tongue down my throat, but that will come much later). No thanks, I say.
I am not afraid at this moment even though his hand, heavy as an anchor, rests on top of my blanketed body. I’m 19 and at prep school and have not yet learned to fear men in the night (but I will learn quickly). I am mostly confused by his presence in my room. He does nothing to ease the confusion.
We sit in silence some, perhaps we chat. He lingers, his hand still on me. Ten minutes…twenty. He leaves eventually and I breathe again. “That was weird” I say to my roommate who I know is awake. “Giirrl,” she replies. We stay up to talk about this, perhaps we don’t sleep. Fifteen years later we will recall this night and discuss the additional stories that we know about this man and how he pressured other sleeping women.
I am 21 now. There is a boy who gets sloppy drunk every night. When he returns to the hall he climbs into the girls’ beds. We laugh. It takes several of us (all girls and only girls) to pull him out. Sometimes this game lasts for twenty minutes until we can get him out of our beds and into his own.
One night I will say no, but he will keep going. And we will still be friends afterwards because maybe he just didn’t hear me. Because he’s one of the good ones. Because maybe I was just being too sensitive. Maybe I really did want it afterall.
There will be other men at night — men who show up to sweet talk and cajole and urge and kiss into submission. A few will be invited– welcomed even– others will not, but even the invited are not safe. One will remove the condom, another will violate a boundary we’ve already established. How casual –how quotidian– it all will be.