Danica Barnett can’t stop reliving a terrifying night.
I’ve spent years trying to forget, but I’ve never been able to. I still remember, when it’s the furthest thing on my mind, and my fear paralyzes me. I’m terrified that you’ll stumble back into my life, and this time, nothing will stop you.
I’m scared of the “what if” of that night. My eyes were closed, but I wasn’t asleep. It was so quiet in that room yet in my head, it was loud. I was screaming for you to stop, willing your hand to stop traveling my body. I was praying, pleading with whoever could hear my thoughts that you would stop touching me. In my mind, I was debating what I would do if you kept going. You didn’t. I think you were too drunk to do anything other than roll over and fall asleep, and I’ve never been so happy that you had been drinking.
Even though you stopped, I’ll never stop remember, but remembering isn’t the worst part. The worst part is the “what if” and the fear that you could come back and make my worst nightmares come true. I want to be able to someday forgive you, but in the back of my mind, I’m replaying that night and you don’t stop. I can distract myself when I start remembering, but imagining you going further than you did, whether my imagination takes me back to that night or places you beside me in my bed, 1,000 miles away from you, will send me into a panic attack.
I am terrified of you, and I feel like that says a lot about what you’ve done to me. You were my friend and you took advantage of my trust. I’m angry that I get to suffer through panic attacks and be afraid of you, when I know you aren’t the least bit scared of me. You stole what was left of my innocence, but I know that the thought of me wouldn’t force you to freeze. I’m probably a passing thought to you, but you are a nightmare to me. You can move on with your life, remembering it as just another night, while I get to suffer through sleepless nights. You made me afraid to fall asleep, because I am afraid you might follow me into my dreams. I can escape you by moving away, but distance doesn’t matter when you’re asleep.
Even though you will always haunt me, I’ll never hate you. In my mind, I run through a list of excuses for you: you were drunk, everyone confuses friendliness with flirting, and maybe my dress was too short. You are the monster in my nightmares, but in real life, you were my friend. I trusted you, and you took advantage of me.
I continued to trust you afterwards, blaming myself for something you did. I blamed how sexual my body can be, even though I’ve never seen it that way. I punished myself for putting myself in that situation that night, but I never once faulted you. I continued to spend time with you, putting myself in situations where I didn’t feel safe, and prayed that you would never repeat what happened.
I’d like to think that if you hadn’t stopped that night, I would have stopped you. I lay awake at night and think of everything I would have said, and all the things I’m so grateful I didn’t have to say. I’m glad you took your hand off of me when you did, but imagining what would have happened if you hadn’t kills me.
You took your hand off of me, but you still have such a strong grip on my life. I will spend the rest of my life with you as a passing thought during a busy day, but the second I stay on that thought too long, my fear will flood my mind and paralyze me. I will relive that night over and over again, but each time, it gets worse. Your ghost terrifies me, but I am haunted by the “what ifs” of that night.
Originally published on RealTalk.