Where are my Legs?
by: Ashley McIntyre
So this is what being drunk feels like. The world around me is spinning in a cycle of lightheadedness and the euphoria cannot compare to anything I’ve experienced before. You see, this is my first time drinking. At sixteen, I have limited experiences in many areas–I literally have never been kissed, nor tried drinking or drugs. But that would all change in one night. A night I wish I could forget.
We left our town around 6:30 p.m. in two cars. My three best friends Alyse, Tiffany, and Sarah were riding in Tiffany’s car with me, and Alyse’s boyfriend Chris and his best friend Andrew were riding in another car. It was the first snowfall of the year, mother nature not to deny us Michiganders of our long winters. At the carpool where we met up to leave for the short voyage to South Haven, about 45 minutes west, Sarah got out of the car and threw a snowball at Tiffany’s red Jeep. However, her window was open and the snow got all over the interior seat. Tiffany wasn’t successful at hiding her annoyance, but the frustration would soon dissipate in conversation of tasting our first sips of alcohol and staying somewhere our parents would never know we were.
Alyse told us her sister lived in South Haven with her fiance and their little girl Alexis. With that knowledge, we were all pretty shocked to pull up to a trailer in the middle of a field in Bangor, a town next to South Haven. We kept positive with our thoughts of alcohol and feeling older than we were. The trailer’s dim lights engulfed the place like someone urinated on the white, flower-patterned ceiling and it dripped throughout the air cascading down to the dirty floor. Don’t get me wrong, the place wasn’t that bad, just not at all what we expected when we left Kalamazoo. Alyse made it seem like her sister lived in this great house in South Haven near the lake, not in a trailer with the only neighbor being a tiny Mexican man living on the other side of the field.
I came inside and sat on the futon, where Chris and Alyse were supposed to sleep, next to the floor where Tiffany, Sarah and I were supposed to sleep, parallel to the small couch where Andrew had agreed to sleep. As I sat there, I noticed Alyse’s sister, Connie and her fiance in their kitchen a mere five feet away. Then I saw little Alexis stumbling on the floor, trying to gage her bearings as a newfound walker in this world. Everyone started drinking, except for me. As beers and shots were passed around I was hesitant. I was very timid to try the unknown alcohol which was renowned for getting people into trouble, people like us who were underage. My worst fear at this point was getting busted by the cops and being slammed with the ever-intimidating Minor in Possession (MIP) charge. Little did I know that this was the very last thing I would need to worry about.
Basking in the novelty of alcohol’s strange effects, I saw my friends having more and more of a good time. I decided it was time I give it a try. Right before I made this decision, Connie, Alyse’s sister, had a friend come over who knew her fiance. He was older, around 28, but was mingling with us teens quite frequently. Andrew handed me a beer and I took it, taking the first step into the rest of my life.
I drank that beer, and then we started playing drinking games. Andrew kept making me drink after drink; and I discovered the next day that he was putting more alcohol in each drink than I had known. After three shots and two drinks my mind felt cloudy. Tiffany and Sarah ran outside to play in the snow as a result of their drunken stupor and I wanted to join them. I didn’t really feel what I had imagined “drunk” would feel like. I went outside, saw them throwing snow at each other but then quickly returned due to the cold world spinning around me. I fell to the floor and stared at the ceiling outside the bathroom at the end of the trailer trying to keep the flowers on the ceiling above me from blurring together. I got up quickly and vomited in the bathroom. Afterwards all I wanted to do was sleep. I was tired, and unsure if I was drunk or just losing control of my body. I laid down on the floor where we had discussed I would sleep with Tiffany and Sarah, but don’t remember closing my eyes.
Alarmingly my eyes opened to Andrew sticking his tongue forcefully into my mouth and pinning me down with his left arm. I tried to look around but could not move my body. Desperately with everything I had, I attempted to utter a word, and finally successfully shouted out “NO! I have a boyfriend!” but he didn’t stop. I glanced out of my peripheral vision and saw Chris and Alyse making out on the futon right next to me. They seemed unbothered until Chris glanced up and stared blankly at the situation, as though he just thought it was an innocent drunken moment of two teens hooking up.
I was dying for Andrew to stop. I need to leave. I need to get up, get out of here, this whole little excursion was a mistake. I did NOT want this to be my first kiss. Come on, Ashley, get up. GET UP. Damn it, where are my legs? I cannot feel any part of my body. And then it went dark.
Four Years Later
Last night I unveiled something that I’ve been hiding and keeping to myself for nearly four years. Why last night? Because I was tired of the nightmares, and I am so fed up that I have lost control of my life. I want to take control of my future. This secret has manifested itself in my body and mind, leaving me with a complete lack of power over my anxiety and depression. When I was 16 years old, I was raped.
I thought that if I could handle it on my own, it would make me stronger. I thought I would get in trouble with my parents for drinking that night. Four years later, I wish I told, I wish I went and had a rape kit done, I wish I didn’t wash that pair of underwear, the bloody reminder that was toxic as it burned through my soul. It malingers in my body causing anxiety and fear. I sleep every night with pepper spray next to my bed. I have nightmares of being raped again, not a couple nights a week–but rather EVERY night. I have intimacy issues with my boyfriend, who I am in love with but can’t seem to get past all that has happened with me.
I saw therapists about the nightmares but never told them what happened because I thought they would do something crazy like tell my family or notify the police–and I was unsure if I was ready for either of those events. His friends told the whole school that I was just a drunken whore and since I was the “new girl at school” people believed them. I heard them gossip, and they had it all wrong, but even when I corrected them no one believed me. People continued to believe that Andrew was this great guy that would never do anything like that to me. Well, he did. People are capable of anything.
But now I need help. It’s hard to admit that I cannot do this on my own. It’s scary because a lot of people have already formed their opinions about what happened. Andrew’s friends still gossip about it to this day even though it’s years later and we’re in college. I never get a break from it. It never leaves my mind. So, I’m realizing that it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s necessary to let go of any concerns I have about what people think. This time, it’s about what I need, and what I want.
My mom came and picked me up from my college dorm room after I called her crying and releasing the whole story. Today I saw Jayne, a godsend of a therapist, who I am going to see twice a week and we’re going to figure out a game plan. My mom, luckily a lawyer, is going to see what we can do legally–if I am ready.
I feel like this shell I’m in will eventually start to crack, but I know it will take time. My body’s reacting to this in harsh ways. I am sick and super nervous all the time. I’ve lost a lot of weight partially from stress and partially because I have a hard time keeping food down. I am twenty pounds lighter and tired constantly due to the lack of sleep. I hope that with time I will get better. I know that therapy will help, and my boyfriend has been supportive in every way possible. I’m finally realizing that strength can mean asking for help when you need it–and I need it now.