This week’s SCOTUS circus has been tough on me. The whole #MeToo movement has been tough. I buried those memories for a reason. But here they are again. I blogged about #MeToo and included only a brief paragraph about the following incident because, like Christine Ford, I too got away. I considered it a good story with a happy ending. But so much could have gone wrong. And even though I was spared a worse fate in that instance, so much of that night is seared into my brain.
When I watched Christine Ford’s testimony, I was shocked by the similarities and I wondered, if either of the perpetrators of my assault were on the short list and then became the nominee for a spot on the highest court in the land, how I would tell my story. How many details could I prove? Could I track down the witnesses? Did I have locations and dates?
So I grabbed my yearbook from my sophomore year in HS and the journal I kept that year, thinking I could piece it together. I did. It’s making me feel sick.
Here’s the story:
I had been “going out” with a boy in my grade who happened to be a known actor, especially to teenage girls. I was dancing then and a student at a professional school, so my classmates were actors and models and athletes and dancers like me. I had just turned 16. According to my journal (and my memory), the Actor pursued me. I was injured. I had two stress-fractures in my right foot. This meant I didn’t have to go to ballet all day every day, which gave me time to hang out and meet boys and flirt. The Actor told his friends that he loved me and I fell for it. He was charming and beautiful. But before whatever it was that started between us, I’d “made out” with one of his friends who went to a different school. That ended when the Actor started pursuing me. I chose him over his friend. I don’t remember that boy’s name, but I write about a boy named Scott and there are no Scotts in my yearbook, so I’m guessing that’s him.
Yesterday was the first time I read my journal from that year. Ever. I kept journals from age 10 to 24. When I was 16, every entry still began with Dear Diary and ended with Love Always, Lindsay. This journal was a birthday gift from another dancer, it’s bound with flowered cloth and inscribed. There are a month’s worth of entries at the start of this diary – April 22nd , my birthday, through May 29th, 1985. And then the entries stop. For months. I didn’t remember that. I only know because yesterday I looked.
The last entry is the night before the event I’m about to describe. I’m excited about hanging out with the Actor, even though there are several mentions in the days leading up to this night of friends inquiring about my virginity on his behalf, because he didn’t want to be my first. We had been “going out” for a few weeks it seems, and my virginity was becoming an issue. I should have realized how shitty that was. It’s worth mentioning that I had an eating disorder. I was about 105 lbs when I was injured (I’d gained weight). It’s an understatement to say I had low self-esteem. That may be why I still liked this boy even though he didn’t want to be my first. He told his friends he loved me… He kissed me like he loved me… I had just turned sixteen…
On this night, like several other Friday nights before, we were at his mother’s apartment, on the 38th floor. His mother was never in NY, so he had a guardian who had caught us together before, making out on his balcony. But the guardian wasn’t there that night. Those details are not in my journal—they are details I remember. We would have walked, as a group, to his apartment from the Subway station a few blocks east.
According to my diary, it was Friday May 30th, 1985. I didn’t write about the incident, so it could have been a few weekends later, but that was the end of the school year and I know it happened while we were still in school.
We were drinking. My friend Melanie was there. She had also dated the Actor and was at the time dating the same friend whom I’d kissed, Scott. She’s in the yearbook I plucked from my shelf yesterday, but I can’t find her on Facebook or through Google. I can also guess from the yearbook, which other kids might have been there that night, because for those weeks I was injured, we were a tight crew.
We were drinking gin. Playing quarters. The gin was gross, slightly yellow, and in a large bottle, the kind with a handle, made out of bumpy glass. I’ve never seen that gin since. The boys were not drinking as much, because they knew how to play the game. I remember that.
The next thing I remember is being in a bedroom with the Actor. It was near the front door and away from the living room where the rest of the kids were still drinking and listening to music. Maybe we were kissing? Maybe we were talking? It wasn’t scary. I really liked him. I thought he liked me, too.
Then Scott came in. He shut door behind him. He may have locked it because right away, even though I’d been drinking, his presence put me on alert.
“Let’s play a game,” he said. “Lose the virginity.”
He looked at the Actor. I did too. The Actor laughed.
“No,” I said, probably assuming it was a joke. But it wasn’t joke—it was game on.
I tried to leave, but they blocked me and grabbed and wrestled me onto the bed. I can feel that awful claustrophobia now, writing this. Trying to get away from two boys who wouldn’t let me go, was scary. I knew these boys, and I didn’t think they would hurt me until that moment, because it was like I wasn’t there. They were looking at each other, not me. This was between them. Scott was mad—at me and maybe the Actor too, but when they were attacking me, they were a team.
I fought so hard it took both of them to pin me down. I screamed. I don’t know if there was loud music or if Melanie was already banging on the door, but I never stopped fighting them. And they never stopped fighting back. And they never stopped laughing. It was like a rope that tightens around you the more you struggle, or a boa constrictor that squeezes more air out of you every time you breathe–I was in danger. Still, they couldn’t really achieve their goal if both of them had to hold me down at the same time.
“Get the telephone wire,” one of them said.
I don’t remember who held me or who went for the wire, just that something had gone terribly wrong and that it was about to get worse. I was also really hurt. Because the Actor said he loved me. And now I knew how untrue that was.
The wire was unplugged. They tried to tie me with it, but I was moving too much.
That’s when Melanie burst through the door. I remember the light, though there was maybe a lamp on in the bedroom, because I could see the boys faces during the whole ordeal, their wide smiles and wet white teeth, but when Melanie came in, the light from the door was much brighter. The boys let go of me and I ran.
To the balcony. I was crying when I climbed over the rail. That’s true. And horrible to admit—my own worst crime. I was heartbroken and drunk and that’s what I did. I vividly remember looking down at the blurry traffic, 38 floors below. I thought Melanie told them she’d take my place, but I don’t think that’s true, or if she said that, it was to get them off of me, to save me, because it was also Melanie who pulled me back over that rail, off of which it’s a miracle, I didn’t slip.
“You’re a fucking asshole for risking your life,” Melanie said when I was safely inside. She held me and I cried and she made me promise I’d never do that again.
The gin and the adrenaline made me puke. I recall several other kids taking care of me—not the Actor or Scott. When the guardian returned, he found me in the bathtub and drove me home to Brooklyn.
That was the last time I ever hung out with that group of kids. The day before that night, was the last time I wrote about them in my journal. I told my mother that story for the first time last week. I’d even rewritten it all in my mind, editing out all but the happy parts of that relationship, the times he walked me to the subway and listened to every word I said, his friends telling me he loved me, the kisses that made that seem true. The truth was embarrassing. Only I know how little he cared about me. Only I saw their faces when they were pinning me down. Why would ever share that shame?
The next page in my journal reads: 1986. Never again did I write Dear Diary. Never again did I sign an entry with Love Always, Lindsay. The following several entries are my teenage attempts at poetry. Here is a piece of one dated March 2, 1986:
Under storm filled emotions
Life seems too rough
Running you over,
Passing you by.
The next time I remember seeing the Actor was at our junior prom. Would have been May 1986, a year after the event. I brought a date from another school, some guy who was a model. I wanted to make the Actor feel bad. I knew he’d be there. He told me I looked beautiful—I wanted to punch him in the face. I remember this encounter vividly too, the kids sitting at his table, the friends that were no longer my friends.
I have no idea what the impact of this event was on my life. I am fairly certain though that the Actor wouldn’t remember much, probably wouldn’t remember me at all, wouldn’t remember my name or my face. He’s sober now and has struggled.
I also have no idea what would have ultimately happened if Melanie hadn’t broken in to the room. Could they have really have held me down? I don’t know. Scott—if that’s his name—was spurned and angry, it had been his idea. I don’t know if they could have followed through or if they would have eventually given up. I don’t know. I know I’m thankful Melanie got there when she did and that she pulled me off the balcony ledge. I’m ashamed I risked my life like that. I’ll never forget looking down at the streams of red taillights and yellow taxis so far below.
I quit dancing fall of 1985, but it was several more years before I sought treatment for my eating disorder. I was already in a bad place when this happened, or I wouldn’t have gone to his apartment knowing that he didn’t want to be my first. I can’t point to that night as a defining moment—I never have—though had I fallen off that balcony, well….