By Mary Massaquoi
I was inspired to write this story because it is a common fear/nightmare that women have and I wanted to write a story in which the woman was victorious in the end.
When I was younger, I wasn’t allowed to go out late by myself. My younger brother could go wherever he wanted whenever, and that always irked me. Younger me was a feminist. I told myself that when I left for college, I would do whatever I wanted because I would be free of my mother’s tight hold, finally.
It was a Thursday night during my sophomore year of college—moon full and gentle. I walked to a frat party in a skimpy black dress. My roommate and I were supposed to go together, but she decided last minute to go with girls from a sorority she wanted to get into. Derek, a guy in my psychology class, invited us. With his curly hair and caramel skin, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I was flattered, and couldn’t wait to tell all the girls in my suite.
Halfway to the party, I felt like I was being watched. I turned around. No one was there so I kept going. Derek texted me to check in, and I smiled at my phone without thinking about anything else.
The street was empty except for someone across the street. When I looked at him, he put his head down. My pace quickened.
“There’s no way he’s following me,” I said. When I looked again, he had come to my side. My heart pumped. I examined him. He was tall and lanky, wearing black with a cap on. I realized he was also stealing glances. I raised my phone to my ear and had a fake conversation, because I had read that works if you’re being followed.
There was a dark, wooded area I had to pass to get to the party. My throat got dry. As I walked through the shortcut, he got closer and I started to run. He was fast. He would eventually catch up so I needed to figure out something. My mother raised me to fight and fight was what I was gonna do.
My chest burned, so I slowed my pace, then felt his hand on my shoulder. He whispered, words slurred, “You look nice.” The sharpness of “nice” turned my stomach. The vodka on his breath and whiff of his cologne was pungent. His grip on me was tight, but I turned and jabbed my keys above his eyes. He screamed in pain but still got a hold of my dress. I kicked him, kicking up dirt. He groaned and released me.
I finally understood what my mother meant. I was vulnerable, prone to being attacked if I walked around late. If this was freedom, this isn’t what I asked for.
“Stop. Stop. I just want to—,” he heaved as he crouched over. I didn’t let him finish. I sprinted out of the woods and to the frat house, out of breath. Party music blasted from the windows. Derek found me as I stomped into the kitchen.
“Are you alright?”
I explained everything, falling over my words.
Derek took me back to my dorm. My dress was ripped, boots dirty. Shaking, I told Derek how familiar he seemed. His smell, his voice. As I stood there, Derek took hold of my wrist, his eyes sympathetic.
“Breathe, you’re okay now. Why don’t you shower and change out of these clothes? I’ll wait.”
After scrubbing my body and disposing of those clothes, we sat on my bed talking until my adrenaline fell. My hands stilled and fatigue kicked in. But once Derek left, I couldn’t sleep.
In class one week later, packing up my things, I heard the same deep voice. It was a guy talking to Derek and his frat brothers. He stopped when he saw me staring and guilt crept up his face. I noticed a scar above his left eye. What if that’s the guy who attacked me? I shuffled out of class and a waft blew past me. The same cologne. I finally realized—it was Jason. He lived in my dorm, a few hallways down. Earlier this year, he had asked me out. I’d laughed it off.
Something told me to go back. I approached him so quickly it’s like I flew.
“Who do you think you are?” I screamed. He turned to me, startled, then pulled me to a corner.
“Why?” I asked over and over again. I couldn’t help myself.
“I don’t know. I was drunk.” This wasn’t a conversation that would resolve what happened. So I stopped having it.
“I’m reporting you!”
His eyes grew with fear, alarm all over his face.
“Please, no I…I..” He didn’t finish his sentence. I walked away, passing the group of guys, avoiding their confused stares. I glanced at Derek hoping he would understand. Later that day, I reported him. My mother’s precaution came with reason. She was trying to protect me.
Afterward, I felt fearless. I was not only standing up for myself but other girls who might experience this. At the end of the week, I walked past his dorm and the door was wide open. I caught a glimpse of his empty bed.
Mary Massaquoi is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Staten Island, NY.