Bottoms Up. Lights Out

It was like I had suddenly woken up from a century long slumber. When I say suddenly, I mean suddenly. It was like a loud mental crack back into reality. My eyes took a while to open for they felt to me as if they were swollen shut and to be quite honest my body felt like a sack of cement. My eyes roamed around but nothing to me looked at all familiar. My surroundings seemed and felt odd. I simply felt completely out of place. I slowly tried to sit up but could only prop myself up onto my elbows, I was feeling extremely groggy. I looked around the room,  a pale blue color covered the walls surrounding me. I was in some sort of hotel room it felt like. The area of the room that I was in was covered in very tacky beach decor with shells and flamingos dancing all over the place. I was on a hard couch and directly in front of me stood a balcony with its doors completely open. The white sheer curtains danced in the breeze and if it wasn’t for the fact that fear was slowly gripping me around my throat, it all would have seemed almost peaceful. I was definitely in a hotel room but who’s? I could faintly hear the ocean roaring in the distance, seagulls adding to nature’s acoustics. The sudden voices coming from behind me made me jerk around to see who and where it was coming from. 

This was my initial reaction to waking up in an unknown place with absolutely no memory of how I got there. Although I had tried to forget about this, it all came rushing back when I was watching the news today.

A good looking couple from California have made headlines after being caught drugging and raping unsuspecting women. The pair would hit the streets in search of victims, charming them, drugging them, and then leading them back to their private office to have their way with them. Over 1,000 videos were found on both of the suspect’s phones allowing authorities to believe that there are many more victims than just the two that have come forward.  The two suspects deny any such allegations and are currently out on bail.

These two were not the couple that drugged and raped me, but they might as well be.

I will never forget the duo who charmed me into inviting them to hang out with my co-workers and I one evening after work. It was about 10 pm and I had just finished my night shift at the restaurant. I had decided to wait for my co-workers at a local bar right in between our place of employment and where I lived. I sat alone at a table for six. The bar was busy with tourists. By this time most seemed drunk and those that weren’t yet would be soon getting there. The live band playing had a crowd on the dance floor and I was soaking up the good vibes while I waited. It wasn’t long before I was approached by a pretty girl and her boyfriend. They were visiting from Ohio, a quick getaway for the couple who wanted a break from their hectic family life. They were both beautiful people. She had shoulder length  shiny, black hair and ice blue eyes. He reminded me of a golden boy, with a gorgeous sun kissed tan, light brown eyes, and short golden locks that framed his face. When she approached me initially she asked if I mined if the two  could sit down at the table with me until my friends arrived and of course, me not wanting to be rude, said yes.

From that point on the entire night was anything but normal. Looking back on it, I should have suspected that something was about to go terribly wrong because of the fact that things weren’t panning out as they normally would have. Back then though, a switch of scene and people added a much needed excitement to my life. I, however, was not prepared for, nor wanted, the kind of excitement that was getting ready to present itself.

As we waited for my friends to get out of work, this girl and I were chatting away. She asked me what it was like living in a touristy spot and about my tattoos. I asked her what sort of hectic life her and her boyfriend were trying to vacation away from. We chatted and it seemed natural. I was pleased to have found company while I waited. Her boyfriend offered to buy us a round of beers. I ordered a Miller Light but for some reason I was not in the mood for too much drinking, so I babysat that bottle until my co-worker’s arrival. Introductions were barely made when the couple asked if there was a strip club in the area. They were looking to spice up their last night out on the beach,

“What a more perfect way to end our vacation than with some ass and titties!” He shouted, overly excited. She seemed a bit embarrassed by his question but there was a slight flicker in her eyes that gave way to her also wanting in on this type of fun. One of my co-workers mentioned the low quality strip joint located right before the bridge before heading out on the island and offered to drive us all if the couple paid for his beers, and just like that, we all ended up piling into his SUV driving out to Fantasy’s.

At this point, I was only one beer in and not really wanting to head to the strip joint. I had been there a coupe times with friends before and it wasn’t anything to write home about. It was small and dingy. The girls are a reminder of sadness and instead of enticing a good time all they stir up in you in an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and pity. I wasn’t motivated but I also didn’t want to go home. I wanted a night out with friends and if that meant heading to Fantasy’s for  bit then I would suck it up and go.  It wasn’t more than 15 mins after arriving at the strip joint that things took a turn, which would then land me in this couple’s hotel room, naked, vulnerable, and with no sense of what had happened to me.

We arrived and immediately everyone headed towards the bar to get their first drink, everyone but me that is. I still wasn’t in the mood to have a drink, which for everyone who knows me that’s not in my normal character. I am not sure why I wasn’t in the mood to drink that night. I’d like to think that maybe my subconscious knew that there was something dangerous lurking right around the corner. No matter the reason, I didn’t heed the warning. My friends questioned why I wasn’t drinking and I remember telling them, “Not yet. In a bit I’ll order something..” I felt like I just wanted to be alert for a little longer. I really wish I would have stood my ground when the couple approached me with a shot.

“Cheers! To the three of us! Here’s is to unexpected new friends and a wild night!” That was his speech and although I found it a bit out there, I took my glass and clinked it with theirs.

“Bottoms up!” She said and from that point on, my night a blur, then ended with lights out.

The rest of the evening I can only recall in small bits and pieces. I do not remember leaving the strip club although I was told that we stayed there for about 45 mins. A co-worker informed me that I didn’t want to leave and had even given a wad of cash to one of the dancing girls after she told me a story about her and her kid “just trying to survive.” My memory only holds a picture of the club and then all of the sudden, we are back at the same bar we had all previously met up at. I vaguely remember feeling extremely tired and wanting to go home. I was told that at this point I had told the others that I was going to the bathroom and that I had gotten up to leave stumbling on my way out and never returning. For my friends, it was not unusual for me to disappear like that. I have always hated good-byes and so when I am ready to go home I make my way out using one excuse or another and simply disappearing. What was unusual for them was the fact that I seemed overly intoxicated even though I had only had a beer and a shot. That was not normal for me. I’ve always been known to handle my alcohol so that did raise  few eyebrows, but not enough for anyone to assume that something was wrong.

A couple minuets after me leaving for the “bathroom” the new couple said their good-byes and disappeared into the night.

I have no idea how things transpired from here on out. Considering I have no memory of even leaving my friends behind at the bar, I for sure have no clue how it was that I ran into this couple while on my journey home. My next snapshot of the night is of me in their hotel room standing out on the balcony but barely able to hold myself up. The next snapshot is of me sitting on the bed and the girl playing with my hair. After that? Nothing.

I woke up the next morning feeling like I had been hit by a semi-truck. It took me a few seconds to muster up the energy to sit up and look around and that’s when I discovered the severity of my situation. I was completely naked  barely wrapped up in only a thin bed sheet. I was laying on the couch and when I looked around the room that’s when I saw the couple, each laying on the bed sprawled out and also naked. At that very moment I was overwhelmed with many emotions, embarrassment, violated, bewilderment, sadness, guilt. But before being able to fully ingest all that I was feeling, all I wanted to do was to get out.  I quickly got up and quietly gathered my things. I grabbed my purse, my clothes, my phone and snuck into their bathroom to get dressed. It wasn’t until I put  my shoes on that I felt dread. My work shoes were severely scuffed, the soles of both shoes peeling away  the tops as if I had been dragged.

I left their bathroom and headed towards the door not once looking back. It was as if I just couldn’t bring myself to see the reality of my situation. I exited the room and soon realized I was only two blocks away from my home. I walked the two blocks in a fog. I felt bruised all over. My arms had bruises running from underneath my armpits all the way down to my wrists. My legs felt like lead. I felt soreness on both sides of my rib cage.

Once I arrived at my apartment, completely drained, I collapsed on my bed and slept for hours. It wasn’t until I woke up at almost 5 pm that I really was able to dissect the situation and try to understand what had happened to me. My body felt like a sack of bruised potatoes and that immediately brought tears to my eyes because with how I felt, how could I not remember what had happened to me? I immediately headed to my local walk-in clinic and after explaining what I had gone through got tested on any possible STD out there. The sorrow in the physician’s eyes should have been comforting but instead it made me feel ten times worse. It was at this point, when sitting on the medical table getting swabbed and blood work done, that I looked down and saw on my left wrist a beaded pink bracelet. It was the same bracelet that the girl had on the night before and here I was wearing it, undeniable proof as to what transpired the night before. I still have the bracelet to this day. I’m not sure why I kept it but it is put away in a jewelry box, a small reminder to always stay on alert.

Once I arrived back home from the clinic I messaged my sister and told her somewhat of what happened. I kept out the part of me waking up naked and seeing the couple sprawled out on the bed, also bare. My mother still doesn’t know. I’m sure that soon she will read this and her heart will be broken into a billion little pieces. I was also seriously dating someone at the time and although I did tell him what happened, I also left out the details of how I woke up and what I believed really happened. Do I think they would have negatively judged me? Not really, but I do believe that in their mind I maybe asked for it by putting myself in the situation when befriending the strange couple.

Now that this incident is over a year old, I am ready to talk honestly about the situation and what happened to me where as before I had no strength to do so. The level of guilt and embarrassment one feels when something like this happens to you is something no one is really prepared to talk about. It is almost as if one would rather sew up the lips than to ever utter a detail, and the feeling of reliving it all over again through speech is terrifying.

When I came across the news headline of the couple in California who were going around doing what was done to me to others, ice ran through my veins. All of the emotions I had bottled up and stored away came rushing back and my heart truly went out to the women affected by such trauma.

Sadly, our cases aren’t unique or seldom. What happened to us happens everyday to countless women and men alike. I feel as though one of the biggest mistakes we commit as a society is to cover up any situation that doesn’t seem ideal. We don’t really talk about the dangers that lurk around every corner and if we do, we speak of it as though it could never happen to us, making it that much more difficult to speak about when it does. One shouldn’t feel embarrassed or guilty after going through something like this and it is society that makes us feel this way. Being honest and speaking up over such monumental occurrences is what will allow for healing as well as encouraging awareness. We as a society need to become more aware. We need to start standing up for one another in being protective not only of ourselves but of those around you. Together we are a single unit. When will we start to realize that if one of us hurts, society as a whole hurts? It’s time we become more available to those who need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, without the judgment and give only support needed to overcome the unpleasantries that life sometimes has in store for us.

 

 

#Metoo: The New Face of Resistance

In the last few months, sexual harassment has been such a hot topic of conversation for just about everyone. Whether it’s online on FB posts and Twitter feeds, or a discussion being had at the dinner table with guests or family, where before to speak of such a thing was considered taboo, now people like Weinstein, Bill Cosby, former FOX news chief Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, L.A Reid, David Mueller, and even comments by our president Donald Trump (“Grab them by the pussy!”) have opened up the lines of communication for accusers all over the world. Women from all economic class levels, cultures, ages, have been coming together to speak of their stories that for up until now have been kept buried in the farthest corner of their minds. Almost as if it were a story that wasn’t wanting to be told until now.

My story is not very different when comparing it to the others that have been told. It seems to always start off with a man who feels in power. Whether it is the situation at hand that makes them feel powerful or something else in life that makes them feel empowered, they almost always seem to have the upper hand like an illusion produced by an intimidating magician. I can personally tell you about three separate occasions that single handily happened to me where I was alone and an unsuspecting victim. I can then also give you a list of “minor” instances that fall longer than a roll of toilet paper where I have fallen victim to the cat calls, the groping, the unwanted advances. Even an incident as recent as last weekend in which I was at a concert with my boyfriend and I was touched multiple times, obviously unwillingly, by a shadow in the crowd. How did we get to be a society in which the norm is for women to be fondled or fall prey to these heartless cowards. Cowards because they hide in the shadows, cowards because they hide behind their titles and their roles in society.

With the #metoo movement, not only have people who have fallen victim to sexual assault found a group of comfort and support, but we also have been seeing a change in the attitude of men, some who are self admitting to committing such advances.

Right now we are living in a time in which many voices who have been silenced have been given a mic. Some may think that this is our “five mins of fame” or that we are presently standing on our “soap boxes” in hopes to make a small wave in what recently has been seen as the “norm” in society. Yet for us, it’s not about making a wave. It’s about starting a movement. We want to be able to move towards change in order to allow for a better future. We will no longer stand for allowing the mistreatment of people no matter the age, race, heritage, nor gender. We may not have been able to always stand up against those we accuse, but at least now we can stand together for the cause. I may not have children of my own but children are our future.

To all of my friend’s who have children, those kids are our future and we must make this a better place for them to grow, live, and evolve. We must break this unacceptable cycle of sexual assault whether it’s on our campuses, work place, or simply at home. It is not Ok for those in power to feel as though those who aren’t have no say, have no voice.

To all of you who are just like me, although together we stand united and strong, we must never forget that to stand strong as a whole means that we hold a little piece inside of us that is strong too. Feel empowered because you are. We are the face of resistance.

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Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Location: Fort Myers Beach, FL

 

Another BIG Move

In exactly two months this girl will be moving across the state. It won’t be my first time relocating long distance. I’ve moved from Jersey to Florida, Florida to California, California to Jersey, and Jersey back to Florida again. This time I’m only moving from one side of FL to the other. You would think that after such major moves in the past that this would be quick and easy for me, but it isn’t. Relocating is never easy. It’s hard to leave the comfort of what you’re used to and head into the world of the unknown, even if what you’re used to isn’t making you 100% happy.  Even so, I never let fear determine an outcome. Especially when in pursuit of love.

***Skeeeeert*** All ears and eyes perked up***

Yes, I said love. This time, compared to previous times, I am relocating for Love and boy oh boy have I gotten shit for this. In all honesty it makes me giggle out loud because most of those who comment negatively on my reason in moving have NO IDEA whom they’re talking to. At the age of 30 I can say that this has not been my first rodeo. Unlike my bf, I have been in cohabitant relationship before, and although he is in for the shock of his life, I am not. I know about all the trials and tribulations when it comes to living with your significant other. I fully understand all the highs and lows that come when moving in together and I am prepared.  Hence why I must clarify that although I am relocating to the east side, and that eventually we will be living together, for the first few months my bf and I will NOT be cohabiting 🙂

If you have been following my blog you know that the relationship I have been in for the past few months has been a long distance one, and that it hasn’t been all peaches and cream.  Having to drive two and a half hours every time you want to see your significant other can really put a strain on the relationship. From having to plan even the smallest of dates, to not being able to spend certain holidays together due to conflicting schedules, being apart doesn’t make things easy. Long distance dating pushes back any milestones that “normal” couples hit in a quicker fashion. Although him and I have been dating 8 months, I still don’t feel 100% about moving in with him right away and not because I don’t love him. More so because I do and so I need to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes I’ve committed in the past. I’ve moved in quickly with bf’s before. Before getting to really know them and their quirks. Before getting to know the things that tick them off. Before getting to know the everyday things about them that would allow me to really decide if they were the right man for me or just a learning phase. If I had to guess, I would say that our 8 month long distance relationship is equivalent to a 3-4 month “normal” relationship. Do I feel confidant moving in with someone after 3 months? After my past experiences? No. I mean, would you??

“If you’re so nervous about living with him, shouldn’t you take that as a sign as to not move across the state for him?” I get asked this one a lot once people realize that I’m not moving in with him right away. These are the kinds of people that look at a situation and either see black or white, there is no grey area in between. For me, I don’t take this as a negative sign against my bf. I take this as a positive towards me and my own learning experiences. The way I see it is that I have learned from my past. My past has taught me that you don’t simply move in with someone that you’re dating out of convenience or because it’s the “next step” in the relationship. NO. You do it once you feel it’s right for the both of you. I am ready to make a move out of SWFL. I have been for quite sometime now and if I hadn’t met my bf I would still be relocating. The fact that him and I have been dating for longer than my usual is a sign to me that things between us are moving in the right direction. Am I supposed to make this relationship work from hundreds of miles away?? Of course not. At some point the move has to be made if we’re eventually going to try to get things to the next level.

“Well, why do you have to be the one who moves? You did spend most of the time driving to see him. Isn’t it time he put forth some effort?” This one is usually the next question to follow. Like I said before, I have been wanting to get out of where I live for over a year now. It’s just what I do once I’m bored so me moving was going to happen eventually. The conversation was had and we both decided together that it would be me making the big transition. Yes, I have already put much energy into this relationship in the way of having to drive a few hours a week to see him BUT it is what had to be done. My work gives me the chance to be able to do such things. His job does not. Is that an excuse? Yes, but it’s a good one. A real reason as to why it worked out the way it did, not just some made up excuse to make me feel better.  Should I punish him or make things more difficult for us simply because I was lucky in having a flexible job? What he doesn’t do in driving or relocating he makes up for in other ways. The fact that people look at our situation and think they know the sacrifices we make for each other is astonishing and goes to show the arrogance in their thinking. Plus, when does anyone ever stop putting forth energy into a relationship? Those in unsuccessful relationships, that’s who.

“You’ve seem to have it all figured out. It all sounds good but…. What if it doesn’t work out?” Ahhh yes. The most common question asked. I consider it to be the dumbest, especially if you’re asking me. What happens if it doesn’t work out? Well….. I move on! DUH! I am not one to dwell on anything. I find that dwelling on the things that don’t work out for you is the best way to keep yourself stuck and off track. I like to learn and move on when it comes to the things that don’t pan out for me like I believed they would. Would I be heartbroken? Of course I would, but I’ve never died of a broken heart before. If it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t work out, but at least I gave it a try. At least I didn’t let fear stop me from trying. I am a believer that what happens happens, as well as a believer that the universe is always conspiring in your favor. If the relationship doesn’t work out, it is for a reason. I may not be super thrilled about it not working out, but I will survive, as always.

I’m going into this situation as realistically as I possibly can but with the highest of hopes. Every day is a new day and with each step taken towards my big move it becomes less scary and more exciting. I heard a lecture once by Alan Watts where he speaks about feeling nervous versus feeling excited. The feeling of both is exactly the same. The difference is in your thinking. To feel “nervous” is to think negatively about the given situation. Feeling “excited” is the positive way of thinking about it. I am truly excited about my upcoming move. To be closer to my love will be a breath of fresh air. To be in a new environment sends a sense of thrill through my soul. A new adventure to write about in the story of what is my life. Cheers! To another big move.

DSCF0278 (2)Photo Credit: Natal Galvan