We were both 11 years old.
We had begun learning about sexual education in class and the new kid, we’ll call him Kole, immediately became curious. During recess, he would follow me around the grounds, asking me to have S-E-X with him. I would always laugh and say no as I ran away, hoping he’d continue to chase me. I enjoyed the attention.
One day, he asked to walk me home, claiming that his house was just a bit past mine. I was happy to accept the offer.
As we walked side by side, he suddenly stopped and insisted that we go under the bridge to catch tadpoles. I knew my parents would scold me if I were even 5 minutes late. The reason for this was partially due to their strict nature, but it was also because there was a very recent case of a rape and murder in our small town right behind our house and they were terrified something would happen to me and my sisters.
I decided to risk the punishment.
We descended under the small bridge and as soon as my backpack hit the ground, he was on top of me.
I didn’t understand what he was doing. I couldn't move him.
I had play wrestled with boys before, but this was different. I screamed, but he quieted me with his hand. He told me I would like it. As he put his other hand down my pants, he kissed me while I struggled and cried.
After what felt like hours of resistance, I was able to drive my knee up into his groin and escape. I have no idea how I remembered to grab my backpack, but I did, and then ran home as fast as I could.
As I turned the corner to my street, I saw my mom halfway out the door, yelling my name and scanning the horizon feverishly. I felt terrible for making her worry, but more so for experiencing something that I knew I shouldn’t have experienced at my age, if ever. I mourned my lost innocence on my mother’s behalf, though I didn’t know the reason for my shame at the time.
As expected, my mother scolded me for being late and I took the verbal lashing without rebuttal.
Kole stopped approaching with me at school and then moved away later that year. With his departure, I allowed myself to forget. I never told anyone what had happened under that bridge because honestly, I barely understood it.
Three years later, in my first semester of high school, Kole moved back to town. I noticed him everywhere, always watching me. I felt the paranoid feeling that he was following me so he could advance while I was away from my group of friends. My friends noticed his stares and joked that the new kid had a crush on me. I laughed and brushed it off, pretending I was shy and didn’t want to talk about it. I did everything I could to ensure I was never alone at school.
One winter day, my luck ran out.
I waited alone at the bus stop in front of the school; I only had one friend who took the same bus as I did, but on this day, she was at home sick. Kole took the opportunity.
I prepared myself for whatever emotion or violent memory his words would evoke. I thought that maybe he was going to try to apologize for what he did.
I was wrong.
He looked down, shuffled his feet, looked back up and then said, "Hey, I've noticed you ever since I moved here. Do you, maybe, want to go out with me sometime?"
He didn't remember me.
He didn't remember what he did.
On a whim, this boy shaped who I was and what I learned to fear and yet he felt nothing.
This was the day I broke. This is the day that depression and anxiety began to drown me in vomit-inducing waves, only eventually lessened by sporadic therapy sessions and then medication over ten years later.
Regardless of the mental exercises I have learned to soothe my thoughts and the pills I take to stay present, I will never forget those calm, blue eyes, so free of any guilt during both encounters.
I don’t know if he knows what he did and I don’t care if he ever finds redemption, but I do hope that one day he will see the very same monster who, on that day, took everything from me and dared me to live anyway.
Jessica Lyn is a 26-year-old IT professional. She graduated from Queen's University in 2015, majoring in Religious Studies and minoring in English Literature. Her interests include cuddling her cat and dog, doing vulgar cross stitching, PC gaming, and reveling in optimistic nihilism.