My mom gifted me this shirt for Christmas one year. I can’t remember which year, it must have been sometime during college. Definitely, before fourth year, because grandma was there and definitely after the babies were born because I remember Laila’s cries at some point in the night.
It’s a beautiful shirt – or blouse, I should say. It’s awarded me many compliments over the years. The aqua makes your eyes glisten. The lace exudes elegance. I loved wearing that shirt. It went with everything. I wore it to Chrissy’s going away party that spring too. With the dark circle skirt and white strappy heels. God, she loved when I wore that shirt. It was such a contrast from my usual crewneck and harem pants.
You were at her party too. You came with Jiah, or was it Siah? That girl Chrissy met at the ASAP Rocky concert the summer before, I think. You’d complimented my outfit too. I like the silver buckles on your shoes. Strange, I had thought, but boy-ish maybe?
I saw you again a few weeks later at Mrs. Benny’s. I’d never seen you there before. Or had I just not noticed? Is that your only shirt, you asked. What, I was startled. I looked down to see what I was wearing and remembered I’d been wearing this the last time you’d seen me too. Oh, I giggled abashed. No, it is my favourite though. It’s nice. The blue colour really brings out your eyes. Thanks, I replied, bemused. So, you had noticed it last time too? You left with a drink in hand, and I wore the shirt again the next day.
Fall was here. The air was as crisp as a Chilean red gala. Chrissy and I were out on the row meeting with more sisters at the house for the annual homecoming party. She’d convinced me to wear the shirt, this time paired with dark jeans and black booties. The street was vibrating under my heels. There was no mistaking we’d almost arrived at the party. Eiza’s smoke greeted us at the end of the driveway. We hugged, schmoozed and then made our way up.
Chrissy was pouring me a drink when you peaked over my shoulder. Startled, I pulled away and turned to face you. I remember us talking, and you reaching for my hand. I remember letting you hold it and guide me upstairs. I remember Chrissy squeezing my shoulder to make sure I was okay and me patting it as I continued upward. I remember the taste of beer on my lips. I remember asking if you had a condom. I remember saying no when you said you didn’t. I remember walking away. I remember jumping when you slammed your hand against the door holding it shut. I remember you holding me by my neck so I couldn’t scream. I remember trying to kick or throw a punch. I remember hating my body for not cooperating out of fear. I remember closing my eyes when you slid your hands under my shirt.
Chrissy came up an hour later. I was still laying on one side of the bed with my eyes shut when I heard the door open. She was yelling something I. An’t remember but cut herself mid-sentence when we met eyes. She didn’t say anything. Just pulled out her phone, she must have texted Eiza to come up because there were three of us in the room for a split second before Chrissy ran down again. I heard some yelling and then footsteps fading. She came back 20 minutes later with my coat.
Chrissy didn’t let go of my hand the entire night. Not when she made Elsa drive us to the police station. Not when she filled out my paperwork. Not when I tried to remember the story out loud 4, no 5, times for the two detectives, the intake nurse, the doctor, and then the other detective. Not when I heard her side of the story either. Apparently, she’d come upstairs after she’d heard something slam into a wall. She’d turned and saw it was Raul who had crashed and made a hole in the foyer behind the kitchen and Frieda was screaming at him. It had looked like Frieda pushed him away from – or off of – her. He’d run away after people began gathering around.
No one let me shower til the next morning. That shirt sat on my body all night. It soaked up the numbness, the realization, the panic, the pain but not the anger. I threw it to the side of my room when I got home that morning. I let it lay there for a long time, limp, reminding me of my own frailty. My anger morphed into hate for that shirt over time. Chrissy came over once and picked it up to put it in the laundry. I screamed at her and we didn’t talk for three weeks. The next time we did she’d brought Elsa over to convince me to see her therapist. It took me three more weeks and a fight with my mom about missing Christmas that year to agree.
Things started to change after therapy. I could stand to look st myself in the mirror again. My anger morphed into willpower that originally I’d berated myself for not having that night until I came to terms with my inability to change the past. That acceptance allowed me to get back on normal terms with Chrissy, and even open up to my mom. She started visiting a lot after that. That Christmas, she even gifted me a new shirt. And I let her.
I left that shirt at home today though. I wanted to be wearing this shirt when you looked at me standing next to the judge recounting the tale that’ll stain your life, the way you stained mine.