Rooted, I used to think.

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Monday, Dec. 07, 2020 @ 10:04 am
The Beach

trigger warning - sexual violence

I take off my clothes, step into the tub, and turn on the shower. I make the water hot, very hot, and begin to wash myself. Over and over.

Was that a dream? Was that real?

* * *

“Why did you start talking to me, the other night in the rain?”

“I turned around and saw you and liked your face. I was drawn in,” he says.

“Why did you ask for my number?”

“I thought we had a good connection so we’d probably want to see each other again.”

This is a dream. Lately, I have the most vivid and disturbing dreams. Is this a dream? It feels surreal. But then again, most of my life feels surreal lately.

We meet at the beach and sit apart on a log. He talks quietly, has a gentle demeanor. I still like his face, even moreso than I remember. He seems familiar, as though we've met or worked together before somewhere. He hands me a beer. We drink and talk and watch the sun set behind a bank of grey clouds.

I learn more about him, where he grew up (NDG, Montreal), his family heritage (French Canadian and Vietnamese), that he's a middle child. I also realize that I was wrong about his age - he is older than me, by about five years. I talk at length about my job, nervous chatter that he calls me out on. We match on an intellectual level, and our conversion fluctuates effortlessly between serious debate and playful banter.

And then there is a moment of quiet.

I watch his face as he looks at me. I am struck with the thought that I never questioned whether he liked me. I assumed that he would. I can feel his attraction towards me, his attentiveness, his body inching closer towards me on the log.

“I like your toque,” he says and reaches to touch the pompom. “Did you make it?”

“Yes, in fact I did.” My heart is racing. He touched me. What is happening?

“I like your smile, too. It's very open and honest.”

Is this the machination of my imaginative and romantic mind? This seems more like a silver screen romance than real life.

He stands up. Offers his hand.

“Let's go somewhere warm,” he says. His hand hangs there in front of me. I don't know what to do. I wasn’t planning for this. “Come on, Shannon, just do it. Stop thinking so much. Adventure awaits!”

My hand extends out and clasps his. He pulls me up. Scoops his arm around my waist and and kisses me. I don't know what to do. I wasn't expecting this.

In the midst of a pandemic, I am kissing a stranger. At first it is him kissing me as I stand there dumbstruck, wondering why this stranger is gently biting my lower lip. His beard is soft against my face. I breathe him in, the warmth of his skin. His hands are pulling me against him, and I welcome the warmth, forgetting for a moment what is happening.

This has to be a dream. For this to be happening in real life is impossible.

“We can go to my place, or to yours,” he says. I can't think. I'm overwhelmed. Did I just kiss someone? Did I just kiss the man from the other night, the one from beside the holiday lights display in the rain? Things like this only happen in movies.

He takes my hand, and we walk towards his car. My mind is numb. He opens the car door and motions for me to sit down. I stand there confused and silent, looking at him, trying to comprehend the situation.

“Oh, stop overthinking it. We’ll get some takeout. We’ll get warmed up.”

I get in the car, unable to walk away, which is what I should be doing. If this were real life, I would have walked away. He drives to my place. Somehow there is free parking. There is never parking; this has to all be fake.

He parks, and we walk to my apartment. I open the front door of the building. We are in the lobby. We are in the elevator. We are out of the elevator. We are at my apartment door. I unlock my door.

The door closes behind me. I think we are going to have another beer and talk. I'm so fucking naïve.

He turns to me, places his hands on my hips, and gently pushes me against the wall. He kisses me, my face, my neck. His hands are then under my shirt. This all happens so fast that I witness it as a bystander. He pulls up my shirt and puts his mouth on my chest. I'm mildly pushing him away, but then it feels nice, and I forget for a moment that this shouldn’t be happening. Then he’s pressing himself against me, and I know that this has gone too far. I feel his arousal against me. And still, I don't do much to stop it.

He looks for my bedroom and carries me there and lays me on the bed. He tries to undo my pants, and I block him, laughing, because this has to be a joke. I turn and tackle him, laughing, hoping that I can break the spell and that we can just go back to talking.

The man from the street in the rain is in my bedroom. He is taking off his pants. What the fuck is happening? When am I going to wake up from this?

It doesn't go back to talking. My clothing is coming off, piece by piece. My hands run across his bare shoulders, his bare chest. His body is attractively strong, his skin luminous and golden. My face in his neck. I'm so driven by sensuality, the desire to be desired. I'm not thinking clearly; I'm not thinking much at all. I like the feeling of his body against mine.

He pulls himself out of his underwear with one hand and pulls down my underwear with his other hand.

“We’re not doing that,” I say as I pull my underwear back on. I squirm away and get on top of him to have more control of the situation. I look at him, confused and stunned, and also searching, trying to uncover the truth about who he is and what he wants and whether I am about to be raped and murdered.

“Those eyes of yours,” he says. His hands pull at my hair, loosening it from my braid, and it cascades around my shoulders. He runs his hand across it and tucks a lock aside from my left breast. “Those eyes of yours are dangerous.”

The energy ebbs, and I begin to tell him a story. He listens. Our bodies are tangled. I touch him in various places and watch his face to find out what he likes. I like this part. Connection, conversation, intimacy.

My story ends.

“You,” he says, “are the puppy that needs rescuing.”

I kiss him. He puts his hands into my hair and kisses my neck.

And then he pushes me down and seems overcome with need. He is very strong, and I realize how vulnerable I am. I've never been treated like this - overpowered - before. It feels dangerous and exciting and maybe there is a part of me that likes it? He puts on protection. I blink, trying to focus on the situation. What is happening?

Something inside of me shifts. I have sudden clarity. How did it go this far? What if Russell drops by? Am I trying to sabotage my life? Have I been drugged?

“No, we aren't doing this.” My feet are on his thighs pushing him away.

And then he pushes himself inside of me.

Is this rape?

I thought I said no. I didn't say yes. He didn't ask.

I twist away from him and stand up and walk out of the room. I pace the kitchen, furious at myself. I pour myself a glass of water and drink the whole thing. And then another. I place my hands on the counter and breathe. I cannot think clearly. I’m so confused.

When am I going to wake up? No, I'm not waking up. This is real.

I go back into the room.

“I’m sorry. I should have stopped earlier,” he says, “I just wanted you so badly.”

I look at him and sit down on the bed.

“You smell so good. At the beach, when I first got close to you.”

I shrug and tell him that I didn't even dress up because I didn't think it was a date. I pull my grey t-shirt back over my head.

“Well, maybe it's pheromones,” he considers.

Silence. He glances around my room. The mountain bike hanging on the wall. The ice axe leaning on the corner. Skis laying on the floor. A shelf lined with plants and books.

“Do you want me to leave?” he continues.


The awkward pulling on of socks. The turning of the shirt right side out.

I stand in front of him near the door as he puts on his shoes, my arms crossed against my chest. All I want to do is have a shower, to wash this off of me. He stands up to say goodbye.

“Shannon, you are very interesting.”

I don't respond. I don't know if that word - interesting - is a compliment or a criticism.

He leaves. I watch him walk down the hall, enter the elevator, and I give him a small wave as the door closes. My startled, flat gaze never leaving his face.

I step back and lock the door.

I take off my clothes, step into the tub, and turn on the shower.

This didn't happen. This did happen. I liked some of it. I hated some of it. I feel nauseous.

I thought it was just going to be a beer at the beach.

I'm undeniably naïve.

I'm so fucking stupid.

I dry myself in a towel and then get into my bed.

This has to have been a dream.

The bundle of energy, that songbird in my hand. I said one thing, and I set this in motion.

In the morning, I wake still feeling nauseous, confused, and bewildered. I walk across the room towards the bathroom and glance at my body in the mirror. The morning light is thin, but even still it is there.

A bruise across my thigh. Was that there before?

I feel as though I slipped through to a different dimension.

All of the tiny decisions that led to this moment.

Dream or no dream, I'm still left to confront myself.

We are all wild animals, in different stages of taming. We are all imperfect beings, never fully right and never fully wrong.

I walk through a patch of sand on my floor.

I was at the beach last night.

Roots | Shoots