Can We Talk About the After?

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Words by Brittany Forbes

Editor's Note: This topic can be sensitive in nature and may not be suitable for all readers.

When do I get to tell aloud the story of the boy in college, the friend, the classmate who I invited back to my dorm?

The one who I kissed excitedly.

The one who slid my pants off.

The one who smiled when I said, No, don’t. I don’t want to.

The one who looked at me like I was sweet and adorable and could stand to be turned into a woman by now?

When do I get to shout from the rooftops, the words I said quietly to him that night?

No, don’t. I don’t want to.

When do I get to dig my fingernails into a man’s shoulder as I’m saying, No, don’t and have him stop?

When do I get to have my tears witnessed by the person sliding himself on top of me, smiling and kissing my neck softly, while my ears are filling with the automatic tears that are rushing out of my eyes and down the sides of my face?

When do I get to scream from the deepest parts of who I am, while he looks at me, seconds after he is done and in the softest voice, with the pity of all the angels in the sky says, Oh, you aren’t over your ex-boyfriend yet. I should have realized.

When will it count?

***

Maybe this experience in itself isn’t taboo, it happens all the time. Girls not understanding that saying no, means he is supposed to stop. Boys not understanding that girls saying no, means he is supposed to stop.

No, the subject of doing what you want to another person’s body without their permission isn’t quite taboo.

But can we talk about the after?

The days after and the years after, too?

***

The minutes after, when he falls asleep.

The days after, when you see him in class and everyone knows the truth and laughs awkwardly in corners, realizing it could have been them, except that one friend who looks you in the eye and calls your experience that ugly word that starts with R and ends with, No, that’s not what happened to me. I’m not that.

The weeks after, when he waits after class to drive you home, even though you only live a parking lot away, and he manages to squeeze in a trip to the gas station and an evening drive around the city first.

The months after, when he goes home for the summer and you stay in the city and he calls you nightly just to talk.

Those months where you wonder when you became his girlfriend and how did that happen and I said, No, don’t. I don’t want to. Didn’t I say No, don’t. I don’t want to? I’m pretty sure I remember, I mean, I think that’s what I said.

Can we talk about the years after when you meet the next guy who will do the same thing and you are so prepared for it that all your thoughts feel like a silent dare to him to go ahead. Do it. I dare you.

I won’t flinch this time when you won’t stop. I’ll hold my tears in better this time. You won’t see this girl cry when she says No, don’t. I don’t want to, and you smile like she’s playing hard to get and do what you want with her soul anyway.

I’m strong now. I won’t feel it, I swear.

***

Can we talk about 12 years later, when you throw yourself at the latest guy — men now, not boys anymore — and he accepts all the desire you throw his way and then says afterwards, Wow. I didn’t expect us to do that tonight. That really caught me off guard.

And your stomach drops but you smile and kiss his cheek and then roll over so he can’t see all the thoughts on your face. You don’t want him to know that although he is lovely and makes you smile in the most genuine way, you simply cannot risk him doing what the others have done.

You can’t risk laying there and watching his smile melt away and feeling the room get chilly while he does the dance, the routine that they all do: kiss here, press there, touch this, say that, slide this down.

The dance that you’ve interrupted with No, don’t. I don’t want to, too many times now and then removed yourself from, while the dance continued anyway.

You don’t want to see if maybe, just maybe, despite his sparkly eyes and nervous laughter, his charming accent and his gentle demeanor, maybe he knows this dance too.

It would ruin it all. I’d rather not know.

So I will do him a favor and let him stay golden and sweet and I will do the work. I will initiate. I will say yes instead of no and do it instead of don’t.

Because I’m strong now and I’m prepared and I can hand out favors with my body instead of keeping myself safe and watching the favors and magic get stolen anyway.

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Brittany writes in Canadian, loves in English, and dreams in French. She writes about travels and various other journeys over at Letters To Rayelle.

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