Early this year, during a sleepover, a friend asked me if I’d ever shared a kiss with anyone. The answer was yes, but the word was drowned under a torrent of emotion. I clammed and switched the topic, a skill we all master by the time we’re 21.
The last time I was asked that question was many years ago. I was studying math for the finals that afternoon. I had a private tutor whom my mother was fond of, who also tutored my sister and her friends, me and my friends, and my brother and his friends. I took extra private class because I was a math idiot, and it was during one of those private sessions my tutor popped the question. I was struggling with some differential problems when, out of nowhere, he shoved his tongue down my throat. He then laughed. I blinked and quickly resumed the problem as if nothing happened. There was still 30 minutes left on my time share and I wasn’t going to waste it pondering about shit.
I took my phone to reply to my mum’s text, and he pleaded me not to tell her, but I told him I wasn’t going to. We resumed the lesson normally after that so I thought that was going to be it. Maybe it was just a joke that went out of line, I thought. But a few minutes later, before we parted ways, he made another pass. This time worse. He eventually let me go, but not before stopping my car door from swinging to ask me, “please don’t tell your Mom”.
“I wasn’t gonna,” I said.
And the truth is, I really wasn’t going to, even though it was mortifying and disgusting and nauseating. Still, I thought I needed to seek solace from someone, so I told my best friend and this was when things got worse.
He laughed it off as if it was amusing. I was infuriated.
“Why are you laughing? It’s not funny!” I said, which seemed to make him realize the gravity of it.
I never cried because the assault happened. I cried because my friend laughed it off. I couldn’t believe anyone could even begin to think what happened to me was hilarious. I couldn’t believe anyone would even need a context that this is hurtful.
This made me worried that my Mom would dismiss it the same way, as well. Though I knew it was not likely – Mom is the coolest person ever, and she’ll always be on my side – but there’s always that possibility.
How far should things go before it becomes something worth reporting? This question consumed me enough to realize that I have the right to my body and to peaceful state of mind, and any violation of this right can meet my own objection.
But there’s another complication: His wife was terminally ill and Mom was a good source of income for them. I don’t know if Mom would go all the way and terminate the help for my sake, but not doing so would hurt me, and doing so would hurt his wife. I didn’t want anyone to suffer the consequences of his sin.
Eventually his wife died. One less string attached to us, but there were still others. There’s my brother, needing tutoring for high-school-entrance purposes, and, later, to get through high school. And so on. So I thought, maybe until my brother was done with all his mathematical necessity.
But after a while, my brother didn’t need him, which would’ve made it easier to cut off all ties with him and came clean. But then I thought about his children. He has a son my age. What would happen if I opened my mouth? My father would kill the guy, or put him in jail. Either way, one of them would wind up imprisoned. Had that happened, what about the kids? It’s not worth ruining someone else’s future.
Today our family no longer has any connection to him, but by now it had happened too long ago. What good would it do bringing this up?
Then it occurred to me. I thought about his wife, my brother, his children, my sister’s friends who liked him, and my Mum and my sister who liked him as well… All these people, and never once did I think about me.
Because every Lebaran that he came to visit, I had to cope with that emotional mayhem again. Every time he texted me, or every time his name popped on my social media, I relived that afternoon. Every time someone kissed me, I had to apply numbing cream on my emotional outlet so I wouldn’t burst out crying. Every time I remember this and close my eyes, I think about rows of torture devices and blood-inducing scenes; which is a torture in itself because I’m afraid of blood, but it’s the only way to comfort myself. All to the point where I’m afraid that I’m naturally numb, to the point where I’m afraid of myself.
I don’t think any member of my family remains in contact with him nowadays. But while the acquaintance is obsolete, the wound is always fresh. Pain like this doesn’t heal, and it infects us with the personality of bitter cactus.
I still don’t know if it’s worth talking about this. I still don’t think I’m going tell my Mom. I often wonder why I didn’t think about myself first, because today, I still need help, and, yet, I never look for one.
Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie is a writer who is well-known for her conviviality towards chickens and cockroaches. She lives in subterranean desert with fellow bitter cacti.
*Illustration by Karina Tungari.