Lastnight something extraordinary happened.
Two years ago my good friend was going through a painful break up. He had planned on visiting his girlfriend in Portland in the fall and a few weeks before his trip they ended things. He couldn’t return the ticket, so he went anyway and tried to make the most of it by hanging out with Alaskan friends he had there. One night his friends threw a party and I found him in the basement playing music and drinking PBR. We sang some songs, but mostly we talked about his break up. He was very sad, I consoled him. He just wanted to go to bed, but there was a party happening on the couch he had been sleeping on. I told him he could come sleep at my house. We were the affectionate type of friends. We had drunken sex once when I was sixteen, but that was five years in the past. Our friendship had always been charged with sexual electricity and mutual flattery (we’re both fierce Leos) but the boundaries of our friendship had remained platonic.
So we climbed into bed and I was the big spoon. I felt so much love for this dear friend and was glad to be there to comfort him. I held him tight and told him I loved him. Content, my mind settled and I started to drift off. After a few minutes he took my hand and pushed it towards his crotch. Really? I thought, really? I moved my hand back to his shoulders thinking maybe I had imagined it. I dozed. It happened again. I told him I wasn’t interested. He apologized. A few minutes later he tried AGAIN. Shocked, I ripped my arm away from him and turned to face the wall. At this point I was actually pissed off. Not five minutes later I heard rustling in the bed. I opened my eyes, staring at the wall. He was masturbating in my bed. I was frozen. My mind was spinning with rage and feelings of violation. I should have kicked his ass out of my studio apartment. But I couldn’t, I was paralyzed.
In the morning we said nothing. I faked a hug goodbye and didn’t talk to him again for two years. It was easy to avoid him because we lived in different states. I just didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to make up and I didn’t think he would even know or take seriously what he had done wrong. He was self-absorbed, condescending, and slightly misogynistic and I couldn’t explain things like consent to my non-feminist friends without coming across like a Man-Hating Bitch. I knew I would never get the resolution I wanted and I didn’t want a shallow and insincere friendship with him. So we did not talk. I wrote a poem about it and it felt really good, but I don’t like it anymore.
So, when I came home to Alaska this summer I didn’t know how to act around him. I still thought what he did was wrong, but I didn’t feel like ignoring him was going to work, plus I wasn’t Super-Pissed anymore. We made small talk and I was awkward. He made subtle comments acknowledging that there hadn’t been any contact in the last two years. I pretended not to notice. This went on all summer, he said a lot of things like “You’re different. Why are you so quiet?”. I shrugged it off.
And then there was lastnight.
I went to see White Magic at a bar downtown. I was out on the patio, saw him there and felt like I should say Hi. We made small talk, and I felt uncomfortable. Then he called me out. In an unaccusatory tone he told me I had been acting weird all summer, why? I told him that I didn’t know how to explain it to him, but that I was over it, so let’s put it behind us. He plainly and uncondescendingly asked me to try to explain it. Oh, what the hell, I thought. I told him that it was about when I saw him in Portland. That I hadn’t been interested in sex and he had pushed my boundaries and I felt really shocked and violated by it.
And then he apologized.
He said that he was in a rough place and made a bad decision to try to make himself feel better, but that it didn’t excuse his behavior. He said that he was very sorry he had made me feel violated and knew that I wasn’t even interested in men at the time and even if I was, he should have backed off when I told him to. He was sincere. In his eyes I could tell he had been thinking about this for a long time. He had put himself in my shoes, thought about my feelings and felt remorse. On. His. Own. There he was, in a fucking bar, saying EXACTLY what I needed him to, without my help.
I may be wrong, but I feel like this is not a typical outcome to such a story. Magic. What unexpected magic!
I feel so good about this. And it gives me a LOT of hope.