The Shadow Man has been bothering me recently. I see him. Only out of the corner of my eyes or in passing. He was at the front door and I was sat on the stairs opposite putting my shoes on. Our front door has a window in it. As I looked down at my shoes I saw him through the window. When I looked up he was gone. There was only the sunshine streaming through. Then the other day Andy was stood in the living room doorway. I was sat on the sofa looking directly at him and I screamed. The Shadow Man had walked right behind him.
I know who the Shadow Man is. I’ve been wracking by brains trying to find an alternative explanation. You see I don’t want it to be him. I want to be ok about that. I don’t want to revisit that time. The Shadow Man raped me. Oh fuck that’s horrible to write. I feel physically sick. I’ve only ever told two people about what happened. One was a close male friend whom I haven’t spoken to in years now. The other was Andy and, do you know what, I don’t even think he remembers. So really no one knows. But that’s ok because I don’t want that memory so I’d happily just blank it out but now I can’t because the Shadow Man is here. So I’m going to write about it here. Fully. Trigger warning – I’m going to describe the rape.
Summer 2002 in Glasgow. It was sunny! A rare treat in Glasgow! A friend and I went roller blading in the Botanic Gardens. We quickly decided that a pub crawl was in order. It was a strange day because all of the mains water had been turned off due to contamination. A hot sunny day with no water – there was beer though! We happily pub crawled from the West End to the edge of the City Centre when hunger kicked in. We went to a Mexican bar restaurant place. It was really quiet as it was week day. A pub quiz was due to start. I don’t like pub quizzes as a rule. I find them boring. However a guy approached us and asked us if we fancied joining their team. There were three of them. We went for it and joined them.
As the quiz went on we all got more and more horrendously drunk. It turned out that three men didn’t know each other. Well, two did. The third man, G, didn’t know the other two. So somehow we formed this team of the drunken five. I got on well with one of the men, M. My friend got on well with his friend, R. As closing time drew near we decided we were all having too much fun for the night to end and we enthusiastically agreed to go to the big student club a few doors down. G said that some of his friends were having a party. I was keen but the others wanted the club. No matter – I’d go wherever there was booze!
In the club I drank more and more. I was just about out of money. Nightmare. I threw myself at M. That was my usual M.O.: get drunk, pull, go home with some guy. I was so drunk by now though that M wasn’t in the least bit interested in me. Hmpf! I thought I’ll show him! I switched my attention to G. He didn’t seem that interested either to be honest but he bought me drinks which was a win as fast as I was concerned. My friend and R continued to get on well and decided to leave together. This was really out of character for my friend but she seemed really happy. That drunken tiredness hit me: time to go except I had nowhere to go as I was supposed to go home with my friend. That was ok though as I was happy I was going with G to this party. I think we’d probably been kissing now anyway. All good. I recall M and his friend R trying to explain to me that there was no party…or something…I’m not quite sure, it didn’t matter though as I was happy to go back with G.
G’s place was only a few doors down from the club. That was good as I was now paralytically drunk. Actually it wasn’t his place – he said he was watching it for a friend or something. Ok whatever, like I cared. It was a tenement. A really posh one. Lovely concrete stairs, clean, well lit, mosaics on the floor. The flat was on the top floor. I started climbing the stairs but I was too drunk. I couldn’t walk. I tried to crawl but I couldn’t. I was stuck on the stairs. I would have happily slept there! G got me up and half carried me into the flat. It was dark and there was mess everywhere – just belongings. The flat wasn’t dirty. It was a beautiful flat with a high ceiling and huge shuttered windows. I was deposited in the bed, I think. As soon as we entered the flat I knew I was in trouble. Something about how G had been with me on the stairs…and the dark empty flat…there had never been a party here. I was exhausted and confused. It was ok though. I was in bed so that was good. I must have misunderstood.
I can’t quite remember the sequence of events. It was dark throughout. He never put a light on. I wanted a drink of water but there was none. There was nothing to drink apart from some spirit. I don’t know what it was. As I lay in bed I struggled to stay awake. G moved around the flat. I saw him walking past the bedroom door, back and forth, just a dark shadow. The Shadow Man.
I remember telling him that I that I was too sleepy for sex. I told him that I would sleep now and then we would have sex in the morning. I promised. I just really needed to sleep. Please. He just continued to wander about. I knew now that I had no say in what happened next. I thought about it as I lay there unable to move. What should I do? What is the right thing to say in this situation? The thought that he might kill me crossed my mind. There would be nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t bothered about dying but I was bothered about my parents finding out the truth about me; that I wasn’t the golden girl I was supposed to be. I wondered if I would go to the police but I knew I couldn’t. If it even got to court his defence lawyer would tear me apart. After all I was promiscuous. Going home with men for a one night stand was standard behaviour for me. I couldn’t bear the truth about me to come out. No one would believe me because no one ever believes me anyway. G was really good looking too – why would he do this to me of all people?! A whole lot of humiliation for nothing so I had to accept that this was going to happen. Tough. I couldn’t fight or run so that was that. I couldn’t tell anyone so really the best way forward was to behave in a way that worked best for me. It’s not like I would jeopardising any court case. That’s quite a lot of rational thought for someone as drunk as I was but I remember these thoughts. I remember assessing my situation.
He still paced and wandered. I have no idea what he was doing. I may have asked for some music on, I can’t be sure. The flat remained silent, dark and still – except for him. I lay on the bed and he was pacing on my left. I said to him “please, if you must do this thing, wear a condom”. He did not reply. Later, he did not wear a condom.
My clothes coming off is really fuzzy. Then it’s blackness. I passed out. I have no idea how long had passed. When I awoke there were some rays of sunrise poking through the shutters and he was having sex with me. I’m not sure which I noticed first: the sex or the sunrise.
The sex was painful. I tried to recall us starting to have sex – had I fallen asleep? No matter how hard I searched my memory I couldn’t remember the sex starting. Had I been unconscious?! A blessing perhaps? I tried wiggling my toes and gently lifting my legs. I could move them and I considered whether this was the time to fight. I had no clothes on, no money, no idea where my bag was and may still have been quite weak. I figured it was probably better to just get the whole thing over and done with. He seemed devoid of any emotion at all and I wondered what he was getting out of this. It felt so horrible he surely couldn’t be enjoying this. Why bother? I wondered if he was so out of it that he had missed me asking him not to do it. And missed me being unconscious? Yet maintained an erection? No, I don’t think so.
I have no idea how long it lasted (for the part I was awake for). It certainly felt like forever. When he was done I was relieved. I still can’t recall him speaking. He went to sleep in bed next to me. I now lay awake. My thoughts raced. I tried to make sense of it all. I must have it all wrong. This wasn’t rape surely? This was…a…a…misunderstanding?
When he woke up he told me he had to go out this basically translated into get the fuck out. Here is a very strange thing that happened though: I didn’t want to leave. You’d think I’d run for the hills but no. I was desperately hoping that he would show me some sign of affection so that I could dismiss last night. There was no affection though. I got up and vomited blood in the toilet. I have been in some states in my life but have never ever vomited blood – only then. It made me wonder…I actually mentioned it to him. He said it was normal and sometimes some of his rugby friends vomited blood. Oh right. I was a hardcore party girl and had never seen this but ok.
I was desperate for some water but of course there was none. We both left the flat together and stood on the pavement in bright sunshine. Here’s another weird thing: the day before he had been carrying a small carrier bag from Fopp Records. He’d bought some CDs. It seemed odd that he was still carrying the bag now. Why not leave it in the flat? He said he was going to meet a friend so why take the CDs? There was something very wrong about him being in that flat. It was all just very odd. Even odder I stood on my tip toes and kissed my rapist on the cheek goodbye. I was still trying to pretend that actually everything was fine. Everything is fine. He stared straight ahead. He was so cold. Bizarrely I felt rejected. “Well, err, bye then”. Off he strode and I stood thinking, now what?
I only had coins. I had drained my bank account. I counted my coins. I had enough money for a train ticket home and a drink. Thank goodness! I had Fanta.
I sat on the train feeling disgusting and numb. You should tell someone I thought. No, I couldn’t. This was my fault. The phrase asking for it had been invented just to describe me, in this situation. The train was taking me back to my parents house. I hoped my mum wouldn’t start on me. She could torture me if she saw a weakness. I constructed an alternate version of reality. I used to find that lying was easy to pull off when I was younger. Just construct an alternative reality and believe it, like really commit to it, then it’s less like lying and much easier to pull off. And that’s what I did. I told them just enough about my night out and went to my bed and slept.
I decided to just file away what had happened into that box named ‘unpleasant things I never have to think about ever again’ and so it was. I never thought about it…apart from the times I did. It’d pop out the box but I’d get it back in there. With no one really knowing about it it’s just like it never happened which is perfect.
But now the Shadow Man is here.
And I know who he is.
And he is hard to ignore.
Maybe I should tell but I’m scared. Not of him! No, the real Shadow Man is long gone. I’m scared of the horror when people find out how disgusting and bad I am inside.
In fairness though, I did warn them.