“Officer, I need your help.”
“You have it,” he shuffled closer, leaned forward to turn on the recording device before a hand on his stopped him. It was just as quickly removed.
“Before you start the recording, I need you to know something,” she said eyes glassy and hard, “I need you to know that I refuse to repeat myself over again. I will tell you what happened one time, and you can do what you want with that information but I will tell you only once.”
He slowly nodded before reaching over to turn on the device. Nothing stopped him this time.
“So, tell me what happened.”
She took a deep breath before starting.
“He was the person that sold me cigarettes and food. He was the one that gave all of us a taste of home away from home, and we loved him for it. He knew our orders by heart, and he practically knew us too. We’d talk to him, share our alcohol with him, feel safe with him. We were all slightly homesick college students, and he made us feel a little better.” She had her nails digging into her palms. The officer said nothing.
“One particular day he lost it all. Burnt down, the whole establishment. Our second home was gone, but his whole life had just burnt to crisp. We were trying to make it better for him, paying off our debts, talking to him casually, trying to make him laugh. And a couple of days later I get a call from a friend. She’s asking me to come out, they’ve got wine and a few other things and he was there with his car and we were going to drink with him. It was five of us, so it shouldn’t have been a problem at all. Our only issue was how we were going to fit in his car.”
The officer noted her dry laughter. The tears had left black streaks down her face.
“We managed though, sat on each other’s laps, and drove to a nearby clearing and just sat there. We listened to him talk as we smoked and drank. We were all steadily getting drunker and it was quite obvious he was too. We laughed as we watched each other get drunk and I have to say it was on its way to being the best night of my life.
“Nobody could tell what was going to happen next, nobody. It was just me and another friend with him but the end of it. We were still smoking, there was time. I sat down in the passenger’s seat and lay back. He was in the driver’s seat and my friend was at the back. The car was dark and I was at peace. My mind was racing with weird, but welcome, thoughts. It was all fantasies and happy memories until I felt a hand on my thigh. It went away as quickly as it came, I thought I was hallucinating the whole thing. Then I felt it on my stomach. Under my zipped up jacket, and then under my shirt. It rested on bare skin and I tensed. It wasn’t leaving.”
The officer didn’t say a word as he heard her voice rise. She needed to vent, she needed to let it out. He wasn’t going to stop her, not now, not when she was finally getting it all out. He simply pushed a glass of water towards her. She didn’t notice it.
“I tensed up as it climbed up, and I put my hand out to stop it and pull it out of my shirt but one managed to get him to stop. I’ve never felt that weak in my life,” a drop of blood fell to the ground, neither of them noticed it, “and when I finally managed to get my voice out and protest quietly, he asked my friend to get out of the car for a minute. He had to talk to me he said, and she didn’t know any better so she got out. She hadn’t seen where his hands were. She hadn’t heard my silent protest.”
Her eyes were screwed shut now, and her nails digging into the table in front of her instead. The officer still didn’t move. He would wait until she could speak again. They had all the time in the world.
Her mascara ran down her face in bolder black streaks. Hands in her hair and makeup smudged she breathed deeply. She could do this, one last time and she could let it go forever.
“He pounced the minute the door shut. He was touching me everywhere and asking me to kiss him and all I could do was squirm and tense up and mutter weak protests.
“God, I have never felt so pathetic in my entire life. I went through all the usual things that get men to stop. I have a boyfriend, you’re not in your right senses, maybe tomorrow instead?”
The officer’s face didn’t change even though disgust coursed through his system. Since when did no, not suffice?
“He didn’t let up,” she continued, “he lay against me and continued to touch me and I could do nothing but plead and stare at the ceiling. Every move I had learnt, every instinct I possessed completely gone. I was prey, and I was being torn apart.”
Her voice was completely devoid of emotion now. Head still in her hands, she stayed silent for a while.
What was she thinking coming here with such a petty crime? It was probably nothing compared to the actual things these officers see. Murders, rapes, and she was sitting here complaining about some man touching her up? After she had willingly gotten into his car and drank as well?
“I’m even more of an idiot than I thought I originally was,” she laughed as she lifted her head up, “I’m sitting here complaining about such stupid shit while you probably have something much better to do.”
She stood up, dusted herself off and tried to fix herself.
“I’m so sorry officer, for wasting your time on something as petty as this.”
“It’s not petty-“
“Officer, please” she cut him off, “don’t try to convince me that my situation is just as important and traumatising as the woman who got raped or the child who was kidnapped. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me, I will always appreciate it immensely.”
With those final words, she walked out of that room.
What had she been thinking?