ESSAY
Jello

Still slightly drunk from the night before, I sat in my car in the drug store parking lot near my college apartment replaying a voicemail from the boyfriend who wouldn’t call me his girlfriend. I was supposed to pick him up at the airport the next day.

I dared Jay to get with you last night. He said he succeeded. You should probably get a pill or something for the shit you did. And I better never see you again.

His voice was low, quiet, and angry, angrier than I’d ever heard it. I turned up the volume each time I listened, trying to hear whether he’d been crying. He hadn’t.

I played the message until I couldn’t listen anymore, until the voice was no longer speaking a language I recognized.


The store’s sign was red, as red as the shorts I’d borrowed from the not-quite boyfriend’s roommate. They pooled around my knees. I’d woken up and found my torn jeans on the floor of his room, split from knee to hip on one leg.

Girls always steal my shorts, he’d said. Don’t try to keep those.

Girls, plural. Always, gross.

I asked the woman at the pharmacy counter for the morning-after pill, the one I’d looked up online.

The law just changed, and you have to have a prescription for that now, she said. Do you have a prescription?

I couldn’t look at her. My insides liquefied. Standing there in the baseball tee I’d worn to the party the night before and covered in colorful smudges of jello shots, I was disgusting. The violent awareness of the silky red shorts between my thighs and around my knees, the grey lighting of the store, the reality of what could come of last night…all of it made me want to vomit.

Okay, I said. Okay, I nodded and turned to leave, fighting off the nausea.

Her voice was quieter now.

Do you have someone who can call in a prescription for you?

I don’t know.

Do you have someone who can do that?

I mentally scanned my before life. Maybe I know someone.

Call that person and come back. She wrote down the store number and handed me the paper.

My childhood friend’s mom managed a surgical office, and my senior year of high school, I had worked eight hours a week as a student file clerk, sticking the transcribed diagnoses notes and bloody tumor photos in patient folders.

All I wanted was a shower, but I made myself call, imagining how cheerful I’d need to sound before asking a favor. When my friend’s mom answered, those thoughts were gone. I don’t know if I said hello.

Can the doctor write prescriptions?

What happened?

I don’t know. Can she write prescriptions? I told her the pill I needed.

Was it consensual? she asked, after a few seconds of silence.


After a night of drinking with my not-quite boyfriend’s roommate, I was left with flickers of memory, mental Polariods here and there, hazy and sepia-toned around the edges.

We were two of the few people of our circle of friends left in town over break and hung out at the guys’ apartment.

We made jello shots, pouring the strawberry powder directly into the vodka. After the shots solidified, we each finished one full ice cube tray and split the third. By the end of that last tray, we’d poured jello all over their kitchen and collapsed to the tile in fits of laughter.

I remember kissing him mid-laugh. We moved to the couch and eventually to the bedroom, the one he shared with my not-quite boyfriend. We were naked and moving against each other, his tongue ring flicking against my skin in all the right places.

 


I don’t know, I finally told my friend’s mom.

Are you okay?

I don’t know.

I rested my free hand in my lap and wondered if there were bruises anywhere. My thighs ached, and the slinkiness of the shorts left me comforted and gutted all at once.

Kind of consensual, I thought, fighting to remember more.


Each college apartment included two twin beds. At one point, I caught sight of the second bed, where the not-quite boyfriend and I usually slept

The roommate’s hipbones ground against the insides and backs of my thighs like knuckles against pressure points. I’d never been with a guy so thin.

This wasn’t what I wanted. Or who I wanted.

No, I said, trying to separate from him.

No, I put my hands to my face and then to his shoulders, trying to push away.

I don’t remember if he said anything. He grabbed my hips and my waist and continued bucking against me. The rest of the night is black.


It was a bad night, I tried to force a laugh, and even now, I can feel the ugliness in how my face and throat felt when I squawked out that laugh.

Okay. Are you okay, my friend’s mom said, no longer asking.

I think I will be, I hope I said.

I went back inside, and I might have imagined it, but the lady at the pharmacy counter looked relieved. She made me save alarms in my phone for when to take the pills over the next few days.


My experience has always felt not quite something—not quite real, not quite consensual, not quite deserving of the panic that the flickering memories still cause. I still hesitate to call it an assault—instead referring to it as that time, the night, and the thing that happened.


I’ve been married for four years now, and my baby girl is learning to crawl. This month makes 10 years since the night.

Occasionally my husband’s hands land just wrong on my hips or waist, and I force my eyes open. I breathe through the constricted feeling in my chest and remind myself that I’m okay now. I put my forehead to his, and his hazel eyes bring me back.