By Jen Schwartz
Sitting at a table during the Senior Banquet with my family and closest friends, Colin’s table is conveniently behind mine. Naturally, we can’t keep our hands off each other. He left his girlfriend at home and I neglected to invite my boyfriend, as well. I was so happy to be with him, sans our significant others, so I asked a friend to take our photo. We squeezed our heads together and he wrapped his hand around my neck. Our fingers were already intertwined, shown in the bottom corner of the photograph. My wide grin was more genuine than it ever has been, evident by the crinkles near my eyes. I didn’t care that what Colin and I had was wrong in every sense of the word — I wanted all of him, any way I could have him. Though his smile looks inviting I can see plainly in his eyes his need for control and the promise of damage and heartbreak.
I was never Colin’s girlfriend. In fact, I was quite often “the other woman”. His first girlfriend, Ashley, was away at college and the long distance between them proved to be fatal to their relationship. When Ashley revealed that she had been less than faithful, Colin stopped trying to control his impulses and I was more than happy to lose control with him. In our high school’s hallway there was a rather large, cushiony chair that students would sit on in the mornings before classes started or during our lunch break. Because Colin lived so far away he was often found curled up on that couch as early as 6 a.m., snuggled up with a blanket he had received as a gift from Ashley. I found myself getting to school as early as my mom would allow to get a chance to cuddle with Colin for a few minutes every morning. Occasionally we would touch each other under the very blanket his girlfriend had given him and though we both knew it was wrong, that somehow made it all the hotter. Colin’s second girlfriend, Sarah, was far more aware of my looming presence over her relationship. Because she also attended our high school she witnessed most of our inappropriate behavior — the handholding, cuddling, and over-the-top flirting. To my knowledge she never mentioned having a problem with any of it, which may be due to the fact that she couldn’t see what we still continued to do under that blanket of his.
It’s hard to say why I willingly stayed around through not one but two of Colin’s relationships but I think my low self-esteem played quite a big part. Being somewhat of a late bloomer in the romance department, my dysfunctional tryst with Colin was closer to a real relationship than the short-lived ones I carried on with boys who actually gave me the girlfriend title in high school. Most of the guys I dated would end things after around two weeks, so the fact that Colin remained interested in me during my entire senior year made him as good as Prince Charming in my book. I had to do a lot of rationalizing to excuse my behavior. I reasoned that since I was single and Colin was the one in a relationship, I wasn’t really doing anything wrong and the blame should solely be placed on him. I also told myself that Colin cared about me deeply but the timing was simply never right. I never got the respect and full attention I truly desired from him. I settled for what he would give me, convinced that it was the closest I could get to love.
Though I never was Colin’s girlfriend, I believe I bear just as many emotional scars as those who got the official title. A friend of mine firmly believes that Colin abused me, but I’m not so sure. His alleged abuse wasn’t like how domestic violence is portrayed on TV. He didn’t beat me to a pulp as I cried for him to stop; real life isn’t always as clear-cut as that. For as long as I can remember I, like many women, have had fantasies about being dominated, and my relationship with Colin certainly incorporated some dominating elements. We would often play-fight and wrestle, but it was far more intense than two kids horsing around — there was choking and bruises and plenty of rough groping. I can’t say I didn’t egg him on, though. One time I was laying in his lap on a school bus and he said something particularly snarky that angered me so I spit in his face. Infuriated by my actions, Colin forced my mouth open and spit into it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it.
Colin had a sick sort of darkness rooted deep inside him and I found it incredibly arousing. One evening I met up with him and his neighbors at a park to goof off. I brought a girlfriend along with me but she mostly watched us all passively rather than bother to interact. The boys were roughhousing, which somehow led to me bringing up how I had recently taken a class on self-defense. Colin and I then got into an argument about whether or not I could successfully fend of an attacker, and soon it was decided that the only way to solve the dispute would be for him and I to wrestle. We started off on our knees and it didn’t take long for him to have me lying on my stomach, his body pinning mine down. Before I admitted defeat, Colin slipped his hand into the front of my jeans, cupping me and aggressively whispering in my ear, “It’d be so easy for me to rape you right now”. I should have been disgusted, but instead I was wet.
The problem with our rough play was that I wasn’t always such a willing participant. There was one action that I always found off limits, which was being slapped in the face. It just seemed degrading to me, and this is coming from a girl who enjoyed having someone spit in her mouth. Though I relayed my displeasure at being slapped to Colin several times, he would only respond by slapping me once more, probably just to prove that he could. Another time I recall him relentlessly trying to snake his hand into the front of my jeans despite my fervent attempts to keep him out, only halting his persistent efforts after I told him I was menstruating. As a young woman coming into her sexuality I was frustratingly confused by the whole situation. Though I knew I welcomed many of his actions, even invited them, I still felt that at the end of the day my consent had to count for something and that saying yes to one thing shouldn’t have taken away my right to say no to another. So was it abuse? I’m not sure, but it wasn’t exactly a healthy romance.
At the time of these events I thought I was in love, but I know now that that couldn’t be true. I can’t list any real reasons that I loved Colin. I know that hoards of bitter women are always exclaiming, “I have no idea what I saw in him” in order to mask their pain, but that isn’t the case with me. I still remember how hard I struggled not to think of him constantly and the rush of dopamine that entered my brain whenever he was around. But none of the reasons are deep enough. Though I hate to chalk up such a tumultuous and heartbreaking time in my life to simple infatuation, I’m afraid that’s exactly what it was.
I think one of the things that I found the most attractive about Colin was the playful nature of our relationship. Colin and I were constantly poking fun at one another; many of our interactions were spent egging each other on and trying to one up each other. Basically we acted like preschool children afraid to admit they had a crush. It’s hard for me to admit it but another large part of Colin’s pull on me was how he was always just slightly out of reach. He’d tell me he loved me and then go cuddle with whoever his girlfriend was at the time in plain sight. We’d steal erotic touches in the hallway but have to stop short of release as a classmate or teacher approached. Colin knew exactly how to keep me wanting more. I was in love with the sexual tension. I was in love with the forbidden fruit. I was not, however, in love with Colin.
When I look at the photograph of Colin and me at our Senior Banquet, a lot of aspects stand out to me. I notice the expression of pure bliss on my face, elated to be intimate with him. I notice our hands laced together and fondly remember the warmth and comfort that radiated from his touch. But mostly I notice Colin’s firm grip around my neck. I was never Colin’s girlfriend and now I couldn’t be more grateful of the fact. If I had been, I might have never escaped that firm grip.
Jen Schwartz is writing major at SCAD Atlanta and an all-around ridiculous person. Her passions include pizza, feminism, horror, and petting every dog she sees.