Sobs and Silence
I went home after Christmas feeling more like myself than I’d felt in a long time. Ever since I came out to Nikki, it was like there was this confidence brewing beneath my skin. Like there was less weight on my shoulders dragging me down. Even though I told only Nikki about being gay, having just one person know was somehow empowering.
That didn’t mean I was ready to come out to my family though. I thought about it, I really did, but in the week that I spent with my mom and brother, I couldn’t do it. They were so happy; they didn’t need me possibly ruining everything.
It was a cowardly move, I know, but I didn’t feel ready. I was still getting used to Nikki knowing as we texted all throughout break, perhaps even more than usual. I felt closer to her now, maybe because I knew she was gay too. Or maybe because my crush had grown with the knowledge that I had an actual chance with Nikki.
I had no experience with dating and no idea how to even ask a person out though. Plus, there was no reason to think that Nikki was interested in me like that. Just because she was gay didn’t mean she had to like me.
Even so, I couldn’t help it if my eyes strayed to her when she picked me up from the airport, or if I was looking forward to spending more time with her before the semester began. Even when I was working, I kept thinking about when I could text Nikki again. It got to the point where I felt the need to go to the one person who I had a feeling could help me: Dana. Needless to say, she was thrilled.
“So you have a crush on someone?” she asked happily as we sat down during a rare lunch break we shared together.
I felt my face go red, although I didn’t deny it. I picked apart a sandwich I’d bought, less because I was hungry and more because I needed something to do with my hands.
Dana must have taken that as a yes from the way she clapped her hands together excitedly. “Is it that little computer girl with the big headphones?”
I almost choked on my sandwich. “H-how did you know that?”
“Oh, I was right?” If possible, Dana looked even happier. “I did say that you guys looked cute together, you know.”
“But how did you know I liked a girl?”
“Oh, I didn’t,” Dana said with a shrug. “Mostly I noticed the way she looked at you.” When I didn’t say anything, she went on, “You didn’t notice? She would always watch you when you came in to clean. You smiled more when you were talking to her too, and you’re already the smiley type.”
I could barely handle the fact that Dana had guessed that I was crushing on Nikki, let alone that Nikki had apparently noticed me first. Dana didn’t seem perturbed at all, but she did wince. “Um, I didn’t offend you right? By assuming you liked a girl?”
“No!” I said quickly. “That’s not offensive. I-I was scared to say anything, but I’m gay.” The words were easier to say the second time, maybe because Dana had pretty much already figured me out.
Dana nodded with a smile. “Awesome. So, you like this girl?”
My head was spinning from the speed of our conversation and her acceptance, but I nodded. “Her name is Nikki.”
“You could ask her out to dinner, Corey,” Dana advised. “Or if you’re too shy, start slow. You guys already hang out, right? So maybe approach it slowly and try to see if she likes you back. Get her flowers or something. It doesn’t have to be anything major.”
I nodded along, although I doubted I’d be brave enough to do any of that. I did get an idea though: if I wanted to find out more about Nikki, I could turn on her YouTube channel. That night after getting out of work, I pulled up YouTube on my computer and typed in “MissNick.” With three weeks before the semester began again, I figured I could get pretty far into her videos, maybe far enough to figure out some way to ask her out.
I didn’t anticipate how addictive her videos were when I clicked on one of her more recent series. It felt a little weird to hear her voice as she spoke about her games, and I had a few moments where I was pretty sure this was almost like stalking, but I could see why Nikki’s channel had gotten so popular. She made a lot of jokes and got the emotions in the game just right. It was easy to laugh along when she cursed or made fun of plot points. It helped that the games were interesting and fun to watch.
So, I’ve finally watched your videos. Or some of them. You have a lot of them, I texted her that night.
A few minutes later, I got a message back. Oh my god, you watched them? Ughhhhh don’t bring up the embarrassing moments. Most of my viewers don’t know me. Another second later, a new message came in. Wait, are you still awake? Corey, it’s 3am.
I flinched when I realized the time. I hadn’t even realized how late it was. I… got caught up on your channel… Ooops.
I’ll take that as a compliment! You should probably go to bed though. I know you like to be up by 9.
It’s not my fault that you’re as funny online as you are in person! Be more boring if you want me to sleep at a normal time.
I was laying in my bed, holding onto my phone when the next message came in. Aw, you think I’m funny? I feel validated after spending another few hours recording tonight. She sent me a comic of a cat telling a student to go to sleep, which I laughed at weakly before drifting off. I wasn’t sure if I learned anything new about Nikki from her videos, but I did feel like I got the chance to know another side of her.
It made me happy, and it seemed to please Nikki too as she began talking to me more about her work. I slowly felt like I was getting closer to asking her out, even though I’d been working so much lately that we’d only been able to text. Without school, I had to put in all the hours I possibly could.
Of course, when school began again, I had to deal with the return of my annoying roommates, classes, and my usual levels of stress and anxiety, but at least Jason wasn’t in any of them. I thought I wouldn’t have to see him anymore. Everything felt like it was going right for me. I shouldn’t have gotten so confident. I should have been more cautious.
A week into the new semester, and a few days away from the beginning of February, I stepped into work to meet Kurosawa.
“Tonight, I’d like you to act as a waitress. Switch to dishes when it calms down,” Kurosawa requested.
I nodded. Saturdays were usually busier, so it wasn’t unexpected. “Yes sir,” I told him, trotting off to begin my shift in the restaurant. I almost checked my phone on the way there, but I resisted the urge. Nikki was doing a livestream that night anyway so she would probably be setting things up.
I felt a flash of disappointment, wishing I could watch her do her stream. I’d watched a few of the ones she uploaded, but there was something about watching live that I thought would be entertaining. At least I wasn’t the only one who was working. Ray had the night shift too, Mikey was studying, and Dom was lugging through some nonsense for the job he hated but still hadn’t quit.
I sent a text to Nikki saying, Good luck on the stream!
Not wanting to get caught with my phone, despite the fact that I knew no one would really care, I slipped it into my pocket and got to work. Greeting Leanne, our hostess, I picked up my note pad and got to work on my assigned tables.
It was obvious that we were busy from the amount of people jammed in the restaurant, but I got a few weird requests that made it pretty clear too. One table had someone with two forks and no spoon, which I exchanged, slipping the fork into my apron. Another had five salt shakers set out, which was fixed with a simple exchange. A few people didn’t have menus or napkins. After a while, all the missing items made my head spin.
“Who set the tables before me?” I asked to no one in particular as I stepped back into the kitchen, scraping some food into the trash before setting the plates in the sink.
Marcus chuckled as he mimicked my action, pushing down the overfull trash. “It happens sometimes. I have no idea why so many people are here though. You’d think it was already Valentine’s Day.”
“In Walmart it is,” I murmured, earning me a laugh. I turned back to the trash. “I’ll take this out,” I said, hefting it as Marcus went to grab a new bag.
“You sure? That’s heavy,” Marcus said, hefting a tray of plates even as he said it.
I gave him a nod. “I’ve got it.” I stumbled out of the kitchen and around the chefs to get to the back door that was propped open by a brick. With a push of my hip, I was outside, breathing in the cold night air.
Snow sat all around me, my breath forming in front of me. I breathed out, sudden silence surrounding me as I left the kitchen. It was almost deafening compared to the noise inside. Only a streetlight over the door lit my way as I trotted around to the trash, using all my strength to hurl the bag over top and into the bin.
I sighed when it left my hands, shivering in only my work clothes. With quick steps, I was back at our door in no time, but my eyebrows knitted together. The brick wasn’t holding the door open anymore; it must have been pushed in. I must have done it by accident when the door closed. I should have paid closer attention.
I sighed. That meant I’d have to go around the front, since it was so busy no one would hear me knocking. I turned away from the door for just a second when I felt someone grab me from behind. I was slammed against the wall next to our back door, the overhead light blinding me for a moment as my body collided painfully with brick. A familiar face swam into view.
He was standing in front of me, pinning my wrists to the wall on either side of me. There was still some space between us, but I could feel his hot breath on my face. It made me want to vomit. His face was covered in shadows from the light behind him. My heart was practically beating out of my chest. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed in fear, no matter how strongly the logical side of my brain screamed at me to run.
“Corey,” he said in that low voice that sent shivers up my spine, and not the good shivers.
“W-why are you here?” I asked in an effort to give myself enough time to think of a way out of this. “H-how did you know I’d be here?”
“I didn’t,” he responded like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I was simply out for dinner when I saw you working. I thought you might like to… catch up.”
He leaned close to my ear when he said that, making me shiver in disgust. I went rigid, the full weight of this situation crashing down upon me. Jason was strong. There was no way I could fight him off. His hands were like shackles around my wrists.
“Let me go,” I said more evenly, but my voice continued to shake in fear.
I could feel it as Jason pressed the line of his body against mine. I almost gagged at the way it felt. It was like my skin was crawling with bugs as we now stood chest to chest. He smelt like a disgusting combination of sweat and must. Jason angled his mouth right in front of mine. “You sure you want that?”
“I’m not interested in you!” I yelled, adrenaline churning through my system. When he didn’t move, in a last-ditch effort, I said, “I’m gay. I’m not interested in any men.” I never wanted to tell Jason that. He didn’t have any right to know who I really was, but naively, I thought that maybe he’d back off with irrefutable proof that I would never want to be near him in the way he apparently wanted.
I was wrong. The grips of his hands on my wrists tightened to a painful level. I thought my wrists would break from the pressure as Jason pushed himself further on top of me. The cold bricks dug into my back, scratching against my shirt. “Oh really?” he asked. This time, his voice sounded low and dangerous. Angry. “You don’t like me so you’re going to lie and say you’re a lesbian?”
“It’s not a lie,” I said through gritted teeth.
“It doesn’t matter,” he responded. “Even if you are a lesbian, I’ll give you a reason to be straight again.”
I gulped in fear as I felt the line of his crotch against me. I could no longer deny what he was planning to do to me, giving me the courage to struggle. I tried to rip my hands away from his, thrashing my body to try and get free.
I felt a hard slap hit my face, dazing me. Another hit followed, slamming my head against the wall. I saw spots in front of my eyes as Jason grabbed my face painfully, forcing me to look at him. “Stay still, you little bitch. Leading me on for months only to tell me that you’re not interested. Selfish.”
I was too dazed and scared to do anything as I felt Jason’s hands rove over me. He slipped his hands under my button-up, trailing up to my chest. I had never felt more violated in my life than when he pulled at my bra to touch my breasts. The heavy weight of his other arm over my chest and his body pinning mine to the wall was too much for me to fight against.
I felt tears stain my face. This couldn’t be happening. I knew rape happened and that there were disgusting people in this world, but I had never thought it would happen to me. I never thought I’d be in a situation where I was so helpless and hopeless, where there was no chance of me fighting back.
Despair settled in my bones beside the fear and panic. I felt dirty as Jason’s hands fondled me for another moment before they settled around the waist of my slacks. His hand slid past my underwear as I cried in earnest at the feeling of his fingers between my legs. When I saw him unbutton his own pants and start trying to shove mine down more fully, my adrenaline kicked in. I had to do something. I had to get away.
My brain wasn’t working right, but I noticed that he wasn’t holding my hands as he felt me up. I could move. My hands moved on their own, feeling around my pockets for something, anything, I could use to help me. I felt another hit land on my face as my hand latched onto the fork that I’d collected who knows how long ago. It felt like time had stopped, but it couldn’t have been longer than a few minutes since he grabbed me.
I stabbed out blindly, my fight or flight response overpowering all active thought. I heard Jason cry out, my fork stabbing right into his hand. He stepped back and let go of me.
Fear was overpowering all of my rational senses, but I ran on instinct. I could have sworn I heard Jason behind me, but I couldn’t be sure as my feet tromped over the snowy ground on the side of the hotel. I ran out and cut around back to the front entrance, jumping over bushes and past guests. I could only imagine what I looked like as my face throbbed in pain. My clothing was disheveled and there were tear tracks down my face as I raced to the front entrance where there were lights and people to see me.
I didn’t even pay attention to our employees at the front desk when I ran inside, trying to find the safest place possible to hide. I had to hide. I had to get away. The storage closet on the first floor was the first place I could find. Wrenching the door open, I jumped in the dark, jamming myself in a far away corner hidden behind a few shelves. It was hard to breathe. My chest was seizing up and I didn’t know how to calm down.
Nikki. Nikki told me to contact her if I had a panic attack. But she was busy. She was doing her stream.
With shaking hands, I pulled out my phone. The first message went something like: nerd yiir hkol. With shaking fingers, I corrected myself: Helpppp. Need hlp. 911.
I tried to breathe as I sat with my head on my knees, my hands shaking. A second later, my phone dinged. It was hard to read the message with my head spinning and my eyes watering, but I was able to make it out. Corey, where are you?
It was all I could do to type back, Sotrge closet frst floor.
My phone slipped from my hands as I clutched my head, trying to get myself back under control. It was silent around me again. The only sound was that of my sobs.