13 | My Rape / Why We Don't Go To The Police | 1963 | Part 4 - The Land of The Living
Now comes a moment of pure ecstasy. Lying on my belly, I feel the dry dirt and cool grass on my cheek. I smell the nighttime air. I’m alive. I’m ok. I lie still for a few moments, hugging the earth. Then, I pick myself up off the ground, stand shakily, brush off my dress. Everything works. I can breathe, hold my bag, put one foot in front of the other, walk. I head toward the darkened building hoping for civilization, a depot or station. When I enter, I realize that this is an abandoned old wreck of a structure, and there’s nothing inside. Just some more of his crazy sadism at work. But now I don’t care. I survived. There are houses around. Everyone’s asleep, but I’m in the land of the living. I see some distant lights. Everything in me is focused on reaching that bus station in Baltimore before 5:00am. I’m strangely empty inside, devoid of feeling, hollow, walking through a suburb of sleepy bungalows, windows dark, pickup trucks in driveways, swing sets in yards. It’s a stage set, no reality to it, or to me for that matter. I don’t feel fear, but only an overriding sense of direction; the way out of here. I continue down the street toward the lights. It’s an all-night diner, and as I approach I notice a State Patrol car parked out front. I enter the diner gingerly, my feet barely seeming to touch the floor, my hands weak and light on the swinging door. Inside, each sight, sound, smell, is a jolt to my numbness. The clock reads 4 a.m. and my only thought is, good, still time to make the bus. There is a young couple in the corner drinking coffee, a man hunched over a plate at the counter. No police uniform in sight. I approach the waitress. "Please, I need help, is there a policeman in here" "Yeah, he's off duty," she says, nodding toward the man at the counter. Something in the way I look lets her know I'm serious. "I'll tell him,” she says, and goes over and speaks with him while I linger by the door. In what seems like slow motion, he pushes his plate away, wipes his mouth, stands up. He's middle aged, bald, over 6 feet tall, broad shouldered, slight paunch. As he approaches me, my words come flooding out, "Please please help me. I have to get to the bus station in Baltimore. I've been raped, and I need to get home." No reaction. He looks me up and down, unwraps a toothpick, pulls out his wallet to pay the bill. He clearly doesn't want to get involved, but he already is. "C'mon, get in. I'll give you a ride." We're both quiet in the car. From the highway signs I notice, with relief, that we're minutes from Baltimore. "So, what happened?" "I was hitching to the bus from that gas station out at the four corners near the truck stop. The owner said he'd give me a ride if I waited until he closed. He looked so decent, so safe. I took a ride with him. He brought a six-pack of beer into the car and started drinking right away. Then he started talking crazy, about coming back from fighting in Korea and finding his wife in bed with his best friend. He drove somewhere very black, far away, a garbage dump he said. He had a knife, kept me there for hours. He raped me." Silence. Then suddenly he veers the car off the road, onto the shoulder, screeching the breaks. I'm thrown against the passenger door, quaking with fear. He turns the car off, slides along the seat next to me, and takes both my wrists in his big hairy paw, pushing them against my chest. His eyes narrow and, panting with rage, he spits horrifying words at me. "Lookit you little bitch, you cunt. I don't know who you are or where you're from, but we don't like whores like you coming through our town, making trouble for decent people. I've half a mind to rape you myself." With this he puts his free hand up my skirt, fingers into my underpants. "Damn it, you're not even worth my time."
He pushes me hard, banging my head against the car window. I’m vacant, numb, past the point of caring, just praying to get out of this hell and home, home, home. He drops my wrists, slides back into the driver's seat and, swearing under his breath, speeds down the road.
I sit still and try to disappear into the upholstery. In a few minutes we're at the bus station. "And, you filthy cunt, if you have any ideas of coming back here and making trouble for anybody, I'll personally make it my responsibility for runnin' you out of town. If you're lucky enough to get out."
I have the car door opened before we stop, and practically fall out. I am reeling with grief, but even more with relief. It’s nearly 4:30am, and the first time I’ve felt a glimmer of safety since 10pm the night before. And all I’ve wanted to do is make my way here, the damn bus station in Baltimore.
The cop’s vile words are still echoing through me as I stagger up the stone steps of the station; a monstrous affair, massive, grey, cold and dirty, half filled with people even at this hour. I think I may finally be safe; but I’m not quite ready to let my guard down. There could be danger here. I wander through the huge passenger area, feeling disconnected from the spectacle of life around me. People of all ages sprawl across the wooden pews covered in brown vinyl. Some, sleeping, look like they’ve spent the night. Some are waiting expectantly for their departing bus to be announced. Others are just there for shelter, a place to sit down, or panhandle. I move across the vaulted-ceiling room as if in a dream. My feet barely seem to touch the floor. I float to the ticket booth. One way to Rochester, New York, an 11 hour trip, and the bus leaves in 30 minutes. I have exactly enough money to cover the $13 ticket. I head to the ladies’ washroom. Still frightened and on alert, I find myself glancing over my shoulder, being careful as I head down the hall. I enter the dinginess; filthy brown speckled tiles, streaked tan walls, dark brown painted stalls. I look around for strangers lurking nearby. There are a few women, one with a child, and no one looks dangerous. I enter a stall, take off my dress, and reach into my pack for clean clothes. I move to the sink where I try to wash up, knowing it’s hopeless. The more I wash the dirtier I feel. I’m so exhausted. I look in the mirror. I’m shocked by the familiarity there, by how untouched I look. What happened doesn’t show. And I’m alive. When it’s time to board the bus, I tell myself; you will sleep, and when you wake up it will all have been a bad dream. Nothing but a nightmare. It didn’t really happen. I board, take a seat, rest my head against the window, and close my eyes for the trip home.