Elastic Heart Prologue

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Prologue

Where to go for a rape kit.”

I input the phrase into my smartphone’s browser and the words pull me out of my shock, but only temporarily. Nausea overwhelms me and reminds me that if I’m going to get through this, I need the brief respite the adrenaline is giving me.

When he leaves and I’m certain he isn’t coming back, I dress. After staring at my wall for only God knows how long, I decide to get a rape kit. But where do I get that done? It’s not exactly common knowledge. My first thought is a police station…but after what just happened, the idea of a cold, steely station filled with scrutiny isn’t very welcoming. Plus, I’m not sure if I want to press charges.

I vaguely remember that one can go to the hospital and get it done (one too many Law & Order: SVU episodes), but the prospect of walking up to the hospital kiosk and saying “Hey, I just got raped, which hallway should I go down?” isn’t much better than the police. So here I am, searching the internet on my phone in my car in the Salt Lake City summer heat, hoping for guidance from Google.

The first couple hits are definitions of rape kits, and then there are a few political pieces about their effectiveness.

This is almost worse than the rape itself.

Almost.

Fuck!” I throw my phone at the window. Nothing. No help. If I had wanted a glimpse into my bleak future I would have searched for “the likelihood that this kit’s gonna do a goddamn thing”. The more I sit with the black leather of my car seat burning into my skin, the more I want to run back into my apartment and take a scalding hot shower. It sucks so hard that I have to do this. If I don’t, he could do it again, right? At least that’s what everyone will tell me if they find out.

If they find out.

They’ll say much worse things if they find out.

Fuck it.” I pull out into traffic and am greeted by horns and cursing.

Right back at ya, buddy,” I mutter, flipping the cars off. Still not sure where I’m going, I drive in the general direction of the police station and the hospital.

 

The hospital emergency room isn’t that busy. I count seven people, maybe, and of those seven, four appear to be accompanying the injured. There is no one in line at the check-in.

That’s unfortunate.

I was hoping for a line.

A line meant I had longer to think about my decision.

Do you need help?” A young blonde woman calls to me from behind the check-in counter. She looks perky. Like she actually likes her job. Likes her life, even.

How lucky for her.

Um…” I shift nervously from foot to foot. Do I need help? Yes. Do I want help? Not particularly. I want to go home, curl into a ball, and quash this day from my memory until it surfaces in my relationships and sabotages my happiness. That sounds…

Nice.

Are you lost?” She peers at me, slightly bored, slightly concerned, and overly friendly.

No,” I answer. She stares back at me, mildly confused. No, I’m not lost, but I’m not walking toward her either. We both stare at each other, lost in some kind of polite limbo where neither of us will address the elephant in the room: me.

She probably thinks I’m one of those people who get things stuck in their butt, too embarrassed to approach. If only…

If only I had something stuck in my butt.

With caution, I approach the small open window that lets me see into the small room where she sits. She’s eyeing me warily now. Probably thinks I have a weapon. Probably thinks I’m crazy.

I wish I was crazy.

I…” I lean forward on the counter, whispering. This is so dumb. I have nothing to be ashamed of. He should be ashamed. “I—oh god! What the hell?” I jump back. My arm is covered in blood from where I’d set it down on the counter.

Oh dear! I’m so sorry!” The blonde immediately jumps out of her seat and runs for what I assume is antiseptic.

Uh… It’s okay,” I say, watching the blonde scrub the counter. Really, what’s more foreign fluid on me today?

Ha ha.

Ha.

I think I’ve died inside.

Come, come inside and wash off. I’m so sorry, we had a homeless man come in today and he bled everywhere. I thought I got it all!”

Oh, that’s…” I don’t finish my sentence, because really, what am I going to say? Not only is it blood, it’s the blood of a vagrant? Call me discriminatory, call me an ass, but I’ve already got enough potential new diseases to worry about without the blood of Salt Lake City’s homeless population on me.

The sink is right there, obviously.” The blonde chuckles nervously. “And here is the soap. Use as much as you like.”

I turn on the water, about to wash my hands, when I realize what I’m doing. I’m here for a rape kit. I’d purposely not washed myself, no matter how much I wanted to, because I could have evidence on me. Shit.

Um, miss?” I say, trying to get the blonde’s attention.

Yes? Is something wrong?” She looks up from her cleaning.

I’m not sure if I should wash my hands…”

Oh?”

I’m here for a rape kit.”

Oh.” Her face falls, looking from me, to the blood, to the water, and then back to me. “Oh yes, I see. Yes, that wouldn’t be wise.” Ugh, I hate this already. She comes over to me and turns off the water, careful not to touch me. I feel dirty. She studies me, as though I’m a gift of furniture and she’s unsure where to place me.

Come with me.” I nod. Everything is happening so fast. Just a minute ago we were at DEFCON level: blood, and now I’m back to reality.

The check-in nurse hands me off to another perky blonde who takes me to an examining room.

The walls are painted a pale lavender.

I feel awkward.

I don’t know where to sit.

She tells me to take a seat on the examination table.

Her voice is like sugar on top of a sundae.

The examination table crinkles beneath me.

I shift some more.

Do you have any allergies to medications?”

My mind is so far gone that I don’t hear her.

Miss, do you have any allergies to medications?”

Oh… Uh…” I shift again, the paper now torn beneath me. “Yes, I’m allergic to penicillin.”

The people in the magazines smile at me. I hate them and their wrinkly teeth.

Ok. And do you have a history of heart disease?”

And I’m allergic to certain anesthesia,” I cut in, still staring at the glossy faces on the magazines. “Though I can’t remember which. Not that it matters…”

It’s always good to know.” The blonde smiles sweetly. “Any history of heart disease?”

There’s a large poster on the door of what appears to be some kind of vascular system. I can see the veins inside the outline of the cartoon body. I’m not sure what it’s trying to teach me. About diabetes? About cancer? About the futility of our mortal life?

Who cares.

Miss?”

I move my eyes away from the educational poster and back to the nurse. I feel like dirty glass.

Do you have a history of heart disease?”

Christ. Why does it matter? I’m not here for hypertension. I stare at her blankly for a few moments. Talking hurts. Everything hurts. I feel like I’ve been thrown through a woodchipper and put back together with tape.

None that I’m aware of,” I eventually say. As the blonde rattles off something about how it’s good I don’t have heart disease, I remember that my great uncle died of a heart attack. It’s too late to say anything though, as she’s moved on to her next question. Does it really matter? I’m here for a fucking rape kit, not a check-up.

I look back at the chipper, half-exposed, cartoon poster man. If he can be happy all chopped up and on display, I guess I can be…

 

Do you want us to call the police?”

I don’t know.”

Have you used the restroom?”

Um…”

After the assault, sweetheart.”

Yes.” Is that important? Have I already fucked up? Ugh, I hate this so much. It’s like taking a test I could never be prepared for. This is almost worse than the rape.

Almost.

Are these the clothes you were wearing when you were assaulted?”

I…” I look down at the dirty clothes I grabbed out of my hamper. “I… No, I changed.”

Do you have the clothes?”

No…” I lower my eyes. “He took them.”

The nurse nods knowingly and purses her lips. “Well, these may still have some evidence on them. We’ll collect them anyway.”

I swallow. “Collect them?”

Yes. I’ll have you stand over this paper mat and disrobe. During the examination you’ll wear a paper gown. Afterwards we’ll give you some clothing to go home in.”

Home.” I say the word blandly. I do not want to go home. I want to curl up somewhere, yeah, but not home.

Home isn’t really “home” any more.

He has been there.

Or I can give you a list of shelters, if you need them.” I nod at her. I’m not safe from him anywhere, so it doesn’t really matter.

The next hours pass in a blur of acquiescence. She asks me to turn to my side; I do. She asks me to open my mouth; I do. She asks me to spread my legs; I do. When it’s all over, I feel numb and violated again.

Would you like anything, Nami? Water or soda?”

I shake my head, eyes blank.

I’m going to ask you one last time: do you want me to call the police?” The clothes she gave me were nice enough, fresh scrubs that fit all right. To me they felt cold and foreign. They were anathema to my skin, like the way he had felt inside me. All of this—from checking in to spreading my legs—had been one giant reminder of the event. A big, neon sign that blared I, NAMI DEGRACE, WAS RAPED.

I look at the nurse, my voice clear for the first time all night as I answer her question: “Yes.”

 

I spend so long talking to the police that when I wake the next morning it feels like a dream. Did I really tell them everything? I shake my head, feeling hungover despite having had no liquor.

God. The way that one policeman looked at me, it was as if I drenched his firstborn in acid. I wanted to scream at him that I wasn’t lying, that it was the truth, but then I would have looked crazy. After all, he hadn’t actually called me a liar. He was just very…cold.

Aloof.

Hateful.

He told me the police would “look into the matter”. When I asked him about my rape kit, they said it could sometimes take months to process.

Months?” My face went ashen. I couldn’t handle this for months. “But I told you who it was. Can’t you bring him in and test it?”

Well, frankly, Miss…” The officer glanced down at his pad impassively. “Miss…DeGrace,”—he said my name like the mere word on his tongue was tainted—“the evidence isn’t all that compelling.”

My heart fell into my stomach. It was exactly what I feared. There was nothing wrong with the evidence. The evidence was clear as day on my body and in the kit and in my memory.

It was him.

I remembered his graying blond hair.

I remembered his mean blue eyes as they smiled at me. They acted like everything was fine the entire time. I would have preferred anything to the way he looked at me. I would have preferred hate. I would have preferred contempt. Anything, because the way he looked at me made me question it all. It was as though he felt it was all okay. As if he felt it was deserved. The way he acted was as if what he was doing to my body was completely within his right.

He was jovial when he left. He was completely deaf to my cries.

It would probably be best if you dropped the accusation. Nothing will come of it, after all, save some bad press.”

Bad press for him, you mean,” I added, immediately regretting it. In lieu of a response, the officers merely glared.

Well, we have your statement, and we’ll let you know.”

Sure you will, I wanted to say, but I knew better.

At least, I thought I did.


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