Some girls can’t take rejection with grace.
They would rather turn around and accuse him of trying to take advantage of her, when really, quite the opposite happened.
I don’t mean women who are legitimate victims of rape and assault, the ones who deserve justice and understanding. I’m talking about immature, vindictive bitches who sabotage the reputations of men who don’t give them exactly what they want. These women steal sympathy that is not theirs to take. My friend would know — it happened to him.
Sometime last year, I met up with my friend Drew to play catch-up over drinks. We’d been friends in high school, and we’d only just reconnected – through one of my ex’s friends, oddly enough. Aside from being Facebook friends, we hadn’t actually hung out in, I’d say, five or so years. A local bar seemed like the ideal place to do this, where every Saturday night was basically a small-town high school reunion. Before I knew it, we’d been talking for hours.
Even after all this time, he hadn’t changed much; he was still the same chill guy who introduced me to weed and the genius of Aldous Huxley. Only now, he had more money and drove a nicer car. He actually sold cars now, at a high-end dealership in one of the wealthier suburbs.
“I’m impressed,” I said, and I meant it. He seemed to be doing quite well for himself.
“Yeah,” he said, but with a touch of melancholy. “It’s not what I thought I’d end up doing though.” He stared into the bottom of his finished beer mug.
“Hey, Nyland, you wanna ‘nother beer?” asked the bartender – another guy I vaguely knew from high school.
“Sure,” said Drew. He turned to me. “You want another Irish coffee?”
“No, I’m good,” I said, taking another sip of caffeinated Jameson. It’s the only thing I drink anymore; I like the contradiction. The coffee from the bar was probably twelve hours old, but I didn’t care.
Drew took his frothing second beer and we sat in comfortable silence. It took me a while to remember what we’d been talking about.
“Wait,” I said, shuffling through my slightly buzzed short-term memory, “you were saying, about selling cars…it’s not what you wished you were doing?” I hoped I hadn’t mangled those verb conjugations too badly.
“No, but that’s…” he left the sentence hanging. His eyes drifted somewhere far away, probably not to the Seinfeld episode playing on the overhead screen.
After a while he found the right words. “Well, I don’t know if you remember,” he resumed, “but I always wanted to teach. You know, be a college professor or some shit. But all that got…fucked up.”
“Fucked up how?” I asked, then reconsidered. “I mean, if you don’t mind my asking.”
He sighed, drained about half the beer, and told me.
Back in high school, he was friends with Ted Donahue; that much I knew – and Ted was dating Kristin Fields, which I also knew. What I didn’t know was that when Ted and Kristin were practically broken up, Kristin came over to Drew’s house one night. She must’ve walked, since she only had her learner’s permit. That, and she was in tears, after getting shit-faced drunk. Drew’s parents weren’t home, which he now regrets – they never would’ve let her in the house in that condition. But Drew, ever the gentleman, let her sit in the living room as she blathered out her incoherent sorrows. Of course, she tried to talk him into fucking her; probably to get back at Ted, but he didn’t know for sure. Way to take advantage of his good nature, I thought. Disgusting.
Drew wouldn’t go for it, obviously. He had every reason not to. Instead, he gently told her that it wasn’t going to happen, and drove her home.
Apparently, later that night, Kristin must’ve told her parents some bullshit story that he tried to force himself on her. The cops knocked on Drew’s door at 3AM and arrested him for sexual assault against a minor. He was 19.
“So yeah,” he said. At some point during that story, he’d finished that second beer. “I managed to get the charges dropped. I came this close -” he pinched his finger and thumb until they almost touched “- to getting labeled a registered sex offender. If that’d happened, my life would’ve been…just…over.” He was staring straight ahead, eyes frozen, as if that menace from the past still threatened him.
I wasn’t sure if my face showed it, but I was in shock. “That bitch,” I gasped, “that’s ridiculous, you’re like the nicest guy I know! I can’t believe she did that!”
“Well … thanks,” he said, although my words did him no good. “It was already on my record though, the fact that the accusation was even made. I knew I’d never get a job teaching after that.” He pushed the empty mug away, done drinking for the night. I regretted even asking, dredging up those old memories again.
“You know,” he said, “that’s all I ever wanted to do. Teaching. It’s all I ever wanted to fucking do, and now I can’t.” He looked at me, dead sober. The pain in his eyes ran deeper than any amount of alcohol could reach.
I hated seeing him like this. Even more, I hated her for doing this to him. “That fucking cunt. Unbelievable.”
Then, somewhere in the fading buzz and the weak caffeine, I stumbled on a memory. It all clicked into place.
“Holy shit,” I said, and I told him what I remembered.
My senior year, the idiot counselor made a mistake and stuck me in a gym class full of sophomores. That’s where I met Kristin. We talked, mostly as we pretended to participate in whatever stupid game was going on. I suppose we were sort-of-friends but not really. She did mention that she was dating Ted; and later complained as they were breaking up.
Then one day, she showed up to class totally distraught; on the brink of tears, it seemed. She’d always been the type to broadcast her emotions to whomever would and wouldn’t listen. This time, she practically begged for the attention. Pretending to care, I asked what was wrong.
She took no pause in claiming that Drew had basically tried to rape her. Drew had already graduated; I really couldn’t imagine he wanted much to do with her. I definitely knew Drew well enough to know that she was full of shit. After that, I never took her seriously again; our sort-of-friendship pretty much dissolved as soon as the semester was over.
“… and I vouched for you,” I told Drew. “I told her that you were a good guy, that you would never do that.”
“Thanks,” he said. “I appreciate that you’d say that.” He pushed away the empty beer mug.
“You going to be okay?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He closed out his tab, and picked up mine, too; ever the gentleman. Definitely not … what Kristin had said. “If you want I could walk you to your car.”
We walked out of the bar and into the street-lit night. The air still held a chill this early in March, as it often does in the Chicago area. We were lucky it wasn’t snowing. He walked me to my car, and I gave him a quick hug, which he reluctantly accepted. Then we went our separate ways and kept in touch mainly through Facebook and texting.
Sometime in April, I was supposed to meet up with one of my female friends at a bar that just opened in the Loop. Then, right as I sat down, she called me and said she ended up having to dog-sit for someone. I rolled my eyes and listened to her headache-inducing apologies.
“It’s cool,” I said. “Next time.” I’ll just sit by myself in this strange bar with strange people and pay $20 to fucking park Downtown. I hung up.
With nothing left to do, I put on my most bored expression and scanned the room for available males. Under no circumstance was I buying my own drink that night. Sadly, I didn’t see a single guy who wasn’t a hipster. Fuck my life.
Then, as luck would have it, Kristin Fields walked in. Aww, hell no.
She recognized me immediately, and I had no choice but to smile and wave her over. I pulled out the bar stool next to mine and offered her a seat.
From what I remember, she’d never been an ugly girl. She’d grown her bangs out and wore less plaid now, but she still had the same nice smile and pretty green eyes. I had to give Drew credit for resisting her.
“Oh my god, Kristin! How cool is this?” I gushed, feeling like a wide-eyed puppet. “It’s been for-ever, how are you?”
“I’m good,” she said, returning the friendliness too thick to be real. “How are you?”
“Oh, not too bad,” I said. Then she started telling me about her stupid life. I nodded attentively, paying no attention at all. I can’t even remember what the fuck she was doing Downtown. This couldn’t have been the first bar she hit, though; she’d clearly had a few drinks prior. Drunk-ass bitch.
“Wanna do shots?” I shouted over other loud talking people. “I’ll buy ’em.”
I asked what she wanted.
“Let’s do Jäger-bombs,” she said.
We ordered round after round, mostly laughing at nothing. Pretty soon, she was too drunk to notice I was barely drinking them.
The tab came to about 50 bucks. Shots cost more in the city, apparently.
“Oh, I got it,” she said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s all good!” At least she was a happy drunk. She pulled her wallet out of a new-looking Coach handbag and took out her credit card.
As we walked out, I suggested we walk around for a bit before I drove her home. Of course I’d drive her home. She was in no condition to get into a car, let alone drive one.
“Aw, you don’t have to do that,” she drawled, fawning all over the sidewalk.
“Yeah, I do.” I said. “Come on, let’s just walk some of this off.”
April nights on Lake Michigan aren’t too bitterly cold, but I still wore my coat and gloves. I’m cold-blooded, so to speak. Kristin kept faltering, so I walked between her and the street. This seemed like a good time to ask her what I’d been holding back the entire night.
“You remember that time in high school when you said you got attacked or something?”
It took her a minute. “What? … Oh, that.”
“And you said Drew did it?”
“Yeah, he assaulted me. Or tried to anyway.”
I thought she jumped into it a bit quickly for someone who’d had a traumatic experience – allegedly.
“How’ve you been doing? I mean, are you okay?” I resumed my interrogation under the guise of concern. “It seems like an experience like that would haunt you for a while.”
“Yeah,” she said. Her voice softened. “Well, I’m over it. But every once in a while I get these flashbacks – like him in my room, holding me down. I don’t know what would’ve happened if my mom hadn’t walked in.”
In her room? She was a worse liar than I thought. Too many Jäger-bombs will do that, I suppose.
“For what it’s worth,” I said in the same concerned-friend voice, “I’m sorry it happened. No one should ever be taken advantage of like that.”
Up ahead, I saw that we were approaching a bridge – one of many over the Chicago River. Cars passed by and drove across, but traffic wasn’t really that bad. For Chi-Town after midnight, it was kind of quiet – peaceful, even.
“Hey, wanna go over the bridge?” I asked her. “The River’s so pretty at night.”
She smiled. “Sure.”
We crossed the street and reached the sidewalk by the pedestrian railing. Yes, it might be risky, walking her over a bridge when she was white-girl wasted – that’s exactly why I took her. We reached the midway point and looked out at the River. Sure enough, it was as pretty as I’d promised. Every neon sign from the street to the tops of dark towers melted into the water, slithering on black waves. The headlights of cars passed like ghost lanterns through a fine mist.
A garbage truck came rumbling by, and I seriously considered pushing her into it. The smell, though, nearly made me retch. I could see it made Kristin even more sick, with her stomach full of vodka and Redbull. She made a choking sound and ran to the railing. As she gripped the metal bar, she leaned over and vomited all that and probably more into the Chicago River – as if it wasn’t toxic enough.
“Ugh,” she groaned, still hunched over. “I feel better.”
Then, without warning, an ambulance came up behind us. It blared its sirens and charged across the bridge, lights blinding, probably on its way to save someone’s life. It startled Kristin so badly that her dumb ass tumbled over the railing in a flash-dance of blue and red and panic.
“Holy shit!” she cried.
I dashed over there and saw her dangling over the River, holding onto a short leather strap. Her handbag had gotten caught on the railing, and it was the only thing keeping her from falling.
“Quick!” she shrieked. “Pull me up!”
Instinctively, I reached for the bag. I knew I couldn’t lift her up; she weighed more than I did, as most adult women do. All I could do was hold the bag steady until help arrived.
“I got you,” I said. “Just don’t let go.”
A cold breeze ruffled her just a bit, and her screams nearly tore through her throat. “HELP!” she howled. “Someone, PLEASE!”
Her voice echoed in the open air. Passers-by stopped and pointed, shouting out loud.
“Oh my God!” “Someone call 9-1-1!”
At least one of these people dialed 9-1-1 instead of taking a video on their phone. A police siren rang out not too far away. She might actually be rescued, I thought.
Then I realized just how much I didn’t want that to happen.
I’m not going to debate the human vanities called Right and Wrong. One fact was certain: I wanted her to fall.
As the sirens grew louder, I acted like I was trying to pull the bag up over the rail; that’s how it looked in all the video footage, anyway. In reality, though, I was trying to pull it loose. Then I felt a snap. It worked.
I nearly fell backward into the street, and she dropped with a scream like a firecracker.
“Kristin! No!” I shouted for the camera-phones. “Oh my god!”
I ran up and looked over the rail just in time to see her face in terror, eyes livid, mouth contorted. She cut into the Styx-black water and disappeared under writhing reflections of neon lights.
An ambulance soon arrived on the scene – probably the same one that scared her over the edge just moments ago. I savored the irony. In minutes, a helicopter medvac lifted her out on a stretcher. The cops took my statement; I told them all about how she was drunk, she fell, and I tried to save her. They gave me updates on her condition.
Both her legs had been severely broken, with bones piercing through the skin. She nearly died from sepsis. That didn’t surprise me; nasty things get dumped in the Chicago River. She survived, with both legs amputated at the knees. The last I heard, she was a miserable drunk. That didn’t surprise me either.
To this day, she still believes I tried to save her.