Asking for It

Credit: Jesse Millan

Credit: Jesse Millan

Angela lent me a dollar to buy this composition book. I told her it’d be a journal—and that wasn’t a lie—but two self-indulgent entries later and I’m tracking research in it instead.

 

You’re asking for it, the way you dress.

 

April 11, 2000

Outfit: black tank top and long burgundy skirt

Hair: side-part—small section braided on the side

Make-up: full face, dark lipstick

Location: cafeteria

Interaction: Two boys smiled at me. One said, “hey” in line. Nobody sat with me.

 

I don’t initiate conversations. That would taint the results.

 

April 13, 2000

Outfit: tie-dyed T-shirt and jeans

Hair: ponytail

Make-up: none

Location: cafeteria

Interaction: none

 

If I gather enough data and analyze it, I’ll find the pattern.

 

You don’t want to cause your Christian brothers to stumble.

 

April 7, 2000

Outfit: yellow PJs with pink crescent moons and ducks on them

Hair: messy bun

Make-up: none

Location: dorm common room

Interaction: J.R. and I watched Next Friday. He sat next to me on the couch. Halfway through the movie, he groped me. I got up and left.

 

There’s a solution here. Things don’t just happen without a reason.

 

If you go out in that, boys’ll get the wrong idea about you.

 

April 19, 2000

Outfit: orange baby T and cut-off shorts

Hair: center-part

Make-up: powder and mascara

Location: cafeteria

Interaction: The guy who always wears sandals sat down and started talking to me. He asked wasn’t it too cold for shorts? I asked wasn’t it too cold for sandals? He laughed and we talked about Australia.

 

I’m going to solve this. I’m going to figure this out, and I’ll never have to worry about it again.

 

The boys won’t be able to concentrate if you girls go around showing off your bodies like that. 

 

April 20, 2000

Outfit: red quarter-sleeve shirt with planet pattern and jeans

Hair: side-part

Make-up: lip gloss

Location: cafeteria

Interaction: J.R. came up to me in the lunch line. He still won’t leave me alone. I yelled at him and drew attention to myself. Disregard data from this day.

 

I take out a black marker and drag it across the page, making a neat X over the day’s results.

 

Girls who dress like that do it for the attention, but they’re going to get the wrong kind of attention.

 

August 8, 1999

Outfit: purple, ankle-length skirt with flower pattern and short-sleeved purple button up shirt

Hair: side-part with a butterfly shaped barrette

Make-up: powder, pink eye-shadow, pink lipstick, mascara

Location: church potluck

Interaction: Y.K.W. sat down by me, even though Dad told him not to do that anymore. A.B. came by and sat between us so I wouldn’t have to sit beside Y.K.W. like I had to at the last potluck when he followed me from table to table.

 

How much data will I need to generate before I can draw some conclusions?

 

Men are visual creatures. They’re just hard-wired to be like that. It’s biology.

 

July 20, 2001

Outfit: blue and yellow bathing suit—bikini top, boy shorts bottoms

Hair: ponytail

Make-up: none

Location: apartment complex pool party mixer

Interaction: Talked to female neighbor, N. Drunk guy came up and put his arm around me. He kept trying to get me to go for a walk with him. He pulled at me and my male across-the-hall neighbor came over. Told the drunk guy to leave. Drunk guy took a swing at neighbor. Neighbor pinned him to the ground. He left. Neighbor’s name is D. N and I stayed with D the rest of the time. D said he liked my bathing suit.

 

I hoist an overly full garbage bag up over my shoulder and rest it against my back. I take a deep breath and judge the distance. If I open the wooden gate that leads to the dumpsters, all the rats will run out and across my feet. But if I stand on the hood of my car, I think I can toss the bag over the fence and into the open dumpster.

I twist sideways to get some momentum and heave. Inside the bag, my research journal—smothered by microwave pizza boxes, candy bar wrappers, and wads of hair from my brush—sails up and over. Something wet drips from the black bag and across the asphalt as it barely clears the fence. I don’t know if it makes it into the dumpster, and I don’t care.

I don’t need the journal anymore. I know what the pattern is—the only constant.

I was asking for it from a forty year old man while sitting in church, wearing a butterfly barrette. I was asking for it from a boy I thought was my friend while wearing PJs and watching a comedy.

I was asking for it while working behind a register, wearing an oversized sweatshirt. I was asking for it while smoking outside my apartment, wearing cut-offs when a neighbor invited me to a party that turned out to be me, him, and a bottle of Captain Morgan. I was asking for it while wearing a bathing suit to a pool party. I was asking for it while walking into a new church, wearing black-framed glasses with a cracked lens.

My hypothesis was wrong. It wasn’t what I was wearing. That isn’t the pattern.

I’m the pattern. I’m the unchanging variable. I’m always asking for it.

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