If I try to retrace the day it happened, I suppose I could say I was wearing a light grey bias cut skirt, with a darker grey layer under – it was cut in an odd geometrical shape so that you could see just a quadrangular trim. I wore a white Calvin Klein bandeau bra top, which I never knew what to make of, as it wasn’t exactly a bra, it was more like an undershirt that you still needed to wear a strapless bra under. And I certainly could never go out on the streets with just that bandeau top – imagine the stares, the umcomfortable leary stares I would get. Still, in order to emphasize this bandeau top, I had to throw something on that would allow others to know its existence. The perfect solution? A form-fitting pale green capped sleeve, scooped neck blouse that was loosely knitted so that you could see my white bandeau and my pale honey-toned mid section. To someone far away, it may look like a one-piece monotone Bauhaus painting.
I suppose I was attractive – or at least I had always suspected by the way men and women would look at me and by the things they say about me. I have always had that sort of effect on people, where they would often steal a glance at me and gaze upon me as they would a painting, wondering about the strokes, the angles, the colors, and how all of them came together as a whole. I can’t say I ever got used to it – I guess I sometimes liked being the center of attention. Most times, I didn’t know how to deal with it, especially when the appreciative gaze moves into a more sinister place – and I could feel myself being sucked into that inner dark hole of the cautious predator.
The first time I was ever made to feel that way was at a family outing, the details of which are fuzzy to me now. I must have been no more than eight, as I remember having a child’s body still. My mom, brother and I were out with my mom’s side of the family, aunts, uncles, cousins, at a beach somewhere in Singapore. I was a pretty child, as I was often told, even though I was oddly tall and lanky. That day, I was excited to be by the water and out and proud to be in my bathing suit. In my memory, it was a one-piece blue suit that had pretty frills at the top. As I stepped out in my blue bathing suit, I can feel an intense gaze on my little body coming from one of my uncles, my mom’s brother. I was uncomfortable and confused, but I wasn’t sure why. The feeling stayed with me from one similar experience to another. I grew up being very uncomfortable of my body and the way I look and the responses my physicality would elicit from others. It’s almost like I would feel paralyzed by an unexplained fear when my sexuality comes into play.
As I try to cobble together the pieces of that day, I’m reminded of how I met him. His name is Rajesh and was a 29-year-old high-flying banker at the time. I’m using his real name because of the amount of contempt I have for him — I truly hope he is suffering as much as humanly possible. As with such things though, he might very well be thriving. I met him when I was working as a host at a restaurant. Partying with a group of friends, he spotted me in the crowd and immediately lunged toward my direction, grabbed my hand and pulled me over to where his group of friends were. He proclaimed, “Isn’t she just the most beautiful girl you’ve ever met?” I blushed a little, a little frightened and flattered at the same time. I don’t think I liked him one bit, but for the longest time in my life, I couldn’t say no to male attention. It was as if every bit of male attention, no matter how much I didn’t like the person, was to be savored. We exchanged numbers; I tried to play it cool with the attention and like I was in control. I suppose at that time, I thought I was in control. It’s only in the last few years I realize how little control I had over my own emotions and inclinations.
So, that day, like so many days in my life up till then, I needed companionship and attention. I constantly felt like I needed comfort and to offload some of what’s on my mind. On that day, he was the only one available. As I stood near the river at Boat Quay, a bustling waterfront area, in my green capped sleeve and white bandeau top and grey skirt, I rationalized in my head that he was rather handsome, even though I wasn’t really attracted to brown guys, and he was a successful banker with a multinational company. Like all those things made a difference in my going out with him. He drove up in his shiny BMW convertible and for a split second, I felt impressed. That feeling went away very quickly. As soon as he pulls up, I felt that same gaze that I had seen time and again assaulting my body and my face. I guess the good thing about him, I reasoned, is he didn’t bother to hide it.
We were supposed to go for dinner at a fancy restaurant. Dinner never happened. He said he wanted to stop by his apartment to drop some of his work stuff. Doubts entered my mind, but in those days, I was never strong enough to assert myself. I told myself that everything would be fine. When we got to the parking garage of his posh apartment building in a posh district of Singapore, he invited me to come to his apartment. I said I’ll wait in the car initially and he insisted. I went up.
What happened in his apartment was a blur and sometimes still haunt me. Mostly because I’m not sure why I allowed this to happen. He lunged toward me and pretty much directed the entire episode. He sat me on his bed, removed my clothes one by one, turned on his video camera and started filming me and what he proceeded to do to me. Till this day, I wondered to myself why I didn’t react in any way. It was like I was paralyzed and had an out-of-body experience. It was like I was a blow-up doll and he did whatever he wanted with me. It was like I had died and stood there and watched as he touched me, stripped naked and put his disgusting cock inside of me. That experience exists in my memory as a mess of negative feelings, but I can no longer recall the exact details. All I recall is how I didn’t move, how I felt nothing and how I didn’t say “No.”
He drove me home right after and we did not have dinner. I went straight to the bathroom and tried to clean myself for days. Every time he texted me, I wanted to kill myself. There were times I almost told my mother, but we had never been close and I shut her out as early as I can remember. I was as dead to her as I had been to Raj when he assaulted my body. I tried to end all contact with him by becoming radio silent and by changing my phone number. He would email me every now and then something casual, like “How are you?” and it would send a chill down my spine. At some point, he stopped. But then, I would worry that he might be lurking around my place. For a time, whenever I stepped out of my place, I would look around to make sure that I wasn’t being watched.
For the years after that incident, I would get an email from him on my birthday every year, with a simple message, “Happy Birthday.” That haunted me every year and I was afraid of my birthday because I knew what was coming. At some point, he stopped, but Facebook started. One day a few years ago, I received a friend request from him and saw that we have mutual connections. That renewed that fear in my heart — we know the same people? I didn’t want or need to know that. Or indeed, to know anything about him. Knowing anything else about him makes him human and I don’t want him to be human. He is a beast and disfigured me in the past — and he should stay in the past as a blur. I blocked him from Facebook, but every so often, I wonder if he’s still stalking me. I also wonder about the video and that continues to send a chill down my spine.
After the day it happened, I tried to make sense of what happened. I watched a movie on TV that had a similar narrative to mine. The girl didn’t say “No” and laid there as her attacker raped her. The controversy was that she didn’t say “No” nor did she fight back. Was it rape? I found myself asking that many times over the years, increasingly feeling like I should have done something. I also blamed myself for perhaps giving him the wrong impression or dressing or behaving slutty. The reality was that I couldn’t do anything. I was trapped in my own fear. Not just in my relationships with men, but with everything else in my life as well. It was like my voice was locked behind a metaphorical prison and I couldn’t say what I thought. And that day, all I felt was my soul disintegrating into nothing as the animal laid his hands all over my body. Yet he very possibly thrived and I was left to feel a total sense of worthlessness for years.