[cw: sexual assault, suicide and drug use]
The Curse of Medusa
by Gen Greer
What happens when men control the narrative?
A rape becomes a seduction. A victim becomes a monster. The monster must be killed. Otherwise we won’t be safe. We are grateful she is gone. The Athena’s smile.
* * *
I only went to the party because Quinn insisted. For every night I forced them to stay in with me watching The Great British Bake Off I had to try to go out. After three years of sharing a tight dorm room you learn to compromise. Besides, I wasn’t about to let them go to West Mountain’s big Halloween party without backup. Our bodies come with rules: watch your cup, have a buddy system, never walk home alone. We all knew what happened to Flannery last year.
It had all of the makings of a typical liberal arts college party: dancing, cheap tequila, and at least half a dozen boys in beanies doing everything in their power to let girls know they wrote poetry and had hot takes on Descartes. Quinn went to go dance with our other friends while I headed for the drinks table.
I felt her before I saw her. A gust of cold air. She was sitting on the windowsill blowing cigarette smoke out into the night, dark braids hanging around the dramatic angles of her face, one fishnetted leg folded into her body, the other swinging freely like a pendulum.
I don’t remember how we started talking or even what we discussed. Some of my memories of her come at me so sharply I’m scared they’ll cut me open. Others simply aren’t there. When I reach into the space in my mind where they should be I find nothing. I can’t tell you where she told me she was from or even what color her eyes were.
Here is what I do remember about that night. When she asked Do you want to get out of here? I realized I had never wanted anything else.
* * *
Over the course of the next two months we inhaled each other. Each day I poured myself into her with new vigor. We took each other anywhere we could: my room, empty classrooms, the floor of the greenhouse. Some days she would fling open the door of my room and envelope me, breathing her desires into the soft shells of my ears.
Other days she would glide past me and lay out flat on my bed like a starfish. On those occasions I could feel her wanting to be alone. She said she always preferred to be alone with me. I wanted to be alone with her too, but I think in a different way.
My wants never seemed as powerful or as important as hers. The one time I remember her being angry with me was right after I told her that.
You can’t keep doing that.
Making yourself small. If you do, they’ll break you.
Who is “they”?
She let me hold her that night. It was the only time I remember feeling her heartbeat.
My phone buzzed. A regional storm warning. Campus security and RA’s needed to get everyone inside to shelter in place.
* * *
Dear West Mountain Students,
It is with great sorrow that we inform you of the passing of three of our own: Tyler Cosgrow, Patrick Neils, and Jack Downsberry. It appears last night they went out into the snow storm after taking a dangerous combination of narcotics. Further investigation is underway. Our hearts go out to their friends and families.
If you find yourself in need of mental health services….
* * *
A campus memorial service was held. She didn’t come, then again she never came with me anywhere. The whole time I couldn’t help thinking that there were more flowers and tears there than Flannery ever got.
The night of the service she held me.
It was awful. Their families were there and they were crying. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about what they did to Flannery.
It wasn’t just them. Everyone in that house knew what was in the punch and didn’t stop her from drinking it. And the other girls afterwards. They laughed at her and slut shamed her until she cracked.
She traced swirls onto my shoulder blade.
I know. But it doesn’t mean what happened to them is okay. I mean they fucking froze to death.
It doesn’t matter now. We are not the deciders.
* * *
The next morning I woke up and reached for her only to feel the blankness of my sheets. Quinn was snoring lightly on the other side of the room. They were supposed to be sleeping in their girlfriend’s room that night.
They rolled over and looked at me with blurry eyes.
“Hey, weren’t you supposed to be in Kat’s room last night?”
“No dude. Remember she has that crazy Chem test this morning? She kicked me out so she could sleep.”
I didn’t remember.
“Oh. Is that why she went home?”
It seemed weird, but she could be moody sometimes.
“My girlfriend.” Why couldn’t I say her name?
Quinn sat up and snorted. “You got a girlfriend and didn’t tell me?”
“Quinn, she’s been coming over for months now.”
“Why haven’t I met her?”
“Of course you’ve met her!” Had they? Had she met any of my friends?
This was ridiculous. I opened my phone looking for a picture of her. We must have taken pictures. Nothing. I opened my messages looking for texts. There were none. Why wasn’t she a contact in my phone?
“Are you okay?” Quinn sounded genuinely concerned now.
“I’m fine…I just…” I ran to my desk. Didn’t she used to leave me notes? Everything I thought I knew about her was bleeding out of me.
I froze. No note. Instead I found a long burn curving across the top of my desk. It wasn’t a letter or a shape. It was a picture.
Gen Greer (she/her) is in her final semester of her undergraduate degree. After graduation she hopes to teach writing and continue to push her work into the world. She aspires to write stories which give voices to emotionally complicated women and gender minorities tackling issues of internalized homophobia, fatphobia, body image, depression, and addiction. Gen’s previous work has featured in Rejection Letters and Friday Fix Fiction. Follow her on twitter @roaringgirl2