2. The Aftermath

After the assault, I am different. I am fierce, and it weakens the toxic-masculine culture I’m living in.

After the assault, I am different. I am fierce, and it weakens the toxic-masculine culture I’m living in. Keller is a guy in my class who becomes the first victim of a tactic I adopt to keep myself safe.

All of us are in the hallway before class, and he says something about how good my ass looks in uniform.

“Stop.” I say, and he doesn’t. Why would he? All of the other boys are smirking. 

“Keller, if I were you, I’d stop,” I say again. And he doesn’t. 

I turn around, grab him by the throat, and push him to the wall of lockers behind him, where I lift him off of the ground.

“STOP!” I say through gritted teeth an inch from his face.

This time he listens.

Then there’s Charlie. He’s 14 years older than me.

Being with him is like existing in another time that I’ve only seen in black-and-white movies. He’s painfully handsome, like James Franco, and his demeanor is the same.

He appreciates small things that boys my age seem to miss, like the smell of old bricks after the rain and the pleasure of fresh artisan coffee, and I learn to adore those things too, as every moment is stretched into gooey sweet unending days. I savor each one like the chocolate croissants we share on the bench outside of the bakery in Old Town, laughing like a couple of kids with no other care in the world but to be near each other.

close up of cappuccino foam

A month or so into our love affair, he is the first person to ever point out that alcohol doesn’t mix well with me. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t listen. It isn’t affecting my work at all.

I am second in class, and that rank gives me the honor of choosing where I want to go with the Navy. My dream is to build a Navy Destroyer and become a prestigious “Plankowner.”

The newest is going to be home ported in Seattle, so imagine my surprise when I receive orders to Norfolk; Charlie has a lot of power, and he is going to Norfolk.

I find him in his office and corner him inside the cubicle that holds his desk. He is standing, leaning over his computer, facing away from me.

“Did you mess with my orders?”

I speak in that tone Mom has when she’s serious, her Nurse Sara persona leading the masses through an emergency.

I am calm on the outside, tiny little put-together FC3 Ryan. On the inside, my mind is a mess. A screaming, crying, angry mess.

close up of angry storm clouds

He finishes whatever he is typing before he stands up and turns around looking like he’s made of wood.

“I didn’t mess with your orders. The fleet is low on female racks. That’s all that’s available.”

“That’s bullshit! Brown just got orders there and said there’s plenty of room. I fought my way through this year! I worked my ass off to make the grades I made. You need to fix this.”

“I’ll call the recruiter again and we will see what we can do.” He’s a statue. “You want to go to Seattle? Fine. I’ll never see you again, you little shit.”

“Good,” I say and relax my jaw. He starts to say something, but I’m halfway out the door.

They change my orders.

I’m going to build the destroyer, but my victory will be short-lived.

It turns out I fought to get to one of the most toxic ships in the Navy. Pop-Pop would be turning in his grave.