BUTTER FACE • by Ani King

[Trigger warning: rape survivors may find this distressing to read.]

Surprised a big girl like you couldn’t take him. That’s what he said. The young cop. McNeil maybe? He’s right. I am a big girl. Six feet. One-eighty. I spend six days a week at the gym. Spent, rather. And I didn’t hang out on the hamster wheels. I’d be in the rack. I liked it. Headphones in, I pictured my spine, straight but flexible. My knees never went over my toes. I’d breathe slow and even no matter how my heart raced. I could time my sets without a watch.

I heard someone call me a butter face the night Cameron and I went to dinner. Ever hear that? Everything’s hot, but her face? Yeah. Don’t worry. I know it’s true. I have a face somewhere between a hatchet and a hammer. Might’ve bothered me when I was younger, but I know what I am. What I look like. You should see me in my wedding photos. Frank, my ex, he said I looked beautiful, and that’s when I knew he’d lie to me about anything.

I know. We’re not here to talk about Frank or my face. We’re here to talk about Cameron. Cam’s not the first decent looking man to act like he could do me a real favor. Something about pretty men, you know? They pick us off because how could we ever say no, looking like we do?

So we went to dinner. I didn’t like him much. He was too patronizing. I was just going to go home, maybe take a bath. But he kissed me in the cab, and it was, well… kind of hot. So I took him home, took him upstairs, and the sex was decent. I have to say though that I still didn’t like him much in the morning. He says, hey, maybe I’ll call you. And winks at me. So I say, don’t worry about it. This was fun, but I don’t think we’re all that compatible. Polite and everything, while I button my shirt.

The look on his face is just, well, uglier than me. He starts to tell me how ugly I am, how stupid and ugly and do I know how lucky I am? Then he hits me with one of the five-pound weights on my table for stretching in the morning. Arthritis in my shoulder. Anyway. Catches me in the side of the head. Not as hard as I’d have hit him, but enough to give me a concussion. He held me down and shoved his way into me. I threw up and he kept going.

He must have set the alarm off leaving, because the security company came. I didn’t move at all. Just stayed there waiting for the cops, thinking about all this muscle mass, and the boxing twice a week, and how none of it did a goddamn bit of good. It didn’t do any more good fending him off than my face did.

So, McNeil, yeah that’s definitely his name, he says that shit about me taking him during my statement, like Cam shouldn’t have had a chance. Maybe he’s right. What about all those deadlifts and squats? I think about the one-armed push-ups, tricep dips, pull-ups, box jumps, and macros. Protein, fat, carbs, fluids, and it has to be for something. I mean what is the goddamn point of being able to bench press a small car if that guy can put me on the floor and hold me there while I cry and puke, and he fucking rapes me. Of course they want to know if I’m sure it wasn’t consensual after the night before. The nurse sitting with me makes the cops leave after that.

When I can walk normally again I go to the gym. But it doesn’t feel the same. I don’t feel like my body is all interconnected anymore. Tendons, muscles, ligaments, bone. I try running, but being outside in the dark makes me nervous. Everything does.

One day I go to one of Cameron’s open houses; he works in real estate. I shouldn’t, it could affect my case, but I want to see if he’s even worried. It smells like chocolate chip cookies. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had cookies? Too many carbs. Anyway. I wait until the couple is leaving. She’s maybe six months pregnant and pretty. The guy gives me a quick nod before opening the car door. I want to say, Do you know what he did? What he did to me?

Cam’s on his phone, looking at me without any expression. What the hell are you doing here, he mouths. I want to hit him with the other five-pound weight. The one they didn’t take for prints. I have it in my purse for when I do leave the house now. Instead of answering I stare at him. And when he walks towards me I flinch. Oh fuck he’s going to do it again, I think. I back away and then I run down the sidewalk to my car. Who knows what I thought I was going to do. Hit him back with my bag and stand over his body, vindicated?

On the stand, after I’ve choked through the story yet another time, Cam’s asshole attorney asks if I work out. I swear he smiles when he’s overruled. He asks me if I had a good time with Cam on our date and do I think he’s nice looking, and I say yes, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t rape me. He asks about my visit, and I say I thought it would help me be less afraid. I see one woman on the jury nodding at that.

Even after Cam’s convicted I think about what McNeil said. Big girl like me, maybe I should’ve been able to take him. But I’m not so sure anymore. If the jury didn’t think so, maybe I couldn’t have. Maybe tomorrow I go back to the gym.

Ani King is an unreliable knitter, with an excess of grey shirts, and sad herb garden that wishes for better.

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