Screaming at the Harvey Weinstein trial
You are old enough to know better, but you don’t. You are not worldly. You are 27 years old. This is your first big job. Your first serious money. Your first foray into being responsible for yourself. No parents. No husband. No roommates.
Nothing in your upbringing has prepared your for this night when you meet your business contact for dinner in the hotel restaurant. You are dressed in your best outfit. A modest mid-calf skirt, a ruffled Ralph Lauren blouse whose shocking price tag you ignored because it was covered by your wardrobe allowance. The tweedy blazer, also Lauren, cuts in at the waist, and with your tawny leather high-heeled boots you are tall. Confident. A picture of success. The money. The money. The money. You are making so much money.
But where is he, this man you are supposed to meet? Dinner was agreed upon. You are hungry. You feel slightly goofy when you get hungry. Like your knees are coming out of their sockets and your brain disconnects from your mouth. You order a brandy Alexander at the bar. Calories. The ice cream settles you so you have another. When your contact arrives an hour late, he says what are you drinking, let me get you another. He goes to the bar, chats with the bar tender like they are old friends. The man brings the drink to your table. The waitress comes by and lights the candle. You order dinner. You eat. Is there wine? Maybe there is wine. You’re drunk even before the wine. There’s no doubt you are drunk, but you think you are handling it. The man doesn’t know about the brandy Alexanders before he arrived. That’s your secret. You are your best impression of businesslike. Business is discussed. Plans are made.
Let me walk you to your room, the man says. The hotel is connected to the restaurant. Your room isn’t far. You are not wary. But you are drunk. Your key is still in the lock when the man pushes you inside. Does he actually pick you up and launch you onto the bed? That’s how you remember it. He pulls your skirt up and your tights down. He says things you don’t want to remember. When he’s done, he leaves you there, a puddle dripping onto your black satin slip.
What now? Do you call a friend back home? Your mom? The police? Your boss in New York? You don’t. You can’t lose this job. You will be in this market for six weeks. You are going to make things work.
In the shower you tell yourself you are fine. This man is someone you were supposed to meet. Not a stranger. Well, not anymore. You are not injured. No bruises. No scratches. He didn’t slap you or pull your hair. There’s a hole torn into your tights. That’s all.
A couple days later he calls for a follow-up lunch meeting. Of course. You are polite. Maybe even a little flirtatious. This is your way to control him. There’s something mean behind his eyes. You see it. He could hurt you. Or call New York. Get you fired. He likes you. So you flatter him. Just a little.
There’s another dinner. Afterwards he drives you out of town down a country road. You are terrified. You put your hand on his leg. Ask him where you are going in the sweetest voice you can muster. Dancing, he says. Indeed, there’s a little place set back from the road, colored lights blinking through a stand of trees. You hear the music as soon as you open the car door. He orders drinks, leaves them on the bar. You dance. His hand presses so firmly into the small of your back, it feels like a warning. You lean your head on his shoulder.
Six weeks is a long time.
Every few nights he shows up at your hotel. Wants to sleep there. You let him. He is absolutely nothing in bed. You pretend he is wonderful. He brings you presents. Corporate swag, mostly. You coo over this junk.
You buy a pink silk nightgown. Spaghetti straps, burgundy piping along the deep v-neckline and the lapels of the matching robe. He calls to says he’s coming over, and you make sure to have it on. You tie the sash to the robe in a single knot so it’s easy for him to untie. He slips the robe off your shoulders and lets it fall to the floor. The nightgown stays on. He likes to pull it up the way he yanked up your skirt that first night.
When it’s time to go to your next market, you call him to say good-bye and thank him for everything.
Over the years there will be times when you Google your rapist, but you never find him. Maybe you’re confused about the city. You can’t remember his last name. Maybe he’s dead now. He was decades older than you. A man at the height of his power.
This is all ancient history the day you read the latest about the Harvey Weinstein trial. “This is the Toughest Question Facing Harvey Weinstein’s Jury,” the headline says. What could that be, you wonder. You read on to find that two of the women at the center of the case had “friendly communications” with Weinstein after he attacked them. They had sex with him. Rape experts have an explanation for this, the article says. You nod. You’ve read about this before.
“Maybe I can just grin and bear it,” is how Jessica Mann’s attorney characterized her client’s behavior in the face of personal and professional harm. You cough to settle the lump in your throat when you read how the defense was especially aggressive in their cross-examination of Ms. Mann, and how she broke down on the witness stand. Even after a break, she couldn’t compose herself. You might hyperventilate as you read that Jessica Mann hyperventilated leaving the courtroom, still weeping. After court was adjourned for the day, she could be heard screaming behind the closed door of a back room.
You read the part of the article about the screaming line by line, slowly, going back every few lines to start the paragraph again. Your vision is blurry but you read the article to the end.
Then you get in the shower and turn the water as hot as you can stand it.