Aaron Hamburger‘s essay in Tin House, “Sweetness Mattered,” was our top #longread of the week last week, and with good reason. His story of gradual recovery from a vicious sexual assault, aided by Smarties candy, is equal parts heartbreaking and redemptive, told with simple, complete honesty. I won’t belabor things with any more of my words — go right to his.
Then the detective told us Bradley’s defense: I wanted it. Deep, hot color flooded my cheeks, and my voice caught in my throat. Still, I managed to choke out that it wasn’t true, that I kept telling him no, and the detective said quickly, “And I knew that, I just had to hear you say it.”
Later, as we staggered down the front steps of the police station, back to our car, I wondered if there’d been some kind of mistake. Had Bradley really thought I wanted it? I went over and over what had happened: his deep barking voice threatening to slice off my balls as if I were that dog his friends had mutilated, the knife he’d found in our kitchen drawer and held over me so it lightly grazed the surface of my skin, his fists finding the soft spots all over my body, the weight of his body pushing me so firmly against my parents’ bed I couldn’t breathe.
In all of these details of the actual events I was innocent. But in my mind, specifically that corner of my mind that knew that I liked boys and not girls, I felt guilty.