Below The Veil: I Work With My Sexual Assailant

I work for a very large company in NYC. This is a fairly new concept in my world. Previously, to me, working for a “very large company in NYC” meant my co-workers were sprawled over two whole floors of a huge building in the financial district plus there was an outpost in LA, one in London and one in Amsterdam. There were actually people in my company who I had never even met. I couldn’t imagine anything bigger. I was wrong.

My new company takes up all but 4 floors of an enormous 50 story skyscraper in midtown. They have offices around the world and some of them are fairly large, at least as large as those of my last company. When I started working here less than a year ago I worried about having to make new friends and getting lost in the shuffle of a whole skyscraper’s worth of people. Looking down at the street from a conference room on the 41st floor on my first day, I saw tiny cabs. They looked like yellow dots. I imagined even tinier dots that were humans but really I couldn’t actually see the people at all. It took me almost 4 months to randomly spot in the lobby one of two people I knew previously who work here. Friends of friends. Yes, this place was huge.

Sometimes things can get so big that they almost begin to spiral back in on themselves somehow, and then strange small-town coincidences start to happen. I began to run into more and more people I knew in the lobby. Old friends who came by to do business or to visit people who work here. Someone my brother was friends with back home in high school who just started to work here. Fun little things like that. Well, they were fun until one day.

I was in the elevator looking down at a chip in my nail polish when I heard a familiar voice and looked up. Four people had just stepped onto the elevator and one of them just happened to be someone who tried to rape me over a decade ago when I was crashing on his couch at the insistence of him and his roommate, a good friend of mine at the time, who thought I was too drunk to make it back home alone from the club that Saturday night. Fortunately, his roommate returned home at the right moment and stopped anything from happening. As this flashback faded from my mind I immediately dropped my head and continued to examine my fascinating nail polish until we hit the lobby, then staggered out of the elevator and sank into a stylish corporate leather chair until a sudden dizzy spell passed.

Was I wrong about spotting him? No, that was definitely him. Did he recognize me? No, it seems like he didn’t. Would I ever run into him again? If so, could I just stare ahead and pretend he didn’t exist and he’d do the same for me and we’d just go on with our lives? I would be OK with that. A few months went by and I forgot he was even here. I actually haven’t seen him since. I’ll tell you why I’m thinking about him again. It’s pretty funny, actually. (By funny I mean actually not funny at all and I feel another dizzy spell coming on.) It was announced in a department meeting yesterday that the new hires would be beginning next week. They weren’t here yet, but they called out their names and positions. One name in particular hit me and before I could even think I repeated it out loud in the form of an exclamatory question. “John Doe?!”

The meeting stopped. Everyone turned to stare. The department head turned to me and asked if there was a problem. No, I insisted, no problem here. Just a small world. Just someone I know. Glad to see he’ll be joining us. I smiled.

John Doe had roofied my drink one Saturday night not long after the Elevator Guy incident. It was just about one year later, in fact. Nothing happened that time again, thanks to some good friends, but I got very sick and had to find my way home alone that time. It was scary and was a major factor in my cutting down my drinking, which I see as a positive. But it’s not something I like to think about a lot. I got over it and put it away, but now it’s back. So here we are in this giant corporate world in this enormous skyscraper office building where I am infinitesimally tiny and these old ghosts are jumping out at me from elevators and water coolers. I may never run into Elevator Guy again, but John Doe I will be working with on a weekly if not daily basis. Suddenly this very large company is very small. I feel trapped and paranoid, even though these are the only two incidents of their kind in my life. What are the odds they’d both be back to haunt me from the same building? I don’t want either of these men to look at me and think of those times from their twisted points of view. I don’t want them to look at me at all.

I’ve been asked why I don’t report either of these men. That’s a good question and I don’t have a great answer other than perhaps it’s too late. It’s over a decade later in both cases. I do have witnesses, but I don’t really keep in touch with them anymore and I don’t have any other evidence. It’s one of those “what good would it do?” situations. Mostly I am grateful that nothing happened in either case, and that there are no more incidents of this kind in my life to dredge up. I once got over them both, one after the other, and I can do it again. The worst part about all this is that I felt lonely in my fear and just had to talk to someone about all this, so I called up a good friend and told her all about it and her reply was “oh yeah, that happened to me once, too.” As comforting as it is to speak to someone who has had similar experiences, I never want to hear anyone say that ever. I never want this, or worse, to happen to anyone ever. But we still have lots of work to do on that, don’t we?