If You Lived Here
Dianne McKnight

After that scare with the surgeon I swore I wouldn’t come to any more parties in Boston. But I’m recovering and I’m crossing the threshold of a function room in a 70’s high rise apartment building--one of those, “If you lived here you’d be home by now,” places so popular with urban singles.

Karen, my psychologist friend, pays me cash to help her with her research on sexual offender behavior. It’s for her dissertation, a Dating Skills Guide for prison sociologists. Working on dating skills is the final stage of sexual offender treatment along with instruction on erotic technique. They use dolls for that, I think.

All I have to do is take mental notes on inappropriate body language and verbal turnoffs. Karen wants great examples. Getting them isn’t a problem. 

The men appear normal, like coworkers, neighbors. And they are. I should know. Not even including relatives, I’ve had lots of experience: a boyfriend’s best friend, another boyfriend’s brother, another boyfriend’s brother, my best friend’s father and boyfriend, a teacher, a preacher, three strangers, two security guards, a manager, a professor, a guy in a dark movie theater when I was a small child, an 80 year old Bible thumper, an x-ray technician, a gynecologist--it’s so many I almost forget. I’m a lightning rod for child molesters. At 27 I look 12, pale and a little uncared for. Pervs want girls like me. 

I write ”Solange” on my tag and Karen and I separate. Predators hit on us faster if we’re alone, exactly like in the woods, at a park, on a beach, anywhere really. They’re so predictable even though they thrive on surprise. It’s ironic.

At the bar I order gin, sip it and wait. A drunk guy there tells me to take the cocktail stick out before I drink. He probably has trouble getting it up. But he’s harmless, like the guys who offer me tiny sausages on toothpicks at the buffet. So transparent. So clueless.   

Another man comes up. I can tell he’s new at this even before he wipes his nose with a napkin. He says he plays French horn and exercises his lips for hours every day to keep them strong. That’s too generous, like his sloppy clothes.

I’m targeting sadists tonight, the well-dressed guys who look like they’ve been groomed with extraordinary attention to detail and deep-freezed. They can give off a chill that drops the temperature in the room. 

The surgeon smiled when he talked about surgery being the ultimate rape. He was a sadist, said he loved what his hands could do. He also said I seemed uncomfortable in my own skin. I should have connected the two.

First published: November 2017
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