All the #churchtoo hash tags on my Twitter feed reminded me of a fellow youth group member in college who could classify as a preditor.
I would know. I was one of his complicit prey.
Word had gotten around church that I was newly single. I looked okay on the outside, but on the inside I was in the deep throws of an existential crisis coupled with an identity crisis. My ex was an emotional abuser, and I got too caught up in his web of dysfunction.
It was during this time that I learned when I hit rock bottom, I will find a shovel and start digging.
Jacob was the shovel.
Jacob had asked for my phone number and he was the full package: handsome chiseled features, very muscular, highly intelligent – an all around sweetheart who loved Jesus. I was giddy. I never thought a guy like Jacob would notice me.
Sure enough, he called me to hang out one evening. After a false start, we ended up back at my apartment to watch a movie with my roommates. Jacob put his arms around me and pulled me back onto him. This was nice – a little fast – but nice. In the course of a few minutes, his hands started to wander. I politely stopped him several times.
If I wasn’t in such a state of complete breakdown, I’d like to think I’d have rebuffed his advances. But when you’re already careening out of control and extremely comfortable with your sexuality, you make certain allowances that otherwise wouldn’t make sense.
He suggested going back to my room and I agreed. I tried to explain to him how crazy my life was, but it came out jumbled and it was clear he was not understanding. The spell wore off after midnight. We didn’t have sex, but we defiantly knew each other better in the physical sense.
He requested I drive him back to the dorm at 3am, less than half a mile from my apartment. The conversation was terse, compared to what happened between us a few hours prior. He threw a casual “see ya” over his shoulder as he left the car.
I regretted it. I was disgusted with myself. His scent was still all over my sheets, but in the morning light, it smelled bad.
I didn’t hear from him in the following days and our group met on a few nights later. My heart raced as I walked to the building. I tried to catch his eye, eager to read his expression. We made eye contact: it was a quick expressionless glance, like when you almost bump into someone in a busy airport.
That was it.
Oh, I thought, as the reality seeped through my body. This is how it’s gonna be: all over me in private, ignore me in public. While I was disappointed, I also knew it was stupid to think he wanted something more. The situation a few nights previous was obviously about the physical rather than the mental, emotional, and spiritual. Just what I needed: another guy in my life to treat me like crap.
I wish I could say the story ended there.
But it didn’t.
It happened again.
While I’ve never done drugs, I’m sure Jacob was cocaine in the human form. I knew it was a bad idea, but I loved the high – it boosted me out of the hole I found myself in, albeit temporarily. I loved the rush, the impulsive nature of our aimless fraternization.
I was eager for another fix.
As time passed, I was slowly coming out of my self-induced haze, longing for the comforts of emotional sobriety. What if I was leading him on? I paused as I was leaving his dorm room, leaning against the door jamb for support. It was time to clarify things.
“So,” I began. “Where does this leave us?”
“Right here,” came the sarcastic reply and a smile.
“No, really. Where do you see this going?”
Jacob stopped and turned to me. “I am not in a place in my life where I would be a good boyfriend to you, I can’t be what you would need in a relationship.”
It sounded like a pre-recorded message, a backhanded complement, but I took his words at face value.
“Okay,” I said, as I drifted into the hallway and closed the door behind me.
That was fine by me.
It stopped right then and there.
I’d like to point out that all of this was consensual between Jacob and I. He never forced me to do anything. I take responsibility for my actions.
Then I got back with my daft ex, because I was young, stupid, and apparently masochistic at 21.
But that’s when the prowl started.
My boyfriend didn’t want to attend formal several months later, so I went alone. Jacob was there, handsome as ever. He tried to get me to come back to his dorm afterwards and I explained I was with someone else and not interested. Jacob tried to persuade me otherwise. He pulled me close when we were alone, and I pushed him away. “I have a boyfriend, we can’t do this, ” I said and left his presence.
I can’t remember the circumstances, but I had something to drop off at his place months later. He had moved out of the dorms and into a house. He gave me a quick friendly tour, no vestige of our history showed.
“And this is my room,” he said as we stopped at the door. He came from behind me and used his body weight to push me on the bed. We fell on the bed together and I knew what the look in his eye meant. “I have a boyfriend,” I said, slightly worried about how this situation was going. Again, he tried to charm me. “No, I have to go.” I sprinted out to my car before he had a chance to stop me.
That was our last encounter.
The following school year, Jacob was a distant memory. A freshman named Hannah started coming to our group. Hannah was not only stunningly beautiful, but wholesome and kind. She was in my Bible study. I had just taken a big swig of soda when Hannah said she had an announcement: “Jacob and I are officially dating.”
It took everything in my power not to spit the soda across the room. She took her purity seriously, and while they made a handsome couple, I certainly hoped she knew what she was signing up for with Jacob.
I did not mention anything to her about my experience. Maybe she knew about Jacob and I, maybe not. I didn’t want to reveal my previous indiscretions; there was also the possibility of Jacob amending his ways.
They got married and have children. Occasionally a picture of them will pop up on my feed, all smiles. I wonder what their marriage is like and if they are truly happy beyond the pictures.
The shine of youth is gone for Jacob. The sculpted muscles have given way to age and fat; he looks well into his second trimester now. Those bright eyes and boyish grin still come through, but I know what lies behind them. Hannah still has a better body than my barren athletic one.
What is Jacob like now? I wonder if anyone at his current church has a story about him. I wonder how he dealt with the past or if he ever did.
Many years later, I told my good friend Ruth (from the same group) about everything that happened between Jacob and I: turns out I was just another link in the chain. She and many others had a similar experience. Ruth shot him down before anything came of it (as I should have done). I wasn’t the first in the group. I wasn’t the last either.
I was simply another violin in a woeful symphony.
I was played. And prey.