Monday, January 2, 2012

I’m Chinese Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I neither have spiky Mohawk hair nor do I have the dragon tattoo on my back.   I don’t walk around in a heavy motorcycle helmet and a pair of leather army boots.  Yet inside me, I’m every bit like her.  I have leather skin around my heart, spikes poking out of my lungs and tattoos stenciled on my intestines.  Like LisBeth, I was physically abused at a young age and was raped twice in my twenties but my math skills have helped me to find a bona fide job.   My heart was so insolated that when I was raped, I didn’t even know it was rape until 25 years later when I was reading the story in my writing group.  Here is the story that happened twenty five years ago when I came to this country fresh out of China.  I was not affected at the time due to my lack of knowledge or sex education in China.  I will relate more stories of my family in future posts and you will see why I was not hurt by this event.

Raped in Fargo

My Professor Dr. Swirsky, was a tall and slender man with messy salt and pepper hair.  When he wrote on the blackboard, he had to twist his tall frame 90 degrees in order to write with his left hand.   He taught “Quantum Mechanics” and also served as my faculty/adviser.
On my first day, he cleared a bench top for me as my desk and gave me a stack of research papers on the “Structure of Protein Molecules” to read.  Soon I started going to the lab routinely.   Time went fast for me.   Very soon the snow started falling and my short bicycle commute became a long trudge through the snow.  I was wearing the warmest down jacket one could find in China.  I was wearing a pair of long underwear beneath my jeans, kept my mitten-covered hands in the jacket pockets.  I naturally curled up my body to reserve the heat, yet this was not enough.  The cold wind blew onto my naked face like many knives.  My eyelashes got frozen.  My feet cried for help.  I might just as well stop and become a snowman.  Once I got home, it was such a treat to have our homemade egg rolls, fresh out of the hot oil. 
This was how I met Mohammad.  Just like me he was a new graduate student from Lebanon.  He had black hair, bushy mustache and a pair of penetrating eyes.  He loved to ask me questions.  When he was asking, he would stare at me.  I could feel a sense of desire shooting out of his very expressive eyes.  He was rude but macho.  Sometimes he would snatch my pencil away from my hand while I was doing my homework.
“Hey, stop!  Help me!”  He pointed at his chest as though I didn’t understand him.  I didn’t mind teaching him since I was an instructor at Beijing Medical University before I came to the US and also was offered a half-time TA (teaching assistant) during my first quarter at the North Dakota State.  With my limited English, I did remarkably well.  I used my body language and my sense of humor.  My outstanding troubleshooting skills really helped me in teaching the physics lab. 
At first, I thought that the students talked rather fast.  But they were good-natured and did not mind occasionally repeating for me.  Sometimes they would repeat questions in my funny accent.  There was chemistry evolving between me --- a young student from P.R. China and these pink-faced American students.  At the end, I gave everyone a B or better except for two students whose lab reports were messy and illegible.  They came to me sad faced.
“Why did you give us  ‘C’s’?”
Looking at these two innocent students, my heart fell for them.  I changed their lab grades to “B”.  I loved to see happy faces.  I was not much a believer in grades anyway, even though I was mostly an “A” student all throughout my grade school and high school.  I knew how misleading it could be.
Mohammad loved to drive me around in his old Chevy.  I didn’t always have time to go with him.  I only remembered going with him once.  The car radio played Rock’n Roll music while we were driving on the quiet highway.  I didn’t know much about Rock ‘n Roll music, not even the Classic Rock.   Before I left China, I listened to Beethoven’s Third, Fifth and Ninth Symphonies --- quite a change from the Communist Revolution music I used to sing and listen to.  I actually enjoyed it.  Besides I used to listen to the classic music my father played with his violin when I was young.  I had never heard of Jazz music, let alone Rock n’ Roll.  I just grew up in much more ancient time than the rest of the world.  Since I was so behind, I had never had time or tried to catch up.  It didn’t really matter. Rock n’ Roll music was not supposed to have deep meaning.  It reflected the easy and happy mood in American culture or the culture of the western world that was so different than my upbringing.  I was told as I was growing up that life was hard and happiness was to be earned.  I thought that I would never understand Rock n’ Roll. 
Mohammad spoke of his family.  His parents got married when they were both teenagers, his father 15 and his mother 12.  He had several sisters.  He also had a nice girlfriend.
“But she deedn’t wanta to cum here.”
I didn’t want to go out with him even though he often stared at me hungrily like a wild animal.  I found that attractive but I did not love him.
Sometimes we studied together at night mostly because he wanted me to help him with his homework in “Quantum Mechanics” or “Classic Mechanics”.  One day he asked me to go to his apartment after studying.
“Come on.”  He stared at me, his eyes burning with desire in a dark night with a few stars in the sky. 
            “No.”  I shook my head.  My quiet voice implied that I wanted to.  Yet I couldn’t.  Even though sleeping with someone who desired my body sounded attractive in a cold winter night, what would my roommate think if I came home late or not at all?  She would worry about me.  She might think something bad had happened to me like being seduced into a classmate’s apartment or simply being murdered.  She would for sure gossip about me if she found out that I had slept with a Lebanese man.  Deep inside me, I wanted to.  I imagined what it was like being kissed and caressed by a wild man.  But I never budged.  Mohammad, however, didn’t give up.  He invited me again to have lunch with him a few days later.  He made it sound like just lunch, nothing else.  I actually believed it. 
            “Come on.  Come to my apartment and I will cook for you.  I can also show you some Arabic art and my family photos.”
            “What are you going to cook?”  I asked.
            “You will find out.”
            After he drove me to his one bedroom basement apartment, I found out that there was neither art on the walls or any windows.  He mixed a couple of eggs and fried them in a small frying pan.  During lunch, he told me about his experiences during the war.
            I was impressed by his courage.  I admired people who had participated in a war, whether he or she was forced into it or volunteered.  Being able to confront death could open up an entire new world in one’s psyche.  I was listening to him with admiration.
            “I was wounded once.  Do you wanta to thee my scar?”  He said earnestly.  In his eyes, I did not see any of the usual animal desire.  I was going to say yes.  I wanted to.  Before I could utter a word, he took off his pants.  Apparently he had to take off his underwear to show me the scar.  Then he quietly pulled me into the bedroom.  I tried to refuse but it was too late.  He pulled down my pants and underwear and leaped on top of me.  I screamed and said “No.  No” repeatedly.  I was not sure what he had done to me.  All I could see was that there was blood on his white bed sheet.  It took me another year or two before I found out that I really lost virginity that day with Mohammad because I was not convinced at the time.  It went so fast.  I didn’t think he entered me at all.  I quickly gathered up things and left.  He had to drive me back to my apartment.
            “You never had sex before?”
            “No.  I want to be a virgin until I get married.  I want to save my virginity for my husband.”
            “I thought you had a boyfriend in China.”
            “What did you do together?”
            “I don’t understand.  How do you express love?”
            “We kissed each other.”
            This was last time he invited me to his apartment.  He stopped staring at me with the animal desire.  Every now and then, he still asked me to help him with his homework.  I sometimes saw him waiting outside of the student union for someone to show up, a new girlfriend I guessed.
            After this episode, I didn’t want to have a boyfriend for a long time.   It was as though this experience with Mohammad had stunned me and left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I wanted to have a relationship that was caring and mutual.  “Some day”, I told myself.
            Twenty-five years later, after I read this story to my friends in my writing group, one of them said, “This is rape.  You were raped!”  All of sudden, a light bulb lit up in my head.  I WAS RAPED twenty-five years ago and didn’t even know.  I was speechless.  I didn’t which was more painful, being raped or not knowing it.  All I knew was that I didn’t have much trouble with men in my life thereafter.  I married not only once but also twice.  I had relationships with a handful of people in my life.  I had experienced passionate love.  So this rape did not scar me.  It didn’t even bother me.  What bothered me more was I did not know it.  But why?

Coming soon from Fantasy Island Book Publishing for the whole story:


Connie J Jasperson said...

Oh Lisa. I would hug you if I could! Sometimes we are affected by these things in ways that we do not see. These experiences color our lives. God Bless you and keep on writing!

Alison said...

You are so brave to share this, Lisa.

Lili Tufel said...

Wow, Lisa, I'm so sorry that you had to go through that. You are so brave. God bless you.

Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

Connie, Alison and Lili, thank you so much for your support. Hugs.

JDarrollHall said...

Very cool Lisa...