“Tell me from the beginning. Chronological order.” The policeman, who had an expression of inattention and dullness on his face, uncapped his pen and poised it over a small notebook in a way to suggest he was waiting on the disheveled woman, in a hospital gown, to fluently recount the events or rather an event.
“The beginning?” The woman’s eyes are red and there are black marks on her cheeks and under her eyes from smeared eyeliner and mascara. “Well…a bar…” The woman, who was thirty-three years old with plump hips and rounded cheeks, squinted her eyes. The policeman noted the woman probably looked pleasing to the eye if her makeup was properly applied, was in attractive clothes, and was minus bruises and scratches that speckled her arms and neck.
“Yes. The bar. Start with the bar. Then tell me what happened. One event. The next event. And so on and so on.” The policeman shifted his weight and looked at his watch. His female partner was late. She had said she needed to find a babysitter for her son. Women. Always excuses.
“I don’t really remember it like that. I…I…remember the smell of Obsession. Calvin Klein. The men’s perfume. That’s what he was wearing. I remember the smell.”
The police officer sighed. “Okay, when did you first see him?”
“I think…Kanye West…yes, a song by Kanye West was playing and I was dancing. The lights were flashing and spinning.”
“I don’t know. I remember going outside. I remember the roughness of a wall. It scraped my arms…then the smell…and he was pressed up against me…he was…”
“Wait, wait. Just wait. How did you end up outside?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Were you drinking?” The police officer looked angry.
“Y…Yes…I was drinking. It was a nightclub. Everyone was drinking.”
“I don’t remember. Maybe two Cosmos. No…I bought three…but one splashed all over me. I got elbowed. Yes, two. You can check my credit card.”
“Did anyone buy you drinks?”
“Ummm…he might have…I don’t know. I can’t remember.” The woman starts crying. A nurse opens the curtain. She glares at the police officer and then closes the curtain.
“So the man you are accusing of raping you bought you a drink?”
“For fuck sake, what do you know? Tell the story from beginning to end.”
The woman continues to cry. “I don’t remember it like that. I remember his smell, the ripping sound of my underwear and dress, the roughness of the wall I was pressed against, his laughter, his spit on my face…the wetness dripping…the feeling of his hands squeezing my arms and neck…the coldness of the night…rustling…yes, a rat rustling in garbage in the alley…”
“And the man’s face?”
“I…yes…but it comes and goes. Sharp jaw, whiskers from not shaving for a day, blue eyes, brown hair…it’s there…his face…it assembles and then disassembles.”
“Because you were drinking.”
“No. No. I wasn’t drunk. No. He said he wanted to talk privately so we went to the alley behind the club. I wasn’t drunk.”
“Then why don’t you remember the order of events?”
“I…I…don’t know. I just remember smells and sensations. I don’t know. But I was raped. And he covered my mouth so I wouldn’t scream. I couldn’t breathe. I thought…I thought I would die. His…his hands were soft…but I was going to die. I just…sensations. I remember sensations and that I might die. I remember his laughter.”
The policeman closes his notebook. “You don’t remember the exact time, you forget the name of the nightclub, you can’t remember the man’s name, you can’t fully remember his face, you can’t tell your story from beginning to end and you’re even hazy on how many drinks you had.”
“But…I was raped.”
“Yes. A rape kit was done. But you can’t tell a story. All you remember are sensations. I can’t build a case on sensations. Anyhow…we’ll see what happens with the rape kit. But be very careful Ms. Rheingold. You might end up accusing an innocent man. A completely innocent white man. Do you understand?”
The woman stops crying. “What if he had been a black man?”
The police officer laughs. “We’ll see what happens.”
The police officer walks out of the ER as his partner approaches.
“You’re done interviewing?” she asks.
“Yeah. The woman has a bad memory. Only remembers sensations.” He says sensations mockingly.
“That’s normal for a traumatic event.”
“Oh, really? Why don’t you interview her then? Record all the sensations. Can’t build a case on sensations.”
His partner sighs. “I think I will interview her. Sensations will unlock blocked memories.”
“Fine. Whatever. I don’t believe her. She’s going to pin this on some perfectly innocent white guy.”
The female partner flinches and then smiles. “Have a nice evening. I will interview her now.”
In the end, Mark Grass was accused of rape based on camera evidence from the nightclub that was tracked by pulling the woman’s credit card statements. There were no witnesses. Mark Grass was a lawyer with an international law firm. He went to Princeton. His father was mayor of his hometown. Grass said he was accused based on the “hysteria” surrounding the #MeToo movement. He was found innocent because the woman could not remember anything concretely. Her memory was of sensations and laughter from Grass. He insisted everything was consensual. He admitted to sex. There was DNA evidence from the rape kit.
His father said, “Another innocent man has fallen victim to the #MeToo movement. The woman is deranged and vindictive. Sensations! That’s not how memory works.”
The expert psychologist in the trial said, “That’s how memory works in the face of trauma.”
Grass said, “He said, she said. And…” He was going to say that what he says is most important but he restrained himself on Twitter and Facebook. Somehow men sympathized with him and he got followers and friends.
The woman moved to another state. She got death threats.