Lay down your Burdens
Casey looked up from his screen when Danny walked into their office.
"How is she?"
Danny shrugged. "Talking about Lisa Olson."
"Yeah. Between her loyalty to the show – to Dana – and blind terror at what sports fans will do to her if she makes a complaint about Chris Patrick, I'm pretty sure Natalie's not going to say anything."
Casey considered this. "What did you say to her?"
Danny riffled through some papers on his desk. "I told her that this is the stuff friends gear up for."
"Nice." Casey went back to his script.
"Yeah?" He didn't look up.
"Did you ever talk about this stuff with Lisa? Or Dana?"
Casey's eyes were glazed; his mind on the hockey section of that night's show. "Sexual harassment in sports?"
Dan's mouth twisted. "Violence against women."
Casey shrugged. "Not really. I mean, I guess a lot of it was unsaid. Like, Lisa would get cabs everywhere instead of using the subway. Stuff like that?"
Dan sat down on their sofa. "Kind of." He paused. "So no guy ever hurt Lisa? Or any of your friends?" Or Dana?, he wanted to ask, but some things were almost impossible to say.
Casey's expression sharpened. "What are we talking about, Danny?"
Danny put up his hands. "Sorry, Casey. I didn't mean—." He frowned. "That conversation with Natalie? I just feel like I've had too many of those."
Casey's brow furrowed. "I don't think I have. I mean, I would know, right?"
Danny shrugged. "I didn't. The first time."
He had been accepted for a sports journalism internship the summer after sophomore year of college, but he had taken a week out to visit his family.
It had been a grey spot in the middle of a summer that was a Rubicon of sorts.
(The sheer joy of writing had grabbed Dan by the scruff of the neck, and his first trips on the road to write about baseball had filled his veins with the thrill of being alive and doing something that fit. Something else that had fit that summer was Jonathan Litvik, photographer at The Dartmouth, and the thought of Jonathan's mouth on his cock could still make Dan smile with affection.)
His father, thankfully, had seemed like he would be absorbed in work for the entire duration of Dan's visit, but the atmosphere in the house had still been oppressive. Dan would never have thought that the absence of someone could swirl in the air as surely as the presence of someone, but the lack of Sam was almost palpable.
He'd gone to the supermarket with his mother on the Tuesday, just to get out of the house.
Right there, next to the oranges, they'd bumped into Rabbi Lowenstein, who had known Dan forever. Had known Sam forever, until Sam was dead and no one would know him ever again.
Rabbi Lowenstein had skipped right past that, though, and made polite conversation with Dan about his internship, and Dartmouth, and then had caught Dan's mother's eye.
"Did you hear the news about Rachel Green?" He had used the same voice that he'd spoken to his parents and Dan with, after Sam.
His mother had frowned. "Is she not doing well at Yale?"
Rabbi Lowenstein had shaken his head, gently. "She was mugged just off campus on Saturday. It was a brutal assault. Just brutal."
Dan's mother had put her hand to her mouth. "That's terrible. Poor girl."
Dan had touched his mother's arm. "I could go visit her when she gets home from hospital. We were in some of the same classes in high school."
Rabbi Lownenstein and his mother had exchanged a look.
"Thanks for letting me know," his mother had said. "I'll visit with the Greens tomorrow."
They had been standing in front of the beef, while his mother selected a joint of meat for his farewell dinner, when he asked.
"Mmm." His mother had been absorbed in assessing the cuts of meat.
"Is there some reason that Rabbi Lowenstein doesn't want me visiting Rachel?"
His mother had paused, fractionally, before moving a foot along the aisle to look at more beef. "He might think it's more appropriate for me to visit."
His mother had bitten her lip. Had hesitated, holding the joint she'd selected in her hand.
She hadn't met his gaze. "What Rabbi Lowenstein said." She paused. "He meant that Rachel was sexually assaulted."
Dan had blinked. "Why didn't he just say that then?"
His mother had pursed her lips, still looking away. "It's not a very nice thing to talk about."
"But how did you know what he meant?"
She had shrugged, awkwardly, and the conversation was over.
"Did you go and see Rachel?"
Dan shook his head. "No. Which is pathetic, right? I mean, if she'd got the crap kicked out her I wouldn't have thought twice. But the way Mom talked about it, it was like the women at our shul were circling the wagons. Passing on the news in this coded way that only they understood."
Casey was silent.
"I don't know, Case. I'd never really thought about this stuff before. I mean, I was there when David was getting dressed for prom and Dad was helping with his bowtie." Dan could still remember the stink of the cologne that David had practically showered in.
"And Dad was kind of clearing his throat and dickering with the bowtie and I got this total fear that he would try and give David some condoms right in front of me, but he eventually just said something about treating his date right and getting her home on time. And I think that was his 'don't be a rapist, son' talk."
Casey nodded. "I was out working in the garage on something with my Dad one day and there was a story about some football player brought up on battery charges. He was disgusted. Said that only cowards hit women."
"Yeah, my Dartmouth friend John said his dad said the same thing to him, when I told him about my Mom and Rachel." Dan paused. "My story was a bit more on the nose than I realised, though."
(They had been having one of those dinner parties in someone's off-campus apartment, with spaghetti and cheap red wine, and joints lying in the ashtray on the terrace, to which the smokers had been banished. And Dan had talked about Rachel Green and Rabbi Lowenstein and his mom, and halfway through the story John's girlfriend Amina had got up and gone to the bathroom.
Dan would never have noticed that anything was wrong, if John hadn't been two shades too drunk to have kept the look of concern off his face as he followed her out of the room with his eyes.
Dan had been standing on their terrace smoking a cigarette when Amina came out to join him, banging the door behind her. She had wrapped her arms around herself and there was a chill in the air, but Dan had thought it was probably the other thing freezing her bones.
"I'm sorry," Dan had said. Amina had shrugged, half defensive and half defiant.
"High school," she had said, laconically, in answer to the question that Dan hadn't asked.
"The boys in computer club didn't talk to me at first, but I won this regional coding competition and a couple of them started to say 'hi' when they passed me in the hall. And then one of them asked me to his house to help him with some game he was writing. We were in his bedroom, where his computer was, and he just pushed me down on his bed."
She had been looking away from Dan, towards the college buildings in the distance. He stood still as a rock.
"I never told anyone until I came to college. I wouldn't have known what to tell them, except that that guy was an asshole. I didn't know that the word 'rape' described what happened to me."
She had looked at Dan then and there was something in her face that made Dan move towards her, to hug her. She had stepped back, out of arm's reach, and then her face had crumpled.
Dan had shaken his head, arms hanging uselessly by his side. "Don't be." )
"She didn't want you to touch her." There was something Dan couldn't read in Casey's voice.
"No." The sting of that moment, when Dan realised that at some level, however instinctual, Amina had been afraid of him, hadn't faded.
"Was she ok?" Casey asked.
Dan shrugged. "I guess. We never talked about it again. We weren't really close and she and John split up soon after that." He swallowed. "I got better at it, though."
"Jesus, Dan. How many times has this happened?"
"That's what I'm saying, Case. It's here at Sports Night. It's everywhere."
(Lying in a tangle of limbs with Jennifer, the smartest and funniest girl in his Contemporary American Novel seminar, he had realised that her total obsession with stars had one major omission. In the three weeks they had been seeing each other he had discovered that she had stars on her notebooks, her bag, a few t-shirts and even her sneakers. If she hadn't been an astronomy geek that might have been too much of a cute thing, but it had been pretty much a turn on that she had understood how stars worked.
He had pointed up, his finger indistinct in her dark bedroom. "You don't have any glowstars on your ceiling? Are you worried about your security deposit?"
"It's not that." Her breathing had been even. "My father raped me under stars like that."
Her words had created a sickening, cold rush in his stomach, and she'd seen his tentative stories about Jacob and raised them a million.
He'd squeezed her with the arm that was lying under her shoulders, wondering if this was what he should be doing. Despite the fact that she was made of the same sinew and muscle and blood as he was, she had suddenly felt fragile under his fingers.
"I'm sorry, Jennifer." His voice had been thick with revulsion, and he had wondered if it was just self-indulgent bullshit that was making him so upset.
She turned her head to look at him, and her eyes were clear in the darkness. "It's ok, Danny. I'm fine.")
"God, Danny." Casey's eyes were dark. "I mean, God."
"Yeah." Danny was looking at his knees. "I don't think I've ever felt more ashamed to be a man than in that moment."
Casey's voice was soft. "It isn't you who should be ashamed, Danny. It's those sick pricks who do shit like that." He knit his brows. "You know that, right?"
"Yeah. I guess." Danny's voice was quiet.
"Speaking of sick pricks, have you ever noticed how none of the women at Sports Night will be alone in a room with that guy Jerry from legal?"
Dan nodded his head. "Sure. I saw Kim take a pass on the elevator once when it stopped at our floor, and I asked her about it. She said it would just have been her and Jerry riding alone, and he was handsy."
"They all know. Dana won't give him the time of day." Casey shook his head. "They must talk about who's safe and who isn't."
(And Dan discovered this was true when Kim sidled up to him at the craft table and told him about Steve Sisco and the sex parties that Rebecca had never seemed to want to be at.)
"Well," said Dan. "I guess that Chris Patrick and Jerry-from-legal are on the same list now."
"Damn straight," said Casey.
And it wasn't anything really, let alone anywhere near like enough, but it was something.