I bought it in June 2004 from Kohl's, the first and only one I tried on that day, annoyed as I was with my mother's insisting that I try on more. It fit seemingly perfectly, and better than that, it was black—my colour, or at least what everyone at school associated with me. When you have a limited selection in colours of uniform shirts and you can wear an extra-small, you buy what you can find. But I was sick of the floral tankini I had been wearing the past two summers, and this—these black bikini bottoms with a fake 'belt', and white top patterned with black rectangles—seemed perfect for me.
And I thought I was attractive in it.
I suppose the first time I wore it was in Canada, though that was fairly inconsequential. I bought it not for my weekend vacation there, but rather for the week after—that was when my first boyfriend and I took a rowboat out to the island in the middle of the lake near my house. The rowboat ride to the island had been a dream of mine from the age of eight, never accomplished until that day. In the rowboat I showed off my bikini top, but left my Capri pants on because at the time I despised my thighs.
On the island I gave him the present I had bought in Canada—a box of fifty teabags of jasmine green tea, twelve dollars Canadian. He already knew what it was—the night I had gotten home I had made him guess, telling him it started with a 'G'—his answers were as diversely ridiculous as "a goblin" and "some guy named Gregory" before finally alighting upon "green tea" which when saying he put the emphasis on the "green," much as he did the "cream" in "cream cheese" and the "goat" in "goatee."
Jasmine green tea is one of the few things that emerged unscathed from that relationship.
We couldn't make tea on the island, what with the lack of boiling water and teacups. So we lay in the grass, against a tree. I wanted privacy but a group of girls my sister's age rode up in a paddleboat—which couldn't even dock there. They annoyed me and to tell the truth I was slightly embarrassed at how ridiculously bony he was. So we rowed back.
I've been to that island twice since that day—once with friends and once with my current boyfriend. All the bark has been stripped from the tree we leaned against that first time. I thought it was a sign, the first time, until my youngest sister told me she had been the one to do it. Bored ten-year-olds do not signs make, I suppose. But it still felt fairly meaningful.
I continued to wear that bathing suit for vacations to California, Utah, Canada, and Europe—throughout 2004 and 2005.
The only other time I can ever remember wearing it in Ohio was on the third weekend of September, 2005. I was with my first boyfriend still then, and he had a hot tub on his back porch. It was our idea to swim in it, that weekend—however dirty the water was. Saturday was lovely. And after our swim we fell peacefully asleep in his bed. I dreamt of swirling patterns of peach-coloured marble—the same patterns lining the shower in my bathroom at home. When we woke up he played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and I read a book recommended to me by my government teacher.
Sunday was a different story.
Like the day before, we got into the hot tub together. This time, when we got out, we lay on the living room couch rather than the bed. My skin—all of it—felt dry from the chlorine and sore from the two times we had already had sex that day. All I wanted was some lotion, but I was too tired to move.
So I didn't, and when he suggested that we have sex again, I declined.
He didn't take no for an answer. He dove into me. And while he was inside he smiled down at me as if to say: "But you like this, don't you?" But I didn't. All I wanted was for him to stop, or to go back in time several minutes in order to make my declination stronger.
Afterwards we kept our plans to meet my parents and sisters at a local MetroPark. In the car there, while I drove, he headbanged along to the Shins' 'Pressed in a Book'—as carefree as if he hadn't just raped me less than an hour before.
Two days later as I was trying to forget that afternoon I discovered a rash of red bumps spreading between my breasts and up my neck. The doctor said it was caused by the dirty water in the hot tub. Upon seeing them for the first time, though, I cried. I wanted to cut them off with a cheese grater or a knife or something. All they reminded me of was that Sunday, some awful memento of what had happened to me.
I never wore that bathing suit again.