You looked out the window and, not for the first time, thought about how wrong the weather forecast had been. The rain was hitting the dusty glass window with a loud noise. The cloud was so dark; one would think it was midnight instead of six o’clock in the afternoon. A chill ran up your spine. You were expecting a sunny day, not a gloomy one.
“I hope you take your coffee black, I have no sugar left.” The old man smiled at you apologetically as he sat across you. You noticed how his yellow teeth were pointed, like those of a vampire. A scar was visible on his face, from his left brow going straight to his right chin. You subtly wiped your palms on your black slacks. You were getting nervous and didn’t want the man to know it.
“You were nervous.” The man murmured, making you jumped on your seat. He was not looking at you but on the window. You laughed to hide your embarrassment. Your laugh was cut short when you looked at the window and saw him watching you intently through the glass.
The image of his sharp pale eyes watching you and the rain outside the window blended on the glass. There was his reflection, a stranger smirking creepily at you as if your fear gave him enormous power. Behind his reflection, the dark forest could be seen outside.
“I came here for an interview. I’m Tyler.” You said and forced your voice not to shake. You were about to show him your I.D, but you forgot it in your apartment. You drove all the way to his creepy house in this abandoned barrio for a talk, and it was what you were going to get. You were nothing but persuasive. “I’m writing an article about rape culture. Many of my colleagues suggest that you’re the best man to give insights—”
“Do you know who I am, boy?” This man’s voice hardened. Your heart did a somersault inside your rib cage because you kept on forgetting his name. You hated how he insultingly called you a boy.
“Of course!” You said eagerly while subtly getting the paper out of your pocket—the one you prepared for this interview. You secretly read it under the table, out of his sight.
“You’re Atty. Vindicta.” You said, hoping he didn’t notice what you did—no such luck. He laughed, his chest vibrating at the sound. You clenched your fist, almost crumpling the paper.
“I see, did you sleep with the boss to get this job?” Atty. Vindicta asked; you said nothing. He was right; you were not smart enough to get a position in a publishing company, but who cared? You had a salary, and that was what mattered. This job was better than the one you got in the morgue before.
Outside, the wind blew so hard a tree almost fell. The lights flickered for a moment emphasizing the cobwebs and spiders on the ceiling. You noticed that this house was old. The lawyer used denim as a table cloth. You also remembered that his welcome rug was made of denim. You found that odd.
“You were known to take the victims’ side in the rape cases that you handled, and half of the time, you lose.” You emphasized your last word to remind him that both of you were just lame at your jobs, so he didn’t have to be an arrogant bastard. “Why is that? And usually, a female lawyer handles this case.”
“Because it’s sickening to sit on your comfortable couch and watch the rapists walking freely on the streets.” As he said that, your eyes darted toward the only couch in the room, with springs visible on the seat and coffee stains decorating the cushions. You hid a smirk while mocking his comfortable couch in your mind.
“I just passed the bar exam that day, and I was in a mood to celebrate. I bought beer and chips and watched videos of court trials. That was how I celebrate victories. On that particular day, the trial was about a man who raped a woman in a dark alley. He is ten years older than her. You know what the defense lawyer emphasized during the criminal trial? That the girl gave her consent because she was wearing a thong, with a lace front, during the rape.” Atty. Vindicta’s hand formed a fist, his eyes were red, and his veins protruded on his forehead. “How was wearing underwear interpreted as a consent? Almost everybody wears underwear. It’s a part of everyday life.”
“Okay.” You laughed as you wrote down everything he said. You were amused by his reaction. “Why are you so angry? Affected much?”
He looked at you as if you were the most stupid creature in the world. Well, between the two of you, you were not the one who lost half of the cases assigned to him. “Do you have a sister? Do you love your mom, even just a little? How could you not know why I’m angry?”
You shrugged; you didn’t care for things that did not affect you. As long as you were happy, the world could do whatever it wanted.
“I mean, if she didn’t want to be raped, why would she wear a thong?” You asked, curious.
“Young man, it was not as if she walked on the alley with her skirt up showing everyone her thong. When the man assaulted her, he didn’t know what kind of underwear she wore. He decided to rape her even before he saw her underwear. So why did the lawyer blame the act on the thong?”
Your interviewee’s voice roared in time with the thunder. A bolt of lightning flashed in the distance, highlighting the scar on the man’s face.
The image frightened the hell out of you, so you reached for the coffee. To distract yourself, you immediately sipped on your coffee only to spit it back to the mug. It was already cold and too bitter for your taste.
“Here.” Atty. Vindicta handed you a denim rug to wipe the spilled coffee on the table.
“Sorry about that.” You apologized without sincerity as you read the paper you prepared for your next question. “Do you have a lost case that really destroyed your career?”
“It didn’t destroy my career, but it destroyed me.” The man whispered more to himself than to you. He was looking at the woods outside the window as if he saw something there that you couldn’t see. You found it weird and could not wait to get out of this place. “My client was raped in the woods across the main road. She was so young, only in her mid-twenties, and with many opportunities ahead of her.”
“What was she wearing?” You asked.
“This young woman was raped, and the first thing you would ask is her clothes?” He responded angrily and continued, not answering your question. “She... was devastated that she couldn’t tell me all the details of the rape in one seating because she had nervous breakdowns. I promised her we would give her justice. We managed to gather evidence that she was really forced into sex, and in the end, her rapist was never convicted.”
You were silent for a moment as you watched Atty. Vindicta stared at the woods through the window. And you wondered if the girl was raped in there, you shuddered in revulsion.
“Why? Why did you lose the case when you have the evidence?” You asked, but in your mind, you knew this lawyer must be a terrible one to lose a case with pieces of evidence.
“The judge thought that going to a party, wearing a tube top and a lot of makeup are invitations for rape.” Atty. Vindicta laughed humorlessly. All the hair on your neck stood up at the sound of that sinister laughter. You glanced at your watch, wanting to be out of this house immediately. “Instead of a rape case, the judge said it was just a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior. Those were his exact words, by the way. Feel free to write.”
“She must have been wrecked.”
“Wrecked is an understatement.” Atty Vindicta said, the veins in his eyes protruding, making you look away. “Not just her, but most of the other rape victims started to be afraid of reporting. They knew that the justice system will blame their clothes instead of the person who should really take the blame: the rapist.”
“Okay, don’t get me wrong. But if girls knew that people in miniskirts are being raped, why would they wear miniskirts then?” You asked out of frustration. You tapped your foot on the floor, realizing for the first time that his carpet was denim.
“Even people who wear jeans are being raped.”
“Yes, but they know that the court will blame their clothes if they were raped wearing revealing clothes. But look at it this way. If they were raped and they were not wearing miniskirts, for sure, the court will easily convict the rapists.” You really thought you have a point on that one. You were feeling pretty smart yourself. You bit your lip to hide a smirk.
“Have you heard of Denim Day?” The lawyer asked. He was serious a while ago, but at this moment, there was something about his aura that was threatening.
“Ahhmm.. no.” Your panic radar was at a high level once again. For sure, he was not talking about the denim sale in malls.
“It was a day of protest wherein men and women wore jeans to show their disagreement in a ruling wherein the rapist was not put to jail because his victim was wearing jeans.” Atty. Vindicta leaned forward; his pale eyes were directly looking at you. You experienced a jolt and leaned back. “The jury thought that since the rapist would have a hard time raping a woman in jeans, then the victim possibly helped her rapist undressed herself. Therefore, implying consent. And that was the most stupid ruling I’ve ever heard in my enter life.”
A bat was hysterically flying as it hit the window hard. It stayed there for a second, with its black wings spread widely on the glass before it slowly slid down, leaving a trace on its wake. Your neck prickled with fear. You could not stop thinking about that bat and its emotionless black eyes as it recognized the moment of its doom.
You wondered if your eyes reflected the same expression when the lights flickered again before you were engulfed in total blackness. The next moment, you heard the scraping of a chair and a door being locked.
“W-What’s happening?” You heard the panic and fear in your voice. You wished you just stayed in your house and watched the football game with a cold beer in your hand.
“Do you remember her, Mr. Tyler Jordan?” He spit your name like a poison. You tried to look for him, but you were only greeted by the darkness. And with a mini heart attack, you realized you never told him your last name. “Does it feel good to get away with your crime?”
You heard footsteps coming toward you, so you panicked and stepped back. Too late, you realized that you were still sitting on a chair and you stumbled. A laugh broke through the darkness, making you sobbed.
“I didn’t do anything! Please, I just want to go home.” You sobbed as you tried to stand, but your knees buckled and you stumbled again on the denim rug. “I never forced anyone to have sex with me!”
Your eyes adjusted to the dark, but your vision blurred because of the tears forming in your eyes.
“My daughter committed suicide after the verdict. Did you hear me, you bastard! She killed herself because the court scolded her for wearing jeans, because this evil society punished her for being raped!”
You were sobbing as you stood up and faced the man, but you could only see shadows dancing in the blackness. With legs as soft as jellies, you ran towards the door, fighting your way through the darkness. You hit things on your way, but you didn’t care. Your sweaty palms turned the doorknob, but the door wouldn’t move. You shivered in cold and panic.
“I never raped anyone in jeans. If she told you I raped her, she was lying.” You were crying as you begged this man to believe you. Your lips trembled, and your throat felt dry. Your fingers shook.
“Oh, she was not able to tell me that.” You felt like the voice was getting nearer. Tears of fear flooded your eyes. “Because you raped her hours after she killed herself.”
Lightning flashed, casting away the darkness for a second. Then he was there, standing millimetres in front of you, his nose almost touching yours. His pale eyes were wide as if he was in a hallucination. His chapped lips were smirking, promising retribution.