‘Used’: A True Story by Less Lee Moore
Writer’s note: Whenever a celebrity is revealed to be a sexual predator, it triggers painful memories of my own history. For years, I didn’t know how to categorize what happened to me until I started reading first-hand accounts of those who had been sexually harassed or assaulted. Their responses were so close to my own that I began to realize that what happened to me was part of the continuum of sexual assault, and that it was much more complex and insidious than a stranger grabbing a woman in a dark alleyway.
The recent stories about Devin Faraci, Harry Knowles, and Harvey Weinstein make me realize that it is finally time I make public the full story of what happened to me.
The events in the following story took place over the course of several years, culminating in the early part of 2001. The names have all been changed but the details have not. The only reason I don’t put the names is because, after all this time, I am still afraid of reprisals, particularly legal, as the person is question has a lot more money and status than I do. We also have a lot of friends in common; no doubt this will get back to him somehow.
Anyone who reads this and wants to know the real identities of the people in question can contact me and ask. – Less Lee Moore
The sweltering, humid air made it almost impossible to breathe. Sweat clung fiercely to my face and neck, but offered no release from the heat. I wandered the festival grounds with Suzie and Anna, desperately hoping for a vendor whose bottled water supply hadn’t yet run dry. We were at an outdoor concert with a long roster of bands, but only cared about one.
Dan Pearson was the singer and guitarist for The Loopins, indie darlings from the West coast. The three of us had crushes on him; he was the lanky one with high cheekbones and a cute dimple. Anna had met him a few years ago and told us how she’d attained the somewhat enviable status of fan-turned-friend. She’d promised to introduce us to him that day; it wasn’t the most promising of situations. Shoved through a sticky crowd swollen with beer and testosterone, we plastered ourselves to the front of the stage, the finally-attained water bottles clutched in damp hands. Security thugs sprayed us with hoses and catcalled.
“This isn’t a wet t-shirt contest!” I screeched, already edgy from the quickly-approaching meeting with Dan. Suzie rolled her eyes and hissed between drags on her cigarette, “My God, calm down already.” She glanced around to see if anyone had noticed my outburst, but they were too busy moshing to care. Drenched and humiliated, we escaped to the side of the ersatz arena to watch the rest of the band’s set. Anna apologized for the way Dan kept spitting on the stage. “He wasn’t that obnoxious when I met him before,” she insisted, chewing her fingernails.
After the too-brief set, Anna yanked us past the barricades to meet Dan, who was charming and witty and even cuter in person. I got a pathetic vibe from Anna that she was still “just a fan,” and I figured that would seal my own fate. I’m a wanna-be with smeared makeup and damp hair. I felt impotent, a floundering spectator. Clever rejoinders sprang forth in my head but stumbled on the way to my lips.
Suzie parlayed her typical, shameless fawning into an invite to a tacky industry party the band planned to attend later that night; she agreed to play chauffeur. I wondered if she’d get too drunk to drive. Again. After Dan left us, Suzie cackled and stubbed out her cigarette, her fourth in the last hour. “Posers,” she sneered at the sodden mass around us. “If they only knew how cool we were. We hung out with Dan Pearson.” I was embarrassed as Anna laughed conspiratorially.
Suzie was our ride; she insisted on going to her place to shower and redo her makeup. “Look, there’s not enough time to drive to your apartment,” she said, lighting up another Marlboro. Annoyed, I powdered my face and sprayed myself with a few blasts of perfume instead. We arrived at the band’s hotel room at dusk, but no one could find Paul, Dan’s band mate. “He’s riding mystery hips,” snickered drummer Jim. Isn’t Paul married? I didn’t want to deal with Suzie calling me a prude, so I let it slide.
The party was a total drag: a coterie of would-be hipsters and has-beens guzzled well drinks while bartenders tried unsuccessfully to hide their boredom behind taut smiles. I tried not to stare as the also-married Dan pawed at a much-younger girl named Courtney. She hadn’t been at that afternoon’s show, but was a friend of Helen, who turned out to be the “mystery hips” in question. No one acknowledged the infidelities. Not out loud, anyway. It was all quips and smiles.
By the time the party fizzled completely, everyone was starving, so Suzie offered to take us all to a late-night restaurant. I was ragged and sunburned and knew I was going to feel like the ashtray in Suzie’s car when I had to get up for work the next day, but I was determined not to go home until I’d convinced Dan that I was cool. I dredged up some nerve to banter with the others, but I felt flustered. Dan unloaded round after round of deadly jokes about ex-band members, taking the piss out of them with unbridled delight. In bed that night, I was overwhelmed by tears, even more frustrated that I couldn’t figure out why. What’s wrong with me? Am I tired… or disappointed?
Several months later, Dan returned to town, this time just for fun. Now divorced, he’d also just recently split with a girlfriend. Suzie asked him to meet us for dinner; “us” included Anna. Dan finished the leftovers on my plate without being asked and then gleefully mocked some well-known actress he’d slept with who he claimed was a sloppy kisser. I probably shouldn’t have worn these baggy overalls. Not like he’s interested in some schlub like me. At least I’m not carrying on like I think I’m Dorothy Parker. I glared at Suzie, now on her third drink and umpteenth cigarette.
Suzie called me the next night, bragging how she’d taken Dan to lunch, describing how he’d mooned over a cute girl at a coffee house. He had apparently told her he was too shell-shocked after his recent heartbreaks to approach the girl and Suzie thought it was cute. I complained that she should’ve taken me along. “But Dan wanted to go today. I can’t help it if you’re stuck at your desk.” And then Dan went home and I thought that was the end of it.
But the next summer, Suzie convinced Anna to convince me to go on a road trip to see him and Paul perform on an acoustic club tour. We left later than planned. It was dark when Suzie’s rear tire exploded on a rural highway, so we had to spend a somewhat sleepless night in a dingy motel room with a toilet that wouldn’t flush. Why the hell didn’t she check her tire before we left? I was thoroughly exasperated.
We got a late start the next day and the repairs took longer than expected because it turned out Suzie’s other rear tire was bald. “Now we won’t get to hang out with Dan and Paul before the show,” I whined. “Well, next time, you can drive everyone in your dinky little car,” she bitched.
We managed to find a hotel, shower, eat dinner, and get to the club before the first band started, but there hadn’t been enough time for a nap and my eyes were twitching from exhaustion. Suddenly, Dan pounced out of the shadows and perched on my lap, flirting outrageously and pestering me for my driver’s license. Where the hell did this come from? Maybe he’s too drunk to remember that he’s already met me. I felt like he was playing a trick and decided to ignore his attentions. Suzie’s irritation practically begged me to look over, but I just couldn’t.
After the show, I tiredly chatted with the band’s tour manager Rosanna, who tried to sell me on their music. “I’m a fan and I have those albums already,” I snapped. Her eyes flickered slightly, but she said nothing. At the hotel, Suzie was pissed about Dan’s sudden interest. “I think you’re exaggerating,” I sighed, masking my secret excitement. All Suzie would give me was an irritated, “Whatever.”
The next day, we met up with Dan, Paul, and a couple of their local friends for breakfast before making the long drive back home. Dan made lascivious comments and ogled my cleavage. It was awkward and bewildering and I felt strangely guilty joining the conversation, even though I barely spoke anyway. On the drive back home, Suzie and I argued about Dan’s behavior. I claimed I didn’t care, but the butterflies inside me indicated otherwise.
Within days, Dan began emailing me goofy declarations of adoration, but I refused to take him seriously. I laughed it off when Suzie asked about it, protesting that he was certainly just kidding. My deepest, most shameful, secret wish was that he meant it. It would mean I was cool enough for a real rock star to like me. I rationalized that if Dan was starting this thing—whatever it was—it must be real, and I began to visualize myself as the unlikely heroine who’d cure him of his philandering ways.
Through a scorching August and a steamy September, Dan and I emailed frequently; his sexual innuendoes wowed me. I just work in some office; this guy is a semi-famous musician with cred and money. I assured myself that he was tired of superficial relationships with other celebrities and that was why he’d chosen me.
I was constantly distracted at work and home, checking my email obsessively and creating erotically charged mise en scènes in my head. Dan would make off-the-cuff comments about bubble baths and kisses on the thighs, but it was all vague and maddening. He dangled promises of a New Year’s Eve concert and I stayed awake at night staring at the ceiling, contemplating if he was serious or not.
I felt weird sharing my angst with Suzie; every time I brought it up she got all huffy, like she wanted to be Dan’s choice. “I’m not jealous, if that’s what you think,” she retorted. “You’re just being paranoid.”
So I poured everything out to my English pal Joan, who thought the whole thing was positively dreamy and sent me a London newspaper clipping advertising a worldwide casting call from Roman Polanski for young musicians. “I think Dan would be perfect for this!” she scribbled on a note. When I half-jokingly mentioned it to Dan, he demanded I send him the details, telling me he’d audition. I neatly trimmed the edges of the clipping and agonized in the craft store for an hour over the perfect, tiny, gilt frame to hold the scrap of paper. It will be a special gift, our own private joke.
At the end of October my grandmother had a heart attack. I should have visited her more often. I felt selfish and somewhat alarmed at how much this thing with Dan had blotted out everything else. Dan was semi-sympathetic about it in his emails, which had become vexing in their increasing infrequence. When I mentioned that I had brought my brother to visit her in the hospital, he asked, “Is he as attractive as you are? Is he into other guys?” I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or disgusted.
Frantic for some sort of positive feedback that would point to concrete evidence of his continuing interest, I tiptoed around the suggestion that Dan should call me, but he never did. After days with nothing from him in my inbox, he finally came through. “We’re playing New Year’s Eve. Can I stay with you?” My fingers trembled as I typed an affirmative reply. Ashamed of my twin bed—a leftover from high school—I bought a futon from a friend, rationalizing that I wasn’t just doing this for Dan’s sake.
In December, things turned cold and strange as Dan’s emails dwindled to almost nothing. What he did say was laced with incoherent tales of too many tequila shots and not enough sleep. Then it was almost Christmas and I hadn’t heard from him in a week. I panicked. My stomach rebelled against the lack of nutrition and sleep and I had to visit the doctor. Delirious with the Demoral I received in the exam room, I giggled when the male nurse said his name was Dan. “Oh, that’s why I’m here,” I murmured before slipping into a haze. The doctor sternly advised me to eat or this problem would get worse.
I met up with Suzie and a few friends on Christmas Day, hoping to distract myself from misery. I ached to talk to her about it, but I rarely mentioned Dan anymore; when I did she always made some dismissive remark. It hurt, but I couldn’t blame her. How could I justify being so upset over an almost-boyfriend? Driving home that night I bawled so hard I could hardly see the road ahead, the night sky looming like dungeon walls closing in on me.
Two days before New Year’s Eve, Dan sent his flight information, but little else. I felt a hollow euphoria and despite the doctor’s warning, I could hardly eat. Why doesn’t he sound more excited? When Dan came through the gate at the airport he hugged me, but it wasn’t the crush of long-distance lovers. He had a cell phone in one hand and luggage in the other. The now-divorced Paul was there, too, and I wasn’t sure if he knew about my thing with Dan, so I played it cool.
Paul was to stay with Suzie, and Dan with me, but it felt more like a business arrangement than an invitation to a night of passion. On the drive home he made sarcastic comments and fiddled with the tapes in my car. A creepy sensation settled over me. This isn’t right; this isn’t how it should feel. The sky was dead electric light and I felt smothered by my own stupid naïveté. “So can you get us some cocaine?” he asked nonchalantly. A hot wave of panic spread through my stomach and into my throat.
At my duplex, Dan didn’t like it when my dog jumped all over him. “I like dogs, but I don’t like them on the furniture,” he asserted. “Are you sure you even live here? I’ve never seen a place so spotless.” I hoped he didn’t notice my cheeks flaming with mortification; I’d gone on a cleaning blitz over the last few weeks, even purchasing fluffy new towels for that amorous bubble bath I’d planned. I could feel them, neatly folded in the closet, mocking me with I-told-you-sos.
Dan flopped down on my futon. “Help me take off my boots.” I noticed that the buttons of his cowboy shirt were pulled tight against a swelling beer gut. I don’t even recognize you. “I’m going to take a nap,” he announced, interrupting my staring. “Wanna join me?”
I tentatively lay down next to him and he pressed himself up behind me as I tittered nervously. “What’s so funny?” he demanded. I had no answer. Soon he began kissing me but there were no fireworks. Incredulously, I realized: It’s going to happen now. My dog had a cold, wet nose that was far too curious for Dan and his ideas about dogs and furniture, so I ended up tying her to the railing on the front porch, even though it was at least ten degrees colder than normal.
Back in the bedroom, Dan started kissing me again. This is no longer a seduction. I took off my clothes like I had at the doctor’s office a few weeks earlier. Dan undressed himself. I no longer wanted to have sex, but the fear of possibly being raped hovered menacingly. Maybe I should tell him to look at me, I considered as the bloated robot struggled above me, eyes closed, lips pursed. He kept going until he was done.
Suddenly a thunderous knock rattled the front door. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Dan snorted tersely. I gathered my robe around myself and peeked through the peephole. It was my creepy neighbor, an older guy who made my skin crawl because his beady eyes followed me constantly.
“It’s very cold. I don’t think your dog should be out here,” he barked jealously at me. I suddenly imagined that he’d held a glass to our adjoining wall.
“I know, thanks,” I said, ignoring the dog’s shivering, lonely expression and pushing the door closed. I wondered if he believed I was a prostitute.
By now, Dan was getting dressed—all business—making arrangements on his cell phone about leaving for sound check. Stifling frustration, I let the dog in, while Dan chattered in the background In fact, he spent most of the ride to the club on his phone, clearly energized by the news that Rosanna’s plane had just landed.
Suzie was already there when we arrived and I clued her in to recent events, strategically omitting any mention of how uncomfortable everything had been. I didn’t want to watch her gloat. Instead, I swallowed horror at having to feel like this for the rest of the night—a stranger in my own skin—like I’d sometimes felt on the first day of a new job or right after I’d lost my virginity at 18.
Trying to buoy my confidence by playing the role of Dan’s new something-or-other, I spotted Rosanna and approached her with a big smile and an apology for being short with her that night in Georgia. Her face was puzzled, like she didn’t even remember the incident, or me, for that matter. Dan leapt towards Rosanna when he saw her and a little bubble of joy immediately enveloped them. Then they were gone: no introductions of me as his “girlfriend,” no acknowledgement that I even existed. Dread continued to rise like bile in my throat.
Arrangements were made for everyone go out to dinner before the show, including Anna, who had arrived and immediately clung to Suzie. Anxiety crushed my chest like an incubus. Paul’s friend Helen showed up and seemed genuinely happy to see me. I was embarrassed by the tears of gratitude I felt welling in my eyes. Ravenous, but with no appetite, I sat at the table like a dysfunctional zombie
Dan and Rosanna didn’t sit next to each other, but a distinct thread connected them. His cutting comments about anyone and everyone began to seem less like teasing and more like un-friendly fire. Even Paul was not spared. He fought back with tales of Dan and Rosanna wrestling drunk and smashing liquor bottles. Rosanna brusquely announced that Dan’s status as the biggest slut in rock and roll was in jeopardy since he’d only screwed nineteen girls that year. “No,” Dan smirked, “Today makes twenty.”
My stomach collapsed into my lap. I waited for shock or outrage from someone—anyone—but it never came, not even from Suzie.
I was too humiliated to make eye contact with the others at the table. Everything continued like nothing out of the ordinary had taken place. I am out of my league. I am drowning.
Back at the club there was some surreptitious discussion, after which Suzie asked to borrow my cell phone to call her friend Fred. He soon arrived, toting along a sullen drug dealer, the dealer’s strangely fresh-faced girlfriend, and Dan’s desired cocaine. Dan and Rosanna made frequent, short trips to the bathroom. I guzzled champagne and picked at the food in the backstage area as the shifty-eyed drug dealer hit on me. When I blew him off, he grumbled something violent and repugnant. Frightened, I found Dan—who was with Rosanna—and sat next to him. He held our hands, one on each side: a Berlin Wall.
While the bands performed, I roamed the club, drunk and dazed. I speculated on the probability of Dan kissing me at midnight. He didn’t, but he didn’t kiss Rosanna, either. At least there’s that. After the show, he found me backstage, Rosanna on his arm, and proposed that she return to the apartment with us. I mumbled a tired assent. “And then we can have a three-way,” he added, as he and Rosanna laughed. Knowingly? I wondered. Dan loaded his guitar and Rosanna’s suitcase into my car as an unexpected snowfall began and ended within minutes. Back at my apartment, I crashed onto the bed.
I awoke later to Dan and Rosanna chattering loudly in the kitchen about how they’d done a mountain of coke and walked the dog while I was passed out. I hope none of my neighbors were awake to see them. Admitting they’d finally come down enough to sleep, they both climbed into bed with me and we dozed off.
I was roused from sleep as Dan started kissing and stroking me while Rosanna, on the other side, did the same to him. He initiated sex with me, but then stopped and turned to Rosanna. I stared as he removed the condom, but didn’t put on another one. As if there was any doubt, now I know what I was to him. They soon forgot I was there, so I snuck into my robe and out of the room.
I knew I should be angry and upset, but all I felt was claustrophobic disgust. My apartment was small and I had nowhere else to go. Maybe if I cry I’ll feel better. I forced myself to make the sounds of crying, but when no tears would come I felt worse. I could hear Dan and Rosanna screwing.
Suddenly, I felt the unwelcome growls of my vacant stomach. So now I’m hungry? Great. I cursed the layout of my apartment, knowing I’d have to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen. I cautiously crept through, not looking, not breathing, not hearing, unseen by the writhing mass on the bed. Back in the living room I ate crackers on the couch and fantasized about tossing Dan and Rosanna’s suitcases into the street in a rage.
After they’d finished, I carefully entered the bedroom. Dan was fumbling with the bed sheets and seemed disoriented. “That was interesting,” he said, with distracted amusement. Rosanna’s eyes were huge and unblinking, affixed to Dan while he spoke, like if she avoided looking at me, I’d no longer be standing there.
Dan was still talking. “I swear nothing like that has ever happened before. I mean, Rosanna and I have had sex before, but nothing like this…” I wasn’t sure what I had expected him to say but the relief was so extreme I almost felt ecstatic. I realized I’d been waiting for him to berate me in some way, like I’d brought this cruelty onto myself and deserved to be punished for it.
“I know you won’t tell anyone about this,” he remarked, his casual tone edged with something artificial. I agreed to the deception, eager to erase the whole thing from existence. I crawled into bed and tried to sleep again, but within minutes, Dan was fondling me.
I was dismayed that my body was responding to his touch so readily but I relented, needing some sort of validation. Rosanna soon sighed and stomped into the bathroom, grumbling something I couldn’t understand. After a while Dan stopped, realizing that the cocaine had finally won. “There’s no juice left in this thing,” he chuckled. I stayed in bed while Dan went into the bathroom with Rosanna. I could hear them splashing and laughing in the tub as they talked, and I thought I heard an exasperated groan.
We went to breakfast at a café down the street. Now there is nothing left to lose. Now I can relax and eat. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud at how ridiculous it was. I watched Dan pick a strand of loose hair out of Rosanna’s beaming face, feeling no sadness, no hurt, just resignation.
After we went back to my place, I presented the framed casting call clipping to Dan who clearly didn’t remember it at all. Immediately I shriveled into dust, the bits of my former existence blown to the corners of the room. There were attempts at conversation but my eyes burned and I couldn’t focus.
Soon it was time to bring Dan and Rosanna to the airport. Suzie was already at the terminal, with Paul and Helen in tow. Our goodbyes were perfunctory. On the way to the parking garage I suddenly felt grief-stricken and blurted out the story to Suzie in one breathless, hysterical ramble. It seemed a struggle for her to pay attention; she focused mostly on describing the events at her own place the night before, full of cocaine and simultaneous sex in the living room: between her and Fred, between the drug dealer and his still-clueless girlfriend. She remarked on the seething, jealous glares Fred and the drug dealer had exchanged with each other the entire time.
A few days later, Suzie brought me with her to entertain some out-of-town coworkers. They wanted to go downtown and take in the strip joints and all-night bars. After a trip to a sex shop, multiple vodka shots, and a quarrel, Suzie sharply reminded me I was number twenty, which I’d somehow repressed entirely until that moment. Then the tears came and with them several more ill-advised vodka shots. Suzie drove us back to her place; I was too wasted and incoherent to function. Huddled up against her living room stereo, I battled dizziness and nausea, listening to music to hide the spins and using headphones to hide the volume until I passed out on the floor.
For the next week, I exchanged emails with Dan, but it was nothing like before; he was less communicative than he’d been when he was actively avoiding me. I mentioned how I’d gotten a weird phone call from the drug dealer, who’d found my number in his call log. Dan’s advice: “You should totally go for it!” He remarked that he’d introduced Rosanna to his father and I burst into tears at my desk at work. I punched Suzie’s number into the phone.
She sighed exasperatedly, “What do you want me to do about it? He’s on the other side of the country. I can’t deal with your problems right now.” I slammed down the receiver and grabbed my purse, barely remembering to shut off the computer before I blubbered to my co-worker that I wasn’t feeling well and had to go home. I flew down six flights of stairs to avoid the elevators.
The next day, feeling justified by rage, I created a fake Ebay email and sent it to Dan. It advertised his used bed sheets and mentioned something about him being a heartbreaker. That got his attention.
He emailed his phone number with a curt, “We should probably talk” and told me he’d be available the next afternoon. When I called him he offered no explanations, apologies, or culpability. “I’m an asshole.” His voice was even, like he’d made this speech before. “I didn’t appreciate the Ebay thing; that was over-the-top.” I defended my actions by saying I was tired and angry. I never mentioned the aborted three-way, terrified that if I said something, he would deny it with calm, sadistic rationale. He spoke to me like I was an unruly child. “I thought you were dangerous. You have to admit: you seemed crazy.”
I apologized, hating that I had to yield any sort of defeat. “I was only mad that you ignored my emails.”
But Dan wasn’t done. “You acted like a groupie, so what did you expect?” His condemnation cornered me, and I momentarily forgot that he was the one who started the whole thing. I couldn’t answer him, instead pressing him for confirmation of his new relationship status with Rosanna, but he wouldn’t budge.
“What if I visit you? And then we could see what happens?” I proposed tentatively. He sighed, “No expectations, right?” I grudgingly agreed. I ended the phone call when my cell phone battery threatened to die. That night I went to a friend’s party where Suzie confessed she’d found a stash of the cocaine from New Year’s Eve and snorted the rest of it. I didn’t even have the energy to be mad.
After that, Dan’s emails were chock full of information, such as the fact that he’d fathered a child in high school, and that his now-teenage son was going to visit him in a week. Eventually, I decided emailing him was just picking at a scab, so I stopped. He never wrote me back.
I tried so hard to forget what had happened, but for months, whenever I would walk through my bedroom on a weekend afternoon, I would crumble into tears, haunted by that familiar half-light through the curtains, certain I could see the faint outline of Dan and Rosanna’s intertwined bodies on the bed. Eventually, I got rid of it and bought a mattress instead. The futon had only cost me a hundred bucks, anyway.