A while ago I pulled a blog from my personal public writings because I felt it was too revealing. In that blog, and in the reports filed in the months before I posted it, I was unwilling to discuss the moment in detail. But since Nuno Mijangos is now in jail, I feel some security in giving you a glimpse of my mind. My only trigger warning is that I will be candid.Ivy Lyons
This post is also dated around the rough date of the original draft. Partially so that it does not overwhelm my blog, and partially so that it stays out of the way of other, more important, forward looking items. I appreciate you reading as I get this thing off my chest and find a bit of closure.
May 21, 2021
A lot of my day is spent working near children, I must admit. And a lot of my energy is put into education and thoughtful consideration of others. Like the kids I teach, I have a history, and I learn from mistakes — even when they aren’t my own.
Especially when they aren’t my own.
I spent my first semester of undergraduate education at a private Christian college in the Midwest. In my first semester, I was rambunctious. I made friends that shared my identity and vernacular and kept away from those who didn’t. It’s not something I would call a “mistake,” but it was a good form of protection. I was new to a primarily white institution that was outwardly opposed to LGBT+ behaviors and identities. (I even signed this less-than-stellar statement that outright discouraged queer interactions.)
That statement was a barrier to me.
I was always a rule follower (my high school friends and family will tell you as much) and I always valued being able to sit down and read something for its true meaning. I like sifting through what people say to find out what they really mean. That paper, however, was just so much more insidious. It was passively written around tropes of love and admiration while admonishing a specific type of love and admiration. What’s worse: new students in the queer community felt the pressures of that community’s written sentiments in a way I can’t ignore.
I came to school out of my element and out of the closet. I was willing to get ahead by nearly any means necessary (a very tenacious little freshman) and radiated with an intense self-focus. I wanted to be better than I was in high school academically, and I wanted to do more in the community. Really dedicate my time to one or two things. I decided one of those things would be volleyball.
I was terrible — like comically bad — and so very out of practice. Assisting with coaching teams is one thing, but playing is another universe. I was so ready to dedicate some time to start from scratch and had a fiery can-do attitude. (I pray there isn’t a pic of me in a jersey anywhere.) My goal was to be at everyday practice; make some progress, and have fun doing something I loved. I had been in band for years, and I had gotten good at some things, but I had yet to really lock into anything new, and I wanted a challenge.
However, a few days into the semester, I was hunting for reasons to quit. Something new to do or something old to relive. A bit of safety in the college.
I had started having strange, more physical interactions with one of the guys. He was a bit shorter than me, as I remember it, but I was a solid 120 lbs. and barely 5’9″ on my best day at the time. I had already had some consensual encounters, but not under extraordinary circumstances. This guy was different. He had been talking to my friends and was trying to date one. A very out-of-the-blue addition to my daily life.
One day, a message thread on either (the infamous app) Grindr or (the more common) Facebook led to a conversation about sexuality. Who we think we are. How school is going. Not uncommon conversations for members of a campus minority like this one to have. You feel like you can’t show who you are or discover it, so you talk. I pretty well indicated that I (1) had never had sex and (2) did not want to have sex with anyone. So we agreed on a movie and some chatting.
Things for me get dark here. I remember feeling a bit choked. I remember walls. I remember a bed end (like the ones that every university has.) I know the bed was lofted and that the movie we would have watched was on a laptop. I remember the chairs. I remember leaving immediately. I remember showering in the basement of Holtwick Hall. I remember missing classes, getting an HIV test because I was scared (a negative!), and then the world was moving on.
I found myself talking about it to counselors and family members months after it happened. Some friends got a ground zero approach. My roommate left the school when the discussion happened. My RA, a great guy, found himself listening to my roommate talk about how I didn’t feel comfortable using communal showers anymore. He told him once that I felt dirty and that the room was beginning to smell weird. I didn’t disagree (until we found milk in a canister under his bed), and I pieced myself together without a roommate.
There were weird half-promises too. Indications that he could help me get positions on student government hints that he wouldn’t be taking positions and could “put in a good word” and so much chaos. I wasn’t myself or even close to recovered until he just up and left. There were portions of campus I avoided and people who I didn’t give the time of day. I started shaving off activities, and then the second side of the campus broke through.
I had pain in my neck I complained about in voice lessons and my share of breakdowns in a counselors office years later. I didn’t feel comfortable telling an administrator who could do something about it until over a year had passed — the school felt so outwardly oppressive to LGBT people that it just felt nonsensical to follow through. And when I did, sharing a name felt like revealing a campus underground of support, revealing a language and a network that people just didn’t see. It felt like admitting that I knew of people’s cohabitation, activity, and privacy. It wasn’t mine to take and hand to a hostile actor– what I viewed as a hostile actor.
I waited a long while to share a name. It came out in tears in the summer, in an apartment on campus that I spent way less than a season in. Throughout that time, I would find myself back in the office for just about anything. I don’t reflect on those moments too much, as cameras and messages tell a better story than a lie or two about me. But I found my heart breaking on campus that just couldn’t see what just a few words were permitting.
That was in 2015… or started in 2015. I graduated in 2019 with my bachelor’s (with a ton of catchup to do) and found myself at Georgetown. A pandemic and spiraling set of circumstances, however, landed to this moment.
On Thursday, I received a call sharing some news that I will never be able to shake. It was a charge that landed in Denver, Colorado. Something serious… a girl whose name sound eerily familiar popped up on the screen, and then his name did. Or, I should say a mugshot. And the headlines proclaimed the murder charge, less than a year into their marriage.
By Friday, I was a wreck. I don’t know why I feel so heavily associated with his existence, with this incident, or with anything. But I find myself reliving in dreams the violence of that night. The darkroom. Teeth. Hands. It just comes back stronger now after seeing the face and charges.
Now, I want to be clear, I don’t know what the plea is like, nor the evidence, nor the relationship that this event has to him. I won’t claim to know that, but I know that he is in jail for what the prosecution will attempt to call murder. And, for some reason that I can’t explain, that hurts me deeply. I don’t know if it is the desire to have done something or the willingness to say something earlier that would have changed all this, but I just feel a type of hurt I can’t explain.
I think about the moments I spent in rooms explaining that despite what coaches at Greenville University said, I wasn’t a problem because of who I was. I think about the people who found themselves running into offices and claiming a sexual advance on a person I wasn’t dating. I think about the moments that people felt hurt by me and were genuinely hurt by something I said. I think about the friends I gained and lost around one moment… one person who reshaped my world without my consent or conscious knowledge.
There are some things I won’t recover and don’t seek to recover from those moments and that community. I have a degree there that scratches beneath my skin and strips veins. I have papers and moments that I’m proud of sitting in at a school I currently can’t maintain a job and relationship in. I think about my story and how the uniqueness of this story isn’t outside of reality. This was a student leader, a confident, and a mentor to younger students.
He’s the reason I avoided meetings that included a diverse group of friends in a house that should have been home because it was literally La Casa. He’s the impetus behind a year of emails asking if I know what I’m doing here, that I need to focus on my education, that I’m looking at rock bottom. He’s the anchor on my leg that was too hard to break, and so I snapped my bones and sawed my foot away. And the decisions I made not to follow through, not to even try to cause harm to him or anyone else if I could avoid it, were some of my gravest mistakes.
I wonder, today, with news articles and documents just out of reach, what it would be like if I had done something different. If instead of discouraging relationships in lounge conversations and steering away, I screwed my courage to the sticking place. I wonder what it would have been like if I had just shown the messages saying what I did and didn’t want. If I had said something from on top of a bed instead of feeling so boxed in that compliance is the only option.
My words are etched in files alongside those which have sought to cause me harm. I’ve made friends with people who haven’t respected my boundaries and prioritized a community over myself for far too long. I’ve seen people react with harsh claims only to outwardly admit that the story they wove was an attack on me. Only to feel full silence from a community that I just wanted to love and feel loved in.
I fought fights; I didn’t need to fight there. I lost years of my life and hair on my head. I learned what it was like to survive for more than a few months. I learned what it was like to feel like something was inescapable.
Moreover, I learned what it’s like to feel scared of these traumatic moments. I just don’t remember sometimes. I write things down in brief blips like this to categorize the moments when things do come back. When the arm around my neck isn’t so tight. When the taste of what had to be either alcohol or fermented bread wasn’t staining the back of my throat. When the doctor isn’t staring at me with a regiment of pills meant to quiet a depressive moment or cure an ailment caused by fifteen of what had to be the WORST minutes of my life.
But those minutes are passing.
And even though I want this story to have a happy ending, I know somewhere deep in my core that it just can’t—that 2015 is outside of the field of vision of myself and Jonah. And though I ruminate on all this, I start a new story, with a new (second) alma matter. I’m in pursuit of a Ph.D. now and living a life that is low on means but high on opportunity. I’m charting paths in a way that is different from the Ivy that couldn’t manage, winding my way up an ivory pillar with a sense of urgency and mild hesitancy. Because I need not remember that this too will pass.
Because I know it already has.