Damaged

 

This story is ultra personal. It is a small event which changed the course of my life. I didn’t tell anyone until years later. I’m not one to “overshare”, however in light of recent events, I feel it’s warranted. With all of the clamor regarding old testimonies from “never mentioned” crimes, it’s easier to tune it out. But, the fact is that these things do happen. Humans are flawed, and they make mistakes. These incidents play forward until there is some sort of resolution, acceptance and forgiveness. I’ve done all three, but I can be honest enough to admit that what happened was real, and it did manifest in my life for many years after. For this reason, I believe women who come forward after the fact. And, I do believe it speaks to the character of the individual who perpetrated the incident, when they deny the fact that anything ever occurred. 

The first time it happened, I was 17. It was supposed to be the best time in my life. I was in New York City, studying fashion design at a prestigious art school. I had always dreamed of becoming a costume designer and working in the world of theater or film. Finally, I was on my way.

The first time it happened, I was 17. I thought I was so grown up and sophisticated, until I arrived on that campus in Manhattan. It was immediately apparent that I was way out of my league. Girls flitted by in the latest high fashion outfits, and the boys, well, they were just as stylish. I remember suddenly feeling very small and insecure in my Macys jumpsuit, wearing one of two pairs of shoes that I owned. I always had felt confident about being able to put together an outfit, until I saw my competition.

The first time it happened, I was 17. Sure, in my small town, I had gone out on occasion. I had my first drink, when I was 14, and I continued to drink because it helped to relieve painful shyness. Even so, it was only on occasion, to get bold enough to socialize, or cut loose on the dance floor. I guess I was pretty sheltered. This became clearly apparent within a week of arriving to college. My roommate, who was 2 years older, seemed so savvy and cool, I couldn’t believe she wanted to hang out with me. She invited me to go out, and I fell under the spell of the nightlife that was NYC at the time. Swirling lights, music, drugs, and plenty of them. I was underage, but there were plenty of girls out in the clubs that were far younger than me.

The first time it happened, I was 17. I had never had a real “boyfriend” during high school. You could say I was a loner. I guess the combination of shyness, coupled with the fact that I wore thick glasses up until 11th grade didn’t help. I was still a virgin, and I secretly longed to find that special someone to share the first experience with. I wished to find that “true love”. The first month passed quickly at college. The soft summer air chilled to a crisp. It was time to break out fall fashions. Sweaters, boots, scarves, hats and gloves.

The first time it happened, I was 17. My roommate coerced me into going out to one of the last standing monsterous clubs of the moment in midtown Manhattan. I wore a vintage 60’s hot pink fitted shift dress, with a black fake fur cropped jacket, fishnet tights and pointy patent leather pumps. My friend wore a black sharkskin fitted men’s suit, with nothing under the jacket, along with red shiny booties, and her trademark black beret. She styled my hair into a sexy tousled mess, added heavy black eyeliner and hot pink lipstick. As we headed downtown in a cab, drinking vodka from a bottle, the interior filled with a cloud of Aqua Net and cigarette smoke. I was already tipsy by the time we got there. Standing in line behind the velvet rope, we were immediately selected to enter. My friend was strikingly beautiful, with her wild curly black hair, green eyes, and androgynous style. As soon as we walked in, the music took me over, and I headed to the dance floor, as she went off on her own. The place was a vibrating cavernous, multi-level extravaganza. A sensory overload. I lost myself in the music and danced for what seemed like hours. Intermittently strangers would come up and dance with me. It was a different time. People used to dance, and it was all very sexually charged, mixed up, and fun.

The first time it happened, I was 17. It was 3 am in the club. The place was still going strong, but I was ready to leave. I walked over to sit in a banquet, and moments later, a handsome stranger sat down close to me. He was well dressed, in a Wall Street sort of way, but friendly enough with his sweaty bangs falling over crystal blue eyes. He asked if I wanted to party with him, and laid out a couple of lines of coke before I even had a chance to answer. He snorted it quickly, and asked if I wanted any. I had never done drugs, but I was curious and I thought, well, why not. I took the rolled up bill, and he held my hair as I leaned over and snorted a line. As I let the cool burn slide down my throat, I could sense a shift in my body. Now tingling and alert, I told the stranger that I wanted to dance again. He slid his arm around me and told me that he wanted to take me to an after hours club where we could dance till dawn.

The first time it happened, I was 17. Riding in a cab through midtown, after midnight, with a stranger. High on cocaine, and giddy with nerves. The stranger was funny and charming. We made out in the cab. I asked him where the after hours club was. He told me we needed to go to his place to pick something up first. I was too out of it to protest. We headed over to the east side, and the cab stopped in front of a fancy brownstone. He took my hand to help me out. I followed him up the steps to the big wood entryway. Once inside the luxurious apartment, he invited me to sit down on the sofa, while he went into the kitchen to make drinks. He returned with two drinks on a tray, along with a pile of white powder. I took the drink, but declined the coke. He just laughed and said, “more for me.” I was starting to come down, and felt very tired and weak.

The first time it happened, I was 17. I was falling asleep on the sofa, and I told him I needed to go home. He had been yammering on and on about some deal he had made on Wall Street, and how much he was going to make during the next year. He reached over and grabbed me as I started to get up to leave. I told him I had class the next day. No, no, he said. I’ll send you home in a cab in the morning. Stay. Stay. I told him I couldn’t. He kept persisting, his sweat dampened hair dangling over wild looking, bloodshot blue eyes. As he tugged on my dress, he tried to slide his hand up my thigh. I firmly gripped his hand to stop him. I told him I couldn’t sleep with him because I was still a virgin. I told him I was saving it for that special someone. I told him I wanted to leave. He grabbed me, and kept kissing me, even though at this point, I was not reciprocating. He was in a coked up frenzy by now, and suddenly I was very sober. I pushed him away and told him to stop it. He pushed me back down on the sofa. Tears welled up in my eyes. He was so much stronger than me, as he pushed me down, I heard him unzipping his pants. Tearing at my stockings, he told me to lie still, and urgently forced himself upon me, heaving and breathing like an animal. Hot tears flowed down my cheeks, pooling at the side of my face, as it was crushed deeper and deeper into the velour pillow. Physical pain was dwarfed by my emotional agony. Then, suddenly, I felt myself floating upward and watching this event from above. I disconnected and became numb. Nothing could touch me now. I became smaller and smaller, fading away into the distance, until I finally disappeared completely.

The first time it happened, I was 17.

 

The Kiddie Pool

Mid July in the late 70’s. The family of four stood in the driveway of a run-down looking two family house, as they watched a giant moving truck slowly back out into the street. Tears welled up in the older daughter’s eyes. The younger child grabbed onto to her mother’s long linen skirt. She looked up to see the dark stains spreading beneath the underarms of her mom’s favorite olive shirt. Their father swiftly turned on his heels, walked into the house, letting the loose screen door slam loudly behind him.

The mother and two little girls stood for a few moments, frozen in time at the end of the driveway. They watched as the truck turned the corner, finally passing out of sight.

This was one of a series of moves. For reasons mysterious to the children, just as soon as they got settled in a new town and into a new school, it was time to move again. Usually something to do with their father’s job as a professor. Switching universities, better opportunities, or something of the sort.

This time they were going to move to a another state, but until the next house was ready, they would need to stay in temporary housing, at an apartment complex.

As the kids got into the back seat of the beige Volvo station wagon, they each hugged a teddy bear close, tears dampening the well-worn, faded fur.

Hours passed, and after dark, they arrived at their destination. It was a nondescript place. Dark russet brick, all one level. Basically a Motel 6, minus the sign. The family set up a temporary home here. Simply furnished, it served its purpose well enough.

Over the next few days, the girls ventured outside. It was during an era when kids were allowed to run around wild and free. Nobody really paid much attention, unless it was time to do homework, chores, walk a dog, or eat dinner. As they wandered around the complex, they noticed quite a few other kids around their age. The children seemed friendly enough, and one of the neighbors even had a plastic kiddie pool in front of her unit. It was blue, with bright green turtles and seahorses printed all around the outside. The little girl invited the sisters to play, and of course they were excited to meet a new friend. And, even more excited to be able to cool off in the bright blue plastic pool.

Being that it was summer and there wasn’t much to do, having a new friend with the kiddie pool was a good start. At least they had somewhere to go. They didn’t like to stay inside the dark apartment, since their mother seemed to be unhappy, and the place felt oppressive in the stifling humidity.

One day, not long after moving in, the new friend told them, “hey, it’s time to go to Bobby’s place, his mom is doing her shower.” The girls had no idea what this meant, but of course they were curious. They followed her as she traipsed around the complex. As they followed her, she called out “shower time!” over and over. Gradually, a few other children, hearing the call, joined them in the parade towards Bobby’s place.

Finally, they arrived at the apartment. Number 19. The door was open. An older boy, maybe 9 or 10, poked his head out of the front door. “Hurry up! Mom’s just getting in the shower now!” All of the kids shuffled in through the door, crowding the hallway of the small unit. The sound of a shower could be heard, and a high-pitched voice called out “Hey you guys, wanna see my tits?” The group of kids, mostly boys, swiftly gravitated towards her voice.

The bathroom door was open, an intoxicating scent of strawberry shampoo filled the air, as a cloud of steam poured out. Rock music played on a transistor radio. Behind the sheer plastic French doors into the shower, a messy giant blonde head of hair bobbed up and down. Suddenly, the doors opened and Bobby’s mom leaned out, “see these!” she held up her enormous breasts shaking them at all of the children. The two new girls stood in shock. The older sister grabbed her younger sister by the hand, and dragged her through the cluster of kids, and out the front door in a hurry. They ran all the way back to their apartment, where they fell onto the air mattress in hysterical fits of giggles.