I am 11 years old and my Dad just got me exactly what I asked for as my birthday gift. I carry my Mongoose dirt bike through our railroad apartment, past my sleeping mother, down creaky stairs and out of the heavy self slamming front door that leads to Monticello Ave. The evening air feels wonderful against my skin as I ride up and down the surrounding blocks for no other reason than sheer boredom. I suffer from insomnia but back then I just called it boredom.
Some nights I have a riding buddy. He is some neighborhood boy who sometimes rides along side of me when he sees me out with my dirt bike late at night. We don’t speak, rather he chases me through the streets as I speed forward, bunny hop and make sharp turns up and down the grid blocks of Jersey City. I don’t know his name but I see him often enough to know he had seen me in my private school uniform which should give away the fact that I am in grammar school. He asks me to come outside without my bike. Sneaking out of the house is even less complicated without my bike and so I did, and after several conversations on the corner of Reed Street I don’t hesitate to walk a few blocks away from home at his urging. One day he tells me he has a surprise for me. My curiosity gets the best of me and I follow him. He had given me a skate key a few nights before though I didn’t know how to skate. He promised me that he would take me skating and teach me one day.
I follow him through the side streets to an abandoned school that I had attended for kindergarten, maybe the familiarity of the building was one reason I let him coax me into following him up to the auditorium. It didn’t seem dangerous or wrong to be going into the building since abandoned buildings are just as common in Jersey City as buildings are that aren’t abandoned. People live and hang out in both according to my limited life understanding.
I was distracted and did not notice the other men that came out of the shadows. They surround me. The guy who I came with was gone. I spin around in an attempt to find him; I call to him to help me. I had been set up. A hand on my breast and I scream “Don’t touch me”. A second hand pulls my long braid and my face begins to heat up. More hands plunge into the front of my jeans. That set my trigger off. I stand still while hands grope my eleven year old body. I look around to determine where I am in the room and then I reach into my back pocket and pull out my knife. I can see sunlight in the corner highlighting the door. I had to make it to that door.
I close my eyes and start swinging and running. “This bitch is crazy!” echoes over my shoulder as I put distance between me and them. I run like Hell. Down the fire escape and the few blocks back to my home. I don’t realize that I avoided potential rape. I have no knowledge of sex or sexual assault, no teachings of privacy and ownership of my body. That hadn’t ever been offered to me. I was angry that he tricked me and not scared that I had nearly been raped. The grabbing and pinching of my body was no different than the male and female friends that grabbed my hair, pinched and kissed my cheeks whether I wanted them to or not or those aggressive family members that insist I hug them at church, or at family functions and it was no different than the uncomfortable ritual of taking off my clothes that I’ve known all my life while visiting my adoption agency during my monthly physical exams.
You Remember Me Don’t You
I am 12 years old. It is dusk and I have enough time to run home from school to change clothes and rush back outside for a few hours of wandering before it gets dark. No matter what block I walk up or down I can’t find any of my usual crew of kids to hang out with. I decide to turn back around and head home. A minivan slows to a stop in the street. I slow down, put on my screw face and peer into the window. I learned to stay a distance from vehicles that stop to ask questions, we were taught about child abduction in grammar school and I know not to get to close to a vehicle I don’t know.
The driver of the van is a friend of my father’s. During my childhood he was often a regular visitor to our home during the holidays. I was fond of him as I vividly remember how he took the time to teach me how to draw a lady’s head in profile. He used an ink pen and a napkin. I was about 5 years old. I can still draw this. My family is private and both of my parents only invite a limited number of people to our home. It isn’t proper to have too many men around a man’s wife and kids, eating at your table, or drinking up your wine.
This man is a friend of my father. On the rare occasion when company was over the voices and excited conversation always drew my attention to the sitting room where Dad would entertain guests. I saw this man often. I recall times where he plucked me up onto his lap in order for me to listen and watch the men as they talked and debated over brandy. I had received silver dollars as bribes to go back to bed from this man. I may have had some of those silver dollars still tucked away in a sock drawer back then so I smiled when I recognized him and quickly approached the passenger side of the van. He asks me where I am going and motions for me to get into the van. I decline because I am not yet ready to go home yet. I dismiss his concern and reassure him that I’ll be heading home before dark. He’s a friend of my Dad’s so of course he’s going to try to get me back to the block where it’s safe. My Dad would do the same to his friend’s kids if he found them roaming outside, I think to myself.
He asks if I am hungry. The question seemed strange but I answer that I am not. He tells me to get into the van again. I back away. He’s staring at me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable. His lips move. He’s saying something but I can’t quite hear him.
My mind deciphers the words as he repeats himself, “Do you suck dick? I’ll pay you.”
I’m confused. I do not respond. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know what ‘sucking dick’ is; I don’t know what ‘dick’ is. I stammer to process the question but also feel like someone just kicked me in my stomach. I don’t know what is wrong with what he just said but I suddenly feel dirty, really, really dirty. He continues, “We can get something to eat and get a room. Come on, I’m your friend. You remember me, don’t you? I’m a good guy, just get in the van and let’s go for a ride.”
I run. I want to tell my father but I don’t. I wasn’t sure if what happened between my father’s ‘friend’ and I was actually wrong or not. I try to make excuses for him. I back track everything that happened to see if I could find out what I did to cause this to happen. I was scared that if I told my Dad he would end up in jail because his friend would have been on the opposite end of my Daddy’s pistol he kept in the closet.
But Nothing Really Happens to Fast Ass Girls
I am 13 years old and its two weeks before the beginning of freshman year in high school. My foster mother just told me to try to get home at a decent time so I could get on a proper sleep schedule in time for school. I was on my way home early and am excited to actually have a rule to follow. I stop to talk to this guy I have a crush on and end up leaning on some person’s car. Hours later we’re still sitting here much after most people had already turned in for the night.
There are less and less people on the street and no cars. I look in the direction of my house and can see the back of my apartment building through the bricks of the abandoned Jewish Recreational Center that now houses P.S. #17 on Bergen Avenue. I feel safe because I am only a block away from home. I’m in my own neighborhood and not across town in the middle of the night getting into trouble like I usually am. His sister stops to talk to us, and then his friend sits on the car next to me. His sister asks to use my comb. His friend is funny.
We smoke cigarettes and talk. Somehow or another he made a move on me which I met with my declaration of virginity, marriage, chastity and the ills of pre-marital sex and morals. His friend grabs my watch/comb/cigarettes; I don’t know. I chase him down a ramp towards the back of the building.
I am pinned down. My mouth is cupped and my pants rip from my body while my morality is taunted, my possession taken and my understanding of what it’s like to live in a female body changed. They discuss how I feel to each other. I go inside of my head until they are done. They walk me home to make sure I get there safe.
The police are called. My mother hesitates in calling them to report the rape and tells me of how my attack is shaming my family. She tells me of how ashamed my father is to now know that I not a virgin. She tells me of how the entire neighborhood knows that I am a ‘used’ woman. The police question me without my mother present. They ask me questions about things that I am unfamiliar with. The officer looks impatient and frustrated when each question confuses me until they give me details and sometimes draw diagrams to convey what these questions mean. I don’t know what ‘sodomy’ is. I don’t know what ‘ejaculation’ means. Once I realize what they were asking me I feel even more ashamed since talk of sex is a sin and distasteful.
The police bring me home and drop me in front of my apartment where I lie in bed for weeks until my mother asks me if I am going to go school. One night out of drinking and drugs to attempt to get myself back to normal finds me on the wrong block with the wrong people and then it goes dark.
I begin freshman year in St. Dominic’s Academy with my left eye swollen shut. The results of a gang attack by the sister of the accused rapist and her friends that night leaves me with a badly swollen eye, deep scrapes in my face and a further diminished existence. They wanted to ‘teach me a lesson for saying her brother did that’. I am a whore and my cheek met with concrete and boots that night for saying what I said and calling the cops.
In school I take student ID pictures, respond to questions, answer to my name among a school full of teachers, students, nurses and administrators in one of the most prestigious Catholic schools in the NYC/NJ area but no one asks me what happened. People stare and classmates whisper but no one asks me what happened.
It is during this time thaat I realized that nothing happened. It’s been weeks, months, years now that I have heard about how I was a ‘fast ass’ little girl. I am sure there are those that still believe I ‘was asking for it’. I was supple, and grown, and sexy, and juicy and young and outside with no curfew and no guidance and no parents and so I asked to be attacked. I should have been doing something other than following my nose. There is no mention of parents that failed. There is no charge of a school administration that looked the other way. No parents of friends who noticed that I was off, or having problems, beaten, high, drunk, scratched up, blacked, diseased, and so many other forms of obvious exploitation and neglect.
The only thing ‘fast’ about girls like me is how quick everyone else is to blame, or to ostracize, or to dismiss us and the lengths and depths of the people “online” waiting to screw them.
**This piece is an adaptation from the upcoming memoir book, Me..Being Anonymous, to be released Fall of 2011.**