I used to get so excited when the school bell rang afternoons. It meant running home and heading to Andover Park to claim a swing – until an older boy named John invaded my life.
John spotted Mom and her mechanic, Danny, riding alone in her car. John, a lanky, black, high school student with thick glasses, towered over my skinny four-foot-eleven frame.
I was in seventh grade, only eleven years old. John trapped me in the middle school hallway after school in front of my locker. He put one hand on my chest, thrust my chin up with his other hand, forcing my head back against the hard metal slats, and then whispered into my ear.
“Do what I tell you, and I won’t tell your daddy your mama’s a whore,” he threatened, and then walked away. Plastered to my locker, I sucked in a deep breath trying to settle the swooshing in my stomach.
Daddy went to Taiwan a lot on business, and I heard my mother tell him he “should not be with that woman.” Dad’s affairs and cold treatment of Mom made her cry a lot. She was so lonely and desperate to be loved.
I knew that Mom liked Danny, a muscular olive-skinned Italian man with dark eyes and wavy black hair. She told me so, and I saw her kiss him. Danny managed the Sears auto service center on Highway 35, where she often took me to have our station wagon fixed. They laughed and chatted together in his office for hours. It bored me, so Mom gave me her Sears credit card and sent me into the store (where they knew us) to shop. Sometimes Danny treated Mom and me to Carvel Ice Cream. Mom must’ve gone with Danny to Carvel without me.
And John saw them!
I feared how my possessive father would react if he knew Mom had a friend. I saw no way out so I did whatever John said. I had to conceal what I perceived to be Mom’s secret. Immaturity and naiveté kept me silent and submissive.
One day after school, John forced me go with him under the train trestle that crossed over Matawan Creek. Two boys my age tagged along side of us. John lifted up my skirt. The giggling boys dropped coins into his hand, and then touched my panties.
I covered myself but John slapped my hands away and gripped my elbows. Squirming, I crossed legs. They laughed harder and continued their stupid game of torment. My stomach ached. After I dry heaved, the snickering boys quickly tired of their fun and backed off. John called me a pig, then left me there. I slumped down into the muck, tucked my hands under my armpits, hugging myself as I rocked back and forth, and sobbed for what seemed like hours.
The disappearing sun meant it was nearly suppertime. With tears rushing down my face, I rose from the ground and ran towards home. My face heated up with shame from the weird sensation I felt when they groped me.I slipped in through our front door unnoticed and tiptoed upstairs to the bathroom. I turned on the tap, squirted some Mr. Bubble into the tub, sank into the hot water up to my eyeballs in bubbles. The mirror on the door seemed to dominate the bathroom. A mirror never lies. Soap couldn’t wash away what those boys did or what I felt.
I was now a dirty little girl.
For the next two years, once or twice a week, John dragged me along with different boys to that hidden cove. I never had an appetite on those days. I picked at my food, moving it around on the plate.
“Please somebody help me!” My brain screamed again and again. How could anyone help me when I had no one to tell?
“Young lady, your mother worked hard preparing this meal,” Daddy said repeatedly. “Eat your dinner this minute.” I never could. Daddy called me disobedient and sent me to my room.
He never knew the horrible price I paid for covering up for Mom, and I had little reason to believe he’d care. I knelt at my bedside at night and prayed to God to help me, but he never did. Maybe he was mad at me too.
John’s mistreatment escalated. One February afternoon, when I was twelve, he drove me to his house. He gripped my wrist, casually strolled into his mother’s kitchen, and introduced me as his girlfriend. She examined me head to toe, curled her lips, and then busied herself stirring a pot on the stove.
John nudged me towards the back porch. “Sit,” he said, as if I were his dog. What happened next was far worse than anything he had subjected me to in the past. On that day, John forcibly stole my virginity. Until then, I had no idea what intercourse was. Now I knew. It was a painful, loathsome, and filthy thing to do.
When John finished, he tossed me aside. “Get lost,” he said, “I’ll call you later.”
Tears filmed my eyes. I tripped over my feet, anxious to get away from him and blot out what happened. Clutching my stomach, I wobbled along onto unfamiliar streets to prolong going home.
No! No! No! thundered in my mind. I thumped the sides of my head with my hands to stop the throbbing, but it only got worse.
When I reached home, I hurried to the safety of my bed and then burrowed under my covers. I finally fell asleep from the sheer fatigue of weeping.
John abused me like this several more times until his girlfriend, Diane, found out. The threat of losing her is what I believe motivated John to set me free. I’ll never know, because at the age of fifty-four, Diane committed suicide.
John, a teen-aged pimp, a low-life in the sex trafficking food chain, died a year later.