eighteen.

My first year of “adulthood” was quite a year. 

As a senior in high school, I was on the honor roll, had a 4 year scholarship waiting for me at OSU, was on the track team, had a part time job at the local grocery store, and had the best friends a girl could ask for. I was still a “serial liker” of boys at school, so didn’t have a boyfriend and am pretty sure I had already broken up with my “highschool sweetheart” from the other school that cheated on me.

I didn’t have a car in highschool, so I used to walk to and from work most of the time. It was quite a distance, and looking back, seemed like a safer era to do so (even though I’m sure it wasn’t). I started working as a cashier again at the local grocery store, Heinen’s, that was in my area. There were a lot of young people that worked there at the time, so it was fun going to work; lots of teenage drama, but fun. There was a guy who worked there that I thought was cute. He would bag for me often so we would always chat and joke around. I didn’t know much about him other than he was a year younger than I, he went to a school that wasn’t in the area, and he was a wrestler at his school. He was about 5’6 maybe, pretty strong and stocky for his age. Every now and then, he would joke around and ask me for a kiss. The answer was always no. “Boy please,” was my usual response. He would laugh and say “one day”. I never paid him any mind. He did it so often, and would jokingly tell people I was his girlfriend, which I would always correct, because even though he was fun to chat with, I didn’t like him like that.

One night, he and I were working a closing shift together. I got off a few minutes before he did and had to make a run to the neighboring store in the plaza before heading home. He said he wanted me to wait for him, so I told him I would just come back after I ran my errand. I got back to the store and waited outside for about five minutes or so. He came out with a smile, surprised I actually waited for him. We didn’t chat for long because it was dark outside and I needed to start heading home. The store was now closed, no cars were in the parking lot, the streetlights had come on, and my walk home wasn’t the fastest. My grandmother was always clocking me so I needed to head back. After we chatted I told him I had to go, and he asked for a hug. We were cool, so why not. I hugged him, told him I would see him later. He hugged tight, and for a bit too long. I pulled away, to naturally end the hug, and he held on tighter.

I started to get nervous.

This wasn’t my first time in this type of situation so I got nervous, for good reason. 

This time I wasn’t going to be nice or cute or shy about the situation. I pushed back hard, told him to stop, and tried to break free of his grip.

He didn’t let go. 

My adrenaline was on ten, and I said “stop, get the f—- off me!”

I took a step backwards to try and break free. I remember again looking around at the empty parking lot, seeing no one in the store because everyone had gone home and locked up already, and thinking how dark it was outside. I remember wondering if there were cameras outside the store, or if he tried something, if someone would be able to see me. As I stepped back, he took one arm, pulled me in closer, then took his other hand, grabbed my face, and tried to force a kiss on me. I moved my head side to side to dodge each effort, and at this point I was literally struggling to get him off of me. I kept yelling for him to get the f— off of me, but with his one hand gripped on my face, around my jawline, he responded, “shut the f—– up b—– before I f—-g kill you”. I had never seen such a side of him before and I had no idea what to do….but this time I did keep struggling and trying to break free.

He knew how to lock me in because he was a wrestler. I was scared to fight too much because I thought he was going to slam me down on the ground and it would get worse, but then I also wasn’t going to just give in either. Besides, we WERE outside of the grocery store still and I was betting that there were cameras around to see what was going on, in the event anything happened to me.

That eternity of fear probably lasted for a good 10 minutes. He suddenly just let me go, turned around, and walked away, as if nothing happened. I turned around so fast and started speed walking home. I got to the middle of the parking lot and he called out, “hey, want me to walk you home?” with a slight chuckle. I heard him, but I never turned back around. As I got further away, my adrenaline dissipated, and I felt my heart so full. The fullness crept into my eyes. I ended up crying the majority of the walk home. 

Photo by Alex Fu on Pexels.com

I couldn’t even tell you what I was thinking that entire walk home. Probably in shock that this happened AGAIN…at ANOTHER grocery store. What are the freaking odds? I remember thinking, “do I have an ‘assault me’ sign on my forehead or something?”  I just couldn’t understand for the life of me why this kept happening to me. What was I doing that made guys just feel like they could do this? 

As I got closer to home I dried up my tears the best I could. I didn’t want my grandmother to see that I had been crying. When she asked me how work was, I just said it was fine, and went to my room. 

The next day was a regular school day, and after school, per usual, I had track practice. I was still shaken up about the night before, and I was glad I didn’t have to work that day because I didn’t want to see the guy there. Before track practice started, I told one of my good friends, who was the leader of the men’s track team, what happened the previous night. Now he was about that life. He was so mad, he threatened to go up there one day to see him and confront him. “No it’s not even worth it. I’ll figure it out,” was my reply. Again, I didn’t want the drama, I didn’t want the whole store to know, I just wanted to lay low and go about my business. Track practice started, and the girls did their workout, and dthe guys did theirs, and the day resumed as normal for me.

Two days later I had to go to work. As soon as I got to work, right after I clocked in, my boss called me into her office. She told me that my “brother” and a group of guys came to the store when I was off the day before looking for the guy by name. When he found him, he had a big confrontation with him in the middle of the store and she had to kick him out. She wanted to know what was going on.

Come to find out later, after I told my friend about what happened, he ran the boys track team up to the grocery store, and had them stand outside the doors while he went in looking for the guy. When he heard his name being summoned, he came out and I guess my friend just started going off on him and threatening him. My manager threatened to call the police and told them to get off the premises. They left, and just ran back to the school and resumed their workout. I was so embarrassed that this all happened at my job, but I also realized I had some really loyal friends that had my back no matter what, and these were the guys I felt safe around. They were really like my brothers.  

I told her what happened with the guy at work, and she was so kind about the situation. She let me know that type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated, and she asked me if I wanted to press charges. I told her no. She asked me if I needed her to do anything, and if anything happened like that again to let her know. She then moved his shift around so that I didn’t have to work with him directly.

After a couple of weeks, a rumor started that I tried to kiss him, and that I liked him. I was appalled. I couldn’t believe he was telling people that after what he did. I immediately corrected the rumors, but I didn’t tell anyone what he really did. I wasn’t really friends with anyone, and I didn’t want to be the cause of any other mess or drama at work so I just kept it to myself. Only my manager knew. A couple more weeks went by, and he ended up getting fired. I don’t know why to this day, but I certainly didn’t care. It was a good riddance. 

I did end up moving on with my year and put it behind me, but I definitely never forgot. Between this incident and the first, it made me that much more reserved with my personal space around men, and that much less trusting of them. I was stuck between a place of mentally desiring to be loved and wanted, but at the same time just scared of guys. That’s why I just kept liking guys to myself. If I liked someone, and wanted them to know, and wanted to make something happen out of it, I would initiate it… but I never did with anyone new at that point. 

Oh sweet eighteen. Welcome to “adulthood”…

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