fifteen.

I used to spend the summers in New York with my sister during my highschool years. 

I always had so much fun with her. She was a little too active for my homebody, introverted self at times, but she was the best tour guide ever and took me everywhere in New York. I loved it so much. It was so diverse. New York literally never slept and there was always something to do.

I don’t make friends easily, which I don’t mind as a capricorn introvert, so my sisters’ attempts to find me friends my age for the summers were usually futile. They weren’t my speed, too fast, and too grown (acting) for me. Everything was forced and uncomfortable, but I just went along with it when I had to. It wasn’t all terrible, but I never kept in touch with anyone I met there.

One summer, I got my first job as a cashier at a grocery store. I took one or two buses to work and then walked a ways to get there. New York life. Everyone seemed to be on foot or public transportation. I would do that on my way to work most mornings, and then my sister would come get me after work if she was off on time. It was a pretty cool job and I was happy to finally be making my own little money. First step of independence and I loved it.

I don’t remember making any friends at work. I literally just went, did my job, usually ate alone outside somewhere or in the designated area in the store, and went home. I didn’t really need much more than that. Besides, I was only going to be there a couple of months. For the short time I was there, I’m sure I was cordial with other workers at my job. I remember most of them being older as I was the youngest at the time.  I couldn’t tell you who they were nor do I remember them to this day…except for one person I’ll never forget. 

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He worked in produce and I would only see him occasionally if I had to walk to the back of the store to check an item, help restock, or go on break. He was cute, and every now and then I would eye him walking around the store, but never approached him. I was too shy… and, remember, I only liked boys in my head, and kept it to myself. My cashier station was at the front of the store next to the public restrooms so we didn’t cross paths that often. One day, I clocked out on my break and went to the produce section to grab something to eat for lunch. I saw him, we made small talk, and he invited me to come sit in the back with him and eat my lunch with him because he was going on break too. I thought, sure, why not.

I walked through the double doors of the produce section, where all the boxes and crates of food were stored in the back of the store. We sat on some crates and snacked on our lunch and just started having nice conversation. We both had an hour break, so most of the conversation was about where we were from, how long had we worked at the store, etc., again just small chit chat. He said he was eighteen and that he lived in the area. I told him I was fifteen just here for the summer. That conversation went on for about a half hour. I noticed a bracelet he wore on his arm and I remember commenting on it. It was a black and gold woven bracelet, almost like a friendship bracelet you would make for your friend as a child. I asked him where he got it, and he said that he was a part of a group called the Latin Kings. He said they all had one.

Once he told me that, I got a little nervous. My sister’s boyfriend at the time was Latin, and I was actually familiar with the Latin Kings GANG (not group). Being in New York hanging around fast little girls who were doing too much, I picked up on a few things, and for me, it was purley information. What was what, and who was who.

I stayed calm in my nerves and something told me to start getting ready to head back out to the floor. I didn’t finish my food, wrapped up what I had and told him that I was about to go clock back in. “So soon?” I remember him saying. I made up something as to why I needed to head back out early. “Well why don’t you gimme a hug before you head back out? I’m not sure when I’ll see you again.”

I didn’t want to, and in that moment, I felt panicked on the inside for some reason. Nothing about me wanted to get any closer to him than I already was. We were probably only just a couple feet apart and that was already too close. I was intimidated. He was older, bigger, AND a part of a gang. Not knowing how to say no, I let him hug me. I gave him a couple of pats on the back and released my grip to let go and walk out. 

He didn’t release his grip. 

I pulled back in to be polite, but then released my grip again. He gripped a little harder than before. Then he came in close and tried to kiss me. I pulled back harder putting my hand on his chest and told him “No. Stop.”. 

He didn’t release his grip. 

He had me in a bear hug type of grip and I couldn’t get away no matter how hard I pulled back. I kept trying to pull back. He grabbed my face with one hand, turned it to the side, while the other hand kept me pulled into him, and he started kissing on my neck. The kiss then started to hurt, and I realized he was putting a hickey on my neck. I don’t know how many “No’s” or “Stop’s” I said in this short amount of time, but it seemed like he had me in his arms forever. I tried not to cry. My adrenaline was to the roof. I gave one last good hard push away… and he finally let go. I grabbed my lunch and hurried up and walked past him. He turned around, slapped me on my butt, and said, “I guess I’ll see you later.”

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I was mortified. 

I had about 10 minutes left on my break. I popped my collar and walked as fast as I could to the restroom, all the way at the front of the store. I held back all my tears so that customers and co-workers in the store didn’t see me cry, but I felt them coming. I grabbed the door handle to the restroom, turned, pulled, and… locked. Someone was in there. I had to stand outside the door and wait for the one stall restroom to free up. It seemed like an eternity that I was standing outside of the bathroom waiting. I was so ashamed, so embarrassed, so angry… and I was so scared that I was going to get in trouble when my sister found out what happened. I never had a hickey before. I never had someone force themself on me like that before. I didn’t know what to do…

This little old lady finally came out of the restroom. I went in, shut the door, made sure it was locked, pulled down my popped collar, and saw a huge red hickey on the left side of my neck. I remember staring in the mirror, looking at the hickey, not knowing how to get rid of it and finally… the tears just came. I literally had just a couple minutes to get myself together, and get back on my register. I popped my collar up again, wiped my tears, practiced smiling, and ran back out and clocked in. Soon as I turned my light on, immediately a customer started putting groceries on my belt. It felt like a dream to smile and say “Hi, how are you doing today, did you find everything OK?” I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I actually don’t remember the rest of the day at work. I had to “fake it til you make it”, and couldn’t count the minutes fast enough when it was time to get off from work. 

My sister came to pick me up from work that day. I waited outside for her on the bench outside of the store because I didn’t want to run into the guy inside of work. She pulled up, I got in, and didn’t say anything. I remember her asking me “How was work today?”. I remember staring out the window for a moment, and then all of a sudden I said, “OK, so don’t be mad when I show you this.” She looked at me confused, and then, I pulled down my collar. “Who the f—did that!?”, she yelled and slowed the car down. “Before you get mad, let me tell you what happened,” I blurted out.

When we got home, I just laid in the bed. I don’t remember doing anything else that evening. When her boyfriend came over that evening, she told him what happened. I remember him coming into my room, and sitting on the edge of the bed. He asked me how I felt, and if I was OK… and really, I wasn’t sure. Then he went into big brother mode. He had all the flare, all the swag, the New York accent, the Spanish accent, and was well versed in the Latin gang. “What’s his name?…What does he look like? What days does he work? What time does he get there and leave? How old is he?”, etc. etc.

I got anxious, him just asking me those questions. I hesitated because I knew he was going to take that information and go to the store, find the guy, and confront him….and I didn’t want the drama.

But he did it anyway. 

I was at work one day, ringing customers, and I looked down my line to see my sister’s boyfriend in standing there. No groceries. Just his arms folded ready to find the guy who did this. I got immediately nervous. I actually had not seen the guy in a couple of days, but I knew this day was a day he was scheduled to be working. I rang my last customer, turned my light off, and I clocked out. My sister’s boyfriend grabbed my hand, started walking with me around the store, and said “OK, now who is he? Show me where he is.” If I could have turned white from fear and embarrassment I would have. I wanted NONE of the smoke. Nervous was an understatement.

I saw the guy working in the produce section stocking. “There he is,” I whispered. “Please don’t do anything while I’m at work, just forget it, it’s fine,” I begged, embarrassed and not wanting to cause a scene.

“No, that Sh—t ain’t fine and I’m about to just talk to him about it.” He let my hand go, and started walking over to the area where the boy was.

“Ey, you.. Come here.” After some confusion about who he was talking to, the guy came over. “Do I know you?” He asked.

“Nah, but you know my sister.” They guy looked at me, acted like he didn’t know me, or even recognize me, and said “I don’t know her.”

After going back and forth, cursing at one another, and me thinking they were about to fight, I basically blanked out. I was horrified. They were now in the middle of the produce department, face to face. I didn’t know what was about to happen. I remember my sister’s boyfriend threatening the other guy, that he better not ever touch me again, the guy still denying any and everything, and then the guy telling my sisters boyfriend that he was 28 and that he would never mess with someone so young. 28?! I thought. My mind immediately went to how much worse things could have gotten, and I was immediately grateful to just be out of that situation.

Noone fought (thank goodness), and after their confrontation, my sister’s boyfriend left and I had to again, just go back on the register….and smile….and help the next customer.

My manager at the store found out what happend, and asked if I wanted to file a sexual assault case on the guy, but again, I didn’t want any drama, no problems… I just wanted to make my little money and go back to Ohio. I mean, I was only going to be there a few more weeks, so to me there wasn’t any point. I worked those weeks out on a different schedule than him so I wouldn’t have to see him, got my last little check, and never went back to that store again.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so nice and even went to the back with him. Maybe I should of had stricter boundaries with guys and not let him hug me in the first place…

Or maybe he was just an abuser and liked to take advantage of young girls and that was his issue, not mine…

Too bad it didn’t translate like that in my head at the time. I didn’t know what I did to deserve that. I didn’t know what I did wrong, or how not to get myself in a situation like that again. I was so sheltered and was never taught about such things as boundaries, how to be safe around guys, the potential dangers, and how to follow your instincts or inner voice. I was so naive…

Fifteen.  

My first summer away from home. My first job. My first heartbreak on a whole other level. 

Fifteen. Oh, sweet fifteen…

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