PERSONAL ESSAYS




Love Motel


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Like most of New York, I shivered when I heard the news reports about the murder of Immette St. Guillen, the pretty twenty-four-year-old criminal-justice student who disappeared from a downtown bar. The next day, her brutally tortured body was found in a desolate area in Brooklyn. Media coverage has cast her as either an angel or as a belligerent, foolish drunk who shouldn't have had so much to drink, shouldn't have gone to a bar by herself, provoked the bouncer and should have known better. But I see her as just another twentysomething girl in New York, flirting with danger.
   The summer I was twenty, I woke up in the apartment of a bouncer who worked at a grungy Upper West Side bar. I came out of my alcohol-induced haze slowly: Shit, I'm late for work; shit, where am I; shit, what did I do? I had passed out on the bed, on top of the covers. He had climbed under the sheets and was snoring. His arm was splayed over me, almost pinning me down. All muscle, his forearm was thicker than my calf. He was far larger than any Columbia Division Three football player, my former standard for big men. I didn't know where my clothes were. Once I found them forming a messy trail to the bedroom, he woke up and we awkwardly kissed. I took the elevator to the lobby of what I realized was a public housing project in the East Nineties. I blinked in the sunlight, my contacts sticking to my eyes. I hailed a cab but had it stop at 110th and Amsterdam when the meter went up to $8.00. I only had $10.00 in my pocket.
   I saw the bouncer again, many times, throughout college. He always patted my ass as I walked inside the bar and never checked any of my friends ID's, which made me feel deliciously risqué. A few months later, at a bar on the Upper East Side, I started talking to a guy who said he was a writer. Under the influence of alcohol and boredom, I went back to his apartment with the affable pretense

promotion

of looking at his book collection, which led to us tumbling on top of his bed.

"I could kill you right now," he said.


   At one point, he turned toward me and began playing with my hair. His wrists seemed almost delicate. His whole body seemed streamlined. There were no noticeable muscles, just movement.
   "I could kill you right now," he said.
   "Heh heh." I laughed one of those laughs where the two syllables are actually pronounced. I do that when I don't know what to say and am just hoping the conversation will be forgotten.
   "But I wouldn't know what to do with the body," he continued.
   I stayed the night. Somehow, even though my brain told me to just get out, I didn't really feel afraid. Instead, the realization that he could do anything to me felt strangely erotic. Unlike spending the night in a cramped twin bed with a fellow Columbia student, this was gritty, authentic New York. I wanted him, and the city, to consume me. We fucked and fell asleep.

   Plenty of other potentially dangerous men followed. There was the investment banker the summer of my junior year who wanted me to wear a bullet-proof vest and nothing else, the Morningside Heights man who tried to fuck me with a beer bottle until I said a firm no, and the guy with an artificial hip who I had a drunken make-out session with on Ninth Avenue. Afterward, I ignored all his voice messages, but he sent me an e-mail that read: You should be careful where you swim. The waters may be deeper than you think.

 



     

  



Commentarium (11 Comments)

Mar 22 06 - 9:03am
BC

This is the best, most honest, article I've read on Nerve in months.

Mar 22 06 - 7:57pm
cla

Interesting piece because it's not pretending to be 'finished' with everything dangerous. And, it's okay to say you know you went looking for danger. It's even brave to acknowledge this in oneself. But it's a whole other game, I think, to say that others know this, too; to say that another woman is compelled by danger or aware of it or flirting with the boundaries she knows is pretty presumptuous.

Mar 22 06 - 11:23pm
KO'C

I went to college here as well, and for me it was a weird juxtaposition because on one hand I was supported by my parents and going back to the Midwest for school breaks, but on the other hand, I was going to bars and meeting older men, etc while the rest of my friends who went to other colleges were just thrilled if an upperclassman bought them beer. I guess NYC itself pushes boundaries in all sorts of ways, but not sure how the seeking danger comes into it . . .

Mar 22 06 - 11:38pm

pretty powerful

Mar 24 06 - 1:45pm
TM

smart. honest and wrenching--

Mar 25 06 - 10:52am
AKF

I appreciate the piece's honesty and can even relate to it to an extent. However, I don't love the author's conclusion that all drunk women dancing in bars are actively inviting danger, whether consciously or no. Too close to "she was asking for it" for my taste, ad presumptuous to boot.

Mar 26 06 - 2:50pm
esr

Definitely a provocative piece. We all engage in risky behaviors at some point. But, part of growing up is realizing that your actions actually have consequences. Acknowledging the risk of "flirting with danger" doesn't make it okay when you don't really understand what risk is. We all have to learn about ourselves on our own. But, you just hope it's not your child that has to learn this lesson the hard way.

Mar 29 06 - 9:13pm
rxl

I'm a guy, but I know just what you're talking about. only with me it was more often drugs, more drugs, and alcohol, and then more drugs. sex came into play on occasion if I was lucky, I guess, but more often than not, I was stumbling home in what one friend has called "home mode" - the time when I just disappeared from the party, perhaps already blacking out half the nights quote unquote "adventures", and walking home, sometimes from insane distances at various hours of the morning. It's somewhat different for me in one sense, because I'm 6'8" and I hope that whomever saw me and thought about accosting me figured that as fucked up as I obviously was, I'd be much more trouble than aynbody would really want to deal with, and where could you hide my body if you did something to me? but.... very little happened to me except that I moved onto other stupid types of behavior and didn't manage to graduate summa cum laude or start my great American novel, yet. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I feel you. nice essay. good luck.

Mar 29 06 - 9:23pm
rxl

and to the person who assumes she's saying that she was asking for it, just get over yourself! shit... Imette St. Guillen's murder is a tragic incident and no, she wasn't asking for it. get off your fucking soapbox. it's a "personal essay" and the author is realting some of her own history to illustrate the idea of "it coulda been me..." - this essay is more a sigh of relief, in my opinion, than anything that would degrade the rape, torture, and murder of Imette. most of us have engaged in risky behavior that we are able to look back upon and say "whew!" hopefully when we've had some years of distance to our younger more indifferent selves. Some aren't so lucky. it's horrible. but it's people who read an essay like this and make conclusions like you that make it all the more tragic. you probably saw "Kids" and walked away thinking that it made light of the types of experiences that those characters may have lived.

Apr 02 06 - 10:42pm
cm

You are absolutely right. When a person behaves like you, and she did, they know they are putting themselves in danger. I have been there done that, Thank goodness, I made it out alive. She didn't deserve to die, no one does, but she probably knew she was putting herself at risk.

Apr 03 06 - 2:28pm
cfr

the trouble is that had she been black or hispanic..there would have been no media outcry.