Female • 17 years old • New York City
It was a blistering cold January night in 1989, and The World nightclub was packed with drag queens, homeboys, and all sorts in between. In typical Saturday night fashion, my homegirls and I were dancing and soul-clapping the night away to tracks like "I'll House You," "Jack Your Body," and "Work It to the Bone." I was in the middle of bustin' a move when SJ approached.
Illustration by Thomas Pitilli
SJ wasn't my boyfriend, but I wished he was. To seventeen-year-old me, he was as exotic as they came: Italian and Jewish from Bensonhurst, crazy green eyes bordered by Ken Wahl-esque brows and even crazier thick, full lips. I loved everything about him — his "danger", his club connections, and how he knew all the rhymes to "Ain't No Half Steppin'" by Big Daddy Kane. But, mostly, I loved his scent, a blend of Obsession for Men, weed, alcohol, and sweat. We'd danced a bit when he leaned in and whispered, "We gonna chill later, right?" Then, off he went, plying his trade to the party-going smokers and sniffers. I turned back to my friends and grinned like an idiot, much to their irritation. None of them liked him.
A few hours later, closing time was fast approaching and my friends wanted to go home. But I impatiently awaited SJ's return. Leaving now was not an option. "What are you gonna do? Stay here?" Mira screeched. "Look at that fucking line for fucking coat check."
Just then, SJ surfaced from behind me and slipped his arms around my waist. "Yeah, yeah, I'll be fine," I said, and shooed them goodbye. The bouncers made their final rounds, clearing out the club, ignoring the two of us as we sat on a couch — SJ had carte blanche with club management because he brought in so much business. I was already giddy from a night's worth of complimentary Sex on the Beaches, so a couple of tokes from the joint he'd rolled rendered me thoroughly zooted.
I started to shiver and he asked, "You cold? We gotta fix that." He pulled me up onto his lap, facing him, and we started to make out. When I felt his jimmy perk up, I reached down for it, and he said, "Let's go upstairs." We climbed two floors up, to the far corner of a balcony, and continued our groping session. As he pulled down my biker shorts and his track-suit bottoms, I searched my baby brother's Ninja Turtles lunch box, which doubled as my party bag, and produced a rubber.
After months of heavy petting, I couldn't believe it was about to actually happen. I was petrified, and I'd always imagined my first time being just a little more romantic, but I was excited, too. He fumbled to put the condom on and subsequently fumbled to put his penis in. When he did, I saw stars. I gasped and trembled in pain as my hands clutched onto the back of his neck. Nothing had ever hurt as much as this. "It's okay, baby," he murmured. Not really, I thought. After a few moments, he moaned and was still, then stepped backward. I felt a hot liquid trickling down my leg. I feared the condom had broken, but in the dimness, I could see that it was blood. "I'm bleeding," I said blankly.
He grabbed napkins from behind a deserted bar. "Why you always bleedin' every time we chill?" harking back to a night he'd stolen a box of tampons from the now defunct Store 24 on Greenwich, after I'd explained to him why he couldn't put his hand down my pants. We pulled up our clothes. I really wanted a cigarette, not in the clichéd post-coital way, but for something to do while my mind replayed what had just happened. When I lit one he said, "That's a real nasty habit." I looked back at him, dazed as he took the cigarette from my mouth and took one long drag.
In the coat-check room, we discovered that my coat had been stolen. My eyes welled with tears. He chuckled and said, "Aww, don't cry, girl. I'll find something in the office. Mad people be leaving things here." When he emerged, he handed me a tattered and matted black-velour cape. I put it on.
We got outside, and the sun was coming up, but it was still freezing. He put his arm around my shoulders and we walked towards 1st Avenue silently until he offered to buy me breakfast at McDonald's. I shook my head. All I wanted to do was to go home, take a shower and put on the flannel PJs mommy got me for Christmas. Oh, shit, mommy! She was gonna shit bricks. She was definitely up and getting ready to go to work. Man, I hadn't thought of that.
My mind reeled. "You have money?" he asked. I didn't. "Why you go out with no loot? That's not safe." He pulled out his wad of cash, handed me some money and hailed a cab, telling the driver, "Yo, take this girl to the Bronx, all right?" Before the driver pulled out, SJ tapped on the back window. "If you go out this week, give me a beep." I went out, I saw him, I beeped him, but he never called back.