This is Fiction. No real names or locations are used in this story. Any relationship to a location or real person is purely coincidental.
We sat and talked and laughed. Before I knew it, the last bus back to Hoboken, New Jersey was leaving at three in the morning. And Malek had to make that bus. Ahmed was staying with him. He didn’t know what else to do but to put me on the subway, alone, at Times Square.
The two men left me at the subway turnstile and paid my fare home with a subway token. I was miffed. Isn’t anyone going to put me in a taxi or take me home like a gentleman?” I couldn’t believe two men would drop a young lady off in Times Square at three in the morning for a ride alone back to Coney Island on the D Train.
Suddenly I realized that someone snatched the money I always tuck into my purse when I go out-to get home alone safely by cab-from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Maybe the purse opened and the money fell out by itself. Without judging, I begged Malek to take me home or at least lend me money for cab fare until the next day.
He insisted that he make the last bus home to Hoboken so he wouldn’t have to be out alone himself all night and also in danger in the New York City streets. Ahmed didn’t speak much English and could have been from
anywhere. He went along with Malek since he was in New York alone, didn’t know too many people, and only in the US only a few days. I understood. Two guys from the Middle East meet an American blond(e) with a great grandma from Norway. They talk. They go home. Neither wanted to be on the streets of New York at three in the morning, and none had taken enough money for a cab, only with bus fare and a desire to grab that last bus back to Hoboken, New Jersey.
I had a subway token of my own and fifteen cents in change, not enough for a cab. Nobody could be called. I went into the subway and caught the D Train toward Coney Island.
In my spike heels and white satin and lace fancy suit, I made her way into the subway car and sat opposite a middle-aged black man wearing a working man’s cap. All I noticed was the scar on his cheek.
I didn’t notice the two or three other men on the train, since I had hid my face against the window, turning from the man’s view to avoid eye contact and trouble. He probably thought I deserved to get what he would dish out because I dared to be a woman of 21 who tried to take back the night. I dared to be riding the subway at three AM on a cold, February, snowy morning.
Why did I ever stay so late dancing and talking? Why didn’t the guys take me home? I thought about it. An American guy would have brought me home, any guy would if he had planned a date. This wasn’t a date.
I met two men, chatted, and each went our own way to get home. How dare I assume they would take me
home just because I sat and talked with them or danced until three in the morning? The man sitting across from me in the subway stepped off at King’s Highway, a few stops before Coney Island, when I exited at that station to go home. As I stepped off the subway, peering around, I didn’t see anything. But out of a corner of my eye, I thought I saw him dart behind the huge bench signs. I was too tired to pay attention.
I waited a few minutes in the station near the turnstile. There was a night attendant there who made change. Nobody followed me down. After a long while, I walked down the metal stairs to Kings Highway and walked the two
blocks to my apartment on West First Street past the candy store and the Italian deli across from the fish market.
Suddenly the black man sneaked up behind me unheard and unseen. Right in front of the vacant, weed-filled lot he put his hand on my shoulder. “Hi baby,” the man sneered with a sardonic smile.
I twisted my neck and stared at him, then bolted in her spike heels across the lot toward her home. Right in front of my apartment he caught up with me, dragged me back into the weeds of the lot and began to strangle me. I pretended to go limp and close my eyes and his grip loosened a bit. Then he pulled off my glasses and stomped them into bits.
“Here, take my money,” I gasped. “He grabbed the bag and tossed it over his shoulder. Four cents jingled in my purse. That’s all the money I had. Then he dragged me to the curb so I’d be hidden by a parked car.
I started to give a little scream, but he yelled “Shut up you bitch!” and started to strangle me again.
He loosened his grip as soon as I would feign going limp and closing her eyes. He laid me down alongside the curb and looked into her eyes what seemed like a long while as he put his finger into the side of her panties and then into my vagina. There was an obstacle. At twenty-one, I was a virgin and remained so until my wedding. He couldn’t go far with his finger, because he found out soon enough that I had an intact hymen. So after watching the frown on my face for a moment, he started to choke me again. Before I could react and pretend to go
limp to make him loosen his grip, somehow the window above the parked car opened with a loud screech.
The man jumped up and bolted away into the night, dropping his workman’s cap. All that was left was my purse that he dropped and the fragments of my crushed eyeglasses in the lot. “Call the police,” I called to my neighbor, the old Polish woman who opened the window. “Good Mrs. K……..” A woman in her eighties who spoke with a thick, Yiddish accent spoke to me as the man ran away, dropping his hat. The neighbor called the police for me. “Did you hear me start to scream?” I wanted to know.
But Mrs. K……… shook her head “not’ and just opened the window for some air because she couldn’t sleep. What made her open the window to get some air at that instant, saving my life? “Are you all right?” she said in her sing-song inclination. “I wish all you pishikas (teenage girls) wouldn’t sit out on the stoop and fool around all night.’
“I said I was nearly strangled!” I fumed. “And I’m not going back into my apartment until I’ve seen a doctor.”
“What about your father?” She insisted.
“I don’t want to be in there with him.” I called back to her from the street.
“He has this elder rage problem. Loses his temper and explodes at people for no
reason and chases them with a hammer.”
I waited what seemed like an eternity for the police to arrive. When the first
officer arrived he asked I to explain.
“Were you raped?”
“No. He tried to strangle me.” I told him about his fingers in my vagina.
“Could I get VD?” I asked.
“Look, if your boyfriend got fresh with you and you want to get revenge,
don’t send us on a wild goose chase.”
I was incredulous. Why wouldn’t the police officer believe my word straight on? February 1963 was the year, not 1862. It was the first time I had ever spoken with a policeman. What reason could I have for making this up? I thought.
“My boyfriend?” I looked at the officer as if I had learned that I could never trust another man again, another relationship, another date. “If I had a boyfriend to protect me, this wouldn’t ever have happened.”
“I just wanted to be sure,” the police answered defensively. The second officer searched about the weedy lot and found her crushed glasses and the man’s cap. He brought it over for the first officer to examine. “Looks like
the kind of caps they wear.”
The first officer then began to take me a little more seriously. He asked me who I was, age and occupation. “I’m a visual anthropology and English-writing emphasis-graphic design triple major,” I told him. “I want to be a creative director.”
They left. There was nothing more they could do. The man had run away towards the subway station and the trains had come and gone many times before the police car arrived. “You must have quite an imagination,” the officer said
curtly. “I sure hope your boyfriend didn’t do this and you’re out for revenge.”
“I told you if I had a boyfriend to protect me, this wouldn’t have happened.” I still wanted to see men as the protector. Only the reality is all the men in my life made me feel unsafe and frightened both in the home and in the outside world.
What was left? The imagined safety and security of the job. Yes, in 1963, jobs in New York were still as easy to find as they were in the fifties when I was in high school. I had a job in the library checking out magazines. It was safe and quiet in the middle of Times Square. I did my job, earned my tuition to supplement the scholarship, but it didn’t pay enough for me to have my own apartment. I still lived at home with my parents, and that was wearing thin.
I went back to my parent’s apartment and sneaked in. Dad slept soundly. And in my bed after a silent and quick wash-up, the black and blue thumb prints on my neck where I’d been choked began to throb. He damaged my thyroid, I thought. Anxiety overtook me, and the life-long lasting panic disorder and overstimulated thyroid, my big oversized thyroid, began its journey to panic land and chronic anxiety.
I gasped for breath each time I had tried to lean back on the pillow in the dark listening to the blood coursing through my arteries. If only I found a diet to soothe my nerves. To be alone was glorious. Solitude meant safety and serenity.
Music therapy said it all with calmness. Finally I phoned for a police ambulance. After an eternity, it arrived. This time I dressed and waited downstairs, so Meyer wouldn’t wake up with a commotion.
“My neck feels like it’s damaged,” I told the ambulance driver before he even got out of the driver’s seat.
“Are you the one?” The driver opened the door for me.
“I have a sociology exam on Monday. And now this. Say, can I catch VD from his hand? Am I still a virgin?”
These questions went through my mind as the ambulance drove toward Coney Island hospital. Happy twenty-first birthday to me.
There was a light exam at the hospital. “Not unless he scratched you,” was the nurse’s answer to my VD question. “After all, the only thing that went inside was his fingers.”
“It’s my neck I’m worried about. I can’t swallow properly. Is my thyroid damaged for life?” The blue thumbprints on my throat began to swell.
“I don’t want my father to find out. He’ll get violent,” I told the doctor, “He’ll call me a whore.”
“You’ll be okay,” the hospital attendant assured me as I left the emergency room. There was no counseling, no mention of rape or even sexual assault. Nothing spoken. “There’s no damage,” she was assured.
“What about my neck? It’s all bruised.”
“I said you’re o.k.” The emergency room nurse began to lose her patience.
“No I’m not,” I squealed.
“You’re going to send me a bill for fifty bucks for the ambulance ride, plus the cost of the emergency room exam. I won’t be able to face my job in the library Monday morning. I’ll probably get a “D” on my sociology exam. How come I get attacked on my twenty-first birthday, and it costs me money? Look what happened, and I have never smoked or taken an alcoholic drink in my life. Is this what I get for just having conversation with human beings on my birthday? Those guys didn’t have the foggiest notion that you’re supposed to take the lady home from a date, not leave her in Times Square late at night after an evening out.”
“You’re lucky you weren’t murdered,” the answer came back.
“Lucky?” I walked down the long corridors to a waiting taxi I called-totally flattened and desperately looking for a protector to marry as quickly as I could find him, any him. Come Monday, I received a “B-plus” in sociology, then called Ahmed and brought up the subject of marriage. Somebody had better take care of me fast, I fantasized in paralogic.
Looking for a Pocket Protector
Someone had better take care of me, fast
In a relationship that’s destined to last.
I need protection and direction,
A bodyguard with affection.
I’m lookin’ for a pocket protector,
With the brains of a rocket inspector.
Marry me, carry me, pay all my bills.
Buy me a house in Beverly Hills.
I’m a bored-to tears down-heeled contessa
In search of a sensitive professor,
A rich girl with no money
Seeks someone who’s funny.
That’s why I need a protector,
A bachelorhood defector
Not a critical corrector
To take care of my fare if you dare.
She’ll be a bored-to-tears down-heeled housewife,
With a bored-to-tears round-heeled smile.
‘Cause she’s too smart to earn,
And she’s too trained to learn.
So she kicks up her heels to be free.
Free as bird…gird on a swing.
Looking for you to bring her a ring.
Marry her past.
And make her laugh.
‘Cause she’s a rich girl with no money
Looking for a generous honey.
A she wolf in search of a den,
An artist with digital pen.
Drawing you in her direction.
Seeking a marriage of perfection.
If you’re kind, take care of her, fast
She’s a mind-mate destined to last.