Laughter and music filled the air. The low lights illuminated the faces of my best friends sitting beside me. The smell of fresh food wavered in the air as waiters walked passed me towards the neighbouring tables holding friends celebrating the week’s end. Peering outside the opened doors, I could see the adjacent bars hosting businessmen and women, hoping for a night to help them forget about their long days. Red taxis inched their way through the streets, attempting to avoid hitting the intoxicated people drifting in and out of the road. I could watch this city forever. Looking at all of my friends around me, I could see how much we had changed. We were once outsiders in this world, too young to be drinking, but we had somehow acclimated to this environment even though we were still years away from being legal. Our faces were plastered with make-up: our eyes holding thick eyeliner that winged out alongside our eyelashes that were heavy with mascara. We had become masters at deception.
There was an odd atmosphere among us. We were excited about the school year ending and to leave for summer, but there was also a sadness that hung in our chests. Maybe it was because we were finally realising we only had one more year of high school. One more year together. The fact that I was leaving the next day for summer added extra pressure. This night has to be great.
We had all gathered together to celebrate my birthday, which hadn’t come quite yet. I was still only 16, but my age was never a deterrent against doing anything in this city. Everything was open to me if I decided I wanted it to be. We all ordered a few drinks and then walked down into the main clubbing district. One last night before spending two months in America where everything was restricted.
I closed my eyes inhaling the night air. The world moved around me: the bright lights broadcasted from each store front, the coinciding music fighting over the space, the thick smell of spilled liquor that constantly coated the streets, and the incoming tourists who were unconscious that there was even a place like this in the world. We wandered into bars that clung to the sides of the over populated avenues. I was given birthday drinks from the local bartenders who I know always knew my age, but never cared.
At around 1:30 my friends and I meandered into a club known for letting underage girls in, no questions asked. After the usual dance of handing my fake passport copy to the bouncer, who glances at the numbers listed under my birthdate and checks out what I’m wearing, he released the thin red rope separating the outside world from the interior of the club. As I walked in, the overpowering music bounced in my skull, my eyes attempted to become accustomed to the darkness that invaded every inch of room. Only small moments of light would subdue the blackness allowing the occupants to view the faces of those who stood and danced among them.
After a few minutes, all of the drinks began to hit me. I was 5 shots and a few glasses of champagne in. I was still aware and could hold a conversation, but barely. I suddenly saw a beautiful man in the corner of the club. As the lights flickered on and off, we stared at each other. I began the trek over to him through the crowds of people, bringing a friend with me incase I needed assistance. When I got to him, he grabbed me and we danced.
The world circled around me, I felt disconnected to my body and reality as the thumping music played in my head. His hand slid up my back and into my hair, he pulled me closer to him and kissed me. He then took my hand and directed me to the bar and ordered two tequila shots. My feet tumbled below me as I tried to balance my body weight on my 4 inch heels. He pushed a shot in front of me and I looked at him and shook my head. I didn’t want, or need, any more alcohol. He badgered me and had paid, so I begrudgingly had one and nudged the second over to him. He told me to take it and that he would “order another round for himself.” Uncomfortably, I looked up at him and told him I shouldn’t. He continued to look down at me apathetically. I raised the small glass to my lips and threw my head back. I could feel it immediately.
He began to kiss my neck and I started searching for my friends. There was a sea of people in front of me, all of their faces moulding together becoming indistinguishable. Fear began to build up inside my stomach. Where are they? I mean this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, I would find a hot guy, we’d start hooking up, and then I’d meet up with them later. But this felt different.
We stood by the bar and he began to play with my hair whispering in my ear, “Do you want to leave?” I didn’t really know what to say. I was having trouble forming sentences, I couldn’t even think straight. He never ordered his drinks and started pulling me out the door. I didn’t want to leave with him.
We left the club and he maneuvered me up a huge staircase outside. The bright street lights blinded me as I tried to find my footing. Where am I? It was really secluded and, even in my inebriated state, I knew no one could see or hear us over the intense music and darkness enveloping the area. He yanked me up the stairs, my feet fumbling as they tried to remember how to walk. One foot in front of the other. He started taking off his pants and I felt my heart leap into my throat. I had hooked up with guys before him but it never went very far. I had no idea what I was doing.
He suddenly grabbed my head and pushed it towards his pants. He used his other hand to reach into his underwear and pull out his erect penis. My mind couldn’t catch up with my body. He forced me to the ground and put his penis in my mouth, pulling my head up and down by my hair. Don’t throw up. He picked me up, turned me around, and pulled down my leggings and underwear. He attempted to bend me over the handrail but my pants were too tight around my ankles for him to separate my legs. He turned me around again and pressed his lips against mine, hard.
Dragging us up another flight of stairs, we came to a landing. There was a ledge protruding from a hill that was covered in soil and bamboo from a previous construction site. He laid me down against it as I tried to speak.
“I should probably go home, I’m late.”
“This won’t take more than 5 minutes.”
I laid on the slope as he unlaced my heels and placed them next to me. He guided his hands up to my hips and clutched the top of my pants, slowly pulling them down. Exposing one of my legs, he left the other covered and my leggings gripped it and hung off lifelessly. A forgotten construction pole dug into my back and multiple metal polls pushed against my thighs. He pulled out a condom and asked me if I had ever had sex with a black guy before. In my mind I responded, “I have never had sex with anyone.” I just said “no.”
I felt a tightness right below my hip as he inserted his penis inside me. I laid on the polls digging my hands into the dirt on the hill, staring up into the sky. There were a few trees around us and their leaves blocked my view of the black clouded night. The noise from the street wafted up the concrete stairs onto the landing, surrounding me with the vibrations of the electric music.
The construction pole rubbed up and down my back as I slid with his movements. With every change in position I could see a different angle of the sky above my head. A new angle of darkness. Please be over. He finished. As he pulled out of me, I saw a white liquid at the tip of his condom. He threaded my one free leg back into my pants and placed my shoes onto my feet. We walked down the stairs and he reached over and gripped my hand. When we reached the bottom, he put his lips on mine one last time and stuck me in a cab.
I threw up all over myself in the taxi, coming in and out of consciousness. I crossed the harbour looking over at the skyline of my city. It always seemed so peaceful during the late hours of the night. Stay awake.
I got home and did what my parents always asked me to do. Are the lights off? Did I close all the doors? Have the dogs been brought in side? It was done. I slithered up into my bathroom and the second I stepped over the threshold, I collapsed on the floor.
I woke up the next morning in a pool of my vomit and when I tried to get up, I felt a rush of pain to my vagina. But I was leaving for summer vacation that morning, I needed to ignore the pain. Take a shower. Pack my bag. Do my make up. Eat breakfast. Leave.
I boarded the plane alone and slipped my luggage above my seat and sat down. I was here. I had been able to hold back the memories of the night before, but as I sat alone with my thoughts, pain coursed through my body. I walked into the small airplane bathroom and lifted my soft cotton shirt. I slowly turned and faced my back against the mirror. It looked like a canvas, black and blue coinciding creating a portrait of darkness. I moved my hair off my shoulders, I saw a massive purple hickey on the nape of my neck. Pain. Heartbreak. Disbelief. I placed my shirt back over my body, slowly parted my hair to cover my neck, flushed the toilet, and walked back to my chair.
For the rest of the 13 hour flight I sat motionless. Every movement I made would send a sharp pain through my body. When I caught a glimpse of my reflection, I would see the bruise on my neck. No matter what, for the next few weeks my body would be a constant reminder of what had happened. There was no way to escape it. Unfortunately, even after my bruises healed, I would always remember and feel that pain.