While growing up, my mom never allowed my sisters and I to sleep over anyone’s home. My mom was very strict about that. She had to break her rule once during a hospital stay, when she had no choice but to have us stay with my aunt. But otherwise she never allowed it. I was upset with her about that rule. I didn’t see its purpose. I thought she was being extremely strict, and that the trust I elicited did not merit such an extreme prohibition.
When I was 16 years old, I had a friend who had fire engine red hair. It was very long and so fluffy that it poofed out—that was back in the day of big hair. Her female cousin, also attended our high school, and they were two peas in a pod. They were everything I was not. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to them. They were outgoing, popular, funny, and always attracting guys’ attention. I often wondered why they allowed me, this shy awkward girl, to hang out with them. Maybe I was their mascot. I can’t imagine they felt much in common with me.
Sometimes when we got out of school, they lit up and smoked pot. They offered but when I rejected it, to their credit (and my surprise, now speaking as a parent) they didn’t push me to smoke it. Their parents allowed them a lot of freedoms I never got at home. They were able to stay outside until very late. Both of them were sexually active and I caught bits and pieces of their conversations which often were spoken in code, when I was present. I guess they didn’t want to fully disclose the details in my presence.
Looking back, now as a mom myself, I recognize what a bad influence these girls were, and how I would not want my own daughter hanging out with these girls.
My mother didn’t know the things I knew about them, and one Friday evening my mother surprised me by allowing me to spend the night at the red-head’s home. Both girls decided at 11pm that we should go outside and hang out at the playground. We were not there very long when the neighborhood guys were drawn to us. Well, more so to them who were the extroverted gregarious ones. I was the very quiet bud, not yet fully bloomed. So you can imagine my surprise when a very cute guy started talking to me.
At that age (or any for that matter), the ego is massaged with such attention. I was definitely not used to all this attention. If this is a taste of freedom—getting all this attention from a cute guy—I was indeed liking freedom!
I felt immediate chemistry and attraction toward this guy, though I knew nothing about him. I liked his looks and how good it felt to receive this attention. Looking back now, I realize I was starved for male attention, not having had an emotionally attached or affectionate father. So I, like many countless girls and women, didn’t know that the hole where normally self-worth would occupy, would erroneously interpret a random guy’s attention as acknowledgement of my worth.
He asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. I was excited that he asked “me” and not the other girls. Surely there were other girls prettier than me, I thought. Who doesn’t want to stand out as the special one, when all you know is the dull pain of being ignored and unrecognized. Even with the excitement of being noticed, I felt a twinge of nervousness. Something inside me was saying, But you don’t know him.
My “friend” said “Go ahead, it’s okay! We’ll be here when you get back.”
I was not sure, but at the same time I thought what harm was there to just go for a walk. I rationalized, and disregarded my internal urgings, my intuition.
We walked and talked. I can’t remember the conversation. It was likely teen deep. He reached for my hand and held it as we walked. I felt warm and special when he held my hand. It was such a foreign feeling to me, not having this attention from a guy ever before. His hand felt good, as his masculine hand wrapped around mine. I was so thrilled.
I noticed that as we got far away from the playground, his pace started picking up. I didn’t know my way around that neighborhood. It was in an entirely different area of NYC, than the one I lived in. I looked in the direction we were headed, and noticed that the apartment buildings soon would end and all that lay ahead was a dark heavily wooded area. It seemed to be many acres deep. It is where you’d go if you want to hide, or disappear.
The nervous anticipation of having a guy pay attention to me was quickly replaced with fear, and adrenalin pumping. He stopped his quick pace momentarily to give me a kiss. It felt hurried and void of any emotion. It was perfunctory. It was sloppy. It was what he must give all the girls. How could it be special? He didn’t have time to get to know my heart. That takes weeks, months. All we had were minutes.
This was not what I expected from my first French kiss. I dreamt of something special, because I am special. Instead, it infused fear and tasted like nasty cigarettes. It turned my stomach.
He grabbed my hand tighter as he was moving quicker in the direction of his destination. I began verbalizing my fear in a very passive manner. “I think we need to get back. Terri will be wondering where I am.” Little did I know that he’d have knowledge of Terri that would render my soft threat pointless, meaningless. I was in over my head. I was meekly threatening the big bad wolf warning him that grandma would be looking for me. Unlike grandma who cares, Terri was a teen overcome by the call of hormones and busy with her own teen absorption.
I stopped to turn back, and he pulled me in the direction of his one-track mind. It was not about me; it was about him—what he wanted. At that moment, nothing existed in his mind other than making it to the goal. His sights were set on that wooded park. It was clear to me at that point, that I could have been anyone. I was just another girl, just like countless others he must have coerced or taken dragging. This seemed like a well-worn path for him.
It was surreal. On the one hand my heart was racing, and yet, it didn’t seem possible that this was happening to me. It must be a bad joke. He’s surely going to relent. But he did not. I had no voice.
He was not talking anymore and there was nothing stirring about. The silence in the city that never sleeps was eerily quiet. We were now far away from apartment buildings, it was now past midnight, and I was alone. I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock and fear. I was paralyzed and unsure. I was the lamb being led to slaughter. I was out of my element. I did not know how to navigate through this situation. I never had to deal with this before, in my protected world.
We reached the end of the last city block. Once we crossed the desolate street, we would be there. Just a few steps away and I would disappear into the darkness. My heart was thumping and my thoughts were of regret for having agreed to leave the group and be alone with this guy. My thoughts rapidly firing and mental prayers, God please help me!
I was prey caught in the cross hairs.
As his firm grip pulled me to cross the last street, I was startled by the instantaneous sound of rushing water. To our left was a fire hydrant full throttle open, loudly gushing gallons of water onto the isolated street. Standing near it was a large black male easily over 6 feet tall, with a strong physique, looking as if he was planning to wash his car. At this hour? At this location?
With this surprise distraction I yanked my hand from his grip and headed quickly in the opposite direction, crossing back and passing the man by the fire hydrant. With crisis averted, I was running on adrenalin and made my way quickly back to familiar and populated surroundings.
After I returned home the following day, I never asked my mother to spend the night anywhere again. I was content with the warmth of the familiar bed I shared with my sister. I was comforted by my mother’s wisdom. I understood then the possible dangers my mother was trying to protect me from.
I was thankful then, as I am today, that this Angel appeared out of nowhere to thwart the plans of someone with evil intent. Water gushing at such high volume would have been audible prior to us reaching the end of the street, especially given the quiet of the night. Yet, that would have removed the element of surprise. It was all perfect timing as it occurred, to catch us both off guard (him particularly), to enable me to extract myself from him. This way, he had no time to think, only to react, so that I could take advantage of his pause. I believe that even the size and ethnicity of my Angel was not a coincidence. It had to be someone large enough that could pose a threat to this well-built virile young man. It had to be someone imposing enough that this white boy would deflect, and surrender his plan.
I will never know who this man was, this mysterious Angel. Do you believe in Angels among us? Was he a real person? If a real man, he must have listened to the urging to wash his car at that location at that precise time. We are all potential Angels if we “show up” to be used as we are called for in the moment of someone else’s need. We may never know how our presence can make a difference in another’s life if we listen to these urgings. And how intuition is something we should not ignore. I believe this is one of God's ways of directing our paths, wanting to guide and alert us, if we take heed.
“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”— Proverbs 2:11
Copyright © 2012 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.