“How would you like a job?” He calls out as I pass by.
He smiles at me from the fold-out table in the empty storefront unit. He has brown curly hair and a beard. Green eyes.
It is the summer of my fourteenth year and I am bored. The days of nothing stretch out before me, the future yawns wide and aimless. Mom is busy working all the time, just trying to make ends meet.
I get dressed, do my makeup and hair and go out wandering the plaza on Park Avenue. There’s Camilli’s Pizza and the coin laundry. There’s a second-hand store and a convenience store, a few small businesses that I have no interest in or need for such as car insurance and sewing alterations. And then, there’s Jim.
“Really?” I take a few steps backward in the walkway, pausing between the open glass doors.
“We are opening a brand new gym in this space. Plenty of workout equipment and classes. Do you like aerobics?”
“I’ve never tried, but I want to.”
“I need people to help me construct these little cardboard boxes that we are distributing all over the city for people to enter a drawing for a free membership.”
“That sounds easy. How much does it pay?”
“For you? A free sixty-day membership if you help me.”
I sit alone on the floor in an empty back room with bundles of white cardboard sheets all around me. I carefully fold and tuck the tabs in the slots and stack the boxes in neat columns.
I think Jim is cute for an older man. He is thirty-five, he tells me. And he is married. But, I still like him and flirt with him. And he flirts back.
On the second day of my new job I am wearing my white flowered sundress that can be worn on or off the shoulders. I am wearing it pulled down off the shoulder. It looks sexier that way.
Jim is in the front, making phone calls and talking to prospective members as they stop by from time to time. I have a quota, I decide. I am going to fold a hundred boxes before I leave.
“You look so sexy today…” I look up to see him standing in the doorway.
“Thanks,” I smile.
Crouching on one knee, he pushes my shoulders back against the thin blue carpet that covers the concrete floor. Now we are making out. He kisses me hard, but it’s okay.
He pulls up my dress and before I know it, he is inside me, wearing a condom. He jerks in and out very quick and hard, like a rabbit, panting all the while. In about two minutes it is all over. I don’t come. I don’t have time. He doesn’t say a word. He just gets up, leaving me there.
I have only ever had gentle boyfriend sex before. I didn’t know it could be like this. I wonder if I should be mad. Was I raped? I don’t know. I let him, but I didn’t like it. It feels awful to be used this way.
Later at home I find myself masturbating, but curiously angry– thinking about how it should have been. Thinking about how, next time, I will seek my revenge, by using him. By fucking him until I get off, then leaving him there with a hard-on. This version gives me an intense orgasm.
I go back the next day and fold more boxes. He never comes to the room again.
The aerobics instructor’s name is Cindy. She is tall and lean with a long blonde ponytail. She wears a metallic unitard with black bottoms like a thong bathing suit and a loose sweatshirt with day-glow leg warmers over her well-developed calves and Reebok high tops.
“Hi! Welcome to Nautilus Fitness Center!” Her ponytail bobs excitedly. “Go ahead and get signed in.”
I love the music and the beat. It is not unlike the dancing lessons I had when I was little, but better. I feel strong, healthy and alive. To cool down after my workout, I light a cigarette and sip a diet coke. Sometimes I even go back later in the day for a second workout.
Jim and I never talk about what happened.
“Your body responds quickly to exercise, I see. And your hair is getting so long. You look great!” He says one evening when we pass each other outside the gym.
And walk away.