I met Jámal when I was standing in front of a dark night club — a rundown club on a downtown side street in San Diego. I was on the curb smoking a cigarette and had on some tight jeans, a thin spaghetti strap shirt, some fake tits in a Victoria Secret bra, with a sheer hoodie pulled up to hide my profile.
I was 14 years old and on the run, wearing a pair of worn out Converse sneakers — and down to my last twenty bucks. F-ing drunk, is what I was, and Jamal happened to see me, meet my eyes and smile. I had always been a silly type of drunk. Until that day.
Jamal was dark brown with long hair, crimped and down. I thought that was odd for a black man. I had never seen a dark man like him with shoulder-length waves. He had pretty brown eyes and a crooked but charming smile.
What they don’t tell you about predators is that they rarely look harmful. Sometimes they wear goofy grins and have a friendly voice. They listen to you and act like they care. You spend your life running from shadowy figures when the real demons are unafraid to show their face in the public streetlights and tell you their name. Or at least a nickname.
They want you to see their face. They want you to remember every second of your encounter. They want you to run from that name (real or not) so fast and hard that you forget, in that fear, to turn around and face them dead on like so many claim you should.
But that’s neither here nor there. Jámal asked me my name. I lied. I asked his. He said it, he may have lied. He asked where I was going. It seemed innocent enough. Little did he know, I’d willingly given him the company he desired so badly. I was at that point in my life.
He put his arm around me and offered me a place to stay. I said I’d go. He held me tight. Too tight, I see in hindsight. I mistook it for passion as he bragged about being an excellent lover. We walked down the streets, winding our way about like drunken lovers. My hoodie fell back and he commented that my hair was shorter than he’d thought.
We went to this building. I should have known something was up when I saw there was a plaque I now know to be the halfway house motto. Then, I stood there silently as he went to the desk and paid the guys at the counter a wad of bills and only got one condom in return.
I didn’t ask questions back then. I listened. I was only fourteen, after all.
He took me up a staircase then and told me I could not come back down because the place had rules. I was so drunk it didn’t register. I figured some apartments must be stricter than others as I’d never been a renter of any myself. Now I know that no apartment complex is stricter than those made for registered sex offenders.
We went to the room. He had a pipe and some alcohol. We smoked. We drank. I talked. He listened. We ended up laughing.
Next thing you know we were having sex. I was on my back, legs on his shoulders. It was consensual. It was fine. He wasn’t the lover he claimed to be, though. Completely forgettable.
When done, he went to the sink and rinsed the condom. That was odd to me. He came back and tried to enter me again, then rammed my back entrance. I wasn’t into that, so I pushed him away, hard. He said “Oh, I’m sorry.” Such a gentleman.
We talked after and I fell asleep. A deep sleep. So deep that the rest, the nightmare, came in flashes. He had sex with me. Over and over. Endlessly. He bit, he mangled, then attacked and ate up flesh one inch at a time… To the point where skin fell off and blood poured instead of our previous love juices. It was hazy. It didn’t hurt at all. I remember thinking, “What if my mom was here to see this?!?” That thought was vacant though. Actually, the only thought I had.
A rod spooning me…
A rod in every hole…
A rod as I am bent over the side of the bed…
“Shhhhh…” A hand stifles a cry. Did I make that sound myself?
Latex squeaking… latex stretching… latex popping… latex gone…
Sleep was so much better between those flashes. It was much more comfortable. I woke up almost 72 hours later in a pool of blood on a sheet that was stained and scratchy. He was asleep on top on me, breathing hard. My eyes flitted around the room as small as a closet. My cell, today, is much more luxurious.
I fidgeted. He breathed hard. So heavy, sweaty and stinking. Finally, I nudged him. He awoke then rolled and laid by my side. I didn’t speak.
“I love you. I want you to stay here.” He suddenly was such a gentleman again! It surely didn’t match the state of my body, though. I mean, he was simply too nice to do all of that! He spoke of love and passion. Fire and brimstone, eternity and forever more. I thought of escape and the padlocks on the door.
I asked for a shower. He gave me twenty bucks to break into quarters in the communal bathroom. I went inside as he watched like a hawk from the doorway of his room. I stood inside the bathroom. I had forty bucks now. Better than before, right?
I opened the bathroom door again, peeked, and he had gone back inside, satisfied by my obedience. I ran like the wind. Down corridors and stairs. I stopped a woman and she told me the way to the lobby, hazy-eyed herself and looking oddly at me still as I ran away in a state of wide-eyed shock. I left behind my underwear and my sanity that day. Ran from it all — past gawking men at the front counter and into the daylight. Only to fall sick within weeks.
When I saw the plus sign displayed on that cheap pregnancy test, I knew the nightmare had been, indeed, real. What I didn’t know was that the real nightmare would be when I lost the only good left of the encounter in a toilet two months later.
My womb bled not because Jámal tore it in the ways he had, fiercely. My womb bled because I took a pill that erased the only part of him that was ever worth a damn.
Heather D’Aoust is serving 16 years to Life in California for killing her mother at the age of 14.
California Institute for Women
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