It must have been early May, of grade nine when I went on a class field trip to an amusement park in the city.
It took a week’s worth of cleaning the house spotless and the world’s most polite attitude in order to convince my parents to sign the permission form. Going into the city meant traveling nearly three hours away, so I was obliged to prove that I could handle the responsibility of being on my ‘best behaviour’. To my parents, being on your best behaviour consisted of not having any fun while finding academic value on the trip, not doing any drugs, not participating in the latest hallway gossip, calling on the hour every hour to state my location, and of course, not talking to any boys.
Regardless of the rules and regulations I was demanded to abide by, I would later appreciate how supportive my parents were when it came to travel opportunities. They truly did understand the value of learning and education through travel experience.
The bus ride departed from the school early in the morning, so it was quiet for the most part save for snoring. In contrast, I was wide awake the whole ride. I was on the edge of my seat trying to look out from everyone’s window just to catch a glimpse of the world outside my home, at every angle. Finally, at around 9:38am we arrived. As soon as I jumped off the bus I was ready to run wild like a caged animal. Rushing to the admission booths, I felt my heart racing from the new found freedom. It was my first time being in a different city without my parents. Looking back, I think I just enjoyed the idea of being unhand-cuffed from the role I played as ‘daughter’ in the house that was not so much a home.
Roller coaster rides, carnival treats, and butting in between lines were all fine and dandy but there was one specific thing that absorbed most of my attention. It was a boy. No, it was a young man.
I was waiting at the back of a line-up for a ride my friends and I had ridden four times. They insisted we should hop on one last time but I resisted. The sun was in its cancer state of mind in the sky, so I could tell it was mid-afternoon without looking at my watch -some military thing my dad taught me. Nonetheless, it was hot. I was sweating so much that one would wonder if I was depressed the way my pores cried. But no matter how wet and sticky I appeared to the naked eye, words are not enough to explain the way my mouth watered at the sight of him. Dante.
At first I was oblivious and didn’t even notice him. Then, out of nowhere, I heard, “Hey, c’mere girl,” and I immediately looked in his direction. He was standing against a soda vending machine -you know, the ones that have the $4 bottles of water- with low-rise baggy jeans, black tank top, black du-rag and a t-shirt in his right hand he must have taken off from all the heat. He motioned with his forefinger to come his way. Absent minded, I headed towards him without the slightest comprehension as to what was sending the signals to my legs to move.
Instantly, he smiled as I stood perplexed questioning myself as to why I was standing in front of this stranger.
“What’s your name?” he asked in the deepest sultry tone known to vocal chords.
“Uhh-Brit-I mean, Danielle. Why?” I’m smart enough to know not to ever expose my real name in public. Even if it is to a D’angelo-looking boy who appears to be shooting an amusement park themed version of “How does it feel” music video.
“I just want to get to know you, you’re really pretty. Whatchu standing alone over there for? Don’t you have a man?”
“Umm no,” I lied, trying to appear available.
I immediately thanked God and smiled to myself when I looked down and realized that I had chosen to wear my favourite denim mini-skirt that day. I mean, girls don’t look pretty if they don’t look easy, right?
“Hmm, well maybe I could be your man,” he suggested as he softly caressed his bottom lip with the tip of his tongue.
“But I don’t even know your name.”
“Dante. Now you know. Nice to meet you.”
Everything seemed to be going by in slow motion. Like that feeling you get when your foot slams on the brakes of the car as it spins out of control on wet pavement. But instantly, time slipped back to its over-the-speed-limit reality with his next question.
“So, how old are you?”
As shy as I was when I first spoke to him, I admitted, “Fourteen.”
“Oh. You’re too young for me. I just turned 19 and I would have loved to have your number and call you sometime but..”
He lost me at “Oh”.
It was the first time I felt desired by anyone else but my boyfriend sexually. And the awkward interest thrilled me, gave me confidence, made me feel worthy. Although the realization of the impossibility to endure such sexual relations with an older man was evident, I still felt the overwhelming sensation to pursue it at every opportunity. For each eye that landed on me from that moment forward, I would return it with a “we should fuck” smile. It was next to impossible to get a guy to talk to me otherwise. At the short-lived age of fourteen, I came to the conclusion that the challenge of achieving male attention would be what contributed to my self-esteem as a girl.
That day on the bus ride home, we stopped at a shopping center to eat. We had about an hour to grab some food and look around in some of the stores. I walked by the same lingerie store twice before gaining up the nerve to walk inside it. Lingerie was forbidden in my house, let alone coloured bras. For some strict reason, I was only allowed to wear the conservative white ones.
And that’s when I bought my very first thong.