These boys are not from here. Slicked backed hair, body-hugging polyester pants, gold medallions nestled on their exposed, chiseled hairy chests, John Travolta struts. These are the boys I met in Bensonhurst at a disco. I didn’t think they’d come to my backyard party when I handed them a note scribbled with my address.
They emerge from a low-slung black sports car. I’m standing in a cloud of cologne, introducing them to Canarsie High School’s Class of 1979. My dad’s eyes narrow. These boys are not from here. These boys are older. Much older. Maybe 21 or 23. They are working boys and they are great dancers too. The one with the cherry-blond hair looks like Robert Redford, only the Italian version. I hope they will not be bored with us. I fiddle with my halter.
“There’s beer, too,” I say.
Two of them move through the crowd.
The cherry-blond hangs back. He tells me his name again and asks me mine. “This is a nice house you have here,” he says.
“Thanks.” I’m at ease with boys my age, boys from Canarsie. This feels different.
“So which one of these boys is your boyfriend?” he asks, gesturing with his chin. I giggle. “Oh these boys are just friends.” “I see.” He stares hard at me for a second.
“Come here,” he says, hooking his hand around my waist, planting it in the small of my back. I arch like a gymnast. “I ain’t gonna bite you.” He draws me in. I glance around to see where my parents are. The night air is thick with damp heat. The sky is scarcely lit by a crescent moon but I see his blue eyes. I feel his hot breath.
We walk through the backyard past my friends. They look blurry. Like soft ballerinas in a Degas painting. We keep moving. Moving toward a quiet place by the side of my house where there is a shed. He says things I don’t hear. I feel like blood will wash from my ears. I keep moving, moving toward that shed. Moving deliberately toward darkness and danger. Unable to stop because a part of me doesn’t want to be stopped.
“Come on,” he whispers, close to my ear. “Let’s go in here where we can be alone.”
“In there? In the shed?”
“Yeah,” he says, tugging my hand. “I want you all to myself.”
I slip into the velvet-black shed filled with summer things and girl-hood. My bicycle. Beach pails. Rusty skates. He is kissing me. The moon-lit streak of light narrows as he pulls the door shut. I want to run. I want to stay. He is kissing me. I kiss back. His hands are moving down my body. They are cupped around my buttocks. They move up and under my shirt. I pull away but he grips me hard. I’m on a scary carnival ride. I want to scream ‘let me off of this thing’ when I know it’s impossible. He says nice things about my body. I like it. He tells me I smell good. He threads his hands through my long hair. Then he takes my hand, runs it down his torso and squeezes it into his unzipped pants. He eases my hand onto his hard penis and holds it there, showing me what to do. He is groaning. I must be doing something right. He releases his hand and says “keep going.” When I do, my hand fills with a sticky liquid. Surprised, I jerk my hand away and run from the shed. I keep my hand balled in a fist until I’m in my house, upstairs in the bathroom, washing it in the pink sink again and again. I can’t wash it away.
I jiggle the bathroom handle to make sure the door is locked. I can’t look in the mirror. I want to cry but I can’t. When I return to the party, I ask Lisa if she’s seen the Bensonhurst boys. They have left.
Suddenly I hear a full-throated mewl from inside the house. It sounds like my mother. I dash inside and run upstairs. My grandmother, sister and father are rifling through a set of drawers in my parents’ bedroom. Clothes are strewn on the floor. My mother’s face is smeared with black mascara. “It’s gone,” my mother wails. “It’s all gone.”
“What’s going on?” I ask.
My father stares hard at me. “Someone stole your mother’s jewelry.”
“What?” I gasp. “Who would do that?” I freeze solid because I know the answer but I cannot say anything. My mother looks so sad about her jewelry. I can’t imagine how she’d feel if she knew what happened in the shed.
“I don’t know. I guess one of your friends came in from the backyard and snuck up here….”
“No Tony,” my mother says, in between phlegmy gasps. “I can’t imagine it was any of Tina’s high school friends. I bet it was those boys you invited. The ones I didn’t recognize.”
“What boys?” My words surprise me.
“You know, those boys who looked rough, those Italian boys. Who were they?”
“A bunch of us went to a disco last weekend. We met them and I invited them, thinking…”
“I bet it was them. I knew they were bad news the minute I laid my eyes on them.”
My heart feels likes it’s collapsing in my chest. I work hard to push out breath. For 17 years, I’ve been the good girl, my mother’s delight. Even when I didn’t make cheerleading squad she found reasons that had nothing to do with my imperfect splits or jumps.
“You’re my best friend,” she always says. I can’t tell my best friend what happened tonight.
An hour later, the police arrive.
My parents tell the pair of officers how the bedroom was ransacked and jewelry was taken.
“My daughter had a party here in the backyard,” my mother says, fighting back tears. “She had all her friends here. When we came upstairs, everything was a mess. Someone had gone through my drawer. And then… then I noticed the box was missing. It had my ruby ring, my heart necklace, my husband’s good watch with saffires. Like I said, it was probably those boys from Bensonhurst.”
My mother’s face looked sunken, older. I could not tell if she blamed me. When she said ‘Bensenhurst’ she shot me an arched-eyebrow glance that felt like a poison dart entering my chest.
“Anything else stolen?” one officer asks.
“I don’t think so,” my mother says.
“So you say you think it may have been three boys from Bensonhurst?” he continues.
“I don’t know,” she says.
Then the officer turns to me and with eyes like a hungry cat he asks me how I knew these boys. I look over at my mother and father as though I were a six year old needing a prompt before answering a question.
“I, we, a bunch of us, last weekend, we met them at a disco.”
“Then what happened?” he asks.
“I invited them to the party.” I say, fidgeting.
“Do you know their names or where they live?”
“No, I say,” telling half-truths.
“Where was the disco?” he asks.
“I don’t remember”.