I was walking in the middle of an empty street. The streetlights seemed to follow my every move. Step. Flicker. Step. Flicker.
I turned my head back and forth, frantically looking for someone.. for anyone else alive at this hour. Hello, I asked but I couldn't hear my voice. Hello? Is anyone here, I screamed out loud.
Still, there was no sound. Then, I heard rustling behind me. Footsteps. I wanted to look behind me, but I couldn't. I couldn't turn my head.
The footsteps came nearer and nearer dragging its heavy feet. Walking faster, I dreaded the coming of the person- no, a man - behind me. His dooming aura laid heavily on my shoulders.
My heart was beating too fast. Somebody, help me! My body started shaking uncontrollably. I was about to run when a hand gripped my thigh yanking me backwards. I fell hard on the concrete road.
My back scratched painfully like I was being clawed. I fought him hard but his gripped on me was so tight I screamed in anguish. Closed eyes, I shouted for him to stop.
No sound but my throat felt hoarse and dry. I could taste sand on my tongue. My arms moved relentlessly to hurt him like he was hurting me. Then, I froze.
His hands found what it had been looking for. It nestled into me, carving his identity in me. I froze. Tears soiled the dirty road. As I lose consciousness, a word echoed in that empty street.
Dirty. Dirty. Dirty.
I woke up in a jolt as my co-worker shook my shoulders. He gave me a worried look, but I assured him that I was ready to work. It was past midnight.
The coffee shop had calmed down and I could now peacefully perform my tasks. I had a long night ahead, but I was already wishing it would end.
Scrubbing the panini grill as hard as I could, a customer came up on the cash. I washed my dirty hands and hurriedly went to assist the customer.
He had medium body built, tall, and light-skinned. He was almost clean shaven and had a nice smile. He seemed like a nice client. Hopefully, he wouldn't order an iced cap.
"Can I please use your bathroom first?", he politely asked.
I nodded my head and buzzed him in. He skipped his way to the bathroom. I went back on cleaning the grill and made a silent prayer that the guy wouldn't make any mess there. Fuck.
I reminded myself that I must clean it before the end of my shift. I was almost done with the panini grill when the guy came out of the bathroom looking relieved.
I silently prayed he washed his hands if he decided to buy. I sprayed oil to the grill then closed it.
Wiping the counter, he asked, "Working alone tonight?".
I shook my head no and told him about my co-worker whose only task was to bake the pastries. He disapprovingly shook his head and gave me sympathetic smile.
He passed me a bottle of water saying how badly he needed it after drinking out with his friends earlier that night. I smiled courteously. "You have a great smile" he said.
I thanked him and gave him his change. I was ready to leave the cash and broom the floor when he continued talking to me.
He eagerly asked for my name as I grabbed the broom and started cleaning. I mumbled my name and pointed on my name tag.
Giving me a quirky smile, he said: "Nice name! May I please have your number? I want to take you out for a breakfast if you like? Or lunch".
I let out a laugh. Did he really ask me that? He was a stranger. I should not give it to him. He might kill me. I weighed the pros and cons as he stood there, waiting patiently for my answer.
I thought about going home after my shift and groaned internally. His perfume reeked of mixed liquor. He wouldn't remember. I gave him a timid smile as I told him my number.
Waving me goodbye, he disappeared in the busy rue de Bleury.
Oh, what a dumb girl I was. After my shift, I immediately saw his text message. He asked if I would like to have breakfast with him. I laughed at its ridiculousness.
I told him that I will think about it. A week after, I got sick and couldn't work. The thought of my flirty customer already left my mind. I never expected that I would see him again.
Then, he came by again. We had a small talk and then invited me out once again. I hesitated but I told him I would think about it.
I should have known how reckless I could be. I was not naive. I was young going through a rough past.
By that time, I already felt that my virginity had been taken, not physically but it was taken, nonetheless. He met me outside my work. Apparently, he lived right beside our building.
We decided to make a little grocery shopping and cooked breakfast at his place.
It was the early hours of the morning and I was keen to the idea of staying indoor comfortably, even if it at a stranger's house. We cooked some eggs, chatted a bit, and enjoyed our food.
We then sat in the couch and watched some documentary. We were then cuddled on the couch not long after. I think that was where our first kissed happened.
Right on that couch while a documentary about certain political event buzzed in the background.
I forgot how we talked about what we were about to do, how he asked me if I want to sleep with him or if we both silently made that decision.
I remembered he picked me up and threw me on his bed. I giggled a little.
My memory of that day was hazy. All I remember was the feeling of relief. The weightless weight of my action dawned on me. I couldn't believe what I had just done.
Thousands of thoughts flooded through me as I relished on my rebellion. I let another man touched me and I didn't flinch.
I gave myself to a man I barely knew, it should make me feel repulsed of myself.
I could hear my mom's words telling me that no decent woman would sleep with a man before her wedding, even yet with a man she barely knew. I closed my eyes and took a breath. Fuck.
But why was it that I feel free? I never thought I would be able to do this. Since I recovered my suppressed memories, I always thought that women's body wasn't theirs to keep.
It was men's to be used- to satisfy their unquenchable thirst. I never knew that women could take control of their body, take ownership. I chuckled, got on my feet and dressed.
I bid Harris goodbye and walked out feeling anew. The fresh autumn air embraced me as I walked in a dirty concrete road. A word echoed through: reborn.