The Bad Project

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Chapter 16. The Worst Nightmare Rides Again/Crystal

A hand a leather sleeve cold oh no oh no what… that coke I drank… what was Masherie thinking…why did she do this to me I never did anything to her… I can’t fight him off… it’s that football guy with the motorcycle Ritz, he has a spider tattoo on his neck, look at that grubby bandanna, oh no oh no where is he taking me… help HELP ouch tape… ouch pinched my breast… ouch hit the door jamb.

Down stairs? What’s downstairs in this old apartment building? Here in the basement, sort of dark…a pile of old dirty rags, ych he’s stuffing some in my mouth, they taste nasty… I can barely breathe…oh no, ouch he’s thrown me down on the rest of the rags, they stink of garbage…ych the floor is hard, my butt hurts…

“NOW, you vain, smart as a whip BITCH—I’ll show you what uppity women get around here.” Ritz dropped on top of her, pulled out the gag, and kissed her hard, forcing his tongue into her mouth while he was fumbling with her clothing. She gagged but he didn’t stop kissing her, just bringing his hand up to pinch her left breast hard under her blouse when she gagged. She barely breathed, couldn’t seem to move her limbs. The basement floor was painted concrete, flaking off big green flakes. A cloud of flakes rose whenever Ritz’s boots hit a new spot on the floor, barely visible in the dim light. Furnace looming.

How can he hate me so much… I don’t even know him… he smells like he’s never washed… why can’t I fight him off? I feel so groggy. The coke she gave me had to have… that HURTS. Oh God how can there be a God? What did I do wrong?

His face looks round and evil. He’s not even human, it hurts so bad, he’s poking me, he’s stretching he’s tearing it hurts so bad HE’S GOING TO KILL ME I know who he is it’s Ritz, I recognize him I can tell the cops I can get him in trouble if he leaves me alive. Oh, Mama, I’m so sorry. He got up, he’s wiped off.

Ugly laugh. She couldn’t even move.

“Remember this Shit Princess, no looking down your nose.” He’s peeing on me, the bastard, the mother-fucker. I never needed that word before but now, I do. Oh, no, here comes another black jacket, Zuni, another spider tattoo on his neck, not shaved, grinning, unzipping his pants. Ritz leaning on the wall laughing with his thing hanging out while Zuni falls on top of me, a dark shadow looming over him…what’s that?

Marianne shook Crystal’s shoulder and called her name. The light was on. She woke up disoriented.

“Are you having a bad dream, Crystal? What’s wrong? You were calling Dad, saying no over and over.”

“Oh, yes, a very bad dream, a nightmare, a real nightmare.” Crystal was panting, but her voice slowed down. “Not hurt. Thanks for waking me up. Was I yelling?” She was shaking and tears were leaking out and running down the sides of her face. She saw her reflection in the mirror; she looked awful.

“Yes, yelling something about your Dad.”

“Oh, my Dad. I am so sorry about my Dad. But I can’t do anything about it now.” Suddenly Crystal felt exhausted. “I’m okay now, Marianne. Thanks for waking me up.”

She lay back down, turned over, and miraculously went back to sleep, not to revisit the nightmare that night. It was mid October, and Crystal hadn’t had that nightmare for a year.

The next morning, she shivered thinking about her bad dream. She didn’t think she could stand it again, when she’d thought it was all over. Why? Was it fear of her new relationship with Bronnie? Any relationship could lead to an expectation of sex. Or was the nightmare riding because of Marianne’s Bad Project, where she was sort of setting herself up for sex and she might be raped if she kept on with it? Maybe both. But she couldn’t talk about either one, so she pushed it all down. A small voice inside told her to go to the mental health services on campus for a talk, but she was afraid that she’d say things she didn’t want anyone, anywhere to know.

“The red book, I’ll have to write this in my red book,” she thought.

The next afternoon, the red book came out of the bag and almost opened itself on the table in front of her. It seemed to Crystal that it was getting heavier. She put an old Snoop Dogg CD on, thinking she was about to let the dogs out. Then it was time to pick up a ball point pen and begin to write.

I hate men. I hate Ritz and Zuni. I hate what they took away from me. Not my virginity, but the ability to trust men. I’ll never get that back, and I’ll never want to have kids because Sondra explained what you have to do to get kids and it’s the same thing they did to me. I guess I’m lucky I didn’t get pregnant that day. Or get any of those diseases. Damn lucky. But not really. Sometimes I want so bad to be normal, to love someone. Maybe even to have sex. Maybe.

She stopped for a while, and shed a few tears. I wish so much my Mom had been alive. Seven years ago she died, seems like forever. The breast cancer came so fast. It was New Year’s when they found the lump. By Easter she was gone. They say black women die faster of it. Just like a melting ice cube, she was fated to go and she was gone. Or maybe like a mist when the sun comes up. I lost my heart then, I think. She was so loving, so understanding, gave me such good advice. If she was alive, maybe she would have warned me about Masherie, told me not to trust her, not go to her apartment. Then none of the bad things would have happened. People say I’m so well balanced. I am just frozen, frozen in time. Frozen without love, with a nightmare for company. I wish Mom was still here. I need a woman I can talk to.

You can’t always trust women. Masherie wasn’t a bad person, at least I never thought so. Not too bright, I only saw her at lunch, not in my honors classes. Did she love Ritz or was she just under his thumb? Could I have told my Dad enough that he would have let me transfer to another high school? Dad can’t help me. He can’t help anybody. He can’t help himself. Thank God for Grandma. I wonder what she thinks now about Dad. She used to whisper to Jason and me that he was her BEST child. She still prays for him. Marianne worries me a lot. She’s started hanging out in Our Room with that Liu. I thought it was the Room of Our Own.

I don’t like him, I suspected he was wrong from the start. Anyone who can get fake IDs isn’t a straight person. But she is having some kind of “fatal attraction” to him. Her Asian American Society mentor is his sister, and I think Sharon’s hoping that involvement with Marianne can save Liu from going bad. But he’s way too experienced for her. I know he has sex on his mind. She wants to have the Sex Bad, but I don’t think it should be with him. What if she changes her mind and her forces her? I wish she wasn’t set on having a Sex Bad. It’s bound to go wrong, how can you just have sex for a project anyway? But I promised to help her project. I have to do it. She’s so naïve, she’s sure to mess it all up without someone to give her good advice.

Liu could be the best one for her to involve. I don’t think I’ve ever said much about him one way or the other, but Marianne seems to know I don’t like him; she’s been keeping him away from me. And she doesn’t tell me anything much about him either. She didn’t want to be dominated by her parents, but I’ve heard him telling her what to do. Maybe she does it because that’s what she’s used to doing.

But we’re still friends. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her so much. She’s a good person underneath all that, I know she is. She is just trying to grow up really fast. That’s all it is. She is kind, she will be alright once she has finished the Bad Project. I don’t know if he would rape her. But I’m going to try not to let them have too many chances. For all the good it’ll do. Maybe I’ll invite her to come for Thanksgiving with us. I’d like her to meet Jason and Grandma. And it would take her mind off Liu and her parents.

Crystal got up and changed the CD. She thought about putting on Avril Lavigne but finally she chose Billie Holliday. Billie sang, rich and full of meaning, “What a little moonlight can do” while she wrote on in the red book.

Okay, then Bronnie. I shouldn’t write about him in here, I should get a new notebook, but I can’t tell if the nightmare is about him or about Marianne and it’s just too complicated to have two notebooks and think about the same problem in both of them. He says he did fine in his classes last year, but this year he sits around all the time, doesn’t do his work. He wanted to be a doctor too, once, but he dropped chemistry and is taking a course in Media Studies. What’s that? Seems like fluff to me. Might not lead to any job. I sound just like a parent. But he still says he might be a computer science major. Or psych. And he has a part time job at the computer center. They just promoted him to student aide supervisor.

What I am trying to avoid writing about is this: I might be falling in love with Bronnie. He’s a sweet person, just look at the way he helped me with Marianne. But he is bound to want things I can’t give him. Can’t give anyone. Can’t give myself any more. It’s too late, we should have met in high school or in another life. I can’t take Ritz out of my mind, he’ll be there forever. Can I get over it? No. I’m sure it’s not possible. But why do I get such a warm glow when I’m with Bronnie? I hate to admit it, but I think it’s got a sexual feeling. Dangerous for me, dangerous for him. He deserves a girl who isn’t broken already, damaged goods. He deserves to take better care of his own self too.

What can I do about all this? I can’t do anything. Bronnie hasn’t tried anything so we can’t really have a conversation. I don’t know how to tell anyone I’ve been … I can’t even write it. I never talked with anyone but Sondra, and nobody at all after the trial was over. I keep worrying, and I probably avoid Bronnie, but I don’t see what I can do to make things right. What’s going to happen? I’m not writing the script, that’s for sure. But what will be, will be like the old song says. I just hope we come out of it in one piece.

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