Spring Break 1981
Rain. Torrents of the stuff continued to rattle the window. The thought of rain reeking havoc on my car, gave my temple and right eye a little twinge of pain. Constant, endless, sheets of rain slapping at the glass, kept resonating in my head.
What’s rain got to do with anything? Can’t a girl find a fucking parking spot?
My little car, a Ford Pinto, sloshed aimlessly through long-term parking, wipers making a gallant effort, doing an admirable, but insufficient job, clearing the sheets of rain from my windshield. Wind gusts shook, and literally moved my car from side to side, as though it weighed nothing. Off in the distance, I could see other early-morning travelers wrestling with their luggage, animatedly trying to control their umbrellas – a losing battle. Hey! Hey!! Asshole, I was here first…that was my spot!
It was the ass crack of dawn; an hour that I firmly believe should be illegal, especially on a Saturday; any day for that matter. But my reasons for being vertical at this ungodly hour, in this torrential down pour, were well worth any sleep deprivation, or lack of creature comforts. Oddly, this inclement weather made my departure from this hick, college town seem like a good omen, the lack of parking not withstanding.
Apart from my drowned rat appearance, I was practically vibrating with excitement at the prospect of my trip. I was going to the beach–Daytona Beach-and nothing, not even the monsoons that had plagued Oklahoma for several weeks now, could dampen my spirits. I was headed to the sunshine state for fun, sun, and partying. At least I tried to convince myself of that.
I was aware of a niggling worry about the trip–correction: not worry, more like trepidation, an uneasiness I couldn’t explain and couldn’t get past. That little uneasiness, gave me a sphincter-factor of ten. I had never been across the state line without a parent, nor had I stayed in a hotel without them. I wasn’t a prude, and I wasn’t considered a “good girl,” at least by the standards of most people, especially the people I would be vacationing with. I was nineteen for Christ’s sake; I had survived more in my short life, then most people twice my age. So what’s the hang up?
I had done my share of teenage drinking. I’d ignored and violated curfews. I’d gone through that all out, smart ass, smart mouth, what the fuck do you know about it–rebellion, that teenagers are best known for. But I always knew there was a line I couldn’t cross, distinct boundaries that if breached, often had severe consequences. What lay before me now, was freedom. There would be no distinct line in the sand–no pun intended–no boundaries at the beach. Anything goes, right? I was truly on my own for the next nine days. It would be up to me to make good or bad choices, to live on the edge of something. Hell, to feel again.
I found a spot, way at the back of the lot, and lugged my two suitcases and overnight bag to the bus loading area. Approximately thirty other waterlogged souls were waiting for the go-ahead to board the bus. As I watched them lumber to the luggage bin, designer luggage in tow, my cheery, upbeat attitude (yes this was cheery for me when not horizontal, in a warm bed at this hour) took on the characteristics of a squelched burp – quiet, painful, yet polite.
As with all things in my life up to this point, I was venturing into the unknown, alone. Self-doubt, my constant companion and closest confidant, was attempting to make an appearance. What the hell was I doing here? I had no business going on this trip. As a poor, and I mean poor college student, working two jobs and taking any overtime that I could get, I was woefully under-financed for this trip, and certainly out of my emotional and socioeconomic comfort zone.
Drenched and cold, watching the well represented display of Ralph Lauren’s spring line of polo shirts and button downs enter the bus, my breathing quickened and my stomach knotted. I hugged my Wal-Mart rain slicker around my body, stood in front of my mother’s hand me down luggage, and fought the urge to bolt for my car. I had to escape, if only for a few minutes to regain my wits and my courage to do this thing. I ran into Smith Hall, the oldest building on the Oklahoma State University campus, in search of a bathroom. After checking the stalls to assure my privacy, I splashed water on my face and looked into the mirror. I spoke to the reflection as though trying to brain wash the person looking back at me. I spoke the mantra I had adopted and memorized like a catechism. “They’re not better than you, they just have more money.” As my breathing eased, and my heart rate slowed, I examined the girl in the mirror.
I won’t say I was a raging beauty, at least not fashion model beautiful, but I didn’t feel the need to hide out until dark, lingering in the shadows, fearing exposure. More like the girl next door– pretty.
I had a lean body, good skin and great hair. Being the early 1980s, I had dark auburn hair halfway down my back as thick and straight as a horse’s tail, perfectly feathered on the sides, then curled and lacquered with hair spray. Gale force winds couldn’t disrupt my coiffure. At least I had thought so when I started out of the dorm that morning. I had Hispanic genes, so I was able to tan to a toasty brown, with a smattering of freckles here and there. Angel kisses, my mom always said. I had a thin oval face, high cheek bones, and–my best feature–eyes of aqua green. Boobs?…I had two. A long waist and athletic legs, thunder thighs if you ask me, finished off the package. Leaning forward, my face an inch from the mirror, water droplets clumping my eyelashes together, I took a deep breath and said out loud, “Get your shit together Taylor, before the bus leaves without you.”
Upon returning, I noted the line was gone, and the bus was full. Great, just great. When I stepped up into the bus, thirty pairs of eyes bore down on me. Well, wasn’t this going to be cozy?
As I walked down the aisle, looking side to side for a seat, while each occupant petulantly sized up my appearance, I locked eyes with the prettiest man I had ever encountered. I say pretty, because he was just that–pretty. But, he was anything but feminine. He was all male. Stick straight, sun bleached hair that came to just above his collar, and curled up at the nape of his neck. His eyes were the darkest brown I had ever seen, almost black, with matching brows and lashes that any woman would kill for. Mascara was invented to produce lashes like his.
His skin was tan and flawless, with gorgeous matching dimples on each cheek. He was at least six-two, with a lean athletic build packaged in faded jeans, western shirt, big belt buckle, (what they call a tomb-stone for a dead dick where I come from) a pair of shit kickers, and a cowboy hat to top the ensemble. I was smitten, and, apparently, so was he. Our eyes met. Electricity arced between us. With an unspoken invitation, I proceeded to inquire about the only seat left on the bus–at least as far as I was concerned–next to him.
“Hi, wanna sit down?” He asked, as he patted the seat next to him. His dark eyes were as rich and creamy as chocolate fondue.
“Do you mind? I don’t seem to have many choices left. I should have never gotten out of the line, but the thought of using the bus facilities makes my ass pucker, so I thought I would go one last time.” Damn, couldn’t I just say a simple yes, and be done? Why all the word vomit? Did I just say ass pucker?
“Ahh, they’re not that bad.” He warmed me with a throaty laugh. “You should see the head at my frat house. That would make you appreciate one of those outdoor johnnies.”
“You’re sure you don’t mind?”
“Sit.” He patted the seat next to the window, licking his lips and grinning as he shifted his legs to the side so I could slide into the seat. “You just made this long bus ride a whole lot more tolerable.” So I sat.
We talked companionably for hours about everything and nothing. His body language was obvious. He drank me in with his eyes, memorizing every feature and facet of my face; his lip slightly tilted at the corner in a facsimile of a perpetual smile.
Nervous, I talked incessantly. As I did, he randomly touched my hair, my cheek, my thigh, as though convincing himself I was the real deal, as though I were the only female on that bus. His eyes sparkled as I told him about school, work, my interests and plans for the future. It was the kind of conversation that fumbled around in my head and I hoped, please God, sifted through a filter,on it‘s way out. Just want to get to know you… What do you think of me?…I don’t want to scare you off, but God, you are too, hot…To my mortification, these were a few that got around the filter.
His name was Paul Austin. He was an only son to late in life parents, majoring in vet medicine, and planning to move back to his home town of Muskogee, Oklahoma, to be a large animal vet. He was in a fraternity and loved it since he was an only child.
After several hours and two stops for food and gas, the bus darkened, and conversation lulled a bit between us, as it did with the other riders. Paul leaned over, nuzzled the nape of my neck with his lips, ran his fingers up the back of my head, weaving his fingers into my hair, and with a husky whisper said, “You single, or taken?”
“Single of course, what about you?” My God, where had all the oxygen in the bus gone? I shifted nervously in my seat.
“Oh, I’m single, I assure you,” he said, as he put his arm over my shoulders, pulling me close to him, “And right now I’m thinking how lucky I am, we have the next twelve hours on this bus to get to know each other.” His teeth grazed my ear lobe. “Plus an entire week on the beach.”
Heat and color shot from my chest to my forehead. I prayed it was too dark for him to notice. My heart was thumping so hard, I was sure he could feel the vibrations through my skin. I ducked my head shyly, a half smile curling my lips, as I pondered his words and the boldness of his declarations. He reached for my chin, gently bent his head, and kissed me. Not demanding or carnal, it was a soft deep kiss of exploration and promise. A promise of more to come. I nestled in his arms and made out with him like a baby after mothers milk, until sleep overtook us both.
Hours later, we arrived at Daytona, and went to our respective rooms, all vestiges of fatigue and malaise disappearing. I shared a room with three other girls, who, after a brief, perfunctory introduction, exchanged their clothes for bathing suits as well. Clothing and shoes hit the floor like a whore shucking her prom dress.
I was euphoric. I had finally made it to the beach. For once in my life, I felt like one of the rich kids. I felt accepted. Whether it was because I was with Paul, or due to this new found freedom I fervently embraced, I can’t say. I just knew that all was right and good in my world. For the next three days, Paul and I spent every moment together, laying out in the sun, playing beach volley ball with others from the bus, going to the clubs at night, and making out feverishly until neither of us could breathe.
In the darkest hours of the night, the wind and waves clashing with a continuous chorus, we sat just out of reach of the surf and talked, absorbing the warmth of the day in the crystals beneath us, soaking in the rays of a waning moon. He liked the way I talked, the self-effacing stories I told, the slang I used to spice up my tales. He listened to me with an intensity that could truly be defined as enthralled. I loved the attention, but I had been here before. Not at this locale but in this situation, and that adventure into emotional surrender had ended badly. Though my scars were hidden, my wounds were bone deep, and still weeping blood.
The longer we were together, the more I could feel the walls going up, closing me off from him and the normal course that two people take to get to know each other. It was all moving so fast. He took my breath away. He made me feel again. It was all I could do to keep control of the situation–to put myself back in solitary.
“Why do you keep stopping me, Taylor?” He grasped my shoulders as we came up for air on the beach towel. He kissed my neck, then held me away from him so he could look into my eyes. “I thought we really liked each other… a lot. We could be good together. We fit, connect, really well.”
He gently pushed me back down on the towel, supporting his weight on his arms, leaving no doubt that he was aroused. “I want to be with you, right here, right now, just like this. I can‘t get close enough.” He slipped his hand beneath my butt, making our bodies fit like puzzle pieces.
“Paul, I really do like you, but I can’t.” Breathless, I pushed on his chest with the intent of getting up, knowing full well the direction this was headed. “We just met…I mean, I hardly know you, or anything about you.” I grasped his Roman hands and Russian fingers. It was like fighting off an octopus. “You don’t know me, either.”
“What’s to know? I like you, you like me…We’re a good fit, I know it. You just need to relax and loosen up a little. You‘re too tense,” he said, continuing his ministrations.
“Can’t we just continue the way we have been? I like kissing you, a lot, and being with you. I’ve had fun with you. We just need to slow down a little.” As I spoke the words, I watched a change, a darkness come over his face. He raised up and sat back on his knees, looked out over the beach from our secluded spot, then turned his face back to me and smiled. It was as fake as a knock-off handbag.
“Look Taylor, you’re pretty, and funny, and I’ve had a good time with you–”
“Why do I feel like there’s a but, in my future?”
“But, I came here to have a good time, not get tied down to one girl, certainly not one from the same school I go to, unless–”
“Unless what?” I tilted my head and studied him. I knew this was a Y chromosome thing, but it still hurt. I thought he really liked me. I thought I was more than a piece of tail. I thought–well, I thought wrong.
“Unless you want to make this more personal,” he purred, as he moved in to kiss me again.
“I believe I’ll pass, Paul,” I put my hands on his chest, to stop him from kissing me. “Unlike you, I didn’t come here to get laid. To quote a cliché, I’m not that kind of girl.”
“You’re sure I can’t change your mind?”
“Is a frog’s ass water-tight?” I retorted, trying to hide my disappointment.
He laughed, winked at me, and walked back up the beach to the hotel lobby. A few minutes later, he left with his frat brothers. I stood dumbstruck and bewildered. What was I thinking? Here was a perfectly beautiful guy that had the hots for me, and I was turning him down. Are you nucking futs, Taylor? I didn’t know what I felt. I couldn’t cry or get pissed off. He was right, it was spring break. No rules, no parents, no limits. Why not screw for the sake of screwing? Other people my age did it. Hell everybody did it, and it was no big deal. Maybe, if I ran after him, threw myself at his mercy, begged for a second chance, I could salvage the rest of the trip. Maybe I could get a grip on my fears and anxieties, will myself to be normal, and do the NASTY. But I couldn’t and, worse than that, a niggling in my gut that I’d felt many times before told me that the problem was with me, that it was always going to be with me; that something was really wrong with me.
Stop it! Stop it, now! I wasn’t going to go there. Not on this trip, not this time. That part of my life was over. I had to put my demons to rest. I had to get past my past, and truly start living. Chin high, shoulders back, with an air of I don’t give a shit, I went straight to my room to lick my wounds, and start over tomorrow.
I hadn’t told my suite-mates about the break-up with Paul the night before.
I’d gone to bed with the chickens and gotten up with them, to garner the best spot beside the pool and get some sun. After partying till dawn, the girls didn’t come down until noon. Sun, heat, and horizontal positioning, not to mention a poli-sci book I had felt obligated to bring, put me in a coma by the pool.
When I woke up about four hours later, I was crispy. I even had a hand print on my hip from the sun. Dazed, I went upstairs to the room to meet, and go out with my roomies. When I got there I found a note:
Gone to Big Daddy’s!!!!! Bring Paul and some of his cute friends. Leave the ugly ones home. Ha! Ha! Hurry — happy hour starts at five. Teresa
I was, of course, unfairly pissed that I had been left behind. They had no idea about Paul, and I had blown them off for him the last couple of days. What‘d you expect, right? But still, they could have roused me, checked my plans for the evening. After all, this was Daytona Beach, and we had all come here together. Now what was I supposed to do? Go out alone? Right, party for one.
Of course, I had heard all the lectures and speeches about going out alone–especially at night. This was a big city, with bars, clubs, vacationers, tourists, and every cockroach and miscreant known to man. “To hell with that,” I thought, “this is my spring break and I’m not going to let anything or anyone stop me from having fun.”
I showered, primped and perfumed, and headed down the beach to Big Daddy’s like it was my day job. Several hours and drinks later, I sat at the bar–fat, dumb, and happy. Happy hour indeed started at five, with mixed drinks at ten cents each until seven, fifty cents each from seven to nine, and after nine…who cares? I sat and indulged in eleven rum and Cokes, aware of this only because of the eleven little umbrellas in front of me. Pickled and staggering, I sauntered toward the exit but was stopped by Paul, of all people, and a group he had been drinking with.
“Where are your roommates?” he asked.
“Don’t knowww, don’t carrrre!” I slurred, with a sardonic smile.
“You can’t go out alone like this, you’re wasted. You‘ll get yourself killed,” he said, trying to steady me as I reached for a chair back, that wasn’t there.
“Notttt….your ppproblem. I gotttt myself….. here, I can get myself home.” As I stumbled toward the door, he roughly grabbed my arm, and twirled me around to face him. The room, as a whole, gave new meaning to the term, spinning wheel.
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“I find it fu…I find it ffffunny… that you are sss-uddenly interested in my whhell-being.” I stifled a small burp. “It wasn’t but a fffew hours ago, that you didn’t give…a shit…. what I did. Remember the BUT, Paul? Now get your ddddamn hands….off me, and leavvvve me…..alone,” I turned, slower this time, allowing the room to catch up with my eyes and staggered out the door.
The beach was exquisite. Even drunk on my feet, I could appreciate the heavenly beauty. The tide was in full, with whitecaps crashing into the shoreline. Hotel lights were the only illumination, with only a thumbnail moon to compliment the star infested sky. The wind, a loud, constant, warm embrace, hugged and kissed my body as my eyes began to tear.
The sand was like a blanket that had been laid over a heating vent; it appeared to move with the night. Soft billowy tufts cast shadows,and the beach moved like cloth in the wind. It was definitely hard to navigate while drunk. The sand was still warm on my feet, still holding heat from that day.
I knew better than to walk the street back to the hotel. Not only because of my inebriation, but because every cockroach and thug would be out and about–this was Daytona 500 week. Oddly, I couldn’t help feeling I was being followed. I made it to the hotel without incident.
Getting off the elevator, my senses were immediately overwhelmed by sounds of Jimmy Buffett at one end of the hall, White Snake at the other end, and varying degrees of other music genres in between, all at deafening levels. Parties were staged in every room.
The smell of alcohol, pot, sex, pizza, and Panama Jack suntan oil mingled, and wafted through the hallway. I made it to my room and fumbled with the room key as it bounced around the knob. Never going to hit the hole. Finally achieving success, I entered our room, dropped my purse and keys to the floor, and went to the bathroom. It was a toilet-tub combo, with no room for more than one person in the space. The vanity and mirror were along the opposite wall, separate from the bathroom, with a dressing area in between.
I stumbled into the bathroom, dropped to my knees, and instantly became very sick. I hugged the toilet like it was my mama. After being there for a while, I became dimly aware of my suite-mates’ conversations. I realized, while unable to raise my head, that they were going out again. I heard the door close; then silence surrounded me. I continued to vomit. Several minutes passed, as did the nausea. I sat there, head bowed on my arms crossed over the toilet bowl, ready for a repeat. The silence was cloying.
I felt, rather than heard, a presence in the room. Must be one of the girls. Maybe they forgot something. Suddenly, a bony, hard, vice-like hand came down on my shoulder. Between the urge to scream and the urge to retch again, I strangled out a weak protest of “Please leave me alone. Let me puke in peace.”
A resounding, husky male voice said, “Why?”
I jumped, as though goosed. He grabbed me by the hair, flipped me between the toilet and the tub. His fist connected with my face, and he said, “Baby, I know just the thing for you. I‘m gonna make you feel a lot better.”
His statement echoed all around me in the tiny bathroom, my limp body sprawled between porcelain fixtures, definitely at a disadvantage. The shower curtain, shampoo and razors, scattered to the floor as I fought to try and stand. The blow to my face had broken my nose, chipped my front tooth, and I could feel blood pouring from both places. Had I not been on the ground, flat on my back, I could’ve taken him, I know I could. But he had me at a disadvantage. I was a cornered animal, no place to run. He landed two more blows to my head as a reward for my efforts.
As my teeth rattled, and my brain swam, he grabbed the front of my shirt. Buttons popped off and pinged the floor like BBs, and my front closure bra sprang open. He grabbed my breasts with both hands, digging into my tender flesh with his dirty fingernails, hard enough to draw blood. I screamed in agony and slapped him. He stopped, stared at me as though I was a foreign species that he just couldn‘t grasp, then hit me like a pile-driver in the right eye. My lights went out for a few seconds before my brain registered the pain.
My breasts now exposed, my brain in the spin cycle, and my body fighting for purchase, I realized I was in one of those situations you read about, or see on the movie of the week– something they report on 48 Hours or Dateline. The tagline repeated in my head: “This can’t be happening to me. I‘m dreaming. This can‘t be real. This only happens to other people.”
But it was. God help me, it was. This was my reality.
He was six feet and then some, with greasy, unkempt hair, and the stench of unwashed male. He had bikers pants and a leather vest over a rock-band T-shirt. His eyes were dark, sunken, and empty of expression; he had a drugged, emaciated, and weary look to his features. But even though he was gangly, he was extremely strong. The look in his eyes as he dragged me out of the tub area and went to lock the deadbolt on the door gave me pause. It sobered me up, and made me realize that I wasn’t coming out of this unharmed… if I got out of it at all.
When he turned back to me, adrenaline and booze circulated through my body with opposing goals: fight or puke on him. Adrenaline won the toss. I fought him with everything in me. Each blow to my body was followed with a kick to his. I can’t recall how many times I got a good solid kick to his package. He never flinched. Just my luck, the only rapist in the world with undescended testicles!
I took a hard, solid kick to my ribs, and felt the bones snap. Suddenly I was not only fighting to live, I was also fighting to breathe. I no longer had air to scream. But frankly, no one could have heard me anyway, and would they help me if they did?
I’ve never been so afraid I would die in my life. Well, actually that’s not true; there’s my past thing–But I digress. I knew I was about to suffer a slow, torturous death.
I could feel the blood leaving my body, and a wave of panic and nausea overtook me so violently, that I felt sure I was having a heart attack. With each blow to my head, the fight was leaving me. As he pulled me across the carpet, somehow, I continued to kick and flail my arms. I wasn’t going to die without a fight.
He dragged me by my feet, between the two double beds. He grabbed the waist of my pants and ripped the button, then literally ripped the zipper apart. I screamed and kicked him in the balls. Again, he stopped, looked at me with eyebrows raised, as though I was a fly annoying him, then he punched me hard in the stomach. As the air was knocked out of me, I was sure he would grab my spine via my belly button, to lift me.
He stepped across my torso and bent over me, straddling my upper body. As he placed his arms behind my back to lift me, I struck him in the groin with my foot, behind his testicles this time.
I think I must have found the one, single nerve ending in his balls that hadn’t been numbed, or drugged. A look of sheer agony and frank disbelief covered his face. He doubled over onto the bed, knees to his chest, groaning and gasping for breath. With what could only be explained as divine intervention, my adrenaline kicked in. My inner-bitch was on the loose now! This was my only chance to survive.
Theories have it that when it comes right down to it, you don’t know if you could kill someone or not. Unless you’re in that situation, you really can’t say whether you would or wouldn‘t. For me, in that instance, I knew that if it came down to a choice of him or me, I could kill him. I would kill him. I knew that, as sure as I knew my own name.
I launched myself off the floor like I had been shot from a cannon. My eyes danced around the room.The closest thing to a weapon was a bedside lamp that we had jokingly called the “erotic artifact.” The lamp was heavy, blown glass, with a base shaped like two testicles and a neck that resembled the shaft of a man’s penis. I shattered the base on the bedside table. Its jagged end resembled a multi-bladed knife. I brandished the lamp like a Louisville slugger and went at him with all the fury of a wet hellcat.
“I will kill you, you son of a bitch,” I said through clenched teeth. “I swear…You touch me again and I’ll kill you. Come on! Try me, fucker!”
He evaded my attempts to slice him with my makeshift weapon, until an upper-cut gouged a chunk of flesh from his chin.
Standing about five feet from each other, our eyes locked, and an eternity passed, as we stared at each other. Blood was pouring from his chin down his shirt, giving him a macabre countenance straight out of a slasher movie. He looked at me, then the door, then back at me. He ran for the door, unlocked it, and left.
I slumped to the bed, battered and bleeding, looking at my surroundings, my head slumped, my arms down at my sides, just trying to absorb the events that I had just lived through. Adrenaline was still coursing through my body. I tingled all over. Breathing was almost impossible. I was hyper-aware of everything around me. I swore I could feel my nose hair growing. I knew I was hyperventilating, but I couldn’t stop my rapid breathing. Later, I would discover I had two broken ribs, a broken nose, a black eye, two chipped front teeth, bruises, cuts and scrapes on my face and chest, and a three inch cut on my left foot. The inside of my lip needed three stitches, my foot got thirteen stitches, and my face and eyes looked like Rocky’s in the final scene of the movie, when he triumphantly raised his arms and screamed “Adrian.”
I began to laugh hysterically, shocking the hell out of myself. Then the laughter changed to a gut wrenching sob. As the beginning of hysterics began to set in, a single train of thought resonated through my brain, stunning me, even quieting my sobs. I could fight for my life and taste the blood-lust to kill a stranger who had merely attempted to rape me. But, for six years of my childhood, I never fought the stepfather that did rape me…over and over and over.