Originally published by For Harriet
Men rape us.
They rape us in corner offices, and in cubicled workspaces. They rape us on college campuses, and in correctional facilities. They rape us in million-dollar shiny glass residences – gaudy golden. And in pissy project stairwells under dim lights while kneeling on sticky steps.
Men rape us.
Stalking and hardly slick in plain sight, men prey on those of us who are innocent, and us indomitable ones too. Those of us who are trying to get put on, and us already kissing the glass ceiling. They R. Kelly piss and fuck on those of us too young to understand rape’s breadth, and those of us who are Anita Hill old enough to know that he won’t be held accountable.
Men rape us. And, women join in shaming us silent.
They shame us for not going to the police. They shame us for waiting too long to file a report. They shame us for being girls with asses that roll like mountains when we walk. For being women with breasts that bounce even when barricaded by bras. For having no ass or tits at all. For being pretty. And ugly too. These muthafuckas shame us for breathing.
Men are raping us.
Not all men, but many. The men in our homes, sharing our beds, raising our daughters, and rearing our sons. Yes, Harvey Weinstein is a rapist. R. Kelly is a rapist. Pill Cosby too. But so is Shaquan up the muthfuckin block, Tito around the muthfuckin corner, Jamal over in Howard Projects, and Uncle Whatever-The-Fuck-His-Name-Is!
Men rape the shit out of us.
While we pretend that this violence ain’t just that – violent as fuck – by reducing their rape to a hashtag and limiting it to Hollywood’s high-class. But, nah B. A hashtag is much too sanitary. Too gentle. Far too fucking limp for men who take power with stabbing dicks, mauling claws, and gnashing jaws glitzed in gold.
That’s why I write my rape story.
Summer of ‘93 was on its way out, and Wu Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M. knocked at max volume from the boombox in my bedroom, like it did on every corner, in every barbershop and on the baseline of every outdoor basketball court in Bed Stuy. I sang along, word for word, bopping my head while holding to my mouth an imaginary microphone, pretending I was performing the song at a sold-out arena, “I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side. Staying alive was no jive…”
A single-parent, my mother was out working one of her two or three jobs. As usual, I was home alone. My boombox keeping boredom at bay.
“Niki! Nikkkkiiii! Niiiikkkkkiiiiiiii!!!” Keisha’s squealing soprano carried up to my third-floor brownstone apartment, piercing into my bedroom and cutting through the music. I lowered the volume on Raekwon and raced to the living room. Once there, I stuck my head out of the front window and yelled, “Wussup Keesh. I’ll be down right down! Hold on!”
I powered off my sound system and threw on my hot pink Reebok 54-11s, the name indicating how much they cost – 54 dollars and 11 cents, including tax. The oversized white shorts and shirt set I sported made the sneakers pop. I gelled my baby hairs to my forehead, wrapped some fake kinky braiding hair around my miniature bun, secured it with wavy black bobbi pins and pocketed my house keys. It was time to hit the streets.
Outside, Keesh sat still, ferociously chewing and popping bubble gum. “Oh my gawdddduh!” Pop. Keesh elongated every syllable, even making God disyllabic. “That was a long ass second.” Pop. “What was you do’in up there?” Pop. Keesh complained before blowing a red gum bubble from between her lips. Her cocoa brown skin glossy and shit.
I ignored her ass. “Damn girl, how many jars it take to get that shine? Yo ass glistening like a pan of fried chicken grease.” I joked. “You got another blow pop?”
“You know what?” Pop. “Fuck you Nik!” Pop. “Sticks and stones, bitch.” Pop. “Sticks and stones.” Bubble. Pop.
Keisha and I forged our bond earlier that summer, when she moved on the block and in with the Simpsons, her foster parents. It was the summer before 8th grade – my last year in junior high. And I just knew I was grown. Every summer before, mama condemned me to close confinement. First, I couldn’t go past the gate outside our house – I was front yard bound. Then I couldn’t go past Poochie’s house, which was only a few houses down. Then I could go anywhere along the block, as long as I didn’t leave it. “You better not cross any streets Niki,” mama warned.
But this summer was the first time my mother let me hang around the corner and across the street. Now I could hang with my friends Rick Rick, Donte, L-Boogie and Shamika on the Ave. It’s also why I was able to kick it on Keesh’s stoop, which was up the block and across the street from my crib. “Don’t go too far” mama instructed. “I mean it, Nicole.”
“Yo, Rick Rick and Donte just passed by. They goin to Big Rick’s. Rick Rick said we should come thru.” Pop.
Keesh and I made our way around the corner to Big Rick’s game room on the Ave. Rick Rick was one of Big Rick’s many kids. Even though he didn’t live in the hood, Rick Rick was always around because his daddy owned the game room. Big Rick a.k.a. Money Makin Rick, was hood rich like a muthafucka. He rocked fly clothes, sported dookey-thick gold rope chains around his neck, had a cell phone when it was normal not to have one, and drove an MVP, which the Wu had just put me – if not the whole hood – on to. Big Rick was a superstar.
Big Rick’s game room was tiny. The shellacked wood flooring drifted its way into the edges where steel grey painted walls erupted. In the center of the floor, an Elmo red carpet pocked with stiff patches and blackened gum stains frazzled under the weight of a pool table. Upon entrance, a change machine and various arcade games lined the left and right walls. Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, Outrun, Ms. Pacman, and more. In the back of the game room, on the wall opposing the front entrance, Ill Will, an older cat from around the way, manned the store where I copped cherry Sour Powers and apple blow pops for me and Keesh. The smell of his spliff crept across the store counter into the game space. Keesh and I fake coughed, joking about catching contact, then played a few rounds of Ms. Pacman as Rick Rick, Donte and some of the other neighborhood kids worked the fight games. After the mechanical claw machine failed to snag the white-nosed, pink teddy bear I spent a small fortune trying to capture, leaving me empty-handed and -pocketed, Keesh and I bounced.
Outside the game room, Big Rick wiped down the passenger door to his notorious whip with a dry rag. He called out, “Hey wassup Niki.” Taken aback and feeling extra cool that Big Rick knew my name, I responded, “Oh, hey Mr. Rick. I’m good. We had a good time in your game room.” I mean, what else was there to say? I wasn’t in the habit of talking to my friend’s fathers, especially none other than Money Making Rick. “You know you can call me Rick, right? Why don’t you come here a second?”
I glanced back at Keesh, whose campfire marshmallow-wide eyes and quick shrug said bitch go ‘head and find out what he want. I walked over to where he stood, leaving Keesh standing in front of the door leading to the game room. As I approached, Rick closed the distance. “I wanna take you out.” He cooed. Pleading, “You think I could do that?” while smilingly staring me down. Too nervous – and uncomfortable – to return his gaze, my eyes fixated on his open mouth, laced with gold bottoms.
Confusion claimed me for a flash, but was quickly replaced by rapture. That Big Rick, the hood star, who could take any woman he wanted to out, wanted to take ME on a date sent my unhardened, unsuspecting little ass spiraling over cloud nine. “Uh, sure. Um, that’s cool.” I responded, before he asked, “whatchu doing tonight?”
Mom was out working the night shift again. At 9:00 p.m. on the nose, I met Rick in front of the game room, where Ill Will stood, leaning against the wall with squinted eyes as he smoked a stogie. Rick hoisted me onto the passenger seat before buckling me in. He slammed the door and gave Ill Will dap. Dressed in my best gear – oversized boys denim-blue Karl Kani jeans, a white-T and all white 54-11s – with my baby hairs re-laid, you couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t fresh.
Inside Rick’s whip was plush as fuck. Leather interior. Nice sound system. New car smell. All things my mother’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme lacked. I’d never been in a ride so suped up. I’d never been in a stranger’s ride, period. I was hype. I wondered where he was taking us, but I didn’t have the courage to ask. In fact, I had neither the courage nor the wits to say anything. I rode shottie, silent. Mentally cursing my mother for keeping me locked up on the block, and celebrating my luck that a dude this fine and paid and mature was taking me out.
Music occupied every second of the ride. Rap joints that lit the streets that summer, as well as joints I never heard before, rocked. Filling the silence. I enjoyed the music and the smooth ride down unfamiliar Brooklyn streets. This joy ride with Rick satiated the thirst for adventure that Keesh and I tried to squelch all summer long.
Until Rick pulled into the parking lot at the Galaxy Motel on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Galaxy, I later learned, was a motel of choice for Johns and prostitutes in East New York and Canarsie. Although it was dark out, the motel’s desperate state did not go unnoticed. Missing valet and bellhops and red carpet, the motel’s entrance was barren cement. Its front appeared windowless, but for the blacked-out windows on the ground level. Vertical bars piked the grounds surrounding the motel’s grassless perimeter. The motel’s name scrolled in scarlet script high across its beige concrete exterior, GALAXY.
Once he found a spot, Rick opened the driver’s door sending my heart into cardiac arrest. My mind reeled. What is this? Why are we at a motel? When Rick faced me and told me to stay in the car, I felt immense relief. I thought, oh good. He’s picking something up from someone here. We’ll be on our way, even if that’s back to the block, soon. I eased back into my comfortable leather seat, letting the music consume me again.
Within minutes, Rick jumped back in the car, cut the music and removed the key from the ignition before saying, “come on, let’s go.” I panicked. My gut told me to run the fuck away, but my head questioned, and go where? Where the fuck am I? How am I gonna get home? I spent all of my allowance at the game room earlier that day. I thought about hitching a ride, but, that would be dangerous. Who knows whose car I’ll have the misfortune of getting into. I thought about whether I could walk, but I’ll have to ask for directions. Niggas’ll know I’m not from here. I’ll be an easy fucking mark in a hood I don’t know. I could scream for help like mama told me to do over and over again when a stranger tried to take me. No, no, no. Rick’s no stranger. His son is my boy. There’s gotta be a restaurant inside.
There was no restaurant.
There was a room. Beige. Beige walls. Beneath the rust red, dingy, threadbare comforter, beige sheets. Beige pillowcases. Beige towels. Stale cigarettes and ammonia. Smacked my nose numb. Rick lifting off his shirt. Me looking away, embarrassed. Shook. Rick grabbing my chin, forcing me to look at him. Rick naked. Only gold teeth and chain remained. Rick smiling. His smile disemboweled from his face. Please, someone, help me.
Rick’s penis grotesquely bulbous, bulging into my chin as he held my face there. “Make me harder.” What? Rick grabbing the back of my head. Pulling my face to his penis. Don’t open your mouth, don’t open your mouth. I opened my mouth. Or did his penis pry it open? Bite him. I lacked Lorena Bobbit balls. His hand gripped my fake bun. Shifting it side to side. Forcing my head up and down. Oh God, please make him stop, Godddd pleeeeeasse!” I gagged. His grab stiffened. He coached. “Suck. Suck harder. Grab my balls.” No, Big Rick, No! Gooey, salty, stickiness filled my mouth.
He was only getting started.
Rick releasing my head. My jaw throbbing. My throat burning. Me, shaking so hard I felt the sharpness of my ribs. Rick pressing my chest with his palm. My back digging deep into the mattress. Rick pulling down my oversized jeans without so much as unbuttoning them. Mounting me. Pop. Fucking me. Pop. Raw and dry. Pop. Pop. Me gasping. Then, me, trying my best to maneuver from under his weight. He was much too large.
I never felt the heavy of a grown ass man before.
“It hurts too much Big Rick, please stoppp!” Me, sobbing. Rick not stopping. The pain piercing, like a slither of paper slicing into the same cut over and over again. My eyes pouring. My breath catching. My forearm and palm against his chest, trying to claim distance between us. The bedside’s lamp flickering. Him grunting, finally pulling out of me. Blood and semen drip.
“Shit Nik, that pussy good girl.”
I never screamed. I always envisioned that I would scream. If a stranger attacks, I’ll scream so loud everyone within a mile would come running to my defense. If a stranger tries to kidnap me, I promise I’ll act a fool and fight for dare life. I’ll fuck a nigga up, that’s my word! I thought I would rage. But, I never even screamed. Nor did I ever say “no.”
Silently Rick and I made our way from the room, to the elevator, out the lobby, through the parking lot and to his car. I let myself in before he pulled out of his space and drove into the driveway of the McDonald’s across the street. He asked, “Yo, whachu wanna eat?” His gold teeth enshrouded.
I ordered “a six piece nuggets, no fries.” I wasn’t hungry, but I ordered the nuggets so as not to seem ungrateful. No fries because I didn’t want to seem like I was asking for too much. I thought myself sensible. Strategic. I just want to go home.
The next day, Keesh came thru, yelling up to my third story apartment again. “Niki, Keisha’s outside for you.” I asked my moms to tell her that I wasn’t home. “I just don’t feel like being bothered,” was my excuse. My mom walked to the intercom, “Hey Keisha, she’s not here. I’ll let her know you were looking for her.”
I never told anyone about that night at the Galaxy, until now, when I’m a thirty-six-year-old lawyer who started her legal career by prosecuting domestic violence crimes. Shit, it’s no coincidence that my first felony trial involved the statutory rape of a fourteen year-old-girl. I went hard as fuck in the paint to convince the jury to convict. But, the jury deadlocked. They wanted DNA. The sworn word of a Brooklyn-born black girl from the projects wasn’t enough. And my witness didn’t have the emotional capacity to testify again. Opposing counsel and I struck a deal, and the Defendant pled guilty to misdemeanor assault – a lesser, non-sexual offense.
At twelve, I knew that if I accused Rick of rape, the hood would have chosen to side with him – Money Making Rick – and not Niki who hangs out late when her mama ain’t around. Not Niki who has no gold. Not Niki who is a girl and fatherless and brotherless too. “Nah, Niki ain’t no victim. Niki’s a ho. A liar. And, worst of all, a snitch.”
When this is the world you must survive in, you keep quiet.
You take alternate routes to the bus, to the store, to the train. You stop going to Donte’s building, taking Keesh’s calls and hanging on your stoop. You never go into the game room, not by it, not past it, not near it. You cross the street when a man you don’t know approaches. You’re paralyzed by anxiety when a pack of men hang on a corner you must pass. You turn the other way and hot foot it the fuck out of dodge when you see Rick.
You hide until you are thirty-six years old.
And then, the shame subsides and the anger boils when you see a fucking hashtag. A hashtag that applies to you, but that can never sum your shit the fuck up. A hashtag with only five letters that follow. A hashtag that threatens to hide the horror behind it. And you can no longer keep it buried.
Men rape. Big Rick, my friend Rick Rick’s daddy, who owned a game room that had a mechanical claw machine with a white-nosed, pink stuffed teddy bear. Big Rick who the hood celebrated. Big Rick with the mouth of gold. Big Rick is my rapist. And Ill Will knew. And I was only twelve.