aurora m. lewis

Aurora M. Lewis worked in the banking financial industry for 40 years and retired early in 2009. That same year she received a Certificate in Creative Writing-General Studies from UCLA, with honors. Her poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been accepted by The Literary Hatchet, Gemini Magazine, Persimmon Tree, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, to name a few.  Suffering from bi-polar depression and anxiety she stopped writing for several years, due to medications.  However, after being removed from the medications, she resumed her passion for writing.  

 

it could be anyone

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It was late in the evening and my mother and I were waiting for a bus to take us to my grandparents.  A burly man in oil stained clothes, unshaved face, wearing a cap walked pass.  He stopped for a few seconds and looked back at us.  My mother didn’t smile and held my hand tightly, the man moved on.  My mother looked down and said those are the kind of men that will kidnap and hurt a little girl.  Don’t get close to them or ever speak to them.  I was four, the image of that man is imprinted in my mind, but he was not the only type of man to beware.  They came in many forms.

In the 3rd grade I was walking to the cafeteria with a classmate.  We had to walk through a covered area to get there.  Boys were always hanging around, laughing, teasing the girls.  I saw a little boy my age that was in my class, his name was Jesse.  He ran up to me and stuck his fingers through the area of my dress between my legs.  I tried to get away from him, he grabbed my sweater, trying to pull me towards him.  I wrestled out of my sweater and ran.  He threw it towards me and took off across the playground, laughing.  I was stunned, standing there feeling dirty, ashamed, and confused.  I didn’t understand what had just happened to me.  My mother warned me about men, but not little boys.  I often wondered did he grow-up to be a rapist?  I’ll never know, but I did know that he would never get close to me again as I developed a hatred towards him.  I never told anyone what he did to me.

In junior high school I was coming home early so that my mother could take me to a dental appointment.  There were no other children around and the street was fairly deserted.  I was about a block from my house when a Black man wearing a stingy brim hat came out of an apartment.  He was holding a drink and started walking towards me as I was passing.  He called out to me, saying hey baby wait up.  I kept walking and didn’t acknowledge him.  He hollered bitch, I’ll kick your fucking ass, moving faster in my direction.  I took off running, terrified.  I ran down a couple of houses and darted into a back yard, through the gate, and down the alley to my house.  He hadn’t followed me, I am sure he was drunk.  I was shaking and nauseous, but I didn’t tell my mother.  My mother was a small woman, a single parent without a man, and I was afraid that if she confronted this man something might happen to her.  I was thirteen and I couldn’t understand why a grown man would react the way he did to a child.  I didn’t think of myself as a young woman.

In the 1960’s our neighborhood in Los Angeles was diverse, comprised of Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics.  There were no Asians in our area, they lived about 20 miles north of us.  Coming home from school a little late and alone, I notice a dropped down ’57 Chevy that kept appearing when I would reach a corner.  An Asian guy, driving looked to be about seventeen.  His hair was in a style similar to Elvis’.  I thought it was odd seeing this guy in our neighborhood and why did he keep driving around.  I was cautious and walked as fast as I could, avoiding looking at him.

When I arrived at the next corner there he was again, pulled up close to the curb just as I was about to cross in front of him.  He was mumbling in another language, his head thrown back.  I could see into the car, his thighs were exposed, his hand in his lap covered by either a napkin or handkerchief. He was masturbating.   I screamed, he snapped out of it, gunned his motor and sped off.  I ran home about half a block away.  This time I told my mother.  She couldn’t believe it was an Asian guy and how could he have the nerve to come into our neighborhood and do something like that.  She didn’t call the police however, I did get a lecture about walking by myself.  I was fourteen and for some reason I felt this was my fault.

As I grew older no one assaulted or harassed me again until I was eighteen.  I didn’t date as a teen and I was seldom alone with boys although I had them as friends.   A male friend was visiting my apartment I shared with girlfriend.  This guy and I were alone, sitting on the couch, and he kissed me, I kissed him back.  He pushed me down and got on top of me, still kissing me.  I was no longer kissing him, I struggled to get from beneath him.  I kept telling him to stop, he wouldn’t listen.  He managed to get my pants down and then raped me.  When he finished he asked if I came?  I couldn’t believe what I heard coming out of his mouth, this wasn’t a date, a consensual encounter.  I was crying and I told him to get out.  He kept saying he didn’t understand what was wrong.  I locked myself in the bathroom and shortly he left.

I ended the friendship.  I also blamed myself because I kissed him.  I was wrong, it wasn’t my fault, it was rape. I didn’t tell the police, I didn’t think I would be believed, after all he was a friend I had kissed.  I became even more cautious of men, seldom dating.  I had long term boyfriends, but it took a while for me to let them get close enough to have a sexual relationship, and eventually, I fell in love more than once.

In the mid 70’s in my twenties, I worked in a bank in Los Angeles, I was one of a few Black women.  The bank was in the garment district, I was a teller.  The male customers were always very friendly, giving compliments, asking me out for a date (which I never did), and giving gifts or inviting me to buy clothing from their showrooms.  No ever go really out of line, I was naive.  There was one woman, fortyish that always made a point of getting in my line.  She would make casual conversation, often telling me how nice I looked.  During the Christmas season our teller windows were decorated with mistletoe.  When I completed her transaction, she leaned into my window, placed her hand on mine, and whispered consider yourself kissed.  I was taken aback, but smiled at her and said have a nice day.  Then, I realized she had hit on me.  I had never been hit on by a woman.  She must have sensed something because she stopped coming to my window, for which I was grateful.

I transferred to another office.  Our manager was new on the job, about in his forties, blue eyes, blond hair, and a southern accent.  Many of the women found him attractive, I didn’t.  I was leery of white southern men due to stories I read and been told regarding white southern attitudes towards Blacks.  There were stories of assaults and rapes of Black women, going back to slavery. I had seen news footage of things done to Black people in the south.  I didn’t have any issues with white people, except if they had a southern accent. 

I worked at a different location than this man and often he would visit our office.  One day he came in and I was sitting alone.  He walked up and said “Wow! You look beautiful.”  I felt uncomfortable, but said thank you and looked back down at my work.   He went on to find my supervisor.  Whenever I had to go to his location to drop off papers, he would make a point of calling me into his office to tell me how good I looked.  I didn’t take these as compliments, I didn’t appreciate his attention, and I didn’t know how to handle what I later learned was sexual harassment.  His actions were fulfilling my misguided stereotype of southern attitudes towards Black women.

I was in the conference room one day, alone leaning over a cabinet speaking to my supervisor over the phone, which was on the wall over the cabinet.  The manager crept up behind me, grabbed me by the waist, and said he was just moving me, so he could get in the cabinet.  I jumped away and told him I was leaving, hung up the phone, and rushed out.  I could see the smirk on his face as I left.

A few months later I was transferred to his location.  There were times I would be called in to meet alone with him to discuss a project.  We would sit at a small round table in his office.  He would sit spread legged, occasionally touching his groin area.  I would avert my eyes, looking anywhere but at him until these brief meeting ended.  In talking to another young Hispanic woman, he would do the same thing when she was in his office.  He was a pig who bragged about going on skiing trips alone with is nineteen-year old step-daughter.

Our office went on a retreat to Palm Springs.  Each of us had a very large room of our own with all the accommodations.   After we settled, we met for dinner and drinks.  The manager became intoxicated as did some of the others.  I didn’t drink that night.  As we were all leaving and walking towards our rooms, the manager saddled up to me holding a bottle of wine and two glasses.  He asked if I wanted to get in the hot tub.  I didn’t know what to say.  I told him I didn’t bring a bathing suit, thinking that would be the end of it.   He said to just wear some sweats or whatever as that was what he was going to wear.  I was afraid that if I didn’t join him I might lose my job and I needed that job.  I said ok, I’d meet him.  However, I asked two other girls to join us as he walked away.

I got to the hot tub, which was outside, before the other girls got there.  He was already in the tub, drinking wine.  He asked me If I wanted a drink.  I said no thank you and I stayed on the side of the tub opposite and away from him.  Shortly, the other two joined us and jumped in.  He looked at me clearly annoyed.  Everyone seemed to be talking and having a good time.  I excused myself and said I wasn’t feeling well, I went back to my room.  After that he left me alone, but I was passed over for a promotion that I was clearly in line to receive. My supervisor, a white man, and a good friend told me to be careful, this manager didn’t like me, and wanted to get rid of me.  Luckily, the bank merged with another bank and he was out, and I started getting promotions again.

Over the years I had several sexual harassment encounters with managers.   In my late thirties I was still at the bank.  There was a Black, Human Resources Manager that the Black woman nick named (behind his back) Clarence Thomas, for obvious reasons related to the Anita Hill hearings during his confirmation.  This H.R. manager was very flirtatious towards the Black women, but not the other women who were not of color.  Whenever I was called to his office to discuss an H.R. problem with one of my staff, I’d walk in and he would be splashing cologne all over his face, hands, and sleeves of his shirt.  He would try to be overly friendly and flirty during these meetings.  He had a habit of gazing into my eyes and looking me over, I always rebuffed him and stayed on topic.  Eventually, he got the point. 

As I got older I progressed up the corporate ladder and was less subjected to sexual harassment or abuse.  I am now retired and have few interactions with men.  I have a daughter, two grand-daughters, and a grandson.  I have cautioned them regarding sexual abuse and harassment from anyone, strangers, family, friends, teachers, and those you may work with when employed.  The more we discuss this subject, the stronger we are, the more we speak out, the more we can work towards reducing it. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be eliminated in my lifetime.