A Most Dangerous Game_sizedYou read the story in Mr. Trebor’s class and guessed the ending before you got there. You remember the teacher’s monotone voice almost made excited by the finale: the man hunts other men. You were bored. You chewed gum in your thirteen-year-old mouth and drew on your desk as Mr. Trebor read aloud.

That same year you and Marnie bought tight Lycra dresses at The Limited, bright tropical flowers blooming over your non-existent breasts. When your mother picked you up, Marnie’s mom turned to her. “You have to see what the girls bought today,” she said in a sing-songy voice that tried to be like bluebirds but was more like tin cans on pavement.

You tried on that dress at home in your bedroom, walked around in your mother’s high-heels and a stuffed bra, practicing. Practicing for a future that couldn’t come any sooner.

When it came, you thought: only this? You thought maybe there was more. More than just grabbing and rubbing and shoving against each other in someone’s parents’ guest bedroom while the party thumped downstairs like a weak heartbeat.

And then you were out on your own, a big girl now. You were eighteen, but you felt thirty. You worked a night job, paid rent, and kept picking men up like stray cats. Or lint.

Antonio, a college boy who worked nights with you, let it be known with his wicked brown eyes that he wanted to fuck you. You let him think it might just happen, though you knew it never would. You let him walk you home some nights after work, let him come all the way to your apartment door and then left him there like a sweet fool. His wicked gazes at work made you flush, like catching glimpses of yourself in the Lycra dress from The Limited, wobbling back and forth in front of the full-length mirror.

One night in the basement warehouse, Antonio beckoned you with a finger: “Come here,” it said coyly. For just one fluttering second you wondered what that finger would be like inside you.

You brushed him off, had work to do, but he insisted, pulled you by the hand – surprisingly soft – into a windowless room with a metal door that banged shut.

“There’s nothing in here,” you said, bored.

“Yes there is,” he said, pointing to a dark corner. Your eyes grew accustomed to the low light, and you saw what was there: an old, stained sink. And before you could laugh at how dumb he was being, he put both hands on your shoulders, turned you around to face him, and breathed into your face, “Some day I’m gonna rape somebody.” He paused, waiting for you to get it. “Maybe it’ll be you.”

You saw in his drill-bit eyes he wasn’t kidding.

You spun out of there as if it were all a big, stupid joke. But inside you were trembling.

On the short walk home that night, you ran. You locked your apartment door with a loud thwack, and took the phone off the hook. Crawling onto the old sofa in the dark, you remembered that story from Mr. Trebor’s eighth-grade class. Only now, watching headlights flash across the bare wall, did you realize that you had been wrong about the ending.

It wasn’t men who were hunted.

And you felt lighter-fluid flames of anger rise in you at the teacher who taught the wrong lesson. Or at the girl in the back row, in her cheap dress and scuffed heels, drawing hearts around boys’ names, hoping.

Alexis Wiggins‘ work has appeared in PloughsharesCreative Nonfiction, and Story South, and was selected for W.W. Norton’s anthology Best Creative Nonfiction Volume 1 (2007). In 2004, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She currently lives and teaches in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Photo by Annie Agnone