Ch. 1: Fear of Sex (under a bridge). July 21, 1987.

Ch. 1: Fear of Sex (under a bridge). July 21, 1987.

A Chapter by Gee Roughin

When Suzie-Q woke up, she wondered why she was sleeping on the floor. Suzie-Q wondered if she had fallen off her bed. Then she remembered. She felt a deep sinking. Consciousness and memory washed over her, and she felt herself sink into a place that she didn’t know existed. Her body ached, and her soul sank down where it could not climb out. Her soul ached in some way that was indescribable, that could not be borne. Suzie-Q thought, I am suffering more than I can bear, and who can make it stop? No one can make it stop. I need to go to the bathroom, thought Suzie-Q.

Suzie-Q was hungry. She couldn’t figure out where to go to the bathroom, so she ate an apple instead. She still felt hungry, and she still had to go to the bathroom. She sat up wrapped in her blanket.

Two figures lying under a blanket stirred next to her. Suzie-Q turned to look. Then she wished she hadn’t. It seemed that one was climbing on top of the other. The man climbing on top of the woman underneath the blanket turned his head to survey, and caught Suzie-Q’s eye. He stared for a minute, looking surprised. Then he smiled and winked at her. Suzie-Q was very embarrassed. She felt hot and flushed all over, and she felt herself getting excited. She didn’t know why she had been unable to turn her head away when she met the man’s eye. She thought she must have been expecting something, like he might have asked her to close her eyes. Suzie-Q felt shocked that the man had smiled and winked at her. She felt nervous and afraid, but excited too, and she felt guilty about feeling excited. She thought there were too many people around to really feel afraid, so she lay back down with her back to the couple and touched herself under the blanket. She imagined that the man was on top of her, looking at her. She liked that thought, but felt guilty about liking it. She listened to the couple making love next to her. She heard the couple panting behind her, and then she heard the woman start to make little cries. Suzie-Q touched herself, then worried someone would know, then touched herself again. Finally, the couple stopped. Suzie-Q kept touching herself. She hoped no one was watching. Once, she wondered if the man was watching her, and that made her more excited. Finally, she felt embarrassed, and stopped before she was satisfied.

Suzie-Q lay very still under her blanket. She had to go to the bathroom. After the sex scene next to her, she was sure she could never move again, and she couldn’t possibly ask anyone where you could go to the bathroom. She wondered how long she would lie there like that, without moving. Suzie-Q thought about sex. She thought about how she had always been afraid of sliding down the slippery slope of sex. Suzie-Q usually felt guilty when she masturbated, but she didn’t think of that as connected to the slippery slope. She was glad she had God to keep her from the slippery slope, otherwise she might end up like that couple. Suzie-Q thought that having sex when you wanted might lead to horrible dissipation, of a kind you could not imagine. Suzie-Q thought sex without God might lead directly to prostitution. She tried to imagine how she might act about sex if she didn’t have God. Suzie-Q thought she was a very sex-obsessed person, naturally. Suzie-Q thought she probably masturbated more than her friends. If she didn’t have God, Suzie-Q thought, she might have sex with that man right then and there. This thought terrified Suzie-Q, though she didn’t know why, so Suzie-Q decided to calm down.

Suzie-Q felt a foot nudging her. She looked up. The man was standing over her with a big grin. “Hey kid, stop touching yourself and eat an apple,” he said, handing her an apple.

Suzie-Q froze. She looked up at him scared and she didn’t know what to say. “Take it,” said the man, shaking the apple at her. Suzie-Q took the apple. “Don’t look so sheepish,” said the man. “People have sex every minute of every day all over the world. Sorry we don’t have a room.” Suzie-Q had sat up and put her baseball cap on. It made her feel safe. She was eating her second apple and trying not to look at anybody.

“Want something to drink?” said the man. He opened a bottle and handed Suzie-Q a beer. Suzie-Q looked at the man with big, suspicious eyes. “Don’t worry, kid, I’m not gonna bother you. I’m fully satisfied,” he laughed with a hiccough. Suzie-Q raised her eyebrows but she didn’t say anything. She looked at him with her eyebrows, took the beer, and went on with her apple.

When Suzie-Q had finished the second apple she looked at the beer. She had never tasted beer before. She had never even sipped alcohol before now. Suzie-Q slyly passed the beer under her nose, smelled it, then crinkled her nose. However, Suzie-Q was curious. She decided to drink it, just to know. Suzie-Q held her breath and drank the whole bottle like soda pop.

Suzie-Q felt sick to her stomach. The sky was spinning. She didn’t feel afraid of the man anymore, but when she looked up, she couldn’t see him. Everything was spinning. Suzie-Q had never felt so sick and dizzy in her life. This is the slippery slope, she thought. I’m falling down it. Indeed, Suzie-Q felt like she was falling from far above her into the river in a continuous loop. Soon she knew she would throw up.

Suzie-Q crawled on hands and knees to the edge of the river. She leaned just her head out over the river and wretched. She needed a kleenex to blow her nose with when she was done, but she didn’t have one. The man came over to her with a kleenex, and waited while she blew her nose and wiped her mouth. Then he put his arms around her and led her back to the blanket. “Thanks,” said Suzie-Q. She wanted him to hold her longer. “It’s okay, kid,” said the man. “I shouldn’t have given you the beer to drink.”

Suzie-Q wrapped herself up in the blanket. It was hot but she felt shivery and vulnerable. She was still sick to her stomach, the sky was still spinning, only now she really needed to pee. She began to think about the Russian prison cell, and how she was afraid she might be kept from peeing. She thought she might be sick again, or worse, have a panic attack if she didn’t manage to pee. She finally looked blurry-eyed at the man sitting next to her with his arm around his girlfriend. “I’m sorry,” she said, a little too carefully. “Can you tell me where is a decent place to pee?”

“Oh, just go over there in the corner,” said the man, pointing to the opposite corner under the bridge. “No one here will watch, and you can’t be seen from the bridge.” Suzie-Q turned her head slowly to look. The place seemed exposed from every side. There was nothing private about it. She looked back at him, not believing. “Go on,” said the man, “I won’t watch.”

Suzie-Q just looked at him. Finally, the girlfriend said, “Oh come on, I’ll go with you.” So Suzie-Q and the girlfriend walked over to the corner to pee. The girlfriend had to hold on to Suzie-Q and steady her as she walked. When they got to the corner, the girlfriend said, “I’ll go first. Don’t look at me, just stand in front of me so the others can’t watch.” When she was done she stood in front of Suzie-Q while Suzie-Q went. Suzie-Q wasn’t used to squatting like that. She also didn’t have very good balance. She had to put her hand out to the wall to steady herself. Even so, she didn’t aim very well, and got some pee on her pants and on her shoes.

The two of them walked back to their blankets. Suzie-Q felt very dirty, and she felt like she smelled of urine. She wanted to wash her hands, but she didn’t know where. She sat back down on her blanket, said “thanks” to the woman, and turned toward them to begin a chat.

The woman was kissing her boyfriend. Suzie-Q had already turned their way, so it took her a minute to figure out what to do next. She couldn’t help watching them a little"it almost seemed like they were performing. She watched them kissing despite herself, feeling the heightened flames of perception from the alcohol and its low reaction time. Then, when the man started touching the woman’s breasts, Suzie-Q finally turned away. They didn’t seem to notice that she was there. She lay down again with the blanket over her, and tried to imagine the rest of the scene. She felt full of flames. She began to touch her own breasts. When she heard them pant, she imagined that the man was coming inside her, like D.H. Lawrence described. The effects of the alcohol made her feel full of fire and not notice the rest. She began to rub herself, and got more and more worked up. She was lying on her back with her eyes closed. When she had satisfied herself by rubbing, she turned her head slightly to peep at the couple. The man was looking at her intently. Suzie-Q caught his eye. She did not look away. He looked at her with perfect seriousness while she felt her heart pound.

“You want to come over here?” the man mouthed with his lips.

“You leave that girl alone,” said somebody ferociously. A middle-aged woman lying on the other side of Suzie-Q had got up to get herself an apple. “She’s only a child!”

“I’ll keep him in check, Maggie,” said the girlfriend. “But she’s got to learn for herself.”

“Not with a man like that she don’t,” said the woman. The woman looked at Suzie-Q intently. She looked at Suzie-Q like she was looking at a ghost. Suzie-Q looked back at the woman and frowned. “How d’you end up out here?” the woman asked Suzie-Q.

Suzie-Q didn’t want to answer questions. “Some bad things happened,” she finally said.

“And you ain’t got nowhere else to go?”

“I might go somewhere else and I might stay here,” she said, still frowning.

Suzie-Q’s fear made the woman even more anxious. The woman didn’t want to pry or make the girl afraid, but she wanted to know what kind of danger the girl was in. “How old are you?” she asked.

Suzie-Q put her head in her hands. It was her birthday. Suzie-Q lied. “17,” she said.

The woman laughed. “You lying through your teeth. You only look 13, but I betcha you’s 16.” The woman looked strongly at Suzie-Q.

“I don’t want to answer your questions. They don’t make me feel comfortable,” said Suzie-Q.

The woman was still staring at Suzie-Q. “From the way you talk you ran away from home just yesterday. I’m not gonna turn you in, I just wanna know what you running from in case it show up looking for you. Yo’ Daddy beat you?”

“I don’t want to talk about it, but my Daddy is certainly the last person I want to see right now, if he come asking for me.”

“What’s your name?”

“Alice,” said Suzie-Q.

The woman smiled sheepishly. “Ok Alice, I won’t pester you with anymore questions. Now you all wait here, I’m bringing breakfast.” The woman started up the hill, then stopped. “By the way, what day is it? I got to keep track.”

“July 21,” said the woman who had taken Suzie-Q to pee.

The middle-aged woman disappeared up the hill to the highway on the bridge.

© 2011 Gee Roughin

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Added on August 27, 2011
Last Updated on October 19, 2011
Tags: paranoia, fear, 80s, homeless, teenage runaways, paranoid wasp, america


Gee Roughin
Gee Roughin

Cairo, Egypt

Before spending seven years writing Paranoid Wasp, I studied literature at Wheaton College (IL), Yale University and the University of Chicago. I moved to Paris in 1999. In addition to ten years in Fr.. more..