I didn’t know what to do. He dug his nails into mine and then he pushed me back. “Take off your shirt.”
I opened my mouth to say no. I had to say no. In the past he had grabbed my ass, rubbed his erection against me, had kissed me briefly on the mouth, and made an attempt to grope my breasts. But he’d never told me to take my shirt off. This was too much, and yet I thought, I felt, if I could just do it and go to some other place in my head, I would be okay. I wouldn’t be a whore. I would still be a virgin. I would still be pure and intact.
I could be all that and be a good daughter. I could ease the guilt of my mother staying at home, essentially alone, because my father was often a million miles away and didn’t know who she was.
So I pulled my low-cut T-shirt over my head and stood there before my boss, the fluorescent light flickering behind him and making everything look that much worse. I stared at him straight in the eyes while he leered at my thin cotton bra.
“Well,” I said. “Now you’re seeing what no one except for me and my parents and my doctor have seen. Is that all?”
He looked so dumbfounded that it was almost laughable. Granted, I knew I had a good body, but I worked hard at it by going for my 5K jogs every morning. But I wasn’t any different from any other girl. My breasts were still breasts.
Bruno managed to close his mouth. “Your bra. Take off your bra.”
I could tell this was non-negotiable.
You’re not here, you’re not here, you’re not here, I chanted to myself while I reached around my back and undid the clasp. I took it off, my breasts free, and held the bra in my hands.
He whistled. “I feel privileged.”
“Funny how I don’t feel the same.”
He gave me a sharp look. “You’re not done yet.”
I gulped while he walked up to me. I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn’t be afraid. I didn’t want him to think he was winning. I looked straight at him while his greasy hands went to my breasts, cupping them. I sucked in my breath while he ran his thumbs over my nipples, and I felt relief that they were reluctant to harden. The last thing I needed him to think was that this was turning me on. The reality was that I wanted to vomit, and if it happened, I wanted it to be all over him, just so he’d know how disgusting I thought he was.
He leaned in close, and for a second I thought he was going to kiss me. But he whispered in my ear, “I should have asked for more.”
I suppressed a shudder, holding my breath while I waited for his next move. To my utter relief, he took his hands away and stepped back.
“You may make yourself decent again,” he said nonchalantly. “To be honest, I expected your breasts to be a little bit bigger. I guess the shirt makes it look like you have more than you have. Again, that would come in handy if you actually cared about tips.”
I knew my breasts were just big enough for my frame, but I didn’t dare say anything while he sat back down at his desk and started removing pesos from his wallet. I put on my bra and shirt in record speed and tried to remind myself that my loss of dignity was worth whatever happiness I could buy my mother.
He gave me the money, holding on to my hand for a little too long, before he said, “Don’t say I don’t do you any favors. But if you ever ask for one again, expect more involvement from your side. Nothing in life is free. You of all people should know this.”
I nodded, thanking him curtly and yanked the money out of his slimy grasp. As I turned and left his office, back into the heat, satellite TV and drunken cries of the bar, I made a vow that at the first chance to leave this place, the first promise of a better life, I would take it.