I have always loved the theatre. I love the soft velvet seats. I love the anticipation that ripples through the auditorium when the lights dim. I love sitting in quiet anticipation. When the crimson curtains draw back and the actors take their places, my heart always skips a beat. I’m ready to be told a story, to laugh and cry and swoon. It is a sanctuary of emotion and amusement.
Or should I say “was”? It was a sanctuary.
Because the minute I felt the press and squeeze, I no longer felt safe. I felt the imprint of groping fingers and the immense weight of betrayal because this was my sanctuary. I never saw the person’s face.
And I know it wasn’t what I was wearing that made this happen. I had on an old dress with a full skirt that doesn’t accentuate my curves. I was wearing a long sweater and thick tights and knee-high boots, and I was facing away as I exited the theatre. I in no way invited anyone to touch me.
For a second I was worried it was my mom’s date, but when I turned he was talking to one of the actors at the front of the theatre, and the person who had groped me was long gone. I had no idea who or what to look for, just an imprint of a hand on my butt and a intense feeling of betrayal. What gave this person the right?
For a second I doubted myself. It could have been an accident. We were in a crowded place. But what kind of accident causes a person to grab and squeeze? No, it wasn’t an accident.
I walked quickly from the theatre lobby. My boots clopped on the sidewalk, and my breath clouded the air that felt as sharp as knives in my lungs. I didn’t glance back to see if my mom was following. I tried to not think. I tried to not feel. I tried.
And then I was at the car, breathing heavy and squeezing my hand into a fist around my ticket stub, tears threatening to spill. The world was spinning and blurry. I could faintly see my mom saying good-bye to her date and coming over.
I shook my head. Nothing.
We got into the car and began to pull out.
“What’s wrong?” she persisted.
We passed the theatre. I glanced down at my clenched fist and wrinkled ticket. Mom waited for an answer.
I looked at her, and the tears surfaced this time. They poured. They streamed. They fell, like the curtains at the final bow.
I have always loved the theatre.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.