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Laughter erupted from the fifteen-passenger van I was sitting in as I looked out the window to see Jane exiting the community shower, meaning it was finally my turn. I climbed out of the back of the van and began to walk towards the building, not twenty feet from where we parked. Suddenly two girls raced out from behind me and beat me to the doors, locking me out until the next round went in. I sat outside, not wanting to walk all the way back to the van. The night was nice; the cool, English night air was refreshing as well as different from what I was used to back in America. No bugs, no humidity.
Steve came out of the guys’ side with Chad, and the three of us were talking when we noticed a nearby camper. Someone had exited the door and was walking towards us. Steve, being the friendly guy he was, answered his hello and struck up a conversation. Clearly, this man, about nineteen years old, it seemed, was also foreign. He had an accent I had never heard before. Eventually Steve told us he was from Lithuania, and wanted to practice his English with us there while we waited.
The rest of the group in the van saw the commotion and came out to join us, and this prompted the man to turn and walk back to his camper in a hurry. Steve quickly filled the others in on the conversation. I watched from the side as the man came back with a box of cigarettes. After lighting up, he went around to each of us in the circle and asked if we wanted one. Watching everyone respond and the man’s face fall a little each time we said no terrified me to no end. Something about him was eerie… I just didn’t know what.
He finally got to me and I uttered my response. “Whaaa?” he said in his thick Lithuanian accent. “It’s kind of illegal where I’m from,” I said. My youth pastor gave me a disapproving look as the man turned away, so I backed up a little more. They continued to talk, and the man gave us an extensive background of his life. He was camping out looking for a job so that he could take back money to his family. But slowly we were getting the impression that it was rude in his country not to accept what was offered to you. He kept repeating that all the girls drank at a young age, smoked, everything was normal and without restraint.
I willed the girls in the showers to scrub quicker. I didn’t like to be in these situations, the ones that make my stomach churn nervously. Then, the man walked back to his camper one last time. Steve began to discuss with the two other adults a way to avoid more conversation, and I realized they, too, were feeling what I was. I started to shake.
When I saw what was in his hand when he came back, I groaned inwardly. Here we go again, I thought. He opened the bottle of wine, chugged half of it right there in front of us. He then offered the other half to Steve, pulling yet another bottle out of his back pocket. “We share? Drink to life!” he said, pushing it towards Steve.
Steve kept repeating that he was driving the van back, and that he could not drink and drive. After his attempts remained futile, he moved on to the youth pastor. Then the other adult of the group. Jane stood to my right, and as the man made his way around the group, I slowly inched my way behind her. She was much taller than me, and I hoped that I would be hidden from his view to avoid further confrontation.
It didn’t work. As I hid there behind Jane, he stepped swiftly but clearly drunkenly around her and right up to me. “How ‘bou you, pretty girl?” I shook my head vigorously, “No, I’m good. No, no, no…”
He kept repeating himself. “You so beautiful! Must drink!”
“Is not she beautiful?”
“Must drink. Too beautiful.”
My head smacked something cold and hard, and I realized I had begun to walk backwards away from him. I no longer could see anyone else from the group. My view was completely obstructed by his bright orange vest and tattered work shirt that covered the arms that pushed the bottle of wine at me. I couldn’t look at his face—I only stared at the bottle, willing it to go away, for his voice to stop echoing in my mind.
“Drink? Please, beautiful?”
I finally got enough sense to run. I slid along the wall and ran right into the showers where the other girls my age were showering and immediately erupted into a mess of tears. They stood, confused, as they combed their hair, getting ready to exit the room. They asked what was wrong, but I could only sob as I sat there, still with the nauseous feeling in my gut. Jane and her mother came in then to see if I was alright. But I still could not talk. My eyes were puffy, my head was spinning, and I knew I was going to throw up.
They stayed in there the whole time I showered, waiting to escort me to the van just in case he was still there. When I was finished, I waited for them to open the door from the outside to further delay walking back out into the night air. Steve had moved the van closer to the door for me, but that didn’t matter as I sprinted inside to the safety of the group, sitting away from the windows and as far in the back as possible.
As he started the van back up, everyone was completely silent except for Chad as he slowly said the words I was terrified to hear the most. We were still waiting on one person to finish in the showers. “Steve—he is coming back!”
I slid down in my seat, covering my face with my sweatshirt. I sobbed into it relentlessly, shoulders shaking and teeth chattering. Suddenly the cool night air was like icicles prickling down my back, seeping into my pores. The last person hopped into the van and Steve started to back away. The man banged his hand on the windows as we drove off, trying to get us to stop to tell us good-bye, something seemingly harmless. But those blue eyes were frozen in my mind, and all I could see was the world shrinking around me as he advanced with that bottle of wine, pushing my back against the building without escape.