She Was Only Eighteen, Only Eighteen
Iris Leona Marie Cross
Copyright 2020 by Iris Leona Marie Cross
period in my life, raging hormones had clouded my moral judgment
causing professional boundaries to become blurred. As I recall this
episode, I am left to wonder how far the pendulum of intoxicating
desire would have swung, were it not for the sobering effect and
timely intervention of that bombshell letter?
was only eighteen, only eighteen
Dr Hook and the Medicine Show�s chart-topper �Only
Sixteen� told of a boy�s crush on a girl who, like him,
was only sixteen. At the time, a teenage girl in Trinidad had a crush
of her own except:
only eighteen, only eighteen
desired him so
no clue he was her crush
she had to
let him know.�
eighteen-year-old girl and my crush was my thirty-nine-year-old,
married-with-children boss. Such was my predicament when, after
leaving high school, I got a job as a laboratory assistant at a
medical laboratory headed by an irresistibly handsome,
US-trained PhD biochemist who was more than twice my age, and with
whom I was besotted.
my eyes, there
wasn�t a man who measured up to him in looks or
intelligence ̶ not that I had met
outside my family circle, given my age and sheltered upbringing. He
was about five feet eleven inches, bespectacled and always wore a
crisp white lab coat with the long sleeves scrunched up to his
elbows, exposing his strong, well-defined, venous forearms. The way
he dragged his feet as he walked along the corridor suggested to me
that his shoes were a half size too big. Under normal circumstances
this would have irritated me. But these circumstances were by no
means normal because I was smitten with him. The sound of his
shuffling footsteps in the distance triggered heart palpitations, in
anticipation that he was on his way to say a few words to me. His
voice (with a slight American twang) was soothing; his chuckle
had never felt
this way about anyone � a distant second being the boy a few
houses down the street whose sister was my playmate when I was
younger. He was two years older than I was, and cute; but a boy. My
crush was a man � a whole new ball game. The attraction was
overpowering. It�s a wonder I was able to focus on laboratory
work with him around. Yet I did because I wanted to excel, to be an
exemplary laboratory assistant so that I could get the attention I
craved, from him. Whenever he stood over me checking the results of
biochemical assays that were part of my duties, my hands would shake
uncontrollably, my heart beat as fast as a bullet train and my voice
quiver before disappearing altogether.
paid pittance and I had limited funds to splurge on an extensive
wardrobe, I was determined to dress in as eye-catching a way as
possible (without being extremely outlandish or provocative) to make
myself more noticeable and sexually appealing to him. I had even
restricted my calorific intake to transform my roly-poly body into a
slimmer version so I could attract his attention. That says it all.
was my first
and last thought every day. At night, my fantasies
about him as I lay in bed listening to the Bees Gees hit song �You
stepped into my life and I�m oh so happy� on audio
cassette. The tape would be rewound and played several times before I
eventually surrendered myself in the arms of Morpheus. Saturday found
me daydreaming about my crush while mopping the porch and dusting the
ornaments on top of the wooden cabinets in the dining room, with
Casey Kasem�s American Top 40 blasting in the background.
Monday morning couldn�t come soon enough for me to see my crush
went to a party and ruptured my right metatarsus dancing in a pair of
clogs which were fashionable footwear in those days. Though in severe
pain and barely able to walk, I hobbled to work every day with my
heavily-bandaged foot because being away from my crush would have
been too much for me to bear.
mother must have believed I was following in her footsteps by
imitating her strong work ethic. �I never missed a day of work
since I started working,� she would always boast, up to the
very end. Little did she realize that carnal
the real motivation behind my job dedication rather than a strict
adherence to tradition. Somehow I had to let my
how I felt. I could no longer keep this overpowering attraction
bottled up. Christmas was fast approaching; an
time to reveal what, so far, had remained latent.
been made. I was going to buy him a Van Heusen shirt for Christmas.
Back in the day, Van Heusen was a highly-coveted brand, synonymous
with male sartorial elegance. The shirt was pale yellow and grey
plaid with short sleeves, size medium. I thought those colours would
be a perfect match for his beautiful brown skin tone. The plan was to
deliver it to his home so I could avoid the eagle eye of the lab
technician who was my senior at work.
twenty-nine, well versed in man-woman relationships and would have
figured out what was going on, much to my embarrassment. Besides, I
had a sneaking suspicion she liked him too, even though she was in a
long-term relationship with a firefighter. Jealousy consumed my whole
being whenever my boss engaged in one-on-one conversations with her.
While discussing test results or querying anomalous findings, he
would sometimes whisper in her ear. She would respond with a smile or
a blush. I was young, innocent and inexperienced, but not so naive
that I was unable to distinguish flirtatious from non-flirtatious
behaviour. I would get one up on her by landing on his doorstep with
my special delivery Christmas present. My gift choice should be a
dead giveaway. Who buys a personal gift (like a Van Heusen shirt) for
their boss of only three months?
was a quiet,
sunny, Sunday afternoon when most families would normally be napping
after a heavy Sunday lunch. Nevertheless, here was
outside my crush�s front gate tooting the horn and hoping that
someone would be curious enough to open the front door, or peep
through the window to see who was disturbing the peace.
you sure he lives here?� my mother asked.
so. This is the street and house number listed in the telephone
directory,� I said, double checking the information I had
written on a flimsy piece of paper. �Yes, it�s correct.
That�s his car in the driveway.�
had better get out and call at the gate,� my mother said,
irritated that she had had to cut short her Sunday siesta to
facilitate this excursion.
few weeks prior
to this unsolicited visit, I had passed my driving test at the first
attempt. Unfortunately, this meant nothing to my
because as a neophyte, she neither trusted me to drive her precious
Betsy by myself, nor felt safe with me at the steering wheel and she
in the passenger seat. So what choice did I have but
beg, plead for a lift to his address to deliver the Christmas
gift? Had my mother been privy to the intention
seemingly innocent visit to my boss� home to spread Christmas
cheer, there was no way she would have agreed to chauffeur me
employed at the medical laboratory a mere three months, so wouldn�t
a Christmas card have sufficed and couldn�t the card have been
given to him at work? Furthermore, why give a man
hardly know a shirt? Why not a less personal item such as a diary,
pen or mug? It was clear that these questions never
crossed her mind. She didn�t read anything more into this
gift-giving gesture than that of an enthusiastic employee buying a
present for her highly-respected boss. My mother had no inkling that
at eighteen, her daughter was consumed with desire for a
thirty-nine-year-old man who was married with children.
Afternoon; Good Afternoon!� I shouted outside his front gate.
How bold was I to appear at my boss� home, invade his privacy
and encroach on his family time. Had I taken this too far? At this
point, I didn�t care. With sweaty palms and a body shaking as
though I had ague, I continued to clutch the Christmas gift that I
was on a mission to deliver. The front door opened and out came my
crush, minus his trademark spectacles but sporting a white T-shirt
and royal blue running shorts. On his feet were flip flops which he
dragged, in characteristic fashion, along the garden path leading to
the gate. From the way his work clothes fitted him I
imagined that his entire body (not only his forearms) would be a work
of art. So imagined; so realized. Any minute my heart would burst
through the pericardium and ribcage. I could feel it pounding in my
getting drier and drier and my tongue heavier and heavier with each
step he took towards me. Looking in awe at this masterpiece of a male
specimen, I told myself: Take a deep breath; stay calm. He greeted me
with a smile, eyebrows raised, no doubt wondering how I had found his
address and what had brought me to his home. I summoned up enough
courage and sufficient saliva to say: �Hi, this is for you.
Merry Christmas,� as I handed him the gift.
you,� he replied, taken aback by my generosity which had left
him lost for words. He was speechless and so was I; his eyes firmly
fixed on mine and mine on his. The eye exchange was intense and
lasted a few seconds. Words were superfluous because body language
did the talking. I returned to the car in a daze; my mother oblivious
of the goings-on at the front gate. What would happen from now on was
anybody�s guess. Ihad no idea where this brazen act would lead.
I�d have to wait until after Christmas to find out.
though my body like an electric current, the first work day after the
Christmas break as I headed to work and slowly climbed the wooden
steps leading to the laboratory. His car, a white Datsun Sunny, was
already in the parking lot. I rested my handbag on the table and sat
waiting for the lab technician to arrive so we could begin the
biochemical assays scheduled for that day. She was late and I didn�t
mind one bit. With any luck, she�d be an absentee and I could
have him to myself. What an appetizing thought!
sound of his
shuffling footsteps in the distance, coming closer and closer, made
me hyperventilate. I looked up and there he was in the doorway,
wearing the Van Heusen shirt that I had gifted him. I froze,
resembling a wax figure from Madame Tussauds. My heart was thumping.
Year,� he said as he approached me. �I�m not sure I
should be doing this,� he whispered as he bent down and gently
gave me a kiss, full on the lips. In his hand was a white envelope.
He rested the envelope in front of me on the table. �Oh...thank
you,� I muttered, still in a stupor from that unexpected and
treasured kiss. Okay, so it wasn�t a French kiss; all the same
it was warm, moist, electrifying and so tender.
letter about? I wondered. Was it a case of �Signed, sealed
delivered I�m yours� to quote Stevie Wonder�s hit
song at the time? Did the intensity of the mutual gaze outside his
front gate ignite a spark? My intention wasn�t to break up his
marriage or become his mistress. I hadn�t given much thought to
beyond the gift-giving stage. The grave repercussions of my actions
had hit home. I was in a quandary. What had I done?
sooner had he
left the room, I tore open the envelope and unfolded the letter,
fingers shaking. What a crushing
wasn�t the script that I had envisioned. I let out a few deep
sighs not knowing how I was going to handle this disappointment and
developing crisis. The letter was no love letter and the extra money
I had received in my Christmas pay package was no bonus either. I had
been overpaid in error and was now expected to repay the money that I
had already spent buying, among other things, an eye-catching Van
Heusen shirt for my crush.
I had made was suddenly tinged with regret. Questions raced through
my mind at Olympic speed: Why had I been so profligate in my
spending? Was he really worth the price paid for the shirt? Wouldn�t
a Christmas card have sufficed, if anything at
strong dose of reality had succeeded in killing my fantasy.
long before thoughts of my crush began to take a back seat. Also, he
didn�t take advantage of my vulnerability after that one kiss �
much respect to him. Uppermost on my mind was calculating how I was
going to repay the debt, considering my paltry salary and my
close-to-zero bank savings. A loan from my mother was not an option
since it would have been accompanied by a stern lecture on budgeting
and living within one�s means. That I could have done without.
later, an opening at a much larger government-funded medical
laboratory had allowed me to move on from my crush, not only
physically but also emotionally. He became a faint memory as I
adjusted to life in a different work environment with a more diverse
group of co-workers. I had managed to clear my mind of him. Pity my
debt couldn�t be cleared as easily. Well into my new job, I was
still counting the cost of the decision I had made that Christmas
when I was only eighteen.
did I crush on him so fast
I was a
mere girl of eighteen
lot back then.�
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Iris's story list and biography
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher