When I was sixteen years old I volunteered at a youth crisis center that was in that building over that closed “Turned Up” store. The building is condemned now and it probably should had been condemned when I was sixteen but it was what it was.

The other volunteers were around my age so it was basically a free-for-all. Everyone was a kid with the exception of the director and the secretary. And, as kids do, we were perpetually crushing on each other.

There was this girl named Blanca. She was so good lookin’ that I remember her to this very day. And that was thirty-plus years ago. Olive skin, long curly black hair, dark eyes and a body shaped like an hour glass. She was only fourteen years of age. My friend Martin and I crushed on her at the same time and we were in a friendly competition for her affection.

One day she was missing. Just like that. Poof. Her mother was frantic, the entire center was frantic. Where the hell could she be? My friend and I were sitting at the crisis center worrying when the phone rang. It was Blanca. She was crying. I got on one phone and he got on another to hear in. She said she was on a street corner a mile and half away. Martin and I started running. We ran down Third Avenue, him on one side and me on the other.

Periodically I’d look over and there he was, keeping pace. At some point we crossed over to Second Avenue because that’s where she said she was. It occurred to me years later, “Why we didn’t just take the train or bus?” We were kids and that’s what kids did when they needed to go somewhere; they ran.

He reached her first and put her in a huge bear hug. I lost. I was beside myself. I didn’t want to look like a douche so I accompanied them to her house. When we arrived, her mother grabbed her and shouted, “Where were you?!”

Then the cops and some kid came out of the kitchen. The boy looked scared. Turns out Blanca lied to everyone. She was with this guy all day. Her boyfriend, apparently. She knew she’d get in trouble if her mother found out that she was with him so she concocted the story that she was abducted.

Martin and I left. I don’t think anyone noticed that we left. Everyone was bickering, crying, etc. We went back to the youth crisis center and quietly went about our business.

As for Blanca, we never saw her again.

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