1.I HAD RECENTLY COME OF THAT AGE where spun-sugar pop beats and the Disney Channel, with its suspiciously-gorgeous supposed “dorks,” suggested boys would start to notice me. But my school was Catholic, my mother was sheltering, and my smile was half tooth, half metal. I remained unconvinced. When he approached me after track practice, older, bigger and lonelier than me, and asked if I wanted to see something, my first instinct was to say no. My hesitation was enough for him to unzip his pants. The knees were stained and I thought first of Spray ‘n Wash, and then of escape. Afterwards, I dug ten little half moons into the dough of my palms and prayed for forgiveness, while my pulse quickened with what I now recognize as rage. I wish I’d known refusal was my right. And that instead of running lap after lap until I was dizzy and drenched, I’d simply let myself cry.
2. The first time I did it, I thought I was dying. The second — that I was invincible. I took AP classes, and my essays were scrawled with “Astute.” Could I really have believed myself the only girl to ever put electricity to skin and then cry out and writhe at the results? I was a mildly chubby tenth-grader in my parent’s basement, clutching a contraband dildo. I was the speed of sound, a thousand scattered lights. The real marvel was that I’d ever done anything else. This is what life is for, I thought wildly, as I panted, pleading, at my own touch. At the edge of my consciousness was a dim glowing thought: “Imagine what this sorcery would be like with someone else.” It wouldn’t take me long to find out, but it would take forever to get over the initial disappointment. Of course, there are perks to partners. Tongues and cuddles and glasses of post-coital wine. I wish I’d known that no one can do me quite like I can. That my own voice turns me on more than any other. And that dildo or not, what was happening was indeed a certain clumsy kind of magic.
3. He told me he could suck himself off, and then proceeded to prove it. I watched in horrid fascination and secretly wished for a camera. A combination of daily yoga and an impressively long member had conspired to aid him in achieving what, until now, I’d always thought was impossible. At least, without rib removal surgery of some sort. I was supposed to be aroused and hoped the pillow I clamped between my teeth conveyed that, while multitasking all the while to stifle my giggles. My panties chafed. His sheets needed washing, and in a few moments, so would my stomach. I wanted to fast-forward to the part where I was home with my friends, and this was simply a story, as frothy and effervescent as our drinks. I wanted to fast-forward to the part where I was older and married and maybe occasionally fantasizing about my children’s soccer coach, but remained faithful to my khaki-clad husband, who split the cooking with me and held my hand in his sleep. I wish I’d known that even tumbleweeds snuggled against cacti on occasion. That doing things for the story might leave me without any words. And that “free” can be a fancy way of saying “afraid.”
4. Those bloodless weeks were the longest of my life. There is a certain dark humor that was not lost on me, that being thrust into a predicament that seemed entirely too adult rendered me a redux of my anxious twelve-year-old self petitioning whichever menstrual god or good fairy might have been listening for that undeniable rose-petal stain. Only a month had passed since we’d ended things, and already he was as faceless and far off as God. And while we’d always been “safe,” our blind faith now struck me as foolish. Left to its own devices, latex could tear as swiftly as truth. When was the last time? My mind short circuited in frantic computation until settling on a date that left him absolved and me reeling. I’d never seen anything as merciful as that little purple dash. I wish I’d known then to breathe, to take solace in a logic that has always eluded me. To treat myself as gently as I would the squirming baby that will someday unbind, furious and lovely, between my legs.
5. I wish I’d known — through the pilfered Cosmopolitans and padded bras and unrequited crushes and unsent texts and half broken hearts and promises made too soon and Plan B taken too late and and faked orgasms and tangled limbs and misdirected longing and torn fishnets, and 2AM taxis and bliss and bewilderment and bedsheets — that I’m still me. And sex, such as it is, is a cheeky little speck in the sandbar of self.