I lost my virginity on September 11, 2001. They pulled us out of class to gather around the television set in another room. I remember looking around stunned with the vague worry in my mind of relatives in NYC. One of the teachers was offering refreshments and I remember thinking that it was all too strange.The vacant stares. The tears. The repeated motion. Hand to mouth. Hand to mouth.
I didn’t think the world was ending. Though, that’s the quip I throw around when someone asks now. Upstairs on a broken futon with an older guy who made fun of my name and kept flunking out of school. Who might have said he would wait until I was ready. I had told him, before, that I wanted to be at least 16. My birthday had been almost two weeks before. He was tired of waiting. I remember him on top of me. Kisses hard and distracted. Working at my jeans. He hovered for a moment before entering and looked me straight in the eyes. Unprotected. Daring me to stop him. I didn’t. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t move a muscle. I laid there frozen with fear until the pain and the shame and the fear jolted me to action. I began to cry.
He stopped. I raged at him. He left. I told my Mom. She called him and raged, too. My best friend collected me and we got ice cream. I don’t remember the flavor.
We didn’t break up. I floated in that relationship long enough to collect a diamond ring and compile a list a mile long of reasons not to stay. I tried to fix him. To help him. To set him on a path leading away from drugs and violence and trailer parks. I think, partly, that I stayed too long to try and justify it. My mind glosses over the details now. Gaussian blur. I try not to look too close. The girl with long fingers and sad eyes under a slanted ceiling. Losing her innocence.
A year later I took someone’s virginity, too. When I thought that’s what he had wanted until we lay there afterward in his crowded twin-size bed with a gulf between us deep enough to swallow the rest of the memory. Swallow us whole.
“So, that’s it then?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s it.”
The difference was when the tears leaked out of me the second time he reached out for my face. Drew me toward him. Wrapped me up in his arms. Told me he loved me and made it a first for both of us.
I’m not sure if that’s how it really went. Maybe it was. I hope that it was.
He played Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” every time I broke up with him. He used to drive down the wrong side of the road late at night until I noticed and screamed at him, laughing. He would write me love notes each morning that I slept over and leave them to be discovered on the pillow by my head. He is grown up, now. He just bought a house with the girl he dated after me. I used to think that there was more. So much more. That the best was yet to come. But, he is still the point to which everyone else is measured and I have never stopped loving him.
So, there’s that.
Johnny Cash – Hurt