Flat Tire



The first time I had sex, I was wasted. I don’t remember much of it. I don’t feel weird about that, and maybe I should, but it’s certainly not the weirdest or the worst sexual experience I’ve had in my life so maybe that’s why I don’t remember. I can see little flashes of images. Bits and pieces of the conversations surrounding it (and there were many) but when it comes to the actual moment, I have no recollection. I lost my virginity to a man named *Adam and I think the distinction that he was a man is really important because I was a girl. Freshly 18 and in New York City and very much aware of the weight of my age. My relationship with Adam had been forbidden for that very reason. But now that I was legal it was all above board, like the tick from 17 to 18 could really carry that much significance. But legally it did, so morality followed.

I had moved to New York to attend a college I would soon drop out of - beating the deposit of my first semester check - but I had been in love with Adam long before then. 6 months earlier he had taken the steep and visually dull drive down from the city to Virginia to sleep on my living room couch for a weekend. There, late into the night we ate sesame sticks from Trader Joes and drank Knob Creek bourbon and he put his hands down the back of my new black Adidas track pants I had just bought from the boys section at Walmart. This long awaited visit had come off the back end of nearly a year of late night phone calls and text messages. Vague Facebook status’s, clearly about me, followed by Tumblr poetry with hashtags like #romeoandjuliet #forbidden #lover and #lanadelrey

One night during this weekend visit, my mother walked in to find his arm around my shoulder and that was the end of it. He was sent back to New York and I was sent up to my room to finish the book report I had put off all weekend. We were forbidden to speak to each other from that point on which made it all the more painful and vital to do so.

6 months later my mother rode away in a cab from my dorm room (a box on the 13th floor of a building in the financial district of Manhattan) and I called Adam and in 15 minutes he was there. Stoned, wearing a wife beater that had yellow stains around the armpits and tight white jeans. He was sweaty and drunk and his hair was long and stringy and the way it fell around his face made him look like Jesus. He had cold long fingers that found my waist almost immediately and I loved him just as quickly. We ended up walking to the East Village and he kissed me against the fence in Tompkins Square Park and 3 weeks later I had dropped out of my very expensive college and moved into his Harlem apartment.

I was a virgin when I moved to New York and you could smell it on my skin. I was naive and trusting and childlike and living with a man 7 years older who loved me for those exact reasons. He called Manhattan the ‘Candy Shop’ and told me stories late into the night about the girls before me. His high school sweetheart who he lost his virginity to on the living room carpet of her mothers house. His college girlfriend who didn’t shave her armpits and broke his heart and left him to drink himself to oblivion for a whole summer. His long distance lover who used to search his bedsheets for strands of other women’s hair. She was crazy, he said. He had been cheating on her, but nevertheless, she was crazy. And finally, the girl right before me, who was cruel, unattainably sexy and viscous.

I stared at him while he talked and I’d sweat on his stretchy red sheets and listen to everything he had ever done and feel so lucky to be the one who had made it to him at the end. Everything was forcing us apart and I had made it right under the wire. So when I decided I wanted to lose my virginity, I wanted it to be with Adam.

I know the phrase ‘virginity’ is painfully outdated and archaic. There really isn’t even a definition for virginity outside of heterosexual relationships. If it’s the breaking of the hymen, I did that when I was 9 riding a horse. If its vaginal penetration by a penis then are all gay women virgins? And gay men for that matter? Regardless, I called this moment in time ‘the loss of my virginity’ because it was the first time I had “sex”. The sex I had seen in the movies and the sex I had read about on late night Tumblr scrolls. I was raised religious and once I had unpacked all of my internalized shame and guilt I still very much wanted the first person I slept with to be important to me, and Adam was the most important to me in every single way.

When I had sex for the first time I was pretending to be brave. Brave in the way you are when you smoke your first cigarette. Painfully aware of how stupid you look while you fumble with the stem and burn your thumb with the lighter. I don’t remember what having sex for the first time was like because I was drunk and suffering from the inevitable disease young women suffer from where they pretend they are ready for things they are not. But we did sleep together that night and then for 4 years afterwards and then I ended things in a rather anticlimactic way on the back porch of my previously mentioned mothers brand new house.

In between there was much. The 3 states we lived in and the car we bought together from his archeologist uncle. The vacation we took to Florida right before my father left or the trip to Amsterdam where we watched one of his closest friends get married. The mushrooms we did on Halloween or the cocaine he gave me to try in a pool hall bathroom in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The time I realized something was really wrong with us and the corresponding years I ignored it. The guitar he bought me for Christmas that I still play or the fact that if he had asked me to marry him in the first year of our relationship I would have said yes and I would have been divorced at 22. But he didn’t ask me to marry him and I ended things with him on the back porch of my mothers new house.

3 weeks later he took me to dinner at a restaurant I had only been to once when I was 14. Under the guise of 'closure', he sat across the table from me and cried. And it was very sad in the way a death of a secondary character in a movie is sad. You quickly forget about it and move on with the story.

I don’t talk to him anymore and I don’t think I ever will, but I think about him often. Especially now that I am the age he was when he first started talking to me. The age of 24 seems impossibly old to do so. Late at night on Facebook messenger, my iPod touch making my face glow white in the dark.

I find myself grieving for a time I never got to have. Time spent pretending to be older than I was and not fooling anyone. Fighting often and crying often and not understanding what was wrong with me, when all that was wrong with me was where I was not who I was. Like I had been plucked from my old life and set down in a new one and told Adam would tell me all the rules. But I never got them right and I always lost because it was a game I wasn’t supposed to be playing yet.

When I look at 16 year old girls on the subway or out with their friends at restaurants being loud and joyful in a way that only fades as you age, I feel a crushing responsibility for all of them. I want to shake them and say ‘Put your phone away. You’re not special. You’re not mature for your age. Don’t listen to him.’ But I can’t, so I don’t. Instead I look back down at my book and wish his tire had gone flat on his dull drive down from New York.