Virginity Stories: The Sound of an Arrow by Nina Rockwell

Editor Shenyah Webb, Editor's Choice, April 10th, 2017

"Hold hands [or not]. Smoke pot. Sleep. Turn down advances."

Nina Rockwell Essay Nailed Magazine
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Virginity Stories,” a series within NAILED’s “Sex Stories” in which all kinds of people write about losing their virginity. To submit to this column, email Shenyah at shenyah@nailedmagazine.com.

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The first man I let touch me knew that I wasn’t cool. I was sick and fat and he put his hands between my legs and laughed. I’d shaved my pubic hair, the advice of a stranger at summer camp made me do what she said the boys would like. It was growing back; my skin was aggravated and itchy.

He laughed. That’s adorable. 

I didn’t have sex with him that day, I wouldn’t until after I learned how to make the right sounds and hold hips the right way, but he was the first man to touch me.

This was 2003. It was the era of AOL Instant Messenger and LiveJournal. Kids only had cell phones if they went to the rich high school. The Exploding Hearts had released an album and then died in a car accident. I listened to Tool in public, Joni Mitchell, Nirvana, and Patti Smith in private, and read magazine articles about the Forever 27 Club, hoping one day I would be cool enough to die like Janis, Jimi, and Kurt. I had tried every day to forget the phantom shadow of the hand that had been in between my legs; I wasn’t thinking about sex. Even when I met Bill all I was thinking about was what songs I was going to put on my next mix tape.

Bill. I remember he was tall. He had long hair. He had scars on his arms. If anyone asked where they came from he would roll his eyes. Use your imagination, he’d say. And he’d laugh. He laughed a lot, but I don’t remember what it sounded like. Bill was seventeen, his friends were even older, and to my thirteen-year-old self, they were at an unattainable level of cool. I went to school downtown; Bill’s school was on the east side. We would meet at the bus mall, catch the bus #16 to St. Johns and walk to his house. Occasionally we’d hold hands. My journal would eventually be filled with entries listing all possible reasons why he would pull his hand away from mine every time I reached, palm out, for contact. At Bill’s house we would smoke pot, sleep, and kiss until it was time for me to catch the bus home. He always tried to do more than kiss, but I would quietly turn him down, No, I’m just not ready. I’m sorry. The apologies were sincere, because I truly thought I was supposed to want to have sex with him, and I felt bad that I didn’t.

Nearly every day was like this. School. Bus stop. Hold hands [or not]. Smoke pot. Sleep. Turn down advances. Kiss. Go home. It went on for a couple months, and eventually he stopped asking. He started catching the bus at a different time and he would call me later, I’m sorry. I forgot. I wasn’t stupid, I saw what was going on, and I had to stop it from happening. Nothing in me had changed, I still wasn’t interested in sex, but I was less interested in losing my almost-boyfriend because I was shy. I skipped school one day and was at the bus stop when he got there.

Hi. He looked annoyed.

Hi. I tried to not look desperate. Can I come over?

We got on the bus, we didn’t hold hands, and we didn’t talk.

There was a group of Bill’s friends at his house when we got there. My stomach hurt, and they were smoking meth. The dirty felt blanket that had previously been folded up on the couch was now stapled over the window. Bill and I sat down on his bed and he kissed me, are you going to let me, now? He looked eager, but he already knew that the answer was yes. Before I said anything he reached for a condom. I whispered, can you ask them to leave? Everyone was sitting there, smoking, laughing. They were rapping along to Insane Clown Posse. Something violent, something they thought was funny. He said they wouldn’t notice. He said it would be okay.

I thought maybe he wouldn’t laugh when he put his hands on my crotch, maybe he would like that I hadn’t shaved since that first time, but there was no hand to feel the softness of my dark pubic hair. One hand was a balled up fist next to my head, the other was rolling on a condom. Before it happened I felt every head in the room turn to look. I tried pulling the blanket over us, but I couldn’t reach it. My sweatshirt was pulled up and tucked under my tits and everyone was standing up to get a better look. His dick was an arrow, sharper than any pathetic X-Acto blade I’d hesitantly cut myself with, and it tore through me. The spectators were silent, Bill and I were both silent, the only sound was the music.

Violent, but somehow funny.

Five minutes, a song and a half, but somehow my entire life.

He laughed, I’m done. And, naked, he walked his friends out.

A few minutes later I was still alone in the bed. I heard the tapping of computer keys from the other room so I got dressed and walked through the doorway. Bill took a rip from his bong and pressed the Resume button on his World of Warcraft game. He gave me a sideways glance, and handed me a bottle of Advil. I took three and watched the end of Eddie Murphey’s Delirious. Before I left I went into the bathroom and shoved a wad of toilet paper into my underwear. I knew my plan had failed. I’ll call you, he said to my back as I walked out the door. He didn’t. He never called.

Eleven years passed before I heard from him again. I had found myself in the beds of many men and women since then. I’d forgotten his laugh and the smell of his skin, but when a friend said Bill was on leave from the Army and wanted to see me, I felt that sharp arrow run through my body again.

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Sometimes, when I let men touch me, they ask how long have you been doing this? This thing we do. They mean sex, but they won’t say it. Sometimes they ask when did you lose it? They mean virginity, but it’s like a dirty word with a pause before and a pause after.

I answer depending on the person, depending on the day.

It’s been so long, I don’t remember. 

Or

It feels like longer than it should. 

But somehow I forget if it’s still cool to smoke after sex. Somehow I forget how my legs are supposed to wrap around you. Somehow I still pause, I wonder if you will laugh, and ask myself if I am good enough.

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Header image courtesy of Eloy Morales. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

writer nina rockwell nailed magazineNina Rockwell, the daughter of fate and worry, lives in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She has been published in the Portland Community College literary journal, The Pointed Circle, Penduline Press, and Nailed. Most of her writing education has come from The Literary Kitchen, Ariel Gore’s School for Wayward Writers, and from having two eyes and a heart.

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Shenyah Webb

Shenyah Webb is the Arts Editor and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. She is originally from Detroit; she studied Psychology at Michigan State University, and later finished in Industrial Design with an Art Therapy minor at The College of Creative Studies. She lives and works in Portland with her husband and son. She is a visual artist, and musician under the name Lithopedion. Her self-titled EP was released in 2013.