The next article you are about to read is difficult. To write. To live. To relive. For you to digest. If you love me and can’t handle the truthfulness of what I’m about to retell, please, don’t read. You won’t hurt my feelings. This will be the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to relay. It’s taken me years to publish. It was the most significant obstacle in trying to publish the second volume of my memoir. Which I never did. And probably won’t. I could never finish this story.
Ice Cream Man
I am lying face down on dirty carpet. By choice. The ice cream van is swaying as we bump our way to some distant location. I can’t see out. I have been asked to hide myself on the floor of the van so the driver won’t be fired for having a passenger. Or that’s the excuse he gives. He may just be embarrassed to be seen with, specifically, me.
The driver is a boy that I just met two days ago. His name is Mike.
Mike is 18. He’s shorter than I am. He’s attractive. But not irresistible. Except for his pursuit of me. That is irresistible.
I am 16. Tall. Awkward. Overweight. Desperate for attention, excitement and love. And sex.
I grew up under the threat of nuclear war, the freedom of promiscuous sex and the towering height of materialism. A strange cocktail of risk and greed. Priming the pump of my stupidity.
I meet Mike at the mall. I’m talking to my best friend while she’s working in an ice cream shop. He’s passing through and spots my friend. They are acquaintances. He knows the boy she’s seeing. They greet one another and soon, Mike’s attention is squarely on me.
Mike chats me up. Even with my very limited experience with boys, I can tell he’s flirting with me. I’d been flirted with, at least. But this boy is hitting hard.
Within hours of meeting Mike, he is kissing my hand, walking me to my car, talking to me, kissing my lips and asking me for my phone number. This shimmering summer mirage of fantasy and thrill is what I have always dreamed. No boy has ever behaved this way. I’d never been kissed. I tell him so. I don’t know that he believes me.
He calls me the next day. He is interested in me. He wants to see me again. He wants to be with me. We talk for a while and he steers the conversation towards sex. With a few deft and experienced moves, Mike makes plans to see me again and makes it clear, we will have sex.
I agree because I am 16 and eager to find out what sex is. I am so lonely and desperate, I allow myself to believe that this is romance. I mistakenly equate sex with love. Something I will do, over and over, until I don’t.
I tell Mike that he was my first kiss. “No, really.” That he will be my first sexual partner. That I’m a virgin.
He is surprised. He believes me and I think he understands the implication of that statement. That we will be married. Some day. I should have said that out loud.
Only to hear for myself how stupid it sounded.
I have no concept of boys thinking differently or having different expectations. Again, I am 16. I am naïve, ridiculous, impetuous, hormonal, inexperienced and mentally ill. My frontal lobe is underdeveloped, as are all teens. I am an irrational lump of glands and pumping blood.
I really think that this is it. This is how it happens. I meet someone, I am swept off my feet and I am happy. The end.
Oh, my dear young Martha. This is nowhere near the end. This is only the bottom of a very full trash can of thrown-away romances/flings/pieces of your heart. And you put them there.
My inexperience and naïveté lead to stupid choices. Horribly misguided conclusions. Risky behavior. Terrible consequences.
The van comes to a stop. I sit up. From where I sit, I can only see the tops of trees. I assume we are in a remote park, miles from where I left my car. I somehow trust Mike.
He gives me no reason to trust him. I don’t know him, but somehow his charm has nudged the longings of my heart and my body. No one asked my brain.
He’s friends with my friend. Or friends with my friend’s friend. I have his phone number. He called me. He kissed me. He is pursuing me. He is attracted to me. There is no doubt that this will, at the very least, be my first boyfriend.
I thought my heart was more than ready to take this leap. Many of my friends were already engaging in or talking about engaging in sex.
What’s the big deal?
We complete an awkward demonstration of how not to lose your virginity. I will spare you the lousy details. And when we are done, I am sorely disappointed and confused.
Is that it? What IS the big deal?
It is hot out. So I get dressed and leave the van. We are smack dab in the middle of a garbage dump. That is not a joke. I have literally thrown myself away.
I get back in the van, cry my eyes out and ask to be taken back to my car. Mike consoles me. Tells me there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Comforts me. Compliments me. Finally takes me back to my car.
I never talk to or see him again. I try to call him, but I can’t reach him. I only tried once.
I still bare the shame and humiliation.
Life is full of memories that bring happiness and a smile. Pictures that flash. And just at their flashing, warm feelings and chemicals surge through your body.
Negative memories have the same effect, just a different set of chemicals course. This is the most shameful memory I have. The most difficult thing I have to share. I’ve never told anyone except a few close friends and my husband.
I thought I owed it to my collection of writing to set down my shame and let it go for all time. I’m not that person any more. Thank God I didn’t die from that choice or any stupid choices to follow.
I wish I could take it back. Save myself for marriage. Save the most holy consecration of intimacy for the one man who would cherish it. I wish I could have saved that for my husband. But he loves me anyway. Thank God for that.
I got lucky.