She sat beside me in calculus class, and she wasn’t that pretty or anything, but something about her (that no writer in the history of the world has ever been able to articulate except for maybe Duke Miller) inspired my wet palmed, bathroom stall fantasies. Eventually, she picked up on it, because during class, on the day of my eighteenth birthday, she passed me a folded piece of paper that contained a sketch of two people engaged in an atypical act of sexual congress. Reverse cowgirl I think it was. And just below the sketch, in an elegant cursive, it said I’m ovulating, so you’ll need a condom. I could feel her eyes on me as my flatteredness putrefied into paranoia, because I had never before been the object of a girl’s desire. There were guys who stared at me a little too long in locker rooms, and then there was that time my cousin took his penis out and asked me to suck it, but I had never been propositioned by a girl, so, naturally, I wondered if it was some kind of a set-up. Maybe she was the first female serial killer and she was laying her trap. Maybe she wanted to get naked polaroids of me and use them to extort money from my parents. But, despite these misgivings, my penis had grabbed the helm, and it ordered me to write the word when on the paper and pass it back to her.
After class, she found me in the corridor and asked me if I had condoms, so I told her I had an entire carton in my locker, because I went through them like some men go through ammunition, and for the record, I have no idea where that came from, but I’m guessing it was my cloistered version of what I thought a promiscuous young woman might want to hear. Fortunately, she laughed, and then she leaned into my ear and whispered that she had been having dreams of her death for the past six months, and that she had made a bucket list in case the dreams were prophetic, and as it turned out, I was number ten on her list, which made me wonder if numbers one through nine contained the names of other boys, as she pulled back from my ear and stood there blinking at me, and in between blinks I saw something in her eyes that will always stay with me—I saw an old person inside of her young person’s body, and it made me think she was ready to die.
I didn’t have any condoms, and I didn’t have any money to buy them with, so I gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her to meet me by the bleachers at lunchtime, and then I turned and marched directly over to the drug store across from the school, where I took matters quite literally into my own hands, got arrested, and spent the remainder of the school day and part of the evening dealing with the cops and my parents and the unforgiveable sin of having committed theft under five thousand dollars.
For the next two days her seat in calculus class stayed empty, and then on the third day an announcement came over the PA system. Apparently, she was crossing the train tracks near her house while listening to music on her new Walkman. I hope she was listening to her favourite song.
Sometimes I think she’s my first love.