I had just turned eighteen the first time I had sex. It was the beginning of the winter season, and I was away at school in the mountains. The red pine trees intoxicated my lungs daily.
I was on the precipice of womanhood. Freshman year of college had been a series of coming-into my-own’s while simultaneously shedding versions of myself that no longer fit. For the first time, I could see myself clearly, and the girl in the mirror was looking back at me. smiling, even. My time away from home would liberate me.
I met J. early on into my first semester. He was a 20 year old computer science major who spoke Malayalam and listened to Kendrick Lamar. One night, after escaping a sweaty house party with my roommate and trooping the streets alongside waves of other drunk first-years, I noticed a man standing on the balcony of a 3 story apartment complex. He was competing with the click clack of kitten heels and the switching hips of women, for the attention of his entranced friend down on the street level. As I got closer, I could make out his almond eyes, prominent nose, and vans sneakers. And though a full beard sat on his jawline, he had a childlike innocence about him, like life had kept its promises to him. My eyes lingered.
My roommate recognized the guy J. was calling to as her dealer, and so we stopped to say hello. J. was buzzed and hadn’t been fully aware of the freshman gawking at him from the curb. I imagined he was at the point of the night where his drink was starting to give him wings and so he came out on the balcony to take voyage. The bass from the rockville speakers inside, seeping through the windows, and serving as fuel. I waited to see him soar.
Back on the street, the dealer was rather friendly and pulled me in for a hug upon introduction. He welcomed me to the town and offered me a drag of his cigarette. this invitation of friendship made me brave enough to inquire about his drunk friend up above.
“Who J.? that’s my guy. yo J.! yo! come down here!”
J. floated down the stairs, the wind conspiring with his feet. I would’ve turned away to spare us the chagrin of the approach, but he was looking at me and I couldn’t look away.
His voice was like velvet and I smelled the rum on his lips when he leaned in to hear the correct swing of my name. He was terribly sweet and bashful, and had a quirky sense of humor that I understood. He told us he was looking for a fuse and revealed a hand rolled cigarette from behind his left ear. The dealer had taken his lighter earlier in the night, and he was desperate for that hot feeling on his lungs. The dealer dug inside of his front pocket and revealed a skull and bones lighter. J. turned to me, the cigarette catching fire between his lips, and assured me he was going to quit. It made me chuckle. He was sort of a misfit and it swooned my teenage heart.
After finishing half of the cigarette and telling us why hand-rolleds were actually healthier than the store bought ones, he began to inquire about the two girls he’d never seen around before. I told him we were new, a couple of freshmen cashing out on the college experience we were promised. My roommate asked if he could buy us some liquor but his 21st birthday wasn’t until another 9 months. He was friends with the clerk at the gas station though, and could muscle us some beers if we were into it. and so we gave him a few dollars and waited outside of the gulf while he retrieved the carbonated ale that
would make us fly.
Out of a brown paper bag, J. pulled out what was called a 40, and we cheered at his triumph. We took a ceremonial first swig together, and my tongue squirmed around the liquid making its way into my bloodstream. I wasn’t yet accustomed to the bitterness, but I knew these were the tastes of the new world. and if I wanted to fly, I’d be needing the lightness.
Chugging cheap beer concealed in brown paper bags under small town street lights was where J. and I’s friendship began and later bloomed at a get-together on Oak street when we disappeared from the group to watch standup on a cracked iPhone screen. It was awfully funny and clever and the kind of humor I appreciated. Praised even. I felt this closeness between us as we affirmed each other in giddy amusement. From that day on we met up solely to share art that made each other laugh. I introduced him to the likes of quality Reality TV and he introduced me to the world of Greg Daniel’s brilliance. J. quickly became my best friend and confidant, a place I could hang up my limbs, an escape from the solitude that threatened to eat me alive. in hindsight, I’m grateful my first time had been with him.
I hadn’t planned to have sex the night I did. I don’t think I was ready for what it would mean for us, but I knew J. wanted nothing more than to see the pearl at my center, and this wanting made me think it should be given. And so i let him lay me down in his 8 by 8 room that faced the moon in the nighttime and smelled of marijuana and sneaker soles. He turned the lights off and played “house of balloons” in an attempt to spellbind his lover… me. On my back, I watched him slide my jeans under and over my anatomy with valiant effort and then my underwear. I thought about telling him to stop. but I liked the
way my nakedness flushed the blood under his brown skin, and I was curious about the thing that musicians crooned over. The thing that brought men to their knees, erect and for the taking. I knew it would hurt, and I knew my body would paint itself red on the linens, proof of the unholy matrimony that laid me down. All the women I knew had prepared me for it. Tales of initial sacrifice in pursuit of felicity. And so I raised my hips high as he wedged a towel in between the space my waist would fall. I dug my fingertips into the sides of the mattress. J. lunged towards me on his hands and knees, his manhood wrapped in stretchy plastic so as not to produce anything other than waterfall trembles and a sweet
sweet cherry blossom lullaby.
His pupils were dilated and something inside of him had risen up, or surrendered. It was hard to tell with his hands on the tender parts of my thighs. I thought about the woman I was to become. I thought about what she might look like, what she might say. I thought about the man casting a shadow over me, and how I wasn’t in love with him then, but maybe it could come later. And that was okay because he cared about me and if someone could produce those feelings for me then surely it meant something.
I remember the motions. My legs being parted, his weight settling on top of me, my breath short and precarious. his hands, warm and heavy. my body, expanding. —
I should be honest here in saying that I was not ready to have sex then, and that there’s something to be said about the fact that I still went through with it anyways. It’s a thing I’ve noticed about myself, and something that could be attributed to years of conditioning as a Black woman in a patriarchal society. Where my gut, my feelings, my sense of morale is constantly questioned. Where my silence is demanded. So much so that I start to forfeit my own reality for that of another. I think that’s what happened here on that January night. Though I was only half aware of this harm I was doing under the guise of autonomy and womanhood, I wanted to do this thing for J., even if my body wasn’t quite sure yet.
J.’s room was familiar and I was happy that it was happening here; in this place that I had always felt safe in. The room where he had doubled as a subject for my film class and I’d learned what made him shy. The room he had carefully carried me to on the nights I got too drunk and couldn’t remember the way home. Even the times when we hadn’t been out together, this was the room I came back to after witnessing alchemy on a stage over a hip hop beat, because I was trying to make the high last. The room he taught me how to smoke tree in and said I was a miracle. I loved this room. That was reason enough to make offering.
I had to take great care to stay still with him inside of me, lest the pain would persist. It was sharp and suffocating, and with a mind of its own, my arms stuck out in front of me, directing his hips from going too far too soon. We stopped many times, J. not wanting to hurt me and me hurting anyways. He kept on asking if I was okay, his kisses to my shoulder and forehead trying to remind me that this was an act of love, a rite of passage.
After a while my body softened against his and welcomed him in. He let out a deep sight that made him collapse over onto me followed by four fervid thrusts upwards. And then nothing.
His eyes were closed now, and the sweat from our bodies pasted our skin together. Heavy breathing and more kisses. He peeled himself off of me and retreated to the bathroom. I remained in bed unsure of what to do next. J. appeared a few moments later with a wet towel. He gently wiped the sex off my skin and removed the soiled towel from underneath me. I watched as he tied a plastic bag over it and chucked it in the trash. He got back in bed beside me and cradled my body like a child. He mumbled something but I didn’t hear what. Some minutes later, he was asleep.
At 2am I found myself standing in front of the mirror, tracing my fingers along the slopes and dips of my form. I was looking for proof of what had just transpired. The man laying on his side a few feet away from me didn’t suffice. I waited for something. A eureka moment. A shooting star. The Creator in the fog of the windows. But nothing came.
Kyra Andrews is a Guyanese-American writer and visual artist raised in New York City and based in Los Angeles. Her work explores topics of love and the absence of it, womanhood, self actualization, and wellness. She holds a BA in filmmaking and psychology, and studied drama at Fiorello H. Laguardia High School. These various disciplines combined, serve to inform the unique perspective present in her art.