photocredit Thomas V. Hartmann

Let’s look over your writerly bio. It says here you’ve written two books on your love of the rock band Queen (God Save My Queen I and II), a book of poems (The History of My World Tonight), something called “humorous nonfiction” (How to Be Inappropriate), and edited a book of sestinas (The Incredible Sestinas Anthology). What’s this book called?

It’s called Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects.

 

That’s a pretty long-ass title.

You can call it Shader for short.

“Chris Turner,” Candace admitted. “He was the most popular dude in school. He was a jock. All the girls wanted him. So, one night I got drunk and let him have it.”

“Just because he was popular?” Jennifer asked.

“Yeah. Of course. Why not? I fucked guys with a lot less than popularity and looks!”

“Oh, god.”

We went back to our food and our drinks. Images of Mandy’s naked body flashed before me.

“My first time was the worst,” Jennifer said, taking a sip of her martini. “All that romantic business went out the door as soon as it went in. God, I can still smell his cologne to this day. It was that peppery musky crap. How did we get on this topic anyhow?”

“The song,” I said. “The stroke me tune. I heard it on my way down here.”

The song I was referring to was Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”—a rocking tune that’s loaded with sexual imagery. It also served as the background music when I lost my virginity.

Stroke me, stroke me/Could be a winner boy you move quite well

Over the years I’ve found that stories of people losing their virginity came in two varieties. The difference usually depends on gender. For women it was usually a so-so encounter and for men—even if it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be (like in my case)—there was a sense of achievement. Or, at the very least, knowing that you finally did it.

“I crossed over,” a friend told me after he fell into bed with some stranger after a night full of wine coolers and cheap Mexican weed.

I’ve also heard stories of skies breaking, the sun shining sweet sex light on what was up until then an ugly dull life of household chores, high school, and sharing a bedroom with a sister that not only talked too much but farted like a man.

“I hated my life until I got laid,” one of my girlfriends told me. “I hated my parents and my sister. Especially, my sister. She couldn’t keep her mouth shut. And that bitch had rot ass! And she was totally popular, too. The cheerleader. You know that bitch I’m talking about? That bitch. If only people knew how much of a stinky twat she was. I hated her. I still do. Then I got laid! All of a sudden they were of no concern to me. My folks were suddenly invisible. When Kim talked all I saw was her stupid mouth moving. I did my chores in a daze. School was a breeze. My grades even improved. On the weekends me and Danny would hop in his dad’s car and screw. It was cool. He’s dead now. Hunting accident.”

My first time was with a girl named Mandy.

Mandy Quick.

We were in 7th grade.

I told Candace and Jennifer that it happened like a business transaction. It all happened after I accidentally bumped into Mandy at school. We looked at each other, liked what we saw, and made plans to meet at the park. At the time Dolphin shorts were popular. All the girls in the desert were squeezing their bodies into them. I remember looking at the way they hugged Mandy’s girl bits. Tight. Snug. A small mound slowly dipping down.

It was a wonderful sight.

I wanted her.

I wanted in.

But Mandy wasn’t a virgin. She lost her virginity two weeks before to some dude in high school. She was hooked and wanted some more. I was to provide her more. After a few sloppy kisses where she darted her komodo-dragon-like tongue into my mouth we decided to walk to her friend’s house for beer, pot, and a bed. I walked into a roomful of stoners. They were all high school kids wearing black rock band T-shirts. I took a couple of hits from a bong and cracked open a beer. Billy Squier was blasting through the speakers. The pot and beer hit me immediately. I was spinning like a top.

“Let’s go to the room, Reno,” she said.

I followed her down the hall, my stomach fluttering with the knowledge that I was going to get laid.

Put your left foot out, keep it all in place/Work your way right into my face/First you try to bed me you make my backbone slide

We made out some more and then Mandy pulled off her shorts revealing a full-grown pitch-black bush. This posed a small problem. See, by nature I’m not a hairy man. Just not in the follicle cards I guess. I can’t grow a full beard or a thick Pancho Villa moustache and have seen women that have hairier arms than me. So you could imagine how hairless I was in 7th grade. No need for man-scaping here. I don’t even understand that whole dude shaving shit and don’t care to.

So there’s Mandy with her giant muff and there I am with a dash of hair resembling some balding heads I’ve seen through the years. But I wanted to get laid so I mounted her and started moving my hips the way I figured it worked. The problem was that I didn’t know what it was to orgasm. It hadn’t happened by that time. No wet dreams yet. And I didn’t jack off like my friends did. Or like my cousin Johnnie who claimed to beat his dick on a daily basis.

“It’s great, Reno,” he told me once, his ugly scarred face smiling from ear to ear. “You need to try it.”

His face didn’t make it appetizing. Not at all. I don’t know why I didn’t jack off. I think it was because of Jesus. In those years I was still a Christian and was told that dude was always watching my every move and I didn’t want him to see me turning Japanese. I didn’t want to take the chance. It wouldn’t have looked good on my resume.

So I ended up banging poor Mandy for what seemed like three tragic hours. While I pumped away she provided me with a hickey the size of a Red Delicious apple. After we were done I went into the bathroom. That’s when I saw the hickey. My stomach dropped. It was sex-maroon and looked like someone slammed an end of a baseball bat in my neck. It was bad. I was fucked. Literally.

I walked home and went straight to the bathroom and covered the hickey with some of my little sister’s Flintstones Band-Aids. It was a bust. It was over. My mom called me into the kitchen.

“What’s on your neck? She asked, giving me the look that said: You pulled some shit and we’re going to get to the bottom of it now.

“Nothing.”

“Okay, well, you’re lying,” she said looking at the stain on my neck. “So we’ll make this easy. If you ever show up with that bullshit on your neck ever again you’re going to hate your life. I’ll make sure of that. You’re lucky your father is out of town. So go to your room and stay there. And whoever this dirty vampire is you tell her to suck on someone else’s damn neck. Understand? Do you? Good. Bye.”

“That story is hilarious,” Candace said laughing. “A giant 80’s muff! A Red Delicious apple!”

“When was the next time you got some?” Jennifer asked.

“Around two months later. My next door neighbor. Classic butterface. A face maybe a mother could love. Maybe. But her body was built for speed.”

“So you didn’t learn your lesson!”

“No, I did. I just told what’s-her-face no hickeys. I came that time. After that I had it bad.”

Don’t you take no chances, keep your eye on top/Do your fancy dances you can’t stop you just stroke me, stroke me