Coming as they do, at a point in our lives when we are ‘unformed’, free from the adult shaped shackles of ‘holding back’ or ‘being sensible’, the teenage years leave us free to throw ourselves fully at our first sexual experiences with no holds barred. Heart and all.
In response to Donnie’s story, I wrote back and told him that I will never forget the first time that someone really hurt me. Not that it matters now, but I can still recall its smell, taste and feeling. For Donnie, this bittersweet event collided with another ‘first time’ – the first time he had sex. Ouch. Like many of you, he expresses his feelings clearly. Furthermore, with hindsight, he has learnt to appreciate the past. Good or bad, all our experiences have their parts to play. This is as powerful a story as you will ever hope to hear…
‘If I pause for even a second, I won't send this to you, so I am just going to send it as I wrote it before I have a chance to change my mind:
It was ten years ago this month that I lost my virginity and the experience has left me with memories at once beautiful and bitter.
I was in college, working at a bookstore where it was my job to catalogue all their books for sale on their website. I had a key and often worked late at night and this meant that I and the girl I loved had a place where we could go and be away from the dormitories and our roommates. To say that I loved her would be a pale word for a feeling of radiant brilliance. I savored her. Every angle, every facet of her mind and her words and her eyes seemed to infuse me with an energy that I had never experienced before. When I was with her I felt that blessings were falling around me in a circle, shielding us both from a grey and chilly world.
One night, late in the dark store, after talking about Joseph Conrad novels, we kissed more and more deeply, and everything began to spin around me; all the square angles of the books and shelves blurred like a cartoon as I removed the lace from the curves of her body. It was hard to believe she was real—that anything could be so beautiful. Of course I had seen naked women before in pictures, and that had somehow infused the whole idea with a degree of unreality that now seemed to surround us.
We were laying on the floor between shelves of old books, and it all seemed like magic rather than reality; like music rather than sounds. I remember how her heat surprised me. I remember how her legs felt when they moved up around my ribs. I remember something she whispered to me—a whisper I sometimes still hear at night. I remember when I climaxed, the feeling rising up in me in a rush of heat: not like the feeling it had been when I was alone.
I remember playing with her hair afterwards, as we lay together panting and hot. And most of all I remember the feeling much later, as the sun was rising and we left the store. She was wearing my coat. And everything in the world was different. I noticed it instantly—as though the world had changed color; as though everyone had been speaking in a foreign accent and now suddenly switched to my own. I felt connected with the earth and the trees and the animals around me, and, of course, with her. It was truly a revelation.
I felt redeemed; saved somehow from an emptiness of which I had once had only a vague notion. In the ensuing weeks, as we made love more and more, I felt as though I had discovered a spiritual salvation of which religion had always seemed a bland imposter. I had never been a religious person, although I had appreciated religion's emotional aspirations. Now I was part of those aspirations.
It was only weeks later that it ended for us, under peculiarly painful circumstances. We tried briefly to salvage what had been, but it did not work. I was faithful; she was not. My heart was truly broken, as it has never been before or since. I fell into a depression and a year later decided to kill myself. I lay on my bed holding a knife and staring at it. I put it to my skin, but did nothing else. I won't go into what happened next, or describe how my desperate attempts to salvage what she and I had were rebutted with two painful betrayals. Suffice to say that I put my life together, and in the decade that has passed since I have made a successful and happy life, one of which I am deeply proud; one which makes me so glad I did not take my life as I so seriously considered then.
Six or seven years ago I saw met up with her again at a restaurant on the East Coast. She was with someone else, and after our lunch, I was able finally and at last to let her go. At home, I threw away my mementoes of her. Since then I have found a woman I love with all my heart and this summer will be our five-year anniversary.
My college girlfriend has married, and I hope she has found a life of tranquility, and that her husband fills her heart, as evidently I could not. Although the pain she caused me can never be washed away, and can never allow us to be friends, I am still intensely grateful for what she gave me, and I am able now to look back on that night and the other nights with magnanimity and fondness.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking of her and I am reminded of lines from my favorite poem, Tennyson's ‘Ulysses’: ‘I am part of all that I have met; / Yet all experience is an arch where through / Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades / For ever and for ever when I move.’
I told her then that I would always love her, and, for better or for worse, it seems to be true.'
Donnie, from the United States