[Content Warning: sexual violence]
I can’t name the man who took my virginity, but I remember that he mentioned liking Stumptown Coffee.
Of the thirty-two men I’ve slept with, I recall the first names of twelve off the top of my head. From my Notes app, I can retrieve some last names and a smattering of superficial details: Tribeca investment banker, Tinder/Brooklyn College film student, Northeastern Uni guy visiting Zeta Psi townhouse, Probably gay, The virgin.
Entry number five says, “Bar None (23 year old from Queens).”
I remember that he was very tall—hovering between 6’3 and 6’5—and implacably beautiful, with bright baby blue eyes set in a comically symmetrical face. His curls were the color of French Roast coffee beans and I remember how badly I needed to poke my fingers through their velvety tendrils. I’ve always been a sucker for a man in a button-up—even his, a slimy rayon-polyester blend, cellophane wrapped to his chest. Were his top few buttons undone or was that one of the others?
According to my Notes app, we met at Bar None on Third Avenue, but a sticky dance floor on the Lower East Side features prominently in the scene in my head. I don’t remember what he drank or what else he was on. I was likely on my usual party regimen: a muscle relaxer chased by five vodka-diet-cranberries.
Somehow we got back to my dorm in Union Square. I don’t remember signing him in with the security guard, but I know I must have. He would have handed over his ID and printed his name, number, and time of arrival. Then, while I swiped through the student turnstile, the guard would have waved him through the plexiglass visitors’ gate. Standard protocol in every freshman residence hall. But I don’t remember any of that.
I remember us tripping over each other along the labyrinth from the elevator to my room. I remember leading him into the dark suite and the gentle hiccups of my roommate’s snores from the bedroom. I remember apologizing that we had to remain in the kitchen-cum-living-area and whisper.
“It’s okay,” he said softly. “I don’t mind.”
Then, catching the sweetness in his voice—we both heard it—he spat out, “Don’t apologize,” like sour lemon seeds.
I remember us starting on the couch. My neck crunching into the springs, shoulders cramming into the threadbare backrest. When I reached for his curls, he dragged my fingers away with his teeth, sucking them down his throat.
Then we were in the kitchen, my ass propped on the cold counter, rocking back and forth over the nub of my tailbone. He rammed my skull into the pantry. I dug my fingernails into my thigh, remembering a nurse’s advice to five-year-old me: pinch yourself to distract from the prick of the needle.
By the time we reached the bathroom, his curls had melted into stringy ropes and I realized his eyes were actually a cloudy grey. My back slipped across the moldy tile as he forced his way inside me. The bathroom stunk of vomit (my roommate was bulimic). I remember trying to remember when I had last cleaned in there.
I remember how he marveled when he finished, “Wow, we did every position.”
Did we? It had felt long, but I couldn’t parse the sequences, didn’t know what counted and what didn’t.
Once he left, I noticed the throbbing between my legs. I inspected the pain and barely recognized what I saw.
For three days, I winced with every step. In class, I sat on my hands so that the swelling wouldn’t touch the chair.
I asked my best friend, a Pre-Med, to take a look and be honest with me.
I slipped off my skirt and lay gingerly on my bed, fingers crossed underneath my sweater hoping to hear, “Oh, it’s just [insert common affliction].”
“What the fuck did he do to you?” is what she said.
“It didn’t hurt,” I promised both of us. “I swear.”
I remembered how much it hurt my knees, neck, back, and thighs, but not where she was looking. I didn’t remember how he could barely peel me open near the end, but he kept trying until I bled. Pinching yourself works.
The pain outlasted the bruises. My body remembers.
Frances Thomas is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, she moved to the United States in 2014 to study communications and creative writing at New York University. Her writing confronts the intersection of intimacy, memory, and shame; in doing so, she seeks to build safe spaces for hard conversations.