sour cherries (2000)

I had lost it long before I knew there was something to be lost or given, and if there were some flap of skin I might have raised as a flag, it had been left long ago in someone's hand, or perhaps on the top of a bicycle seat, carelessly. My mark was as scarlet as any, yet had no color to it, and could not be wrapped in a single word.

No fireworks had pierced the air, and no drumbeats rumbled when I lost my virginity-that-wasn't at 15. I had wanted my fingers to leave bloody prints on the handle of this door I passed through -- a little regret, a little agony, a little heartbreak: a little something, anything. I wanted it to hurt, and I was afraid that it would while I knew that it wouldn't. I wanted a rite of passage that I was aware enough to note and tally, and what I got -- in only a glimpse of the fear in pale blue eyes that hearkened to another pair forgotten -- only served to tell me what I was seeking was long gone. I had the sex that wasn't, and none the heart, nor the word, to say to anyone that in a moment that was supposed to unionize myself and my partner, I had remembered my union and passage with another I'd overlooked.

I am asked often how I define sex, a topic that seems childishly simple for a woman whose occupation demands the discussion of it in every waking hour, yet still I stumble, stammer; I get lost in my head and in the element for which one word is not enough.

Blood oranges in August, sweat-laden fingers in my mouth, to rub hips with a girl with fire on the bottoms of my feet. Curry and sandalwood infused in rustled, rumpled bedsheets, damp from the cliffs of south England; I wanting more from less. My hands kneading my opening and how he pulls my hair; clothes wet from a rainstorm, and the scent of grass, the taste of cream, the warmth of water, andthe feel, the salt, the ache of me or him or we or her.

Was "sex" that first time I half-crouched at fifteen, back up against a wall with that young boy flustered before me? It took only a few moments to finish an act I'd already played out in childhood without recognizing, without any reverent reflection, and the only difference was that I knew what I was doing. It wasn't what I anticipated; it was all comedy and no drama. It was less of a milestone than the first kiss on my lips, the first hand on my breasts. It served as little than a sudden reminder of the real and forgotten milestone; the first time I felt the yes inside I'd not dare say aloud, as my thighs trembled in the silence that followed, reverent and terrified.

At ten, I'd found myself sprawled over my closest childhood friend, over the map of her pale skin, tangled in her transparent hair. In a mockery of sex we'd kissed and ground our hips hard together, laughing at the slapstick of adult interplay. We'd fumbled our hands over budding breasts, and broken a sweat before we knew what we were doing. It was too far gone to turn back, once we knew it was no longer play, and there was an element of fear in her pale blue eyes before she pressed them closed. With thighs made sodden, we were as shocked when we both climaxed as a child is upon first touching fire, and a long, heavy hush spread between us and stayed there, always. We'd never done it again, and it was never discussed; her secret shame, my secret rush.

Years later she would argue with me, insisting women couldn't come, and I'd fought not to remember the smell of her juices on my fingers, not to scream through the self-imposed silence, "You know you did once!" I relived our moment many times later, eyes wide open with girls and boys, men and women like her and unlike her. Each time had it's own detail, it's own mark: how he pulled my hair, or the smell of grass on her, yet not once was it similar. My moment of metamorphosis -- never made mention in grainy sex ed movies or motherly speeches -- had come and gone with no blare of trumpets.

At 30, I've been through periods of lovers changing more often than I change my socks, and stretches of solitude where my fingers were my faithful partner, through male and female and in-between, in every shade of brown, pink and yellow, in singles or in pairs or droves, yet it all comes back to blood oranges in August, fire on the bottoms of my feet, and translucent hair.

Sex is not what sex does: on it's own it ceases to exist, like a vapor in a vacuum. Penetration is penetration, and it could be skin or stone, and it'd be no great matter. If you cut your hand on metal or on glass, it aches and bleeds the same, regardless of the instrument, and it is the wound that you notice, not the impaler. Yet should the glass be from a window you've looked out upon, to see rain fall on new buds, or were the metal forged on willow kept white for an eon. It is curry and sandalwood, the cliffs of south England, transparent hair and a long hush.

I didn't lose my virginity in a matter of minutes at fifteen, nor without consent at five or twelve, and I did not lose it to a man, far less to a flagpole of flesh. There were no stained linens to wave, no blush to hide, no flag of skin to fly. It had dribbled down my thigh years before, and announced itself in silence, but left me forever changed, and prone to a secret louder than fireworks and larger than words.

Blood oranges in August, sweat-laden fingers in my mouth, to rub hips with a girl with fire on the bottoms of my feet. Curry and sandalwood infused in rustled, rumpled bedsheets, damp from the cliffs of south England; I wanting more from less. My hands kneading my opening and how he pulls my hair; clothes wet from a rainstorm, and the scent of grass, the taste of cream, the warmth of water, andthe feel, the salt, the ache of me or him or we or her.

 

© 2000, 2004 Heather Corinna. All rights reserved.