tales of a girl in the city

janvier 09, 2004

For Leticia M.:

I lost my virginity in eighth grade on a field trip to Milwaukee's Museum of Natural History.

We had come there, I think, to give my teachers a day off from talking about science fair projects and _Tess of the D'Urbervilles_. I had come there with only one intention: to be near Andrew Morter, who I loved at the time with all of the focused concentration it took to love someone who barely spoke to you.

It happened in the rainforest exhibit, which is this huge room covered in green, mossy folds. I remember shadows of plants everywhere, climbing the ceiling and thick on the walls. Enormous flowers with petals that seemed to be not colored, but bleeding. I was, what? Twelve? And I had never been around the sound of so much moisture. Even the iridescent beetles seemed erotic, pinned down as they were by the recorded rain trickling overhead.

I gave myself to him on the second level of the exhibit, in full view of both the Jennifer's, the museum docent and my Social Studies teacher, Mr. Doman.

Andrew was standing next to me near a cliffside that was lit from above. The lamp, which was hidden by branches, was aimed and focused on six or seven stuffed Macaws. I could feel the recorded noises that they made pulse down from the ceiling--rhythmic calls, counting each new moment of flightless rest. And because I was twelve and rainbows still had meaning, I was captured by the colors that fell everywhere--from the lamp, from the birds' wings, from the strange, recorded freedom in their sounds. I felt surrounded. I felt seared by rainbows and the closeness of Andy's breath.

I stood there for minute after minute, transfixed by those six dead birds and the thirteen year-old boy body standing next to me. I wanted--I didn't know what. I wanted to point to those birds. I feel that way, I wanted to explain. Just that way. How they cry out. How their mouths never move.

Gripping Andrew's hand, I pulled him forward and over the railing. We scrambled onto the cliff. My fingers slipped as I unbuttoned his shirt and frantically grabbed for his face. I didn't know how to kiss him. His hands felt sweaty inside my jeans. Our teeth clicked. Needles pushed through the black backs of beetles. The sounds of recorded rain rushed overhead like saliva.

It really didn't happen that way.

A guy named Gustavo took my virginity in a dorm room five years later. It was surprising and fast and we listened to Beethoven.

But, the trip to the museum really happened. Though, in real life I don't think Andrew even went up to the second level. I may have just brushed past him later by the cases of dead bugs, or stared at the back of his head on the bus willing him--tightly, silently--to see me. I certainly never talked to him that day. And if I had, it would've just been to mumble something about the rainforest exhibit. Birds there. I don't know, parrots or something.

And the birds are true. Also, something was caught that day, pinned down for a moment just before it changed or flew. All the rest of it really didn't happen.

But it should have.