Love & Sex

My First Time: Male, 17, Bronx, NY

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Male • 17 • Bronx, NY

We were poorly socialized geeks from two different outer boroughs, going to a well-known magnet school in Manhattan. In seventh grade we were in a group that played handball at the bottom of the stairwell at lunch, she bigger and stronger than me; in ninth we were both part of a poker game that spanned several tables at lunch for some months, until some kid lost a couple hundred dollars — a fortune — the principal found out, and cards were banned. We didn't see much of each other in tenth and eleventh, but early senior year we were part of a large group that was bowling at Madison Square Garden — does anyone remember there was once a huge bowling alley there, on the way up into the arena? — when I finally asked if she wanted to go out. She smiled and asked what took me so long.

Any few inches of grass was enough to make out.

Logistics were tough — not because of unreasonable parental restrictions, but because she was from the Bronx, I was from Queens, and all we had was Manhattan. In practical terms, "dating" meant hanging out in Central Park after school and one weekend day, going home after dinner. Any few inches of grass were private enough to make out. There was also some groping in movie theaters, more satisfactory for me than for her, given how easy it is to get a teenage boy off.

We didn't have very high standards of privacy, but even so, there was simply no time and place where we could meet up without being completely conspicuous about what we were doing. Unless we cut school. Which for us, who had never been the types, was a big deal. It took weeks of discussion (which makes absolutely no sense, since no authority figure had tracked our daytime movements for years). Finally, we chose the day.

Trying not to be seen by people we knew, we met up at school time one subway station north of the one where we'd have gotten off if we were going to school. We chose her place in the Bronx because it was way easier to get to than mine in Queens, but, it being 8 a.m. on an unprecedentedly free day, we didn't want to rush, so we followed our familiar path and wandered Central Park for an hour, maybe two, holding hands, jumping from walls, not really talking, just being together. Then we got back in the subway and went north.

Though I'd met her mother, a divorced schoolteacher, I had never actually seen where they lived. It was a cramped two-bedroom apartment housing two teenagers and their mom. There was a reason neither of us hung out at home when we could avoid it. As I try to remember what the apartment looked like, the setting has no romance to me — stepping through mess and clutter, we concentrated on each other and blocked out the world. Once we were finally there, it took at most fifteen seconds to get naked and on her bed.

The event itself was probably about par for the course for first timers: sloppy, kind of uncomfortable, the sex quite short though we continued to lie together for a long time after. I can't imagine that she got much out of it, though she didn't complain and did make an attempt to repeat the procedure with me whenever it was workable over the rest of the year. We had a fun relationship lasting through senior year, including a pre-college summer of concerts, movies, and (of course) Central Park, and there was plenty of manual and oral, but I doubt we managed intercourse a dozen times all year. We never came up with a locations and times where we could just work at it and get it right. Then she went to college in Boston, I went to D.C., and within months we'd managed the trick much better with other people. We stayed friends for a couple of years and I will always feel warmly toward her, but we haven't been in touch now for more than two decades. I always think, "When I'm next in Boston, I'll look her up." But I'm never in Boston.

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