Male, 21, Orlando, FL
In my sixth-grade sex-ed class, Ms. Gonzalez didn't put a condom over a banana. Instead, she lifted an un-lit match to the whole class and told us that millions of sperm could fit on the red end. She lit the match. Sulfur permeated the room.
When I got home from school I snooped around my parents' bedroom, and found a box shoved in the back of the bottom drawer of the side table on my dad's side of the bed. Trojan condoms. I put one in my pocket, closed the lid, and shut the drawer.
In my bathroom, I opened the wrapper. Slick goop leaked onto my fingers; a smell, like doctor's gloves.
I couldn't get an erection for the condom. I was thinking about my parents having sex. I had never stumbled in on them — not that I wanted to, but I'd heard stories from friends about walking in and staring at flesh on flesh. One night that I'd felt feverish, I'd tried my parents' doorknob. It was locked. I'd hurried back to bed with a cold sweat and shivers.
I unrolled the condom. It was like a wet, limp balloon. I hated the flapping sound it made. I rolled it up in toilet paper and put it in the trash in the bathroom. But my brother Joe could find it. So, I tied the trash bag and took it to the trash bin in the kitchen. I stuffed it at the bottom. Then I thought, what if Mom or Dad saw the bag in a bag and opened it and found one of their condoms? I double-knotted the trash bag, took it to the garage, and let the trash can eat it like a Russian nesting doll.
Years later, during my senior year of college, my girlfriend Kisha pulled out a condom. I remembered the smell of the lit match in sex ed. I knew it was either condom or no sex. I opened the condom. I didn't wilt. I still remembered the directions from that first condom wrapper. I pinched the tip and rolled it onto myself, snug; Kisha lowered herself onto me.
"How is it?" I asked, beneath her.
"Good," she said, with half-closed eyes. She started to rock back and forth on me.
"I don't like it," I said.
Kisha pushed off me as I reached out for her hips to hold on. She rolled over onto her side.
"I try to find a way for us to do it safely, and then you say that," Kisha said, her voice muffled into her pillow.
I looked at her butt. I wanted to take Kisha from behind. Imagine who she could be. Not have to look at her telling me no.
"Come on," I said. "I was kidding."
"You're joking about something serious?" Kisha said. "I'll have to get on the pill, and get fat," she cried against the wall.
I rolled my eyes, only because she couldn't see me do it.
"No, no," I said. "Look, we can try again. I don't know what I'm talking about."
A few minutes later, we had sex. Above Kisha, level with my eyes, was an Obama HOPE poster by Shepard Fairey. The President was painted in red and blue. He titled his chin off to the corner, but his eyes squinted at me, a look of approval. I thought of his campaign slogan: Yes, we can!