It was mid 1996 when the smell of a stranger’s sheets stimulated my senses enough to wake me from inebriated oblivion. My school friends gathered round me, some with fingers over lips, others with open jaws, a few with dipped heads, muttering, whispering, laughing.
Tim was there. But Nelly hadn’t made it to Joe’s party. She asked me, the next week at school, if I was okay. I said yes. I can’t say if that was a lie.
“Jess!” Fae called, ran to my side and shook me, her long blonde hair tickling my cheek.
I was still semi-passed out, but flashes of smashing my bottle of port in a bath tub, vomiting, muttering illogical ridiculousness, and then flirting with a guy nicknamed Buzz, reminded me how I got there. My breath quickened, my head pounded, and my stomach gurgled. I looked down at my body in this strange bed. Nausea enveloping me like damp and mould. I was stark naked and in desperate need to puke.
“Buzz. What did you do?” Tim whispered.
The disgust in his voice travelled to the forefront of my earshot. I couldn’t see him, but I heard Buzz scoff. I was so wasted that the room and my friends resembled a blurred and pixelated dreary-coloured mess.
“She wanted it,” Buzz said.
I heard a shoulder-shrug in his tone. Fae sat me up and another girl with a lisp gathered my clothes. They helped me dress. One was laughing a bit, sarcastically, saying I was an idiot for letting this happen.
I was only fifteen. Fifteen and no longer a virgin. You’ve done it now. So f*cking what? Severe nausea overpowered the looming embarrassment I was sure to feel the next week at school. Because of this day, twenty years ago at the time of writing this, I have never considered sex to be something special. Even now I struggle to give it meaning. I have to meditate. Prepare myself. Remind myself that it’s good—that it’s not just an act of human nature that happens at random for no particular reason, that it can mean … love. I know this.
But sometimes, I just don’t care. I could happily live the rest of my life without sex again. And I’m only thirty-five. This is a sad fact. But I have accepted it. Somehow, once the girls had dressed me, I ended up in the bathroom again. I threw up some more and checked, on instinct, if I was bleeding. I’d heard a million times that you bled the first time, but there was nothing there.
I wondered if I’d actually had sex before this night and couldn’t remember. A couple of hours later I was functional enough to call my mum, feign a convincing joyous tone of voice, and make her believe I’d only ingested one alcoholic drink and was having a great time. Because I had a huge problem. There was no way I was going home in that state. I looked like I’d been dipped in a bath of sugar syrup and pasted to the concrete.