"D to the I to the A to the M... O to the N to the D to the pearls of love..."
As Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls" played in the background, I steadied myself against the couch. Tim* had pulled my scrunchie out of my hair and was modeling it as a bracelet. I'd lost count of how many red plastic Dixie cups of keg beer I'd had and I squinted at him, trying to focus on what he was saying. But all I could see was Patrick on the other side of the room, and I longed to be talking to him instead.
It was Christmas break my junior year of high school. When I found out that Sam was having a house party, I'd hoped that Patrick would be there, since he was home from college for the holidays and he and Sam had been in the same grade.
Wearing my oversized maroon shirt from The Limited, acid-washed Jordache jeans and black suede boots with bows on the back, I got to the party early and scanned the room for Patrick. Since he'd gone away to college, there were only brief chances to see him now -- at homecoming and over the holidays. It all depended on being at the right place at the right time, and I prayed that tonight would be one of those nights.
I was standing near the keg when he walked in, and my chest tightened and I felt like I couldn't breathe, that same combination of excitement and fear I always felt when I saw him. Still too nervous to talk to him, I gulped down the rest of my beer and got a refill, knowing that after enough drinks, I'd have more courage.
Patrick was the most gorgeous guy I'd ever seen. He'd been on both the football and basketball teams before he graduated, and I'd had a crush on him for over a year. Most of the time at school he hadn't noticed me. But sometimes at parties when I was drinking, he'd pay attention to me, talk to me and even put his arm around me.
Six months earlier, he'd offered to walk me home from a party, which he'd never done before. Leaving with him, I couldn't believe this was actually happening, and I felt like my dreams were finally coming true after a whole school year of liking him. But as we were walking to my house through the woods that night, he forced me to give him a blow job.
When I got home afterwards, I lied down on the floor next to the front door and cried. Patrick had finally kissed me like I'd wanted him to for so long, but it hadn't happened how I'd imagined it would. It was painful and humiliating, and as I curled up in a ball, wrapped my arms around myself and cried, I couldn't understand why I didn't hate him. I couldn't understand why I still just wanted another chance to be with him, hoping that next time would be somehow different, better.
"Can I have my scrunchie back now?" I asked Tim, reaching out my hand.
"O-kayyyy," he said smiling, carefully placing it around my wrist.
"Hey, man," Patrick said to Tim, appearing out of nowhere, so close I could see the faint dark scruff on his face. "I'm taking off."
My cheeks burned and I looked down, focusing on playing with my scrunchie. It was too late -- I hadn't talked to Patrick all night and now he was leaving and I probably wouldn't get to see him again until he was home for the summer in another six months.
"Wanna ride home?" he asked me.
Taking my eyes off my scrunchie, I looked up at him as jolts of electricity shot through my body. Prince was singing, "If I gave you diamonds and pearls, would you be a happy boy or a girl, if I could I would give you the world," and I nodded yes and followed him outside, the room spinning around me.
Inside his beat-up Buick, my heart pounded. Although Patrick knew where I lived, as we approached my street, he didn't slow down. He kept driving, and when he passed my house, I knew that this was my second chance. Turning onto a side street, he pulled up under a big tree and parked the car.
He started kissing me, and then we were in the backseat and he was on top of me. The right leg of my jeans was off but the other side was still on, pushed down to my knee, bunched up at the top of my boot. I was so drunk that everything was hazy around me and I felt like I wasn't even in my own body, but I tried to sober myself up by paying attention to the details.
My bare leg was cold. I could see tree branches outside. There was fog forming on the windows. Patrick took out a condom and I could feel the right leg of my Jordache jeans flapping against my body and the faraway sensation of pressure and stinging between my legs.
The next morning, I sat on the toilet hungover, my head resting in my hands. I tried to remember what had happened last night, piecing together one memory with the next.
I don't think I'm a virgin anymore, I thought, but I wasn't sure.
I could remember what had happened before, and what had happened after, but the part about actually having sex was so blurry and wouldn't come into focus no matter how hard I tried to will it to. No matter how much I wanted to remember everything about how I lost my virginity, I couldn't remember the most important part. But it felt really sore between my legs, so I guessed that I probably wasn't a virgin.
Is this how it's supposed to feel? I wondered, the soreness and the emptiness and the nothingness swirling together.
I'd recently gotten my driver's license, so that afternoon I borrowed my Mom's car and drove around my small, two-square-mile town for three hours, tracing the same roads over and over, climbing up and descending down the same hills. I blasted the heat, turned up the radio and drove and drove.
It was December, and so bright and clear outside. And so, so cold. Winding my way up a steep hill, a woman's voice came on the radio.
"Every so often," the DJ said, "a song comes along that hits you right in the heart. This," she said, "is one of those songs."
"I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt started playing, and it was the first time I'd ever heard that song. The sun cut sharply through the windows and Bonnie Raitt's voice filled the car.
"I can't make you love me if you don't. You can't make your heart feel something it won't. Here in the dark, in these final hours, I will lay down my heart, and I'll feel the power. But you won't, no, you won't..."
Then what the DJ woman said would happen, happened. That song hit me right in the heart. And in that moment, I thought -- no I decided -- and I knew, that no one would ever, ever love me back.
*Names have been changed