Puking and Panic

Originally from 1993 … extensively edited and rewritten several times over the years. … Jesus I still feel like kind of a minor-league dip shit over this, but here you go. …

I stepped out of the shower and stood staring aimlessly into the mirror as I wrapped a towel around my waist. My head still ached a bit. After a few more moments of listlessness, I remembered that I had to shave and began looking half heartedly around the bathroom for my razor.

At that moment Mom knocked on the door and without waiting for a reply came barreling in, offering apologies and looking to get something — I don’t remember what, a hair pin or something — before she left for work. She stopped mid-stride and noticed the long red scratches all down my back and disappearing beneath my towel. “Good lord, Jeff!” she cried, “what happened to your back?”

For the third time in less than 24 hours, I knew unbridled fear and panic. For the briefest of moments I fought the guilt-laden, Freudian urge to come clean to my mother with the whole tawdry affair that had taken place behind my parents’ back: the binge drinking, the fact that I was the willing victim of statutory rape, the fact that I was so drunk I couldn’t remember it — everything.

I felt like the narrator at the end of Poe’s The Telltale Heart: “Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! Here, here, it is the beating of my hideous virginity!” The jig was up. But, thinking quickly, I came up with semi-plausible response. “Um … the scratches? There, um … from wrestling. Yeah.”

“Wrestling,” she asked, slightly incredulous.

“Yeah, one of the guys on the team had really long nails. Coach made him leave practice the other day to go cut them, but not before he marked me up a little bit.” We stared at each other for a moment, and I wasn’t sure she would believe me. …

“Well, tell him to make sure those boys cut their nails from now on,” she said as she walked out, closing the door behind her.

I closed my eyes for a moment, let out a long breath and sat down on the edge of the bathtub.

I may not remember losing my virginity, but I can never forget dodging that parental bullet.


Looking back down the long tunnel of years since, I wonder if Mom did in fact believe me. Maybe she just “chose” to believe me, but I don’t think so. If she had had her suspicions, she likely would have told Dad, and then the jig would have been up for sure, regardless of my clever quick thinking.

Damn I miss them. But that’s neither here nor there; we are here to talk about the loss of my virginity, after all.

God, I wish I could remember it.

Now some of you may be a little disturbed by my sordid tale I’m about to tell; some of you may even be triggered by it. The facts are still facts regardless of my hazy memory: at 16 I did lose my virginity to a woman considerably older than myself, which makes it statutory rape — no matter how willing a participant I was. Then there was the fact that I drank so much that not only I have no memory of the events in question, my under-aged self suffered alcohol poisoning as well.

So if anyone is triggered or otherwise troubled by all this, I apologize; that is not my intent. Rather, it is to laugh. Really. I’m still somewhat ashamed and embarrassed even now decades later, but nowhere near what they were then. But now I can also say that the antics of my 16-year old self are rather funny in hindsight.

Now if I could only just remember it. Any of it.

Besides the puking and panic, that is — that I remember all too well.

I can remember vaguely what she looks like, of course, but of the actual momentous event itself? Well, I might as well try to remember what it was like to be born. Granted, like losing my virginity, I was physically present at my birth and was cognizant during the act as evidenced by a healthy cry when the doctor slapped my butt.

But I don’t remember that and I can’t remember the first time I got laid, either.

I also recall the night it all started, as well. In retrospect it seems like the formula for a bad teen sex comedy. My parents were out of town, an older … “friend” … offered to take me out bar hopping on a Saturday night and hilarity and hijinx ensue.

For a 16-year-old boy consuming alcohol is almost as great a right of passage as sex. Like sex, drinking has the stigma of being naughty, forbidden and illegal, at least for a few more years. So the thought of drinking — in a bar, no less — was almost magical to me then, almost as magical as the thought of being with a girl.

So this friend took me out to some bars in the sticks, townie bars where the beer was cheap, the drinks were strong, and if you looked old enough to shave every day, getting in and being served wasn’t a problem. And I took to drinking like a duck takes to water, so much so that the last thing I remember on my first night of drinking was walking into our third bar of the evening. Soon after that the ensuing hours are a total blank. That is until early the next morning, when I woke up in the arms of a strange woman and the grip of the mother of all hangovers.

I can remember coming to consciousness slowly, as if drifting back from anesthesia. At first, I don’t recall who I am or what I am, only that I’m in pain — pulsing, pounding waves of pain. Each pulse of arterial blood though my head is like a hammer pounding an anvil, only my head is the anvil and the hammer is the seemingly endless parade of alcohol I had consumed the night before.

Eventually, as my thoughts gradually swam to the surface of coherence, it dawned on me: I must be hung over. I also remember thinking it would be impossible for my head to hurt any worse.

Oh, if only that had been true.

Because then I made the near fatal mistake of opening my eyes. Now, I doubt that my eyes could have been open for more than a few tenths of a second, yet in that moment it felt as if the very photons of light had pierced my retinas and seared holes deep into my brain. In short I learned that my head could indeed hurt worse — much much worse.

But even as my tortured brain dealt with this, it nevertheless laboriously processed that fraction of a second of light. I realized that I was in a room I didn’t recognize — not my room; not my friend’s room; not any room I knew. Now in later years, particularly during college, this event would be repeated, and I came to learn this wasn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. But at the tender age of 16, having up to that point enjoyed a somewhat sheltered, suburban existence, well … this was bad.

So I very gingerly opened my eyes again, having enough sense to shield them this time. I remember wondering why there was a colored sheet on the ceiling. I would learn later that I lost my virginity in a four poster canopy bed, but at that moment, it only served to confuse my tortured head even more than it already was.

I was taking all this in when I felt someone roll over next to me, throw an arm across my chest and mumble something in their sleep. I froze, frightened now as well as hung over, and then slowly and cautiously turned my head, There, lying next to me — me, mind you, 16-year-old, square, hormone-addled virgin me, was a real honest-to-goodness woman. A nude woman, partially clad only in the twisted bed sheet — breasts, curvy hips and log brown hair, oh my.

Now at this point, it could still be a story to engender wistful fondness upon remembrance. Were this fantasy rather than reality — say, Hollywood — it would have happened like this: my own private Mrs. Robinson would wake up, kiss me, tell me what an exquisite performance my inaugural lovemaking had been, make me breakfast, and we would make passionate love yet again, once I had recovered from my overindulgence.

But alas no. It was at this moment that I abruptly chose, in my shock — actually forgetting my pounding head for a moment — to sit bolt upright. As soon as did I felt an extremely urgent need to puke my guts out. As I clapped a hand over my mouth I frantically searched the room for a trash can or a bathroom.

Can you begin to understand why, for a long time, I didn’t exactly recall my first night of sex and romance with fondness? Puking and panic — this is what I think about when I look back on my loss of innocence.

Fortunately there was a bathroom nearby and I proceeded to barf and dry heave for the next several minutes. During this time I became convinced my brains were leaking out of my ears as my headache reverberated with each convulsion of my diaphragm. Then there was the difficulty of having to stop puking long enough to relieve my abused bladder, which felt like it was holding all at once everything I had drank the night before.

Once I heaved my last dry heave, I collapsed on the floor of the bathroom and took stock of my situation. I was naked and sicker than I had ever been in my life, in a strange bedroom replete with a strange naked lady. Adolescent hijinx? More like adolescent terror. What happened last night? Who is that woman? And most importantly, where am I and how do I get home before my parents do? My parents … Mom and Dad …oh fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck! What the hell do I do?

Instinct then took over; a sort of drunken fight or flight mechanism kicked in. Fighting pain and nausea, I did my best to quietly clean up the bathroom, creep back into the bedroom and began gathering up my clothes scattered around the floor and on various pieces of furniture. I had to get out and get home — before Mom and Dad did — and suffer in peace.

That was all I could think about at that moment. Over and over: get out and get home. That, and the fact that I would never, ever drink again.

As I held my hand to my head to keep it attached to my neck and bent over to retrieve my jeans, my unknown companion woke up. “Well hi, sweetie,” she said. Now granted, the details have become fuzzy with time, and the ensuing dialogue is an approximation. But I remember her calling me sweetie. Like the way you would call a dog or a child that you are fond of, sweetie.

For the second time that morning, I panicked. I stood up, still naked, mind you, turned around and pointed a finger at her. “Look,” I blurted, my voice ragged from vomit and dehydration, “I don’t know who you are or what the hell happened last night. All I know is I have to get out of here and get home!” We stared at each other for a moment, me panicking and her grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat.

“You don’t remember last night,” she said, slowly, still smiling as she kicked back the sheet and sat up in bed. This is the second detail that is firmly cemented in my mind in spite of my less than stellar mental and physical state. There she sat, naked, about 30, and hot. For a brief moment the sight of her naked made me forget that I was hung over and in the midst of panicking. I was only 16, after all. But this respite only lasted a moment.

“You don’t remember?” she repeated. “I popped your cherry last night, sweetie. You weren’t bad for your first time.”

I opened my mouth to reply and than stopped. The thoughts came in a confused flood. I lost my virginity! Hot damn! I got laid! … Wait a minute. … I lost my virginity? Well then how come I don’t remember it?

“Look here, lady,” I said. “I’m only 16 years old and I would have remembered that. I don’t know what the fuck happened last night, all I know is, I don’t know who you are, I don’t know where I am, I feel like total shit, and I just wanna go home.”

She smiled and shook her head. She didn’t seem taken aback that she was essentially accusing herself of having her way with a minor. “You don’t believe we had sex last night?” she asked again.

“Nope. I’m a virgin. I’d remember getting laid, believe you me,” I said. “I’m sure of it.”

“Go look at your back,” she said.

“My back,” I replied, mystified, not being wise in the arts of amour.

“Just go look,” she said with a chuckle.

So I walked into the bathroom with my armload of clothes and turned my back to the mirror, glancing over my shoulder carefully, mindful of my still pounding head. There were the aforementioned scratches — the ones my mother would eventually see the next day — all down my back and ribs. They went all the way down to my ass. It took a moment for my young brain to latch onto the significance of this erotic evidence.

And then it dawned on me: I had indeed lost my virginity.

The moment I had spent the majority of my waking hours dreaming of and fantasizing about for the past four or five years, years of franticly, repeatedly and sometimes guiltily whacking off, convinced that I was a teenage loser who would never get laid, had finally arrived. I had had sex. With a woman. I … fucked.

And I didn’t … I couldn’t … remember it.

Now I was hung over and depressed. Real, real depressed. I sat down on the toilet and sighed, my arms still clinging to my wadded up ball of clothes, my panic forgotten. I was so depressed I even forgot my hangover for a moment. I forgot I was still naked. “Shit,” I thought. “I am SUCH a loser. I am surely the only person in all of existence who could manage to lose their virginity and not remember it.” Indeed, pathos at its finest; look up that word in the dictionary, and there is a picture of 16-year-old me at that very moment.

And I look so, so sad.


There isn’t much left to tell. My own private Mrs. Robinson — she was actually a Miss, and her name is lost in the intervening years between now and then — fixed me orange juice and gave me aspirin. She actually did offer to fix me breakfast that morning, but the thought of food had sent me sprinting for the bathroom once again. In the end she drove me to the bus station so I could get home. Seems she had friends to meet that afternoon, otherwise she would have given me a ride. As if the situation weren’t pathetic enough, she even had to give me money for the fare.

Before she drove off, she kissed me on the cheek and said, “Look, I’m sorry you don’t remember it, but for what it’s worth, it wasn’t bad.” This was small consolation for my sad, pathetic, hormone-soaked and alcohol-addled psyche.

I never saw her again. I was hung over for two days, and depressed for a good while longer after that. Every time I heard my English teacher mention irony after that, all I could think of was alcohol, sex and the fact that I couldn’t remember losing my virginity.

I didn’t have sex or drink again until I was almost 19. Even then, for a long time afterward I kept the whole silly episode to myself. As I’ve said before, it invoked a mixture of disgust, sadness and frustration that lasted for years.

At least I remember the second girl I had sex with.

She asked if I was a virgin.

“Um … well … kind of?”


A Brief Afterword

I have always had problems starting this story — no surprise there — for years. Plus there was this part at the end that, while pertinent to the story, nevertheless felt … tacked on. Then this young girl, who was part of the writers’ group I was in for a brief time around 2007 or so, had the brilliant idea to take that part at the end and put it at the beginning — open the story with the aftermath and then go on and tell the rest of it. Outstanding!

I have long since forgotten her name, but wherever she is, I owe her thanks and props.