In 1995, when I was ten years old, I moved to a new house with my mom and sister after her recent divorce from her Danish husband. The new neighborhood was very picturesque, not dissimilar from Pleasantville or Mayberry. The street was tree-lined, each house had a perfectly manicured garden and it always smelled of jasmine and wet grass. Every family on the street had 2.5 plus children and a suburban Tahoe to haul around the children and soccer gear in. I became friends with the other ten year old girl who lived across the street. Her name was Jessica, sometimes known as Jessie, but I called her Jessica.
We quickly became friends and did things that normal ten year old girls do with each other. We explored the nearby creeks and called it our ‘secret garden’, we would walk down to the equestrian park and name the horses we liked the best. Mine was called “B.S.”, for Black Stallion of course. I can’t remember the names of her horses. We never rode them, but we’d pack a lunch and bring a blanket and sit on the grass under the large Oak trees and watch the short Mexican staff feed them hay and shoo the flies from their own faces. We’d talk about what we imagined kissing a boy would be like, tried to imagine how big our bra sizes were going to be when we grew up and what our favorite flavors of Raven’s Revenge was.
Jessica’s family seemed perfect. Her father Robert, was a well-stacked jock of a dad who had a flavor savor patch of hair on his tanned chin. He wasn’t very tall, but boy, did he have the lungs fit for a giant. You could hear him screaming at his family from two blocks away. I don’t know how he thought nobody could hear or see him. On a regular basis you’d watch him furiously gesticulating at his four children through the huge glass window that acted as a microscope into this dysfunctional, yet flawless family. The kids weren’t ever really in trouble, it was just the dad screaming until his veins burst on his forehead about picking up their shoes, or sports equipment strewn everywhere. More often, it was always “JESSICA, GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!” followed by indiscernible and raucous arguments. One time I was asked to leave the room for a moment so Robert could shout at her. They let me back in ten minutes later and I found Jessica sobbing, holding her abdomen. When asked what the matter was, she told me her dad kept calling her fat and told her she should pretend she is running to McDonald’s for weight loss inspiration and then proceeded to punch her in the stomach.
I didn’t say anything.
This family had curb appeal, I tell ya. The mother had sparkling emerald eyes and alabaster skin with a soft spoken voice, but was anorexic. She not only looked like a skeleton, but probably had a few in her closet too. She once told my mom she only ate one pot of yogurt a day. The two younger brothers were a spitting image of the father with bursting muscles, but short legs and arms; even they shouted “JESSICA!!!” in the same deep tenor as their father, like they were Australian Lyrebirds mimicking their role models in attempts to throw predators off.
Around sixteen years old, Jessica and I were now distant friends. Her family became absolutely obsessed with being the pinnacle of a Christian perfect family. We had stopped being able to really hang out years ago because her parents heard my mom pull into our circular driveway blasting Marilyn Manson from her gold Thunderbird.This clearly was not the type of family their Jessica could spend time with.
So every few weeks I might see Jessica washing her 1995 red Mustang (with a dented door) outside and we’d have intense conversations in the middle of the street for fifteen-minutes while she scrubbed bird shit off her windshield. One day I walked over to say hi and she blurted out “do you masturbate?” I said not really. I’d tried once, but it didn’t really do anything. She looked at me sheepishly and whispered, “I love it, I can’t stop.”
A part of me got jealous like why does hers work and mine doesn’t. Maybe I was doing it wrong. At this point I was already devirginized. Months ago, I had lost it to some loser in the Inland Empire who had hickies all over his neck, that weren’t even from me. I laid there and ten minutes later, I was no longer a virgin. I hadn’t even realized how natural female lubrication worked and since clearly I was no expert, I asked ‘is it supposed to feel this way’? It felt like if someone chewed a whole log of saltine crackers, left the dry sawdust crackers sitting inside their mouth, and then tried to deepthroat a hotdog.
That was sex. It was dry, salty, and made me gag.
I lost interest very quickly after that experience. I didn’t really mind much, I was more interested in the act of losing this prized commodity. Now that I had this experience done and over with, I felt the same. Nothing really changed, which was disappointing.
Jessica, on the other hand, was fascinated with her own and couldn’t get enough of it. At sixteen, she was a fuller figured woman, even more so than women in their fifties. She was around 5’5”, 190lbs with a huge rack. Everyday, she wore shimmery blue eyeshadow and had highlighted orange streaked, long hair that reached the small of her quite, large back. She always wore spongy black platform sandals and I wasn’t quite sure why she’d want to show off her not-so-pretty feet where she clearly shaved her toe knuckles; but not regularly, so there was a pad of protruding skin with spiky black hairs on each toe. Not only that, on her right foot, she had a pair of webbed toes that had no separation in them whatsoever.
Was quite the sight, but still, she loved those platform sandals.
“Well I’m glad you like jerkin’ off so much” I said. “What does it feel like when you O?”
Her eyes narrowed and I swear a pool of saliva gathered in the corners of her mouth, “It’s magic”. She glanced around making sure no one was listening. “But,”she raised her voice a bit, “I need to stop. Every time I do, I know that Jesus is not happy with me,” she said matter-of-factly.
I tried not to judge her and said “um, I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t care.”
She snapped back, “yes, He does. He counts every time you do that thing and keeps a tally and when you go to heaven it’s added to the list of all your sins.”
I didn’t see Jessica in the street for a while after that little chat we had. Maybe it was six months later I caught her getting out of her car and ran over.
“Hey Jessica, where have you been?” I enquired. Something about her looked different. She seemed more confident and was not in the least bit concerned about her large belly popping out beneath her tight shirt stretched across her large bosom.
“I’ve been — around. I even met someone — well someone’s,” she giggled.
“Someone’s? Please explain.”
“Listen, I will tell you later. Just come with me to hang out with one of them tonight will you?”
Reluctantly, I said ok. “I will meet you outside at 7pm.”
I thought about these ‘someone’s’, god with my luck it will be some white Jesus freaks with perfect orthodontic care, permanent retainer and all. The bane of my existence in this town.
At dusk I got into her red Mustang and she revealed she has been meeting guys on the Internet.
“I’m not sleeping with them, I hope you know.” She said proudly as we started driving towards Covina.
“Oh really, what is it exactly you do with these men then?” I asked sarcastically.
“I don’t even let them touch me down there. But I do give them…blowjobs.” She said with an air of self-admiration. “I’m still a virgin, you know,” she added.
“I have something else to tell you too, Jodi.” She glanced over at me as she turned the corner.
“Oh God, what.” I laughed.
“Well, they’re all black guys” she said giggling. “I love black men. Can you imagine if my Dad found out?” she asked rhetorically. “He would literally kill me.”
“You know It’s not that bad if you’re not letting them do anything to you” she belted. “Jesus doesn’t mind that,” she said seriously.
We pulled up to a shabby, grey apartment building somewhere in Covina, a working class suburb east of Los Angeles. The type of complex that has a hundred plus units with broken down Regals in the exposed garage area and dirty kids toys all over the dead grass.
“Where are we? What are we doing Jessica?” I asked.
“The guy lives here. We’re picking him and his friend up and going on a little drive.”
“No, really? They are getting in the car with us? I thought we were meeting just one? This is a double date?” I bellowed. “I don’t want to be expected to blow the friend!”
I didn’t really get a chance to freak out, by the time I realized what was going on, two twenty-something year old dudes, me and Jessica were piling in the Mustang exchanging niceties. I shrank in the chair as I thought of questions to ask.
“Hey…I’m Jodi.” Silence. “So, have you lived in this apartment for a while?” I stuttered.
The friend grumbled, “a minute” in a baritone voice and stared ahead without looking at me.
Jessica just glared at me giving me a look of, c’mon it’s fun!
We pulled into a dark city park with no one there and Jessica and her ‘date’ said “we got the car, we called it!” and ushered us out.
Me and the friend were standing outside and he said “let’s go sit on the bench over there.” My heart was pounding. I really didn’t want to blow this guy. I’d never done any of that stuff before. Yeah, I had sex once, but this was different.
We walked over to the park bench that had cigarette burns and graffiti all over it. I looked this guy up and down and tried not to smirk. He was wearing a black leather jacket with patches of brand logos sewn into it. There were m&m logos, Nascar, Pennzoil and all sorts of brands. I have seen these jackets at the West Covina mall before in the leather shops.
We sat side-by-side on the bench and talked about our families and what music we liked. It actually felt like a real date; getting to know each other and what not. He didn’t try to kiss me or ask me to even blow him. My nerves subsided and we both just felt silly for being the friends who got dragged along to wait around while strangers from the Internet found love for twenty minutes.
Then it was over.
We dropped them off at their complex and drove away like nothing happened.
“And sooo?” I asked Jessica.
“What does real sex feel like?” she asked sheepishly while crossing her large legs.
Jodi Burian is an LA native, but has lived in London for over a decade. For her day job, she works on record album campaigns for notable Brooklyn record label, Mexican Summer and also places music for award-winning TV and Film shows. She has always been inspired by short story fiction and lends inspiration to authors like Raymond Carver, Miranda July, and Lucinda Berlin. Her website is here.