This was my little assignment for the London Writer’s Cafe meetup. The topic was sex. It is 402 words, including the title. Enjoy.
I stared at it. It was slightly bigger than I expected. Alert and proud, it seemed to stare back at me. I thought about everything I’d been taught in school. Miss Arnoldson in her thin-belted plaid slacks stood before twenty of us. She had salt-and-pepper pageboy hair and a high-collared, ruffley, white blouse with buttons done up tight as rivets on a vault. To say that her modest breasts were tamper-proof would be an understatement.
I felt Tony kicking the book rack under my seat. He was usually confident to the point of disruptive (the teachers called him hyper-active) but today -¬†in this class at least -¬†he was forecasting doom through his silence. Just after the last of us called out “HERE” to acknowledge attendance, we shut up tight too.
A bead of sweat loosened and fell from my hairline to the safety net of my left eyebrow. Sarah – a skinny girl with thick glasses and a tangle of braces in her oversized mouth – passed out the freshly printed reference materials. Tony tapped erratic Morse code on my History book. Miss Arnoldson armed herself with a fresh stick of chalk.
Tick – Tick – Tac – Scratch – Tick – Tac and then the long scratch of an underline.
Tony’s feet stopped cold and we all stared in silence at the blackboard: PENIS.
Another bead of sweat found my brow. I’m sure I’m not alone when I describe that for a long, solid minute, not space, time, sound, or feeling itself was present. I’d heard of isolation chambers, even saw one on a TV game show, but this was the real deal. Every one of us isolated in the private hell of sex education class. In hindsight, I must pontificate with only a small amount of jest, that if the world were taught reproduction by Miss Arnoldson of Lincoln City Elementary School, impending planetary overpopulation would be significantly less concerning.
And now I’m using what I’ve learned for the first time. I am in the most un-sexy place on earth- a dorm room that smells equally strong of patchouli incense, pepperoni pizza, and unwashed sheets. A virgin on this special night and all I can think of are the aniline purple ditto handouts of crudely drawn sex organs in Miss Arnoldson’s class. It is in this moment, while re-buttoning my jeans, when I wonder why I bother taking birth control.