“Oh, oh, oh, oh / It’s my first time / Oh, oh, oh, oh / Please be kind / Oh, oh, oh, oh / Don’t hurt me.” – “First Time” b. The Boys
The first girl I ever French-kissed was Candy Morgan. Her older sister was named Penny and together they were Penny Candy. Clearly, their parents were awful.
The second girl I ever kissed was the same one I lost my virginity to. I was thirteen.
Yep, you read that right. Thirteen.
See, I grew up in Iowa. And you may not believe this, but Iowa in the 1980’s didn’t offer a lot of distractions for kids (sarcasm). You could go cow-tipping (yes, it’s a real thing), play mailbox baseball (also a real thing), or you could put on a mixtape made up entirely of power ballads recorded off of Rock 102.7 FM and let nature take its course. To this day, I can’t step foot inside a wood-paneled basement without immediately being whisked back to those clumsy, sweaty gropings and hickey necklaces of yesteryear.
So, yeah. Her name was Sally Sartorelli and she was a year older than me, as well as the baddest kid in school (which, conversely, also made her the absolute coolest). If you took Joan Jett, John Bender from The Breakfast Club, and the entire inmate population of the Iowa Correctional Facility for Women and rolled them into one… you still wouldn’t come close to Sally. She was the worst. She caused so much trouble the faculty refused to list her as a student in the school yearbook. For all intents and purposes, she was a poltergeist roaming the halls, leaving a path of chaos and destruction in her wake.
So how did I end up with her? Well, that’s simple. Because she chose me.
There’s really no other way to describe it. And, in hindsight, it still doesn’t make sense. It’s not like I was dripping with the overwhelming charm and sex appeal of Scott Baio in Charles In Charge. And girls were only, like, 10% of my interests. Sure, I had started to realize breasts were really cool and that if I flipped the dial on the cable box back and forth fast enough, I could almost get some late night HBO boobies to tune in. But, besides that, I was content spending the rest of my time playing with Star Wars action figures and reading comic books about the Legion Of Super-Heroes.
Sally just saw something in me, I guess. Some smoldering under-current of primal power and raw eroticism. Or, maybe it was that, having a good 15 pounds on me, she could easily throw me around. Either way, when she plopped down between my knees during 6th period and told me I should go with her (“going with” meant being boyfriend/girlfriend in the 80’s), I knew it was less a suggestion and more a command. And from that moment on, I belonged to her. Like a prison bitch.
But I didn’t mind, because being a huge fan of those aforementioned comic books, I loved alliterative names. They were an inherent part of my fantasy life. Susan Storm (of the Fantastic Four), Betsy Brant (Spider-Man’s first girlfriend), Wonder Woman… they were all the kind of woman I imagined myself marrying someday. And in Sally Sartorelli I’d finally acquired a real-life Lois Lane. Sure, she had a smile that made her look even meaner than when she frowned and her overall personality was like a less shelf-stable version of Lindsey Lohan… but I was hers. And if she was Lois Lane, then that made me Superman (or at the very least, Clark Kent).
But, back to my de-flowering. Now that Sally and I were official, we were suddenly inseparable. We spent hours talking on the phone, for weeks on end. My parents actually purchased a private line for me just to free up the house one Sally and I kept hostage with our constant yammering. Eventually, I attached an extra long cord to it so I could drag the body of the phone like a dead cat down the hallway into my room, away from the prying ears and tattle-tale mouth of my little sister. Because Sally was the coolest, I wanted to absorb every word she was willing to share with me. We discussed her favorite music (all hair metal bands like Ratt, Motley Crue and Cinderella), her best friend’s boyfriend problems (the best friend had three of them, one of whom was 26 with two kids) and whether or not I should start dressing less like Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties and more like Corey Haim from License To Drive. After school she would swing by my house and bang on my first-floor bedroom window until I appeared like Juliet to her Romeo. Most of the time, she would grab me by the collar and yank me towards her so she could stick her tongue down my throat. Her mouth tasted like Hubba Bubba and weed because she liked to roll her gum around inside a bag of pot, then chew it all day during class. Like I said, she was the coolest. She was also the regular babysitter for a five year old girl who lived eight houses up from me. God only knows why she took the gig since I’m pretty sure Sally liked to strangle gerbils with her bare hands. But she loved that little girl desperately and spent four to five nights a week taking care of her. She affectionately referred to the house as “her Paris” because she could freely smoke cigarettes there and drink all of the box wine in the refrigerator. I can’t remember why the mom was gone so often (Waitress? Stripper? Other?), but it afforded Sally and I plenty of chances to play house with the little girl, then once she was safely tucked into bed for the night, play doctor by ourselves.
Since I knew very little about sex, most of the things Sally and I did were fairly innocent (this was way before the Internet was a gleam in Al Gore’s eye, so porn was harder to come by than a white guy in a Kardashian sex tape. And the stuff you could get your hands on paled in comparison to what’s readily available to minors today). Basically, there was a lot of kissing, followed by under the shirt stuff, followed by over the pants stuff (in that general order). That is until the day of my own personal Pearl Harbor, when we went kamikaze on my V-card. Interestingly, I don’t remember much in the lead up to the act, but I do recall Sally calling for me from the mom’s bedroom. Her voice was languid and syrupy, as if she was sleepy yet excited about something at the same time. When I got there, the room was already dark. An immediate foreboding washed over me. Sally was lying on the bed, bare legs dangling over the edge, wearing only a hoodie sweatshirt and cotton panties.
“C'mere,” she said, holding her hand out to me.
I, being the smooth talker, mumbled, “Why?"
"Just get over here."
My heart began to pound. I could literally feel it in the base of my throat, fighting to burst from my body like the alien in Alien. I stutter-stepped to the edge of the bed and took her fingers. She yanked me on top of her and started slinging her tongue around my teeth. I knew this make-out session wasn’t like others of the past. No, this one was infused with more… more meaning, more intention, more calculation.
"C'mon… don’t be shy,” she said as she slid my hands to her hips.
I considered playing dumb… considered insisting I didn’t know what she meant… but my body was too busy betraying me with tremors that rivaled an alcoholic’s DT’s. So, I stood up and slowly pushed my jeans to my ankles, feeling more exposed than I ever had in my entire life. Because she didn’t break out into peals of laughter, I took it as my cue to climb back onto the bed and maneuver myself between her legs.
After what seemed like months, she stared at me in the dim light and said, “You gonna take off your underwear or what?"
Honestly, it never even occurred to me that was necessary.
"Let me help you,” she purred and hooked one toe into the waistband of my tighty-whities before expertly yanking them down my bony little butt and kicking them to the floor. She quickly did the same with her own delicates. Now there was literally nothing between us. That realization was something like having your sailboat sink in the middle of the ocean. One minute I was on solid footing, the next I was adrift and ready to drown. Since this wasn’t her first rodeo (who could have guessed, right?), Sally took over from there and adjusted my position, placing me exactly where I needed to be. With a deep breath, I slipped into her and began moving my hips, unsure of what I was doing or if I was even doing anything at all. Those questions quickly evaporated, however, as a strange cramping sensation began to grow in my lower regions and exotic colors danced behind my eyes like little Fourth of July fireworks exploding in time to a symphonic orchestra. Because I had never even masturbated up to this point, I had no idea what was, literally, about to come. Until it did. And then all of those colors swelled and swirled into one large burning sun which flipped my stomach upside down and I…
Passed. The fuck. Out.
Seriously. 100%. Completely dead to the world.
I came to, moments later, face firmly planted in the crook of Sally’s neck.
“You okay?” she asked, her fingers tapping the back of my skull. I didn’t know how to answer.
There was another long pause before she gently lifted my sweaty head and kissed the corner of my cheek. I immediately knew something significant had changed between us, though, because it wasn’t a sensual kiss. There was a finality to it. Like the feeling you get watching a balloon released into the sky or reading a period at the end of a sentence.
We didn’t last much longer following that night. Before the school year ended, Sally moved to a neighboring town and began going with a 17 year-old mountain-of-a-kid named Chris Anderson, who had a 1982 Ford Mustang GT and a misdemeanor rap sheet, while I turned my affections towards Betsy Berendt, the star pupil of our Talented and Gifted program, who was much closer to my league.
I suppose there’s a certain narrative poignancy in the fact that Sally and I have never seen each again. But I haven’t forgotten my Long Tall Sally. To others, she may have been a human tornado built for speed, tearing across the heartland and through a land of hearts… but to me she was always something else. Less a weapon of mass destruction and more a misunderstood spirit; that rare kind of creature born before its time. Like Madonna. Or the original Macintosh computer. We may have only been blips in each other’s lives, but at the end of the day (to paraphrase that old line from Casablanca)… at least we we’ll always have Paris.
D.B. LEVIN is a writer and director in Los Angeles.