Chapters 1-5

Life is a sacrifice our souls are forced to make.

That’s why life sucks ass. – Yari Simone


My mother killed herself when I was nine years-old. I found her.

Riddled with tragedy my existence has been seemingly cursed since conception. Always I’ve felt like the punch-line for one of God’s sick little jokes. Ha! Ha!

Being forced to submit to the demands given by this deranged madman, who superciliously calls himself a god has made me bitter. I was never one for being controlled.

This incited chip on my shoulder has somehow transformed into a pigheaded drive. Never would I have imagined that my mother’s suicide could be the doctrine pushing me to free myself from the fickle fate of the universe. Call it a deranged sense of perseverance. But sometimes you gotta bake a cake out of shit.

My inspiration in life, if you can call it that, is the fear of not knowing where my dreams will dump me. I know – crazy. I may be fucked-up but at least I’m honest.

I’ve never been a fool to the mechanics of the world. Christ, I figured that one out when I saw Victoria lying there in the tub with her wrists slit. For me, it’s difficult to live without being mindful of the wisps of false hope I’m tortured with daily, and how they’re cleverly placed to blindside me from the impending doom that immediately follows.

Brand me a cynic, or even an insufferable whiner, but am I to just sit back while my existence is being determined by the kind of day some deity is having? No thanks. I refuse to bow down only to be forced to submit to the cruelty of such a god. Not without a fight. Not while there’s still life left in me.

Chapter 1

I grew up in a low-class neighborhood in Shelby, Massachusetts – an hour west of Worcester. My mother, Victoria was a fulltime housewife. She was attentive to my brother, Eli and me. But not affectionate. The small farmhouse that we lived in was always tidy. And Victoria had meals ready three times a day. But the parenting ended there. Besides her domestic obligations, she was simply my legal guardian.

My mother didn’t have the best upbringing: an unhappy home life featuring an adulterer father who was physically abusive, and a mother who was nothing short of a mouse, doing everything that she was told. This hard-knock childhood sadly forced Victoria to move in with her married, older sister as a means of escape. She was fourteen.

Victoria then met Marty. They married once discovering that she was pregnant with me - most likely unplanned.

Marty’s contribution to the family was by doing the fatherly thing – ya know, bringing home the bacon while moonlighting as a dastardly debaucherer on the weekends with the local white-trash whores. It amazed me that his sloppy, unkempt appearance could attract anyone of the opposite sex. He was a tall burly drunk, always overweight by at least fifty pounds. The beer-belly he devotedly kept hung over his belt by several inches. His black hair - always greasy, always messy - framed a permanent bloated, five o’clock-shadowed face.

Shelby was a small town and everyone knew what kind of slime Marty was. He didn’t give a shit what people thought of him. Having an eye for scabby, insecure women, even the occasional innocent girl, I caught that pig masturbating once in front of his bedroom window while watching me sunbath in the yard. He knew I saw his vile act, but continued until he was done. Sick bastard.

No one ever offered a reason as to why Victoria would do something as desperate as to take her own life. I blame Marty, mostly. I’m certain that a man as sadistic as he was could drive a person to do the unthinkable. He was that inhuman.

When Victoria died, he didn’t help with my emotional detachment, refusing to send me to seek help from a therapist. It didn’t matter that I would have benefited from it. The detective who came to the house the day of Victoria’s death even strongly recommended it. That cold prick, Marty wouldn’t hear of it. I remember him saying as I sat on a stool in the kitchen confused and scared out of my mind that I would get over it

All I possess of Victoria in my memory is the stoic, faded features of a woman who was born to become a robot. Maybe if she had been married to a loyal, loving man the beauty that was draped by misery could have invariably shined. The sharp features of her face might not have been so tethered. Her long, dull, brown hair could’ve adorned salon highlights, or her tall, slim frame accentuated with fashionable attire. Instead, she was plain and sad.

I’ll never forget how her distant green eyes yearned for a different life. Looking back, I see the signs of a woman plotting her death on a daily basis.

The impending years after her suicide I became a recluse, avoiding human contact - introverted to the point of depression, especially after Josephine was forced into my life. Marty’s second wife. My pitiless father remarried four months after Victoria’s death to a woman so disturbed there truly are no words to embody her. She was one of his mistresses. Same scenario: woman stays at home with the kids while he screws around.

Marty worked long hours, so he led us to believe, leaving me alone with my stepmother when I dared to be there. I hated the ground she walked on. And oh, how I recall her abuse so vividly.

“Yari - you lazy ‘lil bitch, get in here and help me clean the kitchen before dinner.” Josephine would screech through a mouth full of cigarette, while stomping her slippers through the kitchen.

The sound of the plastic soles slapping the tiles haunts me to this day.

Her bottle-red hair, clammy worn face, and saggy body, is stuff that nightmares are made of. I resisted mouthing off most of the time, because she liked to hit me with whatever inanimate object was within reach: kitchen utensils, books . . . ash-trays. She wasn’t picky.

Josephine, too, was a degenerate boozer - a wino if there ever was one - lushing it up from dawn until she passed out, which was usually during The Gong Show.

That witch was always belligerent, taking a particular interest in making my life hell. The plethora of insults she inflicted was like second nature for her. She would go out of her way to humiliate me in front of anyone in ear shot. The mission of this sardonic lush was to get my self-esteem so low I would believe the insults. She never won though. I was too strong.

My younger brother, Eli was Marty and Josephine’s favorite. He resembled Marty with his dark features, making it easier for them to embrace him. I, on the other hand, was a constant visual reminder of Victoria. In their unstable minds that was enough of a reason for them to hate me.

I remember hearing them tell Eli that I was the reason why my mother killed herself. After a while he believed the lie, pretending like I didn’t exist whenever we were in the same room. Their intentional isolation made me hate every one of them.

My noxious relationships didn’t have an exclusive at home. The kids at school labeled me a freak. They had no idea what drove me to be so withdrawn. My bitter resentment toward life infiltrated every square-inch of me.

I avoided going home after school. The only place I could think of to hide-out at the age of eleven was the library. There, I was surrounded by strangers that didn’t torment me. This refuge aided in deluding my despair.

I ran away from my life in books. Having read just about everything the library had in their collection. I traveled everywhere from Narnia to the Shire, including the tangible lands of Rome, Paris and Egypt. Having no one at home to do the proper parental passing of life experiences, I made a point to read books on love, relationships and being a woman.

Writing was also an escape for me - my home refuge when the library was closed. I scribbled down all of my thoughts, my dreams and fears, through poetry and songs. I had to talk to someone. So it became a tattered, cloth-covered journal that offered its attentive, silent pages for me to reach out to. After being screamed at or demoralized by either Marty or his bitch wife, I would hide-out in my bedroom within this ratty book I bought at a yard sale.

Even though the ink flowed as the facilitator for my angst and anguish through dolor words upon stale bleached paper, my heart still ached for physical separation from my life. My most significant means for salvation, however, was the greatest love of my life - music. The library had a mixed-bag record collection, of which I’d choose my selections for the day - determined by my mood - prop on these huge domed headphones and slip away.

I vegged on the sounds of Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Grand Funk Railroad, Bad Finger, The Doors, Heart, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Sarah Vaughan, whatever I could get my hands on. My music pallet was pretty diverse.

Music became Prozac for my depression. I remember listening to Led Zeppelin for days once, because I was feeling severe loneliness. Their lyrics brought me closer to the band, farther from the nasty people in my life. Rather than choose uplifting stuff I was habitually seduced by songs that spoke of my morose world. I used this psychotic compulsion as a means of beating the hell out of my intrusive thoughts until they went numb. Rock was such a deep poignant friend of mine. More than I think it was ever intended by the geniuses who created it.

Chapter 2

My obsession with music didn’t end with just listening. This fixation fueled a desire to follow the path of the musicians that I idolized. When I was introduced to rock music my musical path was paved.

Incessantly, I sang, and sang. Singing then branched off into writing songs to sing, creating more of an attachment to this dream. I wrote about all the turmoil that plagued me.

Oddly enough, the deep, raspy tenor of Janis Joplin would become my singing coach. My love affair with the blues-rock singer began when I heard her voice for the first time at the library. I was twelve years-old. An album was recommended to me by the library intern, Fiona. She saw me struggling over music.

“If it’s good music that you’re looking for, there’s only one singer whose stands out from the rest - Janis Joplin.” The pretty bologna-curled brunette reached into the large plastic container of alphabetically arranged records, snatched one without pause, and displayed it before me.

The cover was that of a smiling woman flamboyantly dressed in seventies attire, resting against the arm of a loveseat while holding a drink. The simplicity of her face, the unadulterated smile captivated me.

There was one word on the cover. In white, disco-style font was Pearl.

Before taking possession of the album, I turned with incredulity to Fiona. Would I even understand the music that the strange woman sitting on the loveseat sang?

Fiona detected my uncertainty.

“Trust me,” she said. “Once you listen to her voice, everything else is just noise. Tell me what you think when you’re done.” Fiona nudged the record toward my chest gently, encouraging me to take it. I accepted without a word.

It didn’t seem likely that I would be interested in the sounds that a teen who looked to be lost in another error, admired. Fiona, in a way, resembled the woman on the tattered album. Her hair always looked like she put her finger in an electrical socket. The clothes that traipsed her thin frame were routinely baggy and flowy.

I gave the vinyl insides of the album sleeve a listen. The intense passion and anguished cries that emerged from the music wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard. Amidst the distinctive style of blues melting with rock, inlayed with a raspy voice that was all her own, a beautifully melodic tenor emerged. It was this bizarre union that won me over. Fiona was right, there’s nothing out there that remotely compares to the works of this voracious singer.

And so, my love affair with Janis Joplin begun.

In a sort of unhinged kind of way, this unusual artist and all her relatable indignant lyrics became the matriarch in my life. Her music inspired so much of my own style. Bizarrely enough, it was healthier to have a dead singer offer me guidance through this unconventional means than the alternative - no one.

But inevitably, a woman who was no longer living couldn’t teach me everything about life – like for instance, sex - that, I had to learn the hard way . . . on my own. There was the occasional stupid girl in junior high that thought she was clever enough to offer me some backcountry advice on sex.

“If you have sex and don’t wanna get pregnant,” my scabby friend Carol felt compelled to educate me on how not to get knocked up in the sixth grade. “Make sure you go to the bathroom and piss right after. This will push out any cum that slips inside you.”

Yeah. That’s the kind of ignorance that Shelby bred. I certainly didn’t expect anything on the contrary. I never heeded to what they had to offer – I was one of the few who had common sense.

Regardless of my wit, being labeled an outcast by the boys at school made sex seem an unlikely rite of passage.

An amnesty bone was thrown to me freshmen year of high school - a reprieve from the isolation trenches. There was a new kid that moved to Shelby from Montpelier, Vermont. His name was Alex James Schmidt, or for those that were so inclined, AJ.

It was 1985 when he was dropped into my life.

To my advantage, he didn’t grow up in Shelby. So he wasn’t privy to my family dirt on which to judge me. It was this ignorance that fated him to me.

Mousy-brown hair, slightly passed his ears, hazel-green eyes, and a perfectly white, straight-toothed smile, making my knees jolt whenever he flashed it - this was my first crush.

He was tall and fit, and loved to wear black – black jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, hats – everything black. His response to why the perpetual gloomy look was, “Life is a dark hole. Until it becomes light, I have no reason to wear an optimistic color.”

I think it was more of an image thing for him - a much needed identity. He really wasn’t that depressing, at least not to me.

The young boy exterior conflicted with his seemingly mature mind. AJ was a year and a half older than me. He was held back a year in school. But that wasn’t where the maturity derived. Taking on the adult role at home put him in his twenties. Also from a broken home, he too, carried all the bullshit that went with it. He told me that his dad had recently gone to jail for stealing, causing the divorce between his parents; his mother lived off of state assistance, and was on all kinds of meds. And that he had a little brother named Tommy.

If things at home bothered him, he kept it hidden. Regardless of any underlining issues that might’ve troubled AJ, he was an incredibly laid-back and easy going guy.

I never did confide in him my problems though. I was afraid he’d reconsider our association. Without ever telling him, AJ was strategic in helping me escape my fucked-up family, even if he wasn’t aware of this fact. My silence was essential for me to sustain that much needed solace I sought from him. I had the sneaking suspicion though, that I was his salvation, too. He offered an almost desperate need to be with me every day. The signs were subtle. But the waiting by my locker before school and after every class was a dead giveaway.

I’ll always remember the paralyzing effect AJ had over me the instant we met. It was the start of a new school year. We shared homeroom. He sat diagonal from me. When his name was called, he responded with a smooth, confident air, compelling me to discover the source of the intriguing voice. I casually directed my attention to his already curious gaze, fixated upon me.

He smiled in a cocky sort of way. It was all I could do to stare in internal amazement at him.

This appealing new kid took me in with a determined conviction that reveled on something deeper than just a superficial look.

My stomach churned with drunken butterflies as my pulse convulsed to the sounds of cardiac arrest. A seething-warmth flooded my face while we continued to lock eyes. His smile never faded.

“Hi,” the sweet melody that beckoned from his lips made me stammer. “My name’s AJ. I just moved here.” His beautiful mouth of smooth pink flesh, which was recently moistened by a previous lick of the tongue, embodied sex like I’d never known - so appealing, so kissable.

“I’m Yari, and I, unfortunately, lived here my whole life.” My attention was still upon his distracting mouth of sex.

He chuckled at my intro.

“Um,” he leaned closer to me. A faint whiff of coffee laced his breath. “Do you mind showing me around to my classes?”

Saying yes to that proposal changed everything. That dark-clad kid introduced me to a human emotion I thought only existed in The Land of Oz. A hapless boy from Vermont brought a tragic girl like me promise.

AJ loved rock music – a guy after my own heart.

We shared cassettes. When he compiled a tape of his favorite tunes for me, not even two weeks into our discovery, it was official – we were going steady.

Jaffrey Field, a baseball diamond a mile from school, became our rendezvous spot. Sharing music on the bleachers, sitting on the rusted swings, and lounging in the grass behind the field had become our routine.

AJ introduced me to marijuana. We smoked it only a few times, when he could steal it from his mother’s stash after she passed out on valium.

I enjoyed the placid effect that weed had on me, even though the quality he stole was piss-poor. I didn’t know the difference then. All I cared about was the temporary high.

Hanging at the baseball field one Saturday afternoon, under the large maple tree that cast a shadow the size of a dump trunk, AJ moved especially close to me.

“Yari,” his body language was mild, non-suggestive. “You’re such a cool chic.”

Not sure where he was going with this praise, I turned to face him, waiting for more on the topic of me. He gently moved in and planted one on me. It was unexpected and weird.

I stiffened and stared at him like I was a virgin at a strip club. It was awkward and shocking.

AJ was a pro. His eyes were closed, and he even used his hand to hold my face.

I felt like a moron for keeping so rigid, just watching him.

After a few seconds of this one-sided mingling of spit, he pulled away, smirking. “Was that your first kiss?”

My face flushed with humiliation. I looked away, saying nothing.

“Don’t feel bad. It actually makes me feel special that I was your first kiss,” his hand rest on my knee.

I misinterpreted the gesture as a patronizing pity pat, as if he were saying it was okay to be affectionately inept. It wasn’t okay. I knew I was a freak because my parents never taught me how to love. It was pathetic. There I was, fifteen years-old, and I didn’t know how to respond to a kiss.

Pushing his hand away, I stormed off.

AJ was right behind me. “Yari, don’t be that way. Please stop.”

I gave in after a few steps, sulking with arms folded in front of me. My eyes were trying to tear up, but I forced the shame away.

“Don’t be embarrassed.” He placed his hands on my shoulders, attempting to pull my attention back to him.

Too humiliated to take notice of his genuine attempt at kindness, I kept my eyes diverted from his, saying nothing.

“It’s actually a good thing that you’ve never been kissed.” His tone was sensitive, sweet.

I met his khaki-green stare, curious by this comment.

“Yeah,” he confirmed. “It tells me that you respect yourself. You’re not like those skanks at our school who kiss everything.”

“You’re just saying that.” I tried to shrug under his resting hands.

“I’m not. Honest.” AJ stood before me with conviction. His gaze was adamant.

I believed him.

And just like that, sucking face was no longer a cataclysmic event. In fact, we perfected the art of making out. It became our favorite thing to do. Eventually, we started to explore other avenues. Of course, in broad daylight, we had restrictions. So it was mostly kissing with top-clothes petting.

We were always together. Always needing the other.

AJ blew me out of the water one day with a gift that reinvented my love for music. He surprised me with tickets to see Aerosmith at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston.

“Holey shit, AJ!” I trembled over this jolt to my system. “No one has ever given me anything. I don’t know what to say.”

My shaking hands held the concert pass like it was the golden ticket to see Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

“Say nothing. You deserve it.” His smile was as large as my jarred eyes. “And what better rock band to see for your first concert, none other than your favorite.”

The inconceivable notion of actually seeing Aerosmith live on stage was beyond comprehension.

I rushed forward and crashed into AJ, practically knocking him over with my hug.

When I pulled back from our embrace, my eyes immediately fell to the small piece of glossy paper in my hand. I needed to commit this thing to memory, to prove to my skeptical mind that this little insignificant piece of paper was actually going to get me in to see Steven Tyler.

The three inch long, narrow ticket read:

Aerosmith * Pre-Tour Pass * Done with Mirrors Tour, Wednesday, November 7th, 1985

8:00 P.M., Orpheum Theatre, Balcony CTR, Section 201, Row D, Seat 210

The smooth surface of the concert pass was the most phenomenal sensation my excited fingers had ever stroked. The black Aerosmith decal perfectly placed in the ticket’s center, with the angelic wings bursting from the sides of the legendary band’s epitaph, was like seeing them in the flesh at that very moment.

“Don’t forget, we’re going as a couple.” He chuckled over my semi-private fantasy of the hot lead singer. “I don’t want you running off with one of the band members, now.”

“How did you come across tickets for a pre-concert showing?” I didn’t want to sound ungrateful, or even rude - suggesting that he was too poor to buy them, but I was curious over the difficulty of getting ahold of such rare gems.

“I’ve been saving money that my dad sends me for birthdays and Christmas. Rather than spend it on cassettes and stuff I don’t really need, I figured, why not a concert. I’ve been itching to go to one.” AJ offered a mischievous grin. “It’s been over a year since my last concert, so when I heard that Aerosmith was coming to town for a special showing, I took my mother’s car the Saturday they went on sale. And I drove to Boston to buy ‘em.”

“You fucking rock!” With arms outstretched I fell into him again, this time offering payment with a kiss.

Chapter 3

In a way, it was my first time visiting Boston. I had gone there on a fieldtrip in the fourth grade to see The Boston Aquarium. My memory of the college city was zilch though - too much time past.

When AJ and I were nearing the Copley Plaza exit, off of the Mass Pike, the looming lights from the modest skyrises were towering us like a massive Christmas tree lit just before dusk.

“Wow - I could live here.” AJ said in awe.

“Me, too,” I mumbled, biting my lip absently. City life was definitely for me. I hated living in a town that only existed to the people living in it.

AJ’s mother’s ‘79 beat-up Pontiac Grand Prix choked a suspicious rattle when he turned left onto State Street. We eyed each other with dread, listening to the threatening rumble.

“Don’t worry, this car is a tank. It’s never let me down.”

I knocked on the wooden paneling that framed the radio for good luck, hoping that irrational notion would congeal the car into a mobile state. AJ smirked at my superstitious ploy to keep us from becoming stranded in the unfamiliar city.

Focusing his attention back on the road, however, my gaze remained on AJ. He was largely self-assured for someone his age. Not only did he finagle his mother’s car, drive us to Boston from Shelby - which was an hour and fifty minute drive – he did this without getting lost or crashing the car.

My little daredevil’s driving was impressive too, considering he had only legally been on the road for six months. His experience was much more extensive it seemed, stemming from the fact that his mother had a fear of driving. She had him escort her around since fifteen, regardless of his license-less status.

AJ turned left onto Tremont Street. We were heading into Boston’s theatre district.

And then, the traffic became a standstill. We left two and a half hours early to avoid a dead lock, but there it was: Cars were lined up to get into a parking garage that charged twenty dollars for three hours of parking.

“What a rip-off.” I groaned.

“At this point,” AJ groaned. “I’ll pay anything to get out of this friggin’ car.”

We were about ten cars deep, moving at a snail’s pace. Groups of people were crowding the street adding to the delay. Almost every person sported an Aerosmith concert T from the band’s previous tours.

After waiting a staggering twenty minutes in the vehicle line up, we finally snatched up a spot on the third level.

The forecasted rain held off. But the sky was heavy with ominous clouds.

AJ and I seemed to be the only ones not wearing pictures of the band on their chest. I chose jeans and a fitted button-down sweater. My hair was tied back in a high ponytail with bangs teased to the side. AJ was wearing his usual signature defiant look – black jeans and t-shirt, sheathed by a charcoal denim jacket. His tousled hair was parted down the middle, completing the mysterious persona.

Turning down Hamilton Place with the rest of the fleeting crowd, the two of us held hands walking behind a trio of scantly clad girls in their early twenties. AJ’s curious eyes hazed over their mini-skirt wrapped, slutty bodies. He then diverted quickly to the theatre before us. I made nothing of his goggling. Instead, I took notice of the looming, old-world building at the foot of this dead-end street.

The sky was darkening, passing twilight. It was just about seven o’clock and the evenings were losing light fast, especially after November hit.

The Orpheum Theatre had ornate artwork chiseled throughout the exterior of the white stone. Small floodlights cascaded the historic building. The architecture resembled that of a combination miniature fairytale castle and cathedral. AJ told me on the drive that the theatre was built in the 1800’s as a music hall.

The outside looked aged, in desperate need of renovations - the paint was dull with spider cracks and chips. The Promenade comprised of broken and buckled concrete.

Above the doors was a large modern-day bulletin-board, back-dropping the black magnetic lettering that revealed the evening’s headliner. That night it read - Aerosmith Nov 7. A simple announcement that was very effective. The personal images that surrounded the notorious rockers from Boston, was enough to conjure all the excitement one needed for that show.

Strolling down the confines of the street, I pulled out my 1970’s instamatic camera that once belonged to my mother - having seen better days I snapped a shot of the theatre and its sign with the relic.

There were three lines of fans waiting to get inside. The doors were still closed. The show wasn’t set to start until eight o’clock.

AJ and I found a spot in the center line and faced each other. I admired his perfect complexion in silence, while he took one of my hands and caressed the surface with his thumb.

“You look really nice tonight, by the way.” AJ was sincere. His eyes darted from my hand to my eyes then back to my hand.

When his hazel gaze rest on me, his face swooned with the elucidation of bedroom eyes – half slit with an ever so slight beckoning smile.

Whether it was premeditated couldn’t be determined by my threatened chastity. He’d given me that seductive look before, stirring up risky emotions.

“Thanks.” My attention diverted back to his. I felt a blush coming on. “Stop it.”

“What?” AJ chuckled with full awareness of exactly what I meant.

“Is it me, or those prostitute-looking chics that initiated that naughty look you just gave me?” I laughed immediately after my compulsory remark.

“What look?” His boyish smile flashed away from me. “Awesome - the doors are finally opening.”

I turned to face the source of his diversion.

The doors to the theatre were in fact breaking their seals. The dividers between me and Steve Tyler were parting ways. Soon I would be in the same building as him. This surreal notion was daunting.

I felt nervous.

My chest was tightening.

Walking closer to the threshold, my legs took on the heaviness of potato sacks – dragging me along. It was like walking in dwarf speed.

The interior of the theatre was equally impressive and just as tattered as the outside. Marble, murals, and intricate carvings along the walls were enough to make me gasp.

“It’s awesome, huh?” AJ whispered in my ear.

I craned my head back to admire the lavish ceiling. The noisy crowd was snuffed out by my bound sense of awe. There was nothing remotely close to this kind of caliber in a ten mile radius of Shelby.

We were ushered up the stairwell by an employee of the theatre then directed to the confines of our balcony seats. The close quarters of the scuffed and stained, red fabric seats posed a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere amongst so many strangers. The crammed setting made me feel claustrophobic.

Fortunately, our seats were in the front row of the balcony section. There were no human obstructions in front of us, only human distractions beside us. I turned in my seat as much as was physically possible within the narrow space, diverting my attention from the annoying female neighbor to my left.

“Are you shitting yourself yet?” AJ yelled over the amplified chatter.

“Big time!”

Looking down at the steadily filling seats of the mezzanine and floor sections below, I instantly took heed to the bizarre contrast between the casual rock attire traipsing the Aerosmith fans, with the majestic domed ceiling and marble rotunda that gazed protectively upon the gold archway framing the stage.

The clash of ages was hilariously ironic.

My patience was weaning. I repeatedly eyed my watch. There were only minutes left for Steve Tyler and Joe Perry to exalt me with their presence.

When I heard that the rumor of Joe Perry returning to the band was true, I nearly pissed myself with excitement.

AJ noticed me twitching in my seat over the impending show.

“Relax,” he muffled a laugh. “They’ll be out soon enough. Then I won’t know you for the rest of the night.”

“What do you mean?” I teased.

“Please - you know exactly what I mean. Once your boyfriend appears I’ll be just a memory.” AJ offered a playful rolling of the eyes.

Just then, as if choreographed with the self-destruction of my patience, the curtain to the stage traipsed open and the audience lights dimmed.

The crowd instantly got to their feet and went mad - me and AJ included.

The dark stage gradually flooded with neon pink, blue, and yellow spot lights directed at the stage floor. Within seconds the band ran out charging, each taking their place with haste, jumping immediately into “Sweet Emotion.”

Joe Perry began with the distorted wining sounds of his voice box, purging goose-bumps from my skin.

The rumbling of the base flooded the auditorium, and Steve Tyler stood before his trademark, scarf-traipsed microphone.

Without a second thought, or any sense that it was coming, a high pitched scream burst from my throat. I was star-struck. And I had crappy seats.

The exotic, full-lipped rocker - who visited my dreams for more than one spicy romp - was really fucking there, less than a hundred yards from me. Breathing the same air. Under the same elaborate roof.

AJ was right - he no longer existed after the band rushed the stage.

When Aerosmith brought to an end their first song my voice was already horse. I snuck a glance at AJ who was equally dazzled by the lead singer.

“We’re back!” Steve Tyler roared at the audience through his enormous smile. “We got a treat for ya tonight. You are all gonna be in our new video, “Let the Music do the Talking.”

The crowd went bizerk.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – a video?

Jumping hysterically I clutched at AJ’s arm to emphasize my excitement. There would be no way he could hear me, even if I tried to scream over the insanity of the theatre.

My lust filled eyes were locked on that beautiful piece of meat on the stage, who was decked out in a hot-pink and black-striped two-piece spandex ensemble. Steve’s delicious chest was exposed, continuing past his navel.

I didn’t care if AJ saw me drool. There was no shame in me.

The intoxication of Steve Tyler’s energized body, screaming voice, and provocative moves caused me to wobble over the railing in front of me on more than one occasion. AJ was quick to stop me from falling.

The deafening sounds of screaming girls were booming from every inch of the theatre. And I was one of those obnoxious fans.

Amidst all the chaos and insanity, my mind wandered briefly during Joe Perry’s guitar solo. The deep desire of becoming a singer materialized full throttle. My envious stare at the legendary singer, as he leaned against a speaker to admire his guitarist’s talent, only made me want to be him.

It was my first live show, and the intoxication that the audience generated must have created the most intense high for the band.

I wanted to feel that high. I wanted to fertilize the air for my fans.

My daydream had been redirected to Steve Tyler as his attention returned to the microphone. I stood captivated – completely immobile. The lust that I had for him conflicted with my wish to be him. I considered the convoluted symmetry: Imagining myself on stage, gripping the microphone, pouring my soul out to the crowd, all while I fed off of their life force. They loved me. Worshipped me. I gave them my music, and they gave me their devotion in return. To be loved but revered from a distance was the ideal relationship. Steve Tyler was living my dream. It wasn’t lust that actually drew me to him. Rather the desperation of knowing in my heart that what the singer represented on that stage was more than just jealousy or even a vain fantasy. That intense emotion was instead the unequivocal longing to live the life of music - the dream to possess that power of captivating people with my voice.

That night in the Orpheum was an unprecedented epiphany for me. There was no doubt in what I wanted to become.

AJ noticed the stoic direction that my face had taken.

“You okay?” he shouted from his seat. “You look catatonic.”

Realizing that I had in fact tripped into a trance with thoughts of my rock ‘n roll make-believe, I quickly turned to him. Feeling silly that he noticed, I leaned over to kiss him.

Aerosmith continued to sing their new stuff as well as their classics. The night was complete when the band rocked out my favorite song of theirs, “Last Child.”

By the time the finale came my voice was shot. Adrenalin spent.

It was singlehandedly the most impacting moment of my life - in so many underlying ways.

Chapter 4

The week of Thanksgiving AJ’s mother took his little brother to Illinois for a visit with their grandmother for the weekend. AJ didn’t like his grandmother, and talked his mom into letting him stay home. She agreed with the stipulation that he had to call her morning and night.

His mother knew very little about us, only that AJ had a friend named Yari. For all she knew, I could’ve been a boy. He told me that our dating was none of her business.

He and his mother had an odd mother/son relationship. AJ was more like the parent. He helped her balance the checkbook; put the grocery-list together, clean-up around the house, and take care of his eight-year-old brother. Taking on the man-of-the-house role without little complaint I assumed was the basis for his maturity.

Because he couldn’t handle all the responsibilities at sixteen, his mother screwed-up on occasion with finances and family priorities causing their frequent relocations.

With AJ’s mother gone for the weekend, his apartment had become the perfect opportunity for us to hang-out, away from the restricting library and cold baseball field.

He lived on Main Street in downtown Shelby, less than a mile from my house. I walked to his place the following day, after his mom left. I showed early afternoon.

The dead leaves of late fall were raked from most yards, bagged on the curbs, and waited for trash pick-up. The maples and oaks were bare skeletons against the graying clouded skyline. Snowflakes started to spit from seemingly no starting point, floating gently in the frosty breeze as I approached AJ’s apartment. It was the first snow of the year. Two inches of conglomerated frozen ice was predicted by the weather man.

The chill in the air turned bitter. My gloved fingers tightened the wool scarf wrapping my neck. Relieved that I wore my earmuffs after thinking they might look too childish, I adjusted them gratefully, responding to the drop in temperature.

Town Liquor was in sight. AJ lived above the tiny corner package-store. The brick building was part of a lineup of small downtown municipal stores centrally located for its resident’s convenience. Above them were single-leveled apartments. The entrance to AJ’s building was between the packy and an antique shop.

I shot up the two stone steps between the sidewalk and door, and shoved my weight against the rusted steel slab to open it. On the phone with AJ earlier that morning he had mentioned to me that the door sticks, and to use some force when opening.

The hallway was dimly lit by a solitary hanging bulb in the narrow foyer. The puck marked, horse-hair plastered walls were painted a bleak shade of moss, with the air an analogous scent of dank must.

The adverse reality of AJ’s home life was startlingly real as I stood scanning the seedy hallway. A twinge of pity pierced my chest.

He said he lived in apartment 2B located on the second floor.

Ascending the creaky wooden staircase that felt dangerously hazardous with every step, my gaze caught sight of the door to AJ’s apartment at the top of the second landing, immediately to the right. A chill of nervous anticipation prickled the hairs behind my neck as I stood inches from his door. I wanted so much to spend time with him alone, away from the library visitors, and other nomadic teens at the baseball field.

My hand rose to rap on the door. It opened before the padded surface of my knuckles met the wooden exterior.

“Hey Yari.” AJ was poised before me, beaming a lofty smile.

A muddled giggle slipped my lips. “How did you know that I was outside your door?” I matched his greeting with equal gravity.

“I heard you coming up the stairs. Come on in.”

Hand-me-down furniture filled the seven-hundred square-foot space. The couch and recliner were mix-matched as were the tattered coffee and end tables. Regardless of the simplicity of his residency, it was warm and cozy.

I started to remove my accessory layers.

“It looks like the snow came early.” AJ broke the momentary silence.

“Yeah, wasn’t it supposed to come after midnight?” I shuffled my hands to warm them.

“That’s New England for ya,” he staggered a laugh.

We stood behind the couch inches from each other, wondering what to do next.

“Oh, I uh, thought we could order a pizza for lunch. Have you eaten?” AJ’s tone was ebullient.

I was hungry, having left my house in a rush. Both Josephine and Marty were home. They were arguing about money taking it to an aggressive level. So I snuck out without telling them where I was going. It wasn’t like they cared anyway. Half the time neither of them even noticed if I was home or not. The only benefit to their intentional disregard for my existence was that I could basically do anything I wanted, and go wherever I felt without their permission. Occasionally I’d offer my itinerary. Then another living person would know where I was in case I should fall into a ditch and die, or be put there. That consideration eventually stopped for lack of a caring audience.

“Pizza sounds great.”

“Cool. Have a seat and I’ll get the phone book. There’s Paul’s Pizza two blocks from here. They have awesome food.” AJ sauntered over to the tiny kitchen adjacent to the living-room.

Walking around the arm of the couch, making for the flat surface of the cushions, my attention cascaded to the living-room window, I approached it. The street and sidewalks were already covered with a dusting of snow. My gaze narrowed, rendered nonplussed by the unexpected change in the landscape.

“That’s coming down awfully fast for just two inches.” I harped. “If we’re supposed to get snow all day and it continues at this pace, it’s gonna accumulate to a lot more than what was predicted.” I was leaning over a spider plant in front of the drafty window.

The insignificant flakes of earlier were no longer specks of dust wisping along the breeze like albino insects drifting aimlessly. A steady flow of cottony-white patches were streaming on a sharp right angle before hitting the ground.

“Didn’t you hear?” AJ called out. “The storm system shifted late last night.” “They’re expecting a Nor’easter to move up the coast with six to eight inches.”

A large yellow phonebook rested on his lap once in the living-room. I leered at him dumbfounded.

“So, are you telling me that I’m going to get snowed in at your place?” My tone was marginally upset by this potentially precarious arrangement.

AJ chuckled halfheartedly at my palpable assessment of things, shuffling through the pages of the four-inch thick book. He too, seemed intrigued by the possibility of me having to sleep over his place. More upfront about wanting me to be snowed-in though, he delighted in the prospect with a continued haughty grin.

I on the other hand, kept him speculating, offering not even the slightest gesture or indication that I, too, wished for this to happen.

“So what do you like on your pizza?” AJ looked up at me with a self-satisfied smirk.

We shared a medium, pepperoni pizza, while watching MTV music videos. When AJ and I got our carb fill, he suggested a game of cards.

Our conversation was light, talking mostly about the latest album releases, videos we watched, and the Aerosmith concert. The snow was piling, nearing four inches. We stopped checking after four o’clock, neither of us caring after that point. I was having a great time hanging-out with him. I didn’t care about anything else.

I took a sip of my soda after beating him at gin for the third consecutive time.

“Ugh, I keep getting my ass kicked by a girl,” he snorted then laughed. “Not fair.”

AJ glowered at my winning hand laid-out on the coffee-table.

“Sorry,” I chuckled. “I’ve always been really good at cards.”

“You’ll have to teach me to be as good as you.”

I watched him as he piled the deck before shuffling them.

“When were you thinking about showing me your bedroom?” I asked without thinking about how AJ might interpret this loaded question.

His eyes flashed to mine, wide and steady. “What?”

I caught myself and what I’d said. Nervous laughter fluttered my chest. “What I meant was, I’m curious to see how you’ve decorated it. That’s all.” I shot him a surly look.

“Oh,” he receded. “Come on, I’ll show you now.”

I had already snuck a peek when passing for the bathroom, but I wanted to get a closer look.

AJ shared a bedroom with his little brother Tommy, so half of the tiny room was decorated with trains and Tonka trucks. AJ’s half was covered with rock posters and his pencil drawings. They were really good.

My attention narrowed-in on one particular illustration tacked up, depicting a meticulously detailed medieval castle. AJ was an incredibly talented fantasy artist, creating images from his own imaginings of dragons flying over lochs, or warriors carrying half-naked princesses. His ideas were a little too graphic for my taste.

“What’s with all the tits and ass?” My eyes scoffed at his Playboy inspired creations.

He laughed at my obvious dislike for his muse. “They’re fantasy. Everything’s supposed to be exaggerated.”

Unsatisfied with his explanation, I shot him a pissy look. He continued to chuckle over my jealous brooding.

“So, they’re your fantasies, then?”

A shit-eaten grin smeared his face. “I guess that’s one way of looking at it.”

“Still, you’re an amazing artist.” I diverted my attention back to his skill. “Do you wanna do something with your talent someday?” I asked, sitting on Tommy’s bed, admiring a life-like charcoal portrait that AJ sketched of his brother.

He sat next to me on the small bed. “That’s my dream. I wanna be an artist for graphic novels. It would be so cool to have stories to match my art work. I love the whole medieval, dungeons and dragons lore.”

I never saw his face light-up with such resolve. I was glad to hear that he had expectations of getting away from that fucked-up home.

His aspiration to draw, to be creative, was uncannily similar with my own love for singing. We possessed the same spirited spark of escape in our eyes.

“I find all that magical stuff fascinating. I love Celtic history, especially.”

“It’s no wonder we get along so well.” He shot me an intense gaze.

“I’m into the arts, too. I love to sing.”

The uncertainty of his response to my revelation was unnerving.

As if he were looking at me for the first time, completely enchanted by my presence, AJ seemed to be searching for words. I didn’t expect this reaction.

“Wow, you do? How come you’ve never sang for me?”

I shrugged. Fear of rejection. It wasn’t like I’d ever sung in front of anyone before. What if my voice wasn’t as good as I thought?

“Sing something. I want to hear your voice.” AJ’s intrigued expression beckoned me to submit to his request.

My face filled with heat. That was the first time anyone had ever asked to hear me sing. It was overwhelmingly nerve-racking. I stood to push away from the demand.

“Yari, don’t be shy.” AJ assured. “Come on - it’s me. You can do anything in front of me and not have to worry about being criticized. Please?”

The only time I ever sang out-loud was when no one was home at my house; when I went for walks alone; or, softly at the library with my headset on. I was almost certain no one had heard my singing. I did trust AJ though, and was confident that even if I had mediocre chords, he’d be delicate for the sake of my feelings.

A nervous exhale puffed from my nostrils. I did want his feedback to see if my pitch had any weaknesses.

“Alright,” I said with an edge of reluctance.

AJ sat up in attention. “Will you sing one of your songs?”

Oh great, he wanted full on judgment. Not gonna happen. “They’re still in the works. I’ll sing one of my favorite jazz songs for you.”

AJ maintained his polite smile upon me. I stood two feet from him. My lungs saturated with air as I inhaled slow and steady to calm my nerves. There was only one ballad that I felt somewhat confident to croon in front of a live audience, and that was because I’d sung it a gazillion times to myself. It had to be near perfect.

“Ready?” I asked in a meek voice.

AJ was nearly falling off of his brother’s bed with anticipation. “I am.” He flashed his perfect smile.

My lips folded into my mouth. The lids of my eyes flickered closed then open again to wash away the remained nerves. When my deep tenor filled the confines of his bedroom, my attention lapsed away from AJ’s gaze and into my comfort zone.

“Every honey bee fills with jealousy - when they see you out with me.

I don't blame them, goodness knows - honeysuckle rose.”

My voice was smooth as butter. The pitch was perfect from high to low. This

assessment gave me the confidence I needed to finally connect with AJ’s eyes. His expression was no longer that of polite interest, but rather, besieged awe.

My eyes closed with the rhythm of this classic jazz melody. I let the passion of the words take hold.

“When you're passin' by, flowers droop and sigh - I know the reason why.

You're much sweeter, goodness knows - honeysuckle rose.

Well don't buy sugar - you just have to touch my cup.

You're my sugar, and it's oh so sweet when you stir it up.

When I'm takin' sips from your tasty lips - seems the honey fairly drips.

You're confection, goodness knows - honeysuckle rose.

Well, don't buy sugar - you just have to touch my cup.

You're my sugar, and it's oh so sweet when you stir it up.

When I'm takin' sips from your tasty lips - seems the honey fairly drips. . .

You're confection . . .” I dragged out the bridge and indulged in AJ’s
gaping mouth, brought on not only by the provocative meaning of the lyrics, but also the sultry kneel of my voice. “Goodness knows . . . my honey . . . oh, my honey . . . my honeysuckle rose.”

AJ was speechless.

Chapter 5

AJ’s mother had an old bottle of shitty white wine forgotten in the fridge. We opened it after my private serenade to him.

“I - I can’t get over your voice.” AJ stammered, pouring the liquor into Tupperware cups. “It’s so . . . so fucking amazing. I had no idea how talented you are.”

“Thanks. It feels nice to hear that for the first time.” I was elated that my singing was as good as I’d hoped. “This has been the day for discoveries, hasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” AJ agreed.

He handed me one of the purple plastic cups. I accepted the drink without hesitation. I’d only had booze once before and it was beer. AJ snuck some bottles from his mom’s stash to the baseball field once. The warm, soothing sensation that penetrated my limbs from the yeast fermented alcohol was addicting. I hoped for the same effect from the wine, especially after my nerve-wracking performance.

“Are you telling me that I’m the first person to ever hear you sing?” AJ was flabbergasted.

“My family isn’t exactly encouraging, and my friends, well, they’re not really friends.” My voice fell timorous. “I would never open-up to that level for anyone but you.”

We were back in the living-room sitting on the couch. AJ had turned on the radio. The grandiose sounds of Queen’s “Under Pressure,” resonated in the background.

“Thank you.” AJ’s glass rose in the air. “Cheers, to the hopeful success of our futures.”

Turning my body to face him I married his encouraging smile with mine. “Cheers.”

Our cups clapped in the traditional fashion. I sipped the sweet flavor of the zinfandel. Rolling the yummy taste around my tongue I swallowed with pleasure. AJ took down the gulp of wine that he swigged without so much as a wince. The limited effect that alcohol had on him was proof that his tolerance was more seasoned than mine.

“I guess I didn’t fully realize how much you love jazz and blues, since we listen mostly to rock.” AJ noted. “You haven’t really described the sound of your music. Is it more like jazz or blues, or just influenced by both?”

I was turned on to the attention that I was being lavished with. The affection was rarely ever allotted to me. On occasion, one of my low self-esteem acquaintances at school offered a compliment on my figure or eye color. But AJ’s flattery was genuine, addicting.

“Those genres are more of an influence.” I explained, placing my cup on the coffee-table. “My style is more of a hodgepodge of everything I love: jazz, blues, rock, heavy metal, classical, and everything in between. There’s really no name for my category of sound.”

AJ looked on in continued interest.

“Well, be sure and let me know when one of your songs is ready to be heard. Your strong voice, no doubt, would sound perfect pared with just about any style.”

I leaned over to grasp my cup again. The wine was going down nicely.

“Are you up for a movie?” AJ asked, rising from the couch.

“Yeah, sure.” I too, lifted from my seat, making for the VHS-shelf abutting a 19-inch TV. “What do you have for choices?”

“A little of this, a little of that. Why don’t you pick a movie, and I’ll get us a refill.” AJ grabbed my cup. It was gone before I could protest. There was no need for being tapped off - I still had half a glass of wine. I didn’t object though.

My eyes wavered over the titles - Nightmare on Elm Street, Muppets Take Manhattan, Beverly Hills Cop, and, The Big Chill. AJ wasn’t kidding when he said there was some of everything.

I used my index finger to scour the titles. The eagerness of my touch stopped at a familiar movie. I’d actually gone to the theatre with a girl from school two years prior to see it - War Games.

AJ was by my side, handing me my deluged glass. He noticed my jolted eyes when I took the overfilled cup from him.

“You don’t have to drink it all at once.” He chuckled then eyed my movie choice.

“Are you in the mood for Matthew Broderick?” I lifted the cover to an upright position.

AJ shrugged his shoulders in causal interest, picked the movie from my fingers, and kneeled before the VCR to pop in the tape. I did an about-face to the couch and plopped down.

“Want some popcorn with the movie?”

“Sure.” I replied, having an instant craving for butter.

The beginning credits were filling the screen as AJ arrived with a Jiffy Pop aluminum container, overflowing with white popped cornels. He managed to turn off all the lights before making his way back to me.

Halfway into the film I started to feel a buzz coming on. My wine was nearing the bottom of the cup. The salty snack was making me thirsty. Slowing my intake, I placed the cup on the table. AJ followed suite.

When the scene where Matthew Broderick is in a phone-booth ripping-off a call with a Coke can pull-ring, I felt movement beside me on the couch. From my peripheral site I could see him cuing closer to me. He wasn’t nonchalant or tacky about this scooching endeavor, so I accepted the gesture by resting my shoulder on his chest, leaning more comfortably into the cushion behind me.

After several minutes his arm flowed over the fine hair at the nape of my neck, making for my shoulders. He leaned forward slightly to face me. The palm of his hand lifted, coming to rest on my cheek. AJ’s eyes bore into mine, causing my stomach to shudder. There wasn’t time to decipher this gesture. His lips were already pressing on mine.

The slight inebriating effects of the wine encumbered with AJ’s meaningful lip-lock was both intoxicating and stimulating. Both of my hands floated to his tasseled hair, entwining within the locks. The blazon look he gave propelled an unknown force within me.

Gradually he brought my back to rest on the sofa cushions. His body pressed feverishly to mine. There was a distinct similarity between AJ’s cravings and my own. His hands found the base of my shirt and crawled underneath, reaching my bra. A nervous unfamiliarity of this new desire caused me to pull away slightly. The heat of his staggered breaths washed over me as his face stared an inch from mine. He waited for the reason for my resistance. Nothing came from my lips. I wanted him physically, but was anxious about having sex.

AJ slipped back over me with his luscious mouth. I couldn’t resist.

An impetuous palpitation consumed the essence between my legs. I could feel AJ’s bulge pressing against me. Surprisingly, that kneading excited me even further. Hoping that our stimulate rubbing would remain as a top-of-the-clothes exploration I made a conscious effort to keep my hands on the exterior of his shirt and jeans. He on the other hand had other destinations in mind.

His calculating arms wrapped my upper-body, continuing to press along the supple skin of my back. My mind flurried hazily, losing all sense of reason. It was nearly impossible to think rationally while AJ’s tongue wrestled mine to submission.

Massaging their way down to the inside of my jeans, AJ’s hands were grasping my backside, lifting and pressing my navel deeper against his jean-covered penis. His mouth was to my hyper sensitive neck, instigating a jolt of electric stimulation on the surface of my skin. The satyriasis of his probing hands was swerving to the front of my navel, resting on the zipper of my jeans.

His breathing intensified.

Searching for the flap of my zipper, AJ simultaneously worked his mouth to my décolleté. Zero sensibility took over my wits, forcing out my hormonal influx. I had to fight it.

“AJ, I can’t.” I stopped him from unbuttoning my pants. “You’re going too fast. I . . . I’m . . .”

I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I was a virgin. I don’t know why. It wasn’t anything I was ashamed of. It was more the unknown that was the basis for my hesitation. And my awkwardness, brought on by my sexual handicap. I was sure AJ could see that I was virgin. He was, after all, present for my first kiss. The confident manner in which he took control of the foreplay made my sloppy attempts look pathetic. I feared humiliation.

“Yari,” AJ started. His brilliant eyes made me tremble. “I’m sorry - I thought this was what you wanted, too.”

AJ and I remained in our sandwiched position while we deliberated our next move.

“I don’t want to get pregnant.” I pulled myself together and sat up. We were inches apart. Getting knocked-up was, naturally, another fear of mine.

AJ faced me in an upright position.

“There are condoms in the medicine cabinet. And, this won’t be my first time.”

He paused to take in my reaction to this apparent loss-of-virginity fact. This established detail didn’t surprise me – I had my suspicions that AJ had sex with at least one girl. His moves were far too experienced for a virgin.

I said nothing.

He moved closer to me, gently. “I won’t hurt you.”

The sincere plea prompted me to fall victim to my earlier longing for him. How could he know how to make me feel the way he did?

“You’ve done it before?” I felt compelled to ask even though he already established this.

I used the question as a way to prompt further details. For some stupid reason I needed to know who my boyfriend had already screwed.

His face fell still. He nodded.

“How many times?” pushing further, I instigated more details.

“A few times,” he said still stoic, still reticent.

This fuzzy answer made me even more prying.

“With who?”

Tension filled his face. I could tell he wanted a topic change, “Someone back in Vermont.” He left it there.

I was intrigued. Maybe he was lying, I asked myself with necessary caution. Maybe he never had sex, will put the rubber on wrong, and knock me up. This seemed unlikely though.

We sat in silence for a few moments. He was the first to offer up a derailment.

“I understand if you don’t want to.”

Reaching for the remote control, I stopped him. His dismayed face made me reconsider.

He looked puzzled.

“AJ, I like you a lot.” I paused there to catch my breath. His face showed no emotion. “If you want to do it with me, I really think you should tell me,” I paused considering my words, “who you’ve been with.”

There was a long, uncomfortable lull before he spoke. I could tell he was struggling to divulge this potentially incriminating information.

AJ’s voice carried a note of embarrassment. “When I was living in Vermont, my mom had to advertise for a roommate to help cover the rent and utilities. All that she could find was a nineteen year-old girl who was boy crazy.” AJ paused to scan my face for any impending judgment. I offered no frown or wrinkled brow, only curiosity.

“She got caught sneaking guys into her room. A few arguments broke out between her and my mother because of the unpermitted sleepovers. My mother threatened to throw her out if she didn’t stop. The girl did - but replaced her nighttime visitations with me.” His chin dropped, avoiding my indecisive eyes.

Being tall and fit I could see the possibility that older girls might develop an eye for AJ. He didn’t look his age.

“I was fifteen when she talked me into having sex with her.” AJ continued. ”Being a teen guy it didn’t take much to say yes. I’m no saint. I didn’t tell my mother about it the six months that it lasted. She did catch us eventually and kicked out the girl. Because of the loss of money we were forced to move to a place we could afford. My mother knows the guy who owns these apartments. They worked something out. That’s why we’re here.”

I didn’t know what to say. Didn’t horny teen guys dream that something like that would happen to them - having sex with an older more experienced girl? Why was he so restrained to tell me?

I diverted the conversation away from his past frolics with the nympho, and got back to the topic at hand. “So . . . why do you want to have sex with me?” Clearly I wasn’t going to be as hardened as the nineteen year-old jezebel, so why bother with me? I’d only make for a terrible lay.

The lines on his brow softened. “Because you’re my girlfriend, and,” a slight smile broke his dismayed face. “I really care about you. To get that close with you would be huge. I want to know what it’s like to be with another girl physically, when there are honest feelings involved.”

I believed him.

“If we do it, you have to promise me that we’ll be safe.”

Placing the TV clicker back on the tattered coffee-table AJ pulled himself to

my side. “I promise. I’ll be very careful. And if you’re uncomfortable, we’ll stop.”

I nodded in agreement.

The pounding in my chest was deafening. I felt sick. What was I doing? This was insane. Was I being too hasty in my decision? Sure, sex looked great on television, but in real life so much could go wrong.

AJ shut off the movie and started toward his bedroom. I quickly slugged down the remainder of my wine, thinking it would take the edge off.

I passed one of the living-room windows. The snow blanketed the world outside. Apparently, the plows hadn’t passed Main Street yet. The vacant town-center was void of pedestrians and cars. It didn’t matter that I lived in Massachusetts my entire life - I still hated snow.

The reflective surface of the mounting white crust had absorbed the light from the setting sun, creating a dull, gray glow, humming through the windows of the apartment. There was no way I was getting home that night.

My calm, cool, and collected boyfriend was waiting in his bedroom for me. He was looking out a window. My hands were shaking. I could feel the wine trying to anesthetize every limb.

When the fluttering of my arms was beginning to fade, relief finally washed over me. Even though I had never had sex, I wanted to be an equally active and effective participant.

There was always that wish that my first time would be special. In a way, it was so far. My first was going to be with AJ. And really, there was no one else I could’ve imagined losing my virginity to.

Never had I bought into the whole sappy Hollywood dogma of candles flickering with hokey love songs crooning in the background as a guy and girl got it on. I just want it to feel great, and not get pregnant. That was good enough for my practical expectations. Of course, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am wasn’t going to fly either.

AJ went to the radio upon his bureau without making eye contact with me. He turned it on to the malleable sound of Robert Plant singing “Stairway to Heaven.”

It was perfect.

The comforting tenor of the singer from Led Zeppelin was the absolute ingredient necessary for me to flush away all of my anxieties. Who would’ve thought my first sex act would become synonymous with the bravado of Percy Plant?

AJ approached me as I stood near the baseboard of his bed. Taking my hand he continued to resist my stare, leading me to the mattress where we sat facing one another.

I swallowed hard, nervous, but eager for things to get started.

He offered a steady, unwavering gaze, holding firm to mine. Without a word, he leaned in for a kiss. Unlike the thousands that we previously mastered, this kiss had meaning.

The atmosphere was composed perfectly with the ethereal music, soft lighting, and the excitement of knowing that it would just be AJ and I for the entire evening.

As the drunken tempo of the rock song started to escalate, so did the intensity of our kissing. Gradually we reclined on his twin bed. The sheets smelled of baby powder.

All my fears were diminishing with every touch of our lips, every touch of his hands. The skill that he possessed wasn’t normal for a teen of sixteen years. That girl in Vermont must’ve been some tramp.

The frame of AJ’s body was almost weightless as he used his arms to avoid pressing down upon me. Soon his hands were exploring my body.

Letting go of my twisted senses, I offered myself to AJ. I allowed him to take control as the warmth of his breath fell upon my chest. Working his hands toward my back, he removed my bra first then my shirt.

AJ brought his mouth to my ear and nibbled the lobe. “I love your body.”

The incorporation of his velvety voice into my blissful state snapped me back to consciousness. Without realizing it, we were both in our underwear.

A shiver engulfed me when his head materialized at my pubic bone. The subtlety of his kisses down there was toxic.

AJ sat up on his knees and pulled off his boxer shorts. I blushed. It was the first time I’d ever seen a real penis. It excited me.

Sex seemed the most incredible thing in the world. I was addicted and we hadn’t even gone all the way yet.

Lying back, naked upon the sheets, I watched him put on the condom with little trouble. He directed his feverish eyes to me. I leaned forward slightly, pulling him on top of me. My hands clasped his waist with impatience.

He chuckled.

Skin on skin, I waited.

Then it came. A shriek of pleasure parted my lips, again . . . and again.

The tantalizing sensation was maddening.

AJ kissed me. I kissed him back harder. Throughout our sexual exploration the eerie lyrics of “Hey You” from Pink Floyd, and the emotional “Free Bird” by Lynard Skynard echoed in the backdrop.

My body convulsed, begging for more of his irresistible touch, his lavish kisses, and the pulsing pleasure.

The comforting feeling of being desired, of being needed, was a human emotion that I was void of for so long. There were no limits to how far I would go to maintain the erotic sensation that brought me to where I was just then.

My legs embraced his midsection with an excited force. AJ responded by increasing his tempo as he lie along my torso. I wondered if he understood the physical felicity that his actions generated within me.

Pulling him against me, as my mouth met his ear, I moaned breathlessly, “You feel awesome.”

The sticky and breathy accolade brought him closer to me, intensifying the warm friction our bodies mounted. This escalated into both AJ and I climaxing.

Simultaneously, my mind and body broke into an aftershock. The residual consequence of us having sex would result in me wanting to do it all over again.

He lay on top of me, panting. I shot him a contented grin.

“How do you feel?” he asked through staggered breaths.

I chuckled, mystified at how stellar I felt.

AJ kissed my lips softly, and returned my smile with his perfect grin.

We spent the rest of the weekend at his place, having sex.