Tag Archives: Fiona Helmsley

Over Share by Fiona Helmsley

seagull2I remember the time

We were eating lunch together in the employee break room

And I was just starting to feel close to you

As you’d just disclosed to me

That your husband, who you always gushed about in public, was in actuality, a pig.

The conversation shifted to swarth, then personal grooming habits.

“I can’t go a day without shaving my legs,” you said. “I just feel too icky!”

“I haven’t had pubes since the Clinton administration,” I replied.

From that day on,

I fed my half- eaten bags of potato chips to the seagulls in the park on my way home,

You had always finished the chips for me,

But now I ate lunch alone.

Herbert Hunke Herbert Hunke Herbert Hunke by Fiona Helmsley

Copping is a muscle, and muscles have memory.
In the summer of 1994, I had just graduated from high school, and was homeless. My mother had kicked me out of the house, and would only let me come home if I agreed to her one condition: I had to go to, and complete rehab. I’d attempted rehab once before, and found it unbearable; I’d schemed to get myself kicked out. There was just too much going on in the world outside that I didn’t want to miss, and I hadn’t been doing heroin long enough to equate it with any real kind of misery. I was on my own for the first time in my life, and had no qualms about sleeping outside, if it came down to it. My mother’s one condition was a weak extortion.

My best friend Chelsea had just been released from the fabled Silver Hill Hospital, where her parents had sent her after she overdosed on heroin in a McDonald’s bathroom stall. Edie Sedgwick had been to Silver Hill, and it had a hairdressing salon. I was jealous. Maybe I would have been able to endure my own intended 28 day stay if I’d been sent to a rehab that cush. One of the patients at Silver Hill with Chelsea was a good-looking young man with a thick head of wavy, dark hair who kept love letters from Courtney Love in a box in his room. He’d regale Chelsea with all sorts of wild stories about Courtney, who’d just lost her husband, Kurt Cobain, to suicide a few months before. Kurt and I had been in different rehabs at the same time; I felt a kinship with him because we’d both left the treatment centers we’d been forced into against our will.

Chelsea’s roommate at Silver Hill was an attractive young woman named Alex. Alex’s father had gotten rich selling high-waisted jeans to lower-income women across America. She’d been sent to Silver Hill by her parents for an eating disorder. Growing up on the peripherals of the fashion industry, Alex had been a model, and was bulimic. Silver Hill was a dual diagnosis program, which meant they treated emotional problems as well as drug and alcohol ones, and Chelsea was being treated for cutting herself while she was there. She and Alex had come up with an agreement to support each other while in treatment: Chelsea wouldn’t cut herself, if Alex didn’t make herself throw up. But the reverse was also true, and possibly the more effective motivator: Chelsea would cut, if Alex vomited, and Alex would vomit, if Chelsea cut. They had managed to keep this agreement a secret from the staff.

Alex was discharged from Silver Hill first, and a week after Chelsea’s release, a Lincoln town car came to pick her up to squire her to Alex’s family’s Upper East Side townhouse. The town car stopped behind the supermarket where I’d been sleeping, and picked me up too.

It was a beautiful summer day and we were both so excited. Alex had an itinerary planned for us while we were in the city. We would have free reign of the Lincoln town car. Chelsea had told Alex I’d spent the summer homeless, and Alex had offered to take me shopping. I met Alex quickly; she was pale and statuesque, with bright blonde hair, and wore round Jackie O style sunglasses as she fluttered about the townhouse, getting dressed. I hadn’t been so excited for what lay ahead since I was a kid, and my family would go on bargain vacations to Cape Cod. Alex had an appointment with her therapist and asked the housekeeper to make us whatever we wanted to eat, and gave Chelsea two hundred dollars. The money was for incidentals, and for heroin, a drug Chelsea had told Alex all about, and Alex wanted to try.

We didn’t know anyone in New York City to cop from, so we had the driver drop us off on St. Marks Place, and asked him to wait. We hit the streets, eyeing everyone we passed. We were walking towards Tompkins Square Park, a destination for homeless young people with punk rock sensibilities where I’d copped other times when I’d been in the city. There is a waxy, sort of preserved Madame Tussaud’s look to heroin users. In the same way that crackheads have sharp, spastic mannerisms, people on heroin have their own identifying characteristics: they look like they are intoxicated by sleep; they radiate a sort of toxic languor.

Two men passed us. They looked like they’d stepped out of a street scene in Midnight Cowboy; they looked like the sort of people I envisioned whenever I read anything about the old automat Horne and Hardart in Time Square. One of the men wore a child’s size leather jacket, his arms poking out at the elbows. The other was hunchbacked and walked with a cane. All I could think was Herbert Huncke Herbert Huncke Herbert Huncke. We approached them, our want stronger than our shame.

“Um…” I’d learned that the best way to present myself when asking a stranger for anything illegal was with self-effacement. “Do you think you could you help me and my friend…?”
I left it to hang in the air. If I was right, they would just need me to clarify which, coke or dope, and how much.

They looked at each other.

“You aren’t cops?”

Our appearances were testimonials. Chelsea had short bleached blonde hair with skinhead girl sideburns and fringe bangs, and the stubble on my shaved head was dyed black. Some cops will go to the trouble— my friend George was once busted smoking a joint by a cop with a Mohawk—but most, I assume, aren’t paid enough and are too vain.

“No.”

“You’ll buy for us too?”

“Yes.”

“We’re going to have to take a walk. How much do you want?”

“A bundle, plus the two for you. Twelve?”

“We need to go to the Bowery.”

Up close, the man with the cane was much younger than he had first appeared to be, due to his curled body. We talked as we walked, Chelsea, friendly and curious about everything, blabbed away, talking about rehab, what we were doing in the city, our car and driver. I was quieter, because copping always made me extremely anxious. Not so much about the police, though that anxiety definitely played a part, but because I couldn’t relax until I had it. The outcome in ellipsis until I had the dope in my body did something to my bowels. I walked along like a duck, because I had to shit.

As we approached a side street off the Bowery, the man in the leather jacket asked for the money. His friend with the cane stayed with us, and my sphincter relaxed a bit. He made no moves to hobble off, a good indication that they had no plans to rip us off. The man in the leather jacket returned a few minutes later, sidled up beside me, and slipped me the heroin.

“Come over there with me. I’ll introduce you,” he said.

This was an incredibly generous gesture; most middle men prefer to stay in the middle, as it’s such a profitable spot.

“Ok.”

I turned the corner, and followed him to a store front with the grating pulled down. Outside, on a plastic chair that looked like it had been stolen from an elementary school, sat a short, fat Asian man. With a wet towel draped around the back of his neck, and a red dragon tattooed on the top of his head, he resembled a sort of biker Buddha.

“Sammy, this is my friend.”

The man’s eyes were closed, and he quickly opened them to look me over.

“How can I get in touch with you?” I asked.

The man in the leather jacket answered for him. “He’s usually right here, or you can ask for him in the lobby at the Sunshine.” He was referring to the Sunshine hotel, a rather infamous skeevy SRO, near CBGB’s.

“Alright, we’re good. Thanks Sammy.”

As we walked away, the man in the leather jacket told me what I’d been suspecting; that Sammy did not speak English.

“He speaks money,” he said.

We rejoined Chelsea, and his friend with the cane.

“Alright, we got to go,” the man in the jacket said. “We’re on a deadline.” He didn’t elaborate. “It was nice meeting you girls. Don’t make that driver of yours too crazy.”

We offered them a ride, but they declined.

“I figured out who you remind me of,” the man with the cane said to Chelsea, who he had obviously developed an affection for. “Edie Sedgwick. You’re not a toothpick like she was, but something about the eyes and the face. Maybe it’s the hair. And the driver. The reincarnation of Edie Sedgwick.”

“It was nice meeting you girls,” the man in the jacket repeated, with a smile. “But I’m curious. Why’d you ask us?”

“I like your look,” I said.

Like walking death.

It was the truth.

 

Joan Vollmer Burroughs Died for Somebody’s Sins not Mine by Fiona Helmsley

Here’s the thing. I am very distrustful. I’ve been burned many times. One time in particular that was quite painful was by Patti Smith. She was with her then boyfriend, the young man who would go on to become the photographer, who would be wearing monogrammed slippers in fifteen years’ time, shooting flowers and whips up his asshole. A good looking fellow with unkempt curls. Bill would not have cruised him as he liked Spaniards.

They were at the Chelsea Hotel, what we used to call the Literary Leper Colony as a kick. Not out of disrespect for the address but because so many of the greats had gone there to die. Patti was very aware of the anniversary, she’d even found out approximate times from somewhere, though she and the boy did travel in the same loose circles as Bill when he was in town. They had dressed for their parts, the boy in a handsome Salvation Army suit coat and matching pants and Patti in a diaphanous slip dress and pearlescent shawl. There’s not much written as to my sartorial flair. Despite having such a prolific circle of writers for friends, it’s amazing how invisible I have remained. It was because of this that when dressing as me Patti defaulted her look to that of Ophelia before hitting the brook.

At 7:15 PM, Patti and the boy exchanged words like they imagined Bill and I might have before I was shot. So much pageantry was involved in their reenactment it’s a wonder they didn’t sell tickets. It was like a warped wedding ceremony, the groom being artistic sensibility. We now pronounce ourselves outlaw artistes!

“I think it’s time for our William Tell Act,” the young man said without emotion.

“I don’t think I can look, you know how I can’t stand the site of blood,” Patti replied.

The only aspect of the recreation they’d neglected was the weaponry. Instead of a .38 the boy had a small plastic water gun, painted brown and filled with red food coloring. He put a tumbler glass onto her head and backed up not too far. I saw something in his face, it read like hesitancy. A squirt of food coloring hit her squarely between the eyes. She twitched and the glass fell without breaking. As the pinkish- red trail ran down her forehead she collapsed to the floor.

Finé.

The whole thing was really a rather crass affair, but who’s to say, I might be biased. My husband and I have become one of the most popular his and hers Halloween costumes in certain circles of New York. More popular then Zelda and Scott, atleast as popular as June and Henry. I’d seen my share of these farbs but Patti’s was the first by a person in circumstances similar to my own and with a connection. I suppose it was the reason I was drawn out. That and it was obvious she was outré enough not to be completely spooked by the idea of talking to a ghost.

She dropped to the floor, feigning the last wheezy breaths of my death’s rattle. The boy waited a few seconds before leaning down and helping her to her feet. She moved her hand to his face as he lifted her, to caress his smooth skin and invite him to kiss her. Instead he moved her hand away.

“I have to go,” he said. This going of his had become a reoccurring motif. Though he was rejecting her advances it was not with cruelty.

“Where?” she asked. The food coloring had streaked down her forehead and pooled at the bridge of her nose. Her costuming was in such stark contrast to the boy’s. He looked debonair, brashly handsome; with the blood, she looked like a Bellevue escapee.

“To Terry’s loft…”

“You spend more time with Terry than you do with me, Robert. Not a small feat considering we live together.”

“I said I’d do this with you…” He moved his hands in the air, though the fleeting traces of their reenactment. “I don’t want to argue. He’s waiting for me. I’ll be back late tonight, I promise.”

Once the boy had gone, she went over to the bookcase and took out a small, elegantly constructed handmade diary. She poured herself a glass of wine from the bottle she had planned to use as an aid in the seduction of the boy, if only she had made it that far.

She picked up a pen, sat down at a small table and began to write: Rimbaud, Whitman, Blake, Burroughs: Robert and I are similar in the way we express our idolatry. We commune with our influences; covet their experiences like cicerones to luminosity. But it appears for Robert having one such experience Rimbaudesque hasn’t been enough. Jim Carroll said he knew he wasn’t gay because he only did it with men for money. I’m fairly certain that Robert is now doing it with them for free. 

Without confirmation from the boy she was in purgatory. Without confirmation as to the circumstances of my death, I was too. You could say I thought we could help each other out of a jam.

Not wanting to scare her but conceding that some fright was inevitable, I waited till she had finished her first glass of wine and had the beginnings of a glow on. When she got up to use the bathroom in the hallway, engaging all three door locks behind her, I even refilled her glass to encourage more consumption.

There was so much riff-raff in the halls of the Chelsea that when I did manifest, in the second chair at the table, the boy’s chair, she did not even seem that startled. I wore a knitted cloche low on my forehead to cover the bullet hole and moved my chair in a way advantageous to the dim lighting of the room.

“How did you get in here?” she demanded, catching sight of me when she looked up from her journal. She clenched the pen in her hand like a javelin.

“Joan Vollmer, Patti. I was watching your reinterpretation of my death.”

As could be expected, the revelation came as quite a jolt. She jumped up from her seat and bolted towards the door. “You old freak! You were spying on us! Get out now or I’ll get the police!”

“Touch me Patti,” I said following her as quickly as I could with my gimpy leg. She was frantically trying to undo all the locks on the door. “I can prove it to you if you touch me…”

She wouldn’t acknowledge my request, so to offer up irrefutable evidence of my nature, I walked through her, through the door, out into the hallway, then back into the room and beside her.

“I’m a ghost, Patti. An eidolon.”

She frantically continued with the locks. As she was both tipsy and unnerved, all she could do was fumble them. “I’m asleep,” she whispered, closing her eyes and shaking her head side to side as if she could wake herself up. “I passed out in the chair, this is a dream…”

“You’re awake,” I interjected.  “Robert left a little while ago. You’ve been drinking wine, writing in your journal.”

An uncomfortable silence rested between us. A sort of stalemate. She could either resist believing what I was or she could accept it.

When she finally spoke it was with such a release of emotion I thought she might cry.

“Did I… conjure you?”

“I don’t know exactly what you did, but everything lined up. I don’t have long though. I’m like Cinderella at the ball and can’t dance all night. Can we sit down?”

She didn’t respond but followed me back to the table, keeping as much of the small room between us as she could.

She stared at me for a good moment, then leaned across the table to touch me skittishly, like someone might if trying to gauge the heat of a hot stove. When her hand cut clear through the air, clear through me, she threw back her head and began reciting verses from Whitman: “And thee my soul, thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet thy mates the eidolons!” She assailed her hands upon the tabletop and cried out, “Old Bull Lee’s wife!” referring to my husband by his character’s name in Jack’s book. Talking a mile a minute and with much animation, she began speaking of her and the boy’s reenactment of my death.

“It…it… was meant as a tribute, a paean to you and your relationship with Old Bull Lee… You are such an inspiration to me, Joan. You were the hippest, the smartest girl on that scene, a real firecracker. Robert has said I’m so obsessed by my icons their like my imaginary friends. I’ll be writing in my journal and he’ll say, “What are you doing over there Patti Lee, communing with your dead pals?” I’ve always been thought of as this sort of ‘little girl who cried wolf’… “Oh Patti and her imagination!” they always say. That’s probably why you came to me Joan, you knew from my mouth no one would ever believe it! A visit from you is just the sort of thing they would expect me to claim!”

She was so excitable and schizophrenic it dawned on me we might go on like this forever unless I got stern.

“Robert is homosexual Patti,” I said. “His sexual encounters with men are not just some artistic experiment. I know all about the denials and justifications. I went through the same thing with Bill. I had as hard a time accepting it as you are.”

“Joan Vollmer Burroughs in my room at the Chelsea! Commiserating with me about man troubles!” She pulled her feet up into the seat of her chair and wrapped her arms around her legs, adjusting the skirt of her dress for modesty. “I’ve felt so jaded lately. My belief in the magic of the world has really been on the wane.” She inhaled deeply and fidgeted with a loose gold band on her ring finger, twisting it in circles it as she spoke.

“At one time, Robert and I were like one person, Joan. Psychic twins I used to say. Telepathic, like you and Old Bull Lee. I’d always dreamed of meeting another artist to love and create with. Robert’s my muse and my maker. I’m resistant to give that up no matter who he shares his bed with.”

She must have forgotten I was untouchable because she started to reach across the table, then pulled back.

“I feel so blessed to have this time with you, Joan.”

“You’re blessed to have someone to have this conversation with,” I replied. “I had no one. At least no one who wasn’t in some way caught up in our madness. You can’t just talk to anyone about your lover, your husband, being fey. They don’t understand why you just don’t leave, that you can’t just turn your feelings on and off like that. Then there’s the denial. I used to say to Bill, “How can you be a faggot when you fuck like a pimp?”

A sly smile spread across her face that led me to think she could relate.

“I need to ask you a favor, Patti. I want to know if my husband shot me on purpose. I want to know once and for all if my death really was just an accident.”

“Oh Joan, I can assure you right now that it was! Lee was devastated by your death. It ruined him. It took him to depths so low, he had to write to find his way out. Your death is what inspired him to become a writer. It’s the reason he writes now!”

“Bill had been writing for years before my death, Patti. He was starting to become more ambitious about it with encouragement from Allen and Jack. He was writing two books at the time of my shooting. I had read parts of them. One was about boys, the other was about junk.”

“I’m staggered that you would even question this, Joan. Lee had no reason to do you in. You were the mother of his child. You had a partnership, a numinous understanding…”

“He’d been home for three days from a trip to South America with his boyfriend when I was shot. They were in South America for over two months, Patti. Two months! I don’t know what happened over the course of that trip. Maybe the thought that once he came home- the looming threat of returning to that existence… I suspect he was done with us. Billy could go and live with his parents- and me, I don’t think he really cared where I went, as long as it was a way from him.”

“Oh Joan, I don’t believe that for a second. You had tolerated all of his lovers in the past. Whatever would have been his complaint?”

“I think he wanted to be free of the trappings and responsibility of a family, Patti. Free to be an artist, to bugger boys where and when he wanted to, with impunity. Free of my loud mouth, my ugly face. I moved my chair over here because the lighting is better and you won’t get a good look at me. At my teeth. They’re like rotting tombstones from all my years on Benzedrine. What you would see isn’t damage done by any bullet. I was off the speed by then, but I was foul- mouthed lush with a gimpy leg from polio. Twenty-eight years old, but looking closer to fifty. I was only a few years older than you and you made me for an old freak when you first caught sight of me! And I can’t be positive because I’d been drinking, but I think I saw something in his eyes when he pointed the gun…”

“You were both drunk, Joan. That’s probably why your recollection’s so hazy. You were blitzed. You and Bill were at a party, at friend’s house when you were shot. You were performing your William Tell Act, something you’d done many times before…”

“No Patti. I remember what happened. I remember clearly. Bill and I hadn’t even come to the apartment I was shot at together. I hardly saw him over those three days after he returned from his trip. We met up at the apartment where I was shot by coincidence. His lover, the boy he went to South America with, was one of five or so people that lived there. And I think it bothered Bill. He wanted me out of his life and there I was, a guest at his lover’s apartment, and it made him feel like he’d never be free of me, he’d always have to tolerate my presence in some unbearable way or another. He’d come to the apartment to sell a gun. And I was at my wit’s end with him, Patti. I had to call his parents for money to feed the children while he was off in South America gallivanting with his catamite! We bantered there. I knew him so well, I knew just what to say to get him good and make it sting. He hated to be embarrassed. He was such a show off, with a machismo streak a mile long. I made a comment, not even a clever one… I said, in front of his catamite, in front of his claque, I said, “The big man with the gun who can’t shoot straight.”  You see, Bill was a great shot, it was one of the things he prided himself on, his marksmanship. I was being cheeky; I meant it as double entendre. I just wanted a response. Some pathetic acknowledgement of my existence. And he said, “Oh yeah?” And then to prove it, to prove me wrong, I let him put the glass on my head. It was the most interaction we’d had in months, Patti… Yes, it was something we’d done once before, but it wasn’t any party trick. I wasn’t suicidal Patti; I would have never let him put that glass on my head if I thought for a second he might miss…”

“I don’t believe it, Joan.”

“I saw something in his eyes, Patti. I’m not saying it was a total set-up, but I think in that moment, he saw a way to get what he wanted…he saw a way out. What I’d like for you to do is, I’d like for you to put it out there for me. I’d like for you to say that you suspect I was murdered…”

“Oh, Joan! I’m a fairly new face on the scene here. I don’t want to alienate anyone… I’m a poet, Joan. I’m not any kind of investigative reporter…”

“You could write a poem. Nothing will happen to Bill, Patti. It was eighteen years ago. I don’t want him rearrested. He already got his sentence, which he ran from, by the way. I just want some acknowledgement of what really happened to me that night…Why doesn’t anyone have the guts to say it aloud? To even question it? Is it because all of you who venerate him so would have to confront an ugliness about yourselves?”

“Look at my bookcase Joan! I’m a scholar of your lives!”

“What are you saying? Because you’ve read all my husband’s books you are somehow better qualified than I am to judge what happened to me that night?”

“William Burroughs is like another bible to me, Joan. He’s one of the reasons I became an artist. He’s one of the reasons I moved to New York…”

“Another bible…Do you like science fiction, Patti?”

“Science fiction? I mean, I suppose. I’ve read some Ray Bradbury…”

“What about gay pornography? Do you enjoy gay pornography, Patti?”

“I’m not against any kind of sexual expression, Joan. It’s not what gets me off, if that’s what you mean…”

“What about pederasty? Child fucking. How do you feel about child fucking, Patti? Because that’s what my husband writes about. That’s your bible. Or is the real reason my husband’s your favorite writer what you think he represents? Gentleman- degeneracy with a Harvard degree and a handsome hat? Is it the kitsch value of his lawlessness that you venerate? Is my husband your favorite writer because you’re so frantic to viewed as outsider you’ll pardon his transgressions’ so you can be associated with them?”

“I’m sorry I came here tonight Patti, but I have no choice who I come to. Because of that, if you keep with your crass reenactments, I may be back.” I was so angry now that I stood up and removed my cloche.

“Yours will wash away, Patti.”

I picked up her pen from the table, the one she’d been using to write in her journal, and jammed it into the hole in my forehead. “Mine won’t.”

Then I left her there, at her table, in her room at that hollowed hotel.

Left her with the lepers.

***

Bill is dead now, so what does any of this matter?

I have not seen him since his passing, but I came across something the other day, something interesting. It was a transcript of an interview a man named George Laughhead did with my husband right before he died. I can’t get into the logistics of how or where I saw it, but in it Mr. Laughhead concedes to something I waited over sixty years to hear someone admit.

He says, “I don’t really care if William Burroughs murdered his wife.”

My husband was allowed my death. His status as an icon allowed for him to transcend my shooting to such a degree it was no longer considered a criminal act, but a celebrated one.

In his old age, it appears Bill himself felt a little more emboldened to speak closer to the truth. In the same interview, he yells out, “SHOOT THE BITCH AND WRITE A BOOK….THAT’S WHAT I DID.”

     It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword.

     And sometimes it is the sword.

     Don’t let me down.

     Joan Vollmer Burroughs

How Internalized Shame Influenced the Choice of My First Sex Partner and Led Me to Cheat on the Boyfriend I Really Liked by Fiona Helmsley

My freshman year of high school I had two goals: to try LSD* and to lose my virginity. I accomplished both by the end of first marking period.

Though I had a boyfriend at the time who was also a virgin, my first time was not with him. It was with his best friend, a sixteen year old mimbo extraordinaire who spelled the “I” sound in his name with a “Y,” making “Chris” Chrys. I choose Chrys specifically because he was promiscuous and aggressive. My boyfriend, whom I liked very much, was just too chivalrous and respectful towards me, which left the physical aspects of our relationship stalled because of my own sexual hang-ups. I needed a first time partner who would not just storyboard the event for me, but feed me his penis like a director might feed a bad actor their lines.

Chrys and I had had a previous sexual encounter when it hadn’t been cheating on my part and bro foul on his, the summer before I hit the hallways as a freshman.

One night I snuck out of the house with my friend Louise and Chrys was one of the boys we happened to meet out on the street after midnight. While Louise got it on with his friend, I laid down in the grass and let Chrys have most of his way with my basically comatose form. I wasn’t drunk or on drugs, it was the shame I felt that completely mired my ability for both response and reach around. Chrys had to release his own member and put it into my hands, because to take the initiative and open up his pants on my own would be to show that I wanted it, which I wouldn’t, even though I very much did.

From a very early age I had been sexually paralyzed by the notion that it was bad form for a female to show she wanted anything sexually, and even worse for her to go out and seek it. I had grown up in an Irish-Catholic family, and even though for a short period of time my parents had hidden a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves under the mattress in their bedroom, there was zero dialogue in our house about the subject matters in its pages. Everything I learned about my body and sex I had to scavenge for myself. Though we never spoke about the “S” word, there was a strong, fragrant undercurrent to the silence. We weren’t talking about sex because it was a dirty, shameful thing.

My teenage years found me incredibly curious about sex, but the shame I had internalized shaped all of my sexual interactions. I was not prude per se but more frozen into frigidity. All of my sexual fantasies involved aggression on the part of my partners (envision Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees as a rapist) to resolve my own desirous culpability. It was my partners who were the ones in control, shaping events; I was just a passive entity. Even in my inner-most thoughts I wouldn’t allow myself be shown as an willing participant.

So freshman year- I liked my boyfriend, but he was just too respectful. He didn’t push me. He didn’t put my hands into his pants like Chrys did; he didn’t offer instructions or storyboards. He was holding me back by not taking the reins, by not making me do what he didn’t even know I wanted to. The night I’d fooled around with Chrys in the grass he’d asked me to have sex with him and though I’d said no, I always remembered the offer and we became closer as I dated his best friend. And one warm fall evening, 24 hours after my sweet, gentle boyfriend serenaded me outside my bedroom window with songs he learned starring in our high school’s production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, I agreed to meet Chrys in my backyard and had sex with him in the dirt pit behind my house.

It was very quick and it didn’t hurt. I was expecting it to as my only other close friend who had had sex had ended up in hospital with cysts on her ovaries, locker folklore at the time connecting the cysts to her too early middle school forays into fornication. Though I didn’t think sex would give me tumors, I assumed there would be some kind of strong physical discomfort. It was anticlimactic in all regards.

My first words to Chrys afterward were “Did I bleed?” He looked down at the prophylactic on his now flaccid penis and said “No.” I recall answering, “Must be all those horseback riding lessons I took.”

I hate to use words like give and take but I choose to give Chrys my virginity purposely, because I knew he would take it.

*Alas, LSD would let me down, too. I’d read Timothy Leary’s autobiography Flashbacks and had been heartened to learn about his experiments with psilocybin in the prisoner population. Leary had claimed success with using the drug to help recidivists come to terms with the personality defects that led them back to crime. Since adolescence is essentially one long ten year bid, I reached for LSD in the hope it might serve as a sort of psychedelic fix me in a time before Prozac. Maybe, my thought went, LSD would help me come to terms with what it was about myself that I loathed. Alas, it just made me even more tongue tied and awkward, and my taste in music and clothing suffered. I took it over 200 times, anyway, just to be sure.


Fiona Helmsley is a writer of creative non-fiction and poetry. Her first book There Are A Million Stories In The Naked City When You’re A Girl Who Gets Naked In The Naked City was released in 2010. Her writing can be found in various anthologies like How Dirty Girls Get Clean and Air In The Paragraph Line and online at websites like Jezebel and The Rumpus. She can be reached through her blog Flee Flee This Sad Hotel at http://ilikemymeattender.blogspot.com.