It’s Wendy’s idea to watch porn at the party, for us to squeeze together on the sticky-brown pleather sofas while her parents are away and study the in and out of it—flesh on flesh on flesh. The woman on screen arches her back, and I sense Wendy’s body stiffen next to me.
This. This. This. Is what the wet smacking sound says. This is what happened to you.
But it’s not really. It’s not really what happened to Wendy last fall. Last fall when we’d drank ourselves dumb, playing we-real-cool in Jerry Dunphrey’s back field. Bonfire scorching. Going Back to Cali blaring out from the open doors of a brown sedan, beat thump thump thumping.
No one actually went to Cali that night. Wendy and I went someplace else, waking cold and stiff-limbed, stripped, like trees in winter.
Maybe those things happen in California too. Or wherever they make these videos because, now, the woman’s eyes go dead for a second. Thisss, her eyes say. This is what we do. This is what is done to us.
“Look at him,” Wendy says. The poppoppop of her gum, voice too loud, fist raised at the TV. “Pound that bitch.”
She takes another swig of vodka punch and sticks her tongue out at me, Kool Aid blue.
While the woman on TV takes it, the boys sit slack-jawed on the sofa next to me. Their fingertips rub the washboard ridges of their red Solo cups in wacka-chicka time, eyes bobbling.
Weeks after it happened, I’d read that muscles carry memories.
I’d read that the body remembers trauma, like a door closing. And in severe cases, the skin will knit itself back together, trying to shut the world out. No vacancy.
I’d read that people in a coma or under anesthesia or blacked out can still hear voices, and certain sounds or words or smells can stick in the head like triggers.
When I mentioned this to Wendy, she swore that nothing happened to her at the bonfire that she didn’t want to happen. Tongue tapping her teeth when she repeated it, again and again, inflection changing, slowing. She refused to talk about it because, “Nothing. Happened.”
Now, the TV woman’s mouth opens round, grimaces, then goes round again. She could be dead and the guy behind her is just hammer hammer hammering, eyes on the prize, not once looking at her face.
On the table in front of us there’s an assortment of condoms in a candy dish. Colors bright as the gum Wendy’s blowing. Penis pink. Penis purple. Penis green.
Not mud brown like at Youth Club when Pastor Pete had us walk around with bottles of single-hued water. Every time we encountered someone of the opposite sex, we had to mix colors. “See,” he’d said, “how quickly you become impure. No matter what you do, you’ll never be able to return to your original shade. It’s the same with sex.”
On TV, the porn guy is thrusting away, no condom no condom no condom.
“It changes you on the inside,” Pastor Pete had said. “But you know and God knows. God always knows.”
Next to me, the boys elbow each other and laugh, shifting on the sticky pleather, pale hairs poking out of pale knees. Things are amping up on screen, and they lean forward, popped zits crusting the backs of their necks above the sweat-stained collars of their white t-shirts.
Pink. Purple. Green. Mud.
They mix and they mix and they mix.
I blink and somewhere behind my eyes, inside me, the ER nurse is there with a needle, saying, Relax, this won’t hurt, this won’t hurt, this won’t —
But it does.
And on screen, the woman yelps, eyes wide, and I can’t look away. I can’t not feel the shadow as it passes through her, over her, before settling on his face—so satisfied, unafraid.
Wendy clutches my hand, and for a brief moment, I wonder if she feels it too.