mama asks, haven’t you been lucky to know gracious men

"He stopped when I asked him to stop & in the morning he apologized & meant it so, really, who could blame him."

yes mama, after all, the only time I really felt uncertain about a sexual advance was at a college party where my boyfriend took me, drunk for the very first time, to his bedroom, pulled my underwear to my knees & used his fingers to enter—did I mention I was drunk?—& said, I know you don’t want to have sex, but do you want to just touch it? & for a second I closed my eyes & I thought, I guess this is what we’re doing, but he stopped when I asked him to stop & in the morning he apologized & meant it so, really, who could blame him &

a couple months later, on a first date, a different man bought the drinks & made me laugh, so I decided to let him kiss me at my door, a slobbery unalive thing not half as good as I had hoped, so when I stopped, he said, that’s it? & I shrugged, yep, after which he went home & graciously let that be it—did I mention he bought the drinks?—only stopping to ask one more time before he left, you’re sure that’s really it? &

it’s true the first man I had sex with didn’t ask & it’s true I probably would’ve said no if he had but it’s true also he made me cum, so when I talk about losing my virginity, I use the word accident but never assault because, after all, I hadn’t worn my purity ring in years, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to wait anymore &—did I mention he made me cum?—we had sex countless more times in the years after that, so he must have done something right the first time & after all I was in love with him &

online no one has ever sent me a dick pic, only said, would you ever be up for a threesome, maybe with the girl next to you in your profile pic? or if you wanna do it with another guy that would be cool too, & he said I could pick the person, which I suppose was rather gracious &

let’s not forget my guy friends in high school, who wrote B1R on my arms in study hall so I felt special, part of the boner joke, not just the object of it &

you remember my first boyfriend, always so good to me, who preferred on our downtown walks to hold hands only using his left, in case, he said, I need to punch a man with my right for looking at you & once, when I went to a bar without him, he told me he’d be so pissed if a man touches you tonight,but I knew he’d only ever use a fist on a wall, not me, after all, he was the kind of man who wanted to do things right, which is how he ended up, after I originally turned him down, inviting my dad out for breakfast to ask his permission to take me out—did I mention he only hit walls?—so of course, mama, you said he was a good boy & wouldn’t I agree that, truly, I have been very lucky?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: My experiences with men were hard to categorize neatly; I wanted my prose to be similarly blurry, echoing the uncertainty that existed in what I was remembering. I was hoping to capture that feeling of disorientation, which is how I landed on this voice: run-on sentences with minimal punctuation, no periods. This lack of full stops means the sentences and paragraphs blend into each other without pause or rest. I like the way this breathless pacing mimics the runaway feeling that sometimes accompanies a new understanding, when you suddenly see something differently and it’s like a faucet turns on in your head: you start rambling, piling on examples, interrupting yourself with new insights whenever one occurs to you. The repetition of “did I mention,” along with the minimal punctuation that makes it impossible to find the edges of each thought, works to create a voice that feels both earnest and erratic, as if the speaker hasn’t rehearsed what they’re going to say but is instead working it out in real time.

—Samantha Edmonds

About the Author

Samantha Edmonds

Samantha Edmonds is the author of the chapbooks Pretty to Think So and The Space Poet. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in the New York Times, Ninth Letter, Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Rumpus, among others.

View Essays

Leave a Reply