In 9th grade I fell in love for the first time with a boy named Bob. He was one of the only Black boys in our tiny town of 3000 (before Pelican Bay prison was built and our town grew in diversity). He was also a stoner-punk who hung out smoking at the back gate with the other “bad” boys. I was a good Christian girl, but I was captivated by his charming smile. We met in the church youth group because he was attending with his foster brother. His father was a violent man.
He was two years older than me and the first boy I made out with. He showed me what chemistry meant. He also taught me about the way I shiver when my back is touched a certain way, something that would delight many lovers in the years to come. We would meet in the early morning in a hallway hardly visited on the outskirts of the school and he would press me against the wall, kiss me, and run his fingers up and down my back until the bell rang. It was the first time I was turned on by someone and it was thrilling.
I don’t remember exactly how long this fiery connection lasted, maybe a few months, nor how it ended. I do know I wanted for him to be my boyfriend and he wouldn’t commit to that. And then two years later, just before Christmas my junior year, he reached out to me through a mutual friend. He was in the army and going to war, the first Desert Storm. He was scared. I realize now that he wanted the security of knowing someone at home cared if he lived or died.
He asked to see me and I visited him one afternoon at someone else’s apartment. He took me into a bedroom and closed the door. He asked me to have sex with him and of course I said yes to this boy who had already penetrated my heart. He told me the condom was too small and I believed him since my mom kept me out of sex ed, so we didn’t use it. It was awkward, sweet, and my belly was a swarm of butterflies because I was being bad. I told my mom I was going to the library and I burned with the fear of getting caught in my lie, as well as for what I was actually doing. I was having sex!
We promised letters when we parted and he went off to Iraq. It took me a couple months to realize I may be pregnant. I told my mom and, surprisingly, she supported me instead of going into a rage. She was disappointed, but she loved me and her grandchild. She took me to all my appointments, fought with me to stay in the high school when the administration tried to make me leave before the end of the year because I was a “bad” influence on others, and she was the only person at my son’s birth, which was so very hard.
When I wrote Bob about the pregnancy he blamed me, telling me I did it on purpose to trap him and get away from my mom. He was mean and chose not to be a part of my son’s life. Over the years I learned he had a child with a German woman while overseas, and then came home disabled with a diagnosis of PTSD and schizophrenia. He never reached out, till my son was in his late teens and they connected on MySpace. His first message was full of lies and an angry rant about me and my son realized, sadly, that this was a man he couldn’t have a relationship with. He told Bob he was doing great with me as his mom and didn’t need him.
I lost everything except my family when I became a mother at 17. I lost all my friends, because I moved onto the biggest responsibility of adulthood without them. I lost my senior year honors classes because I did transfer to the alternative school where they had a nursery on site (turned out to be a great experience in other ways though). Fortunately my French teacher was awesome and tutored me without compensation so I’d have a 2nd year of language for university requirements. I also lost dreams of becoming an astronomer and attending school in a city for something more practical, teaching, in a rural area where it would be easier to survive on welfare and loans while attending college.
On the other hand, I was gifted with a highly intelligent, creative, and emotionally sensitive son whose existence would inspire me to do all I could to be a good mom under the circumstances of youth, poverty, an absence of healthy role modeling, and mental illness that wouldn’t be diagnosed as C PTSD for 20 years. We grew up together and it was really hard, but it also worked out well for us.
Image: I was 6 months pregnant with my son.