There was the Oregon City Library in my youth, a Carnegie gem, tiny, with a wading pool and swing sets out front. I walked or bicycled or drove to that library hundreds of times. I was always alone.
I did my reading and research there, and checked out double or triple albums by Stevie Wonder. The Secret Life of Plants is still overdue. I probably owe $5000 on it, but I owe Stevie Wonder more, because there was something in his music (and in particular that mysterious album) that sowed a seed within me that would later grow into an explorer’s heart.
The Oregon City Library was also the place I explored sex. No, not actual physical contact or anything like that! It’s where I researched how to have sex before I had sex! The story goes something like this:
On October 31, 1979, L wrote in my sophomore-year journal, the first one I ever kept: Today is the best day ever!! I’m so glad there is no school!! I love spending time with Matt!! He means everything to me!! He’s so special!! I hope we last forever!! I can’t explain how I feel about him. It is just like all of me wants to devote myself totally to Matt.
L was my first high school girlfriend. We began going together at the beginning of our sophomore year at Oregon City High School. I took her to the Homecoming Dance and my older sister drove us and bought me some cheap champagne for the occasion. After several intense sessions of making out and light petting, L and I discussed losing our dual virginity. Neither set of our parents had said a word to us about sex and the required sexual education course called Family Living was scheduled for next fall.
Thus, we discussed losing our virginity rationally, as if it were talking through a geometry proof or how to install a new kitchen sink. We knew practically nothing about the physical act of sex. It was 1979 and the only place anyone could buy a condom in Oregon City was the bowling alley, in the restrooms, via a coin operated machine that worked about half the time. High school students were having a lot of sex back then, in cars, in trucks, on floors, in parks, in the woods, in the bleachers, but first sex was still largely about imagination prior to it actually happening.
Let me assure you, I had a novelist’s imagination about potential sex with L but a journalist’s preoccupation for the facts to get it right for us. So, I, a budding newspaperman, naturally assumed control of the investigation into proper intercourse and sought out literature on the subject. L was all for this and told me to report my findings as soon as I discovered them. This literature took the form of a little hardback red book about sex that I found in the Oregon City Library. The book’s title is long lost to me now, but I do recall a publishing date in the 1950s. You get the idea. It was more of a manual why you shouldn’t have sex before marriage than a guide how two teenagers could execute the best wholesome deflowering experience. A date stamp inside proved the book hadn’t been checked out in fifteen years. It was square, squarer and squarest, American sex before the Pill and feminist manifestos on the female orgasm. Nevertheless, the book did contain some black and white photographs of a generic couple in various states of stiff coupling that were somewhat educational although certainly not erotic, which I think was the editorial point. I didn’t dare check out the book and take it home. Instead, I read it standing in the stacks and I think might have even taken notes.
So at one point I didn’t know anything about how to physically have sex with L and then I read the little red book and thought I did. I told her this on the phone and we made a plan. A few days later, she dumped me for a jock and I hated that she documented me as sucker in my journal with her girly handwriting. As for the sex, it had to wait.
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