Flash Memoir from Kevin Sampsell: Themes, Pasco, 63 Times, and Yvette
In my 6th grade Social Studies class, we often read out of the textbook for twenty or thirty minutes at a time. My teacher, a music fan, would let us bring tapes in and play them on the cassette player while we read. It couldn’t be too distracting though and most of the time it ended up being instrumental.
I recently had bought my first cassette recorder, a boom box the size of a toaster, and had started recording songs off the radio. I didn’t want to get any of the DJs’ voices on my tapes so there were always clunky segues between songs. The DJs would just jabber and say dumb things before the vocals kicked in. I’d be missing the whole intro to My Sharona or Heart of Glass. Then if they started talking again at the end, I’d have to cut the song there too. But my ears got used to it because that was the only way to listen to my favorite songs over and over.
My teacher only played one of my tapes for a few songs before changing it.
I turned to another passion. Theme music. First, I mail ordered an album of music from the National Football League. Found in the back of a football magazine, the ad said it featured orchestral pieces that were used by people like Howard Cosell during the football highlights they showed at halftime of Monday Night Football. There were a couple of songs in particular that really got me excited.
I also perfected the art of recording my favorite theme songs from TV shows. I held the boom box up to the TV speaker and pleaded to the family to be quiet when the show was starting. I was partial to the cool, stylish themes like the ones from Barney Miller, Taxi, and Welcome Back, Kotter. Upbeat tunes like the ones from Happy Days and The Jeffersons were also favorites. Still, the teacher wouldn’t play the tape in class because it was from TV, which represented the opposite of reading.
The first time I had sex was with a prostitute. I just started working my first job as a waiter at a small restaurant and made anywhere from ten to thirty dollars a night in tips. I didn’t have a girlfriend but I was eager to have sex. I started to drive around the area of Pasco where the prostitutes hung out. They were the worst kind of prostitute. Not pretty at all and in fact I remember them as rather unhealthy-looking. I nervously asked a couple of them how much they charged. I was probably seventeen when this was happening.
One girl told me she charged $20. She got in my car and we drove to a small brown hotel room. She was probably in her mid-20s, short and a little chubby. Her dark hair was styled unattractively and she looked bored.
She lay on the bed and I told her I was nervous because it was my first time. She touched me with her hand and made me hard. I got on the bed and fell on top of her. I could barely feel myself inside her. I can’t remember if I wore a condom or not. I can’t remember if I kissed her or not. One thing I recall clearly is that she looked over my shoulder and watched something on TV while I tried to make her come alive. I ejaculated quickly and thanked her. I felt gypped. She left the hotel room with me and I dropped her off at her corner.
I didn’t tell anyone about the experience.
I went out with Pam for about nine months. She was the kind of girl who still slept with over-sized teddy bears, wrote in huge loopy cursive, and whose favorite food was pancakes. This was my senior year of high school and she was, as much as I hate to admit it, my first real girlfriend. I often went to her house after school and we’d make out in her room. She lived with her mom, who had a British accent for some reason, and didn’t seem to mind if Pam locked her bedroom door while I was there. Her younger sister lived there too and she was much more attractive than Pam.
After going out for a month, we had sex for the first time. I remember going to school the next day feeling like a new person—the excitement of the sex, and the promise of more sex to come, made me feel like I was neon-lit from the inside.
On the back of Pam’s school photo (her hair parted in the middle and wind-swept back, her baby blue sweater with the shoulder pads, her ill-fitting blue jeans) I took a pen and drew a mark. A few days after that, another mark. I’m not sure why but I felt the need to document, to count, the times we did it. I never told Pam I was keeping track. Perhaps I thought I was going to keep track forever, with every girlfriend, every crash-and-burn month-long failure, every one night stand. When other people talked about how many people they’ve had sex with, I could tell them exactly how many times I’d had it.
Once when I was at the mall with Pam, we were paying for food at Orange Julius when her photo fell out of my Velcro wallet. She noticed the marks and asked me what they were and I told her it was the number of records I’d bought that year. Cassettes and records, I had to tell her.
At some point, I told a friend of mine about the count. Since none of my friends liked Pam, it was only a matter of time before this one friend told a few others. To embarrass me at any time they’d ask, “How many times has it been now?”
When my relationship with Pam ended bitterly—she had sex with an old boyfriend before going away for the summer—the count was over. The final number was 63. Eventually, after I started seeing other girls, I felt disgusted of the number. Sometimes, just to put me in my place, a friend of mine would still smile and laugh and say to me, “63 times.”
When I was nineteen, I briefly went out with a black girl from Pasco named Yvette. Her skin was very dark. I remember she was wearing a very sexy turquoise green dress when I met her at a dance.
I went to eat dinner at her house and I remember the food was totally different from what my family ever had. It was soul food. Her mom even called it that.
She was a virgin and we often talked about having sex and where we should do it.
My cousin, Tana, gave me a key to her apartment and I often stayed at her place when she was gone. Her fish needed to be fed.
Yvette and I eventually tried to have sex in Tana’s bed. It almost seemed too planned out and it was hard to get excited. Yvette said she wanted to do it but we couldn’t make it work for some reason. I was nervous and started to have performance anxiety. Her vagina was slick but felt like a wall. Her hymen would not budge.
I didn’t see her for about a month after that. I knew it wasn’t working out without her having to tell me. But I saw her one last time at a party in East Pasco. It was at someone’s house and some raw homemade-sounding hip-hop was blaring out of the living room stereo. I was probably the only white person there. Yvette led me to a dark bedroom and we went in. I couldn’t see a thing but could hear her breathing hard. She reached into my pants and starting jerked me off. My pants fell and I could sense her moving down my body as I stood there, surprised and unsure of what to do. I touched her head softly, felt her short blunt hair until I came.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Sampsell is the author of the story collections, Beautiful Blemish (Word Riot Press, 2005) and Creamy Bullets (Chiasmus Press, forthcoming) and the editor of The Insomniac Reader (Manic D Press, 2005). He lives in Portland, Oregon.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, December 8th, 2007.