Magic 8 Ball

I lost my virginity late one night while Moonbeam was gone away at the bar. She bought us a six pack of Corona from the 7-11 and we’d finished most of it. We were cuddling and touching under a blanket on the hide-a-bed. My brothers were in their bedroom, asleep. David was telling me, as he usually did, how beautiful I was. I was young and naïve enough to believe him and it all felt quite good and rightWe were looking into one another’s eyes. I was fondling the tight, black curls on his head. David looked so different with his signature baseball cap off, so non-descript: like he could put on a collared shirt and be a businessman, or put on a blue and gold jersey and be a Del Norte High basketball star. Sometimes David surprised me by stopping by smoker’s corner during lunch break at school. People assumed he was a student. Teachers too. He didn’t correct them. He could’ve gone to class and gotten away with it (but why would he do that?)

David had a big, fat erection and I stroked it like he had taught me to do. But this time, for the first time, he pulled a small box of condoms out of the back pocket of his jeans.

“Don’t you think it’s time?” He asked me.

I did think it was time. We’d been dating for months and I was the only fourteen year old virgin in our crew. I’d lied already and told him I’d done that. We slowly undressed each other and he put the condom on and mounted me — one hand on my face, one hand on my head. As he entered me, pain shot through my body and through my legs and through my torso and to my finger-tips and toes. I remembered what a girl on the playground had told me through her devilish grin, “The first couple times sex hurts like hell, but then it’s pure pleasure.


We made love that night until it felt good for me, about three times. David noticed a sand dollar sized pool of blood on the blanket, asked me “I thought you weren’t a virgin?” I just shrugged my shoulders underneath his gangly body. “I hope I didn’t hurt you,” he told me.

By this time we were all “I love you’s” and “baby this, baby that.” We were one unit, me and him. He came with me to my “job” where I cleaned a lady’s kitchen in exchange for cigarettes, I’d been introduced to his parents, and he was teaching my brothers how to skateboard and freestyle rap. David and my mother got along fabulously because they both liked to party.

Our living situation was this: after swiftly being booted from the little yellow house due to not paying rent, Moonbeam found a tiny gray duplex on Northcrest Drive, the main drag in town. There was tons of traffic and noise. We were right across the street from a car dealership and a convenience store. We were closer to the high school and I made it a point to walk to school most mornings. I was doing horribly in Algebra but I had both an English class and dance class that I really loved. The dance teacher told me I was naturally talented and that about changed my whole outlook on things for a while.

Talent? Me? Nobody had ever told me that before. I aspired to move up to the advanced dance class which performed at the pep rallies. I wanted to wear those black jazz pants and have my hair down, all fresh, washed, and soft-looking like the other girls wore. My grandmother and great aunt would come from Oregon to watch me perform. David would be there too.

We’d been living at the little gray duplex on Northcrest for a couple of weeks when I came home from school to find that nobody was there. The house was completely empty. No Moonbeam, no brothers, no Steve (Moonbeam’s boyfriend). I stood there looking through the front window of the house, confused. The small living room no longer had the mattress it once did, or the television. There was no trash in the kitchen. The place was deserted. I had been there sleeping just the night before.

I tried the doorknob but it was locked. I tried to open the front windows, the side windows and I finally got inside through a window in the back. Moonbeam had done a shockingly good job of making sure she took everything when she left. It was as if we hadn’t ever been there. There was nothing left over to remember us by — save me.

David soon showed up, as we had planned, and he was just as surprised as I was to find that the family had vanished. Would we go looking for them? We decided not to because we had absolutely no leads. We didn’t need them anyway— I wasn’t a virgin anymore, wasn’t a child. 

Photo by Kirsten Valenzuela.

We sat smoking cigarettes in the living room and talking about the situation, intermittently engaging in a game of tonsil hockey. The sun was going down and to our surprise, the electricity had already been turned off. David rummaged through every drawer, nook, and cranny until he found a single candle. He lit the candle with a black Bic lighter and placed it in the center of the room.

Since there were no blankets, David held me all through the night for warmth. We made love. There was a certain feeling I had being alone in that house, just me and him. The freedom was motivating. I mentally decorated the shitty little place and day dreamed about paying rent and cleaning the kitchen after a long day of classes at the local community college. I felt a strong desire to be independent and maybe this was the first step. I’d go to school the next day and come home and we’d do this all over again — until we were officially grown up. No one would even notice we were here. David would bring a few more candles from his house and I’d eventually buy some dishes and linens from the second hand store. We’d have curtains, a bed.

The sun coming through the window in the morning woke me up in time for school. I actually woke up happy. David and I showered together, shivering as we drip-dried and put on the same clothes we’d been wearing the day before. I was in the bathroom looping my wet hair into a bun and David was in the living room when we heard a loud angry pounding on the front door. I came out of the bathroom and we stood there looking out the front window at a raging gray-haired man staring back at us. This man did not look happy. We were ready to leave anyway. I didn’t bother telling the man I was Moonbeam’s daughter — we just let the nasty landlord chase us out of there. David walked me to school that morning. He met me at smoker’s corner after school let out and we hit the streets.

We ran into Moonbeam downtown. She told me they’d found a cheap hotel room to stay in until they secured another rental. All of our belongings disappeared and Moonbeam told me they were in a storage unit.


I’d been camping out in my Aunt Julie’s living room for about a week when Moonbeam showed up and told me we were moving into a women’s shelter. As we walked from Julie’s house to the shelter she told me that she and Steve had gotten into a little fight. Because of that little fight, we were going to be staying at Harrington House, the local battered women’s shelter. It was against the rules for Moonbeam to see Steve, but she was meeting up with him every day when she was supposed to be out looking for work or getting counseling.

We both had a five o’clock curfew that neither of us respected. We remained with our boyfriends until five thirty or six then came shuffling back to the shelter where the women who ran the place and my brothers would be waiting by the window or by the door expectantly, like I used to do waiting for my Dad to come home. Hours upon hours of watching and waiting for the person you love, your protector. A heart-pounding hope every time the car you thought was theirs rounded the bend, a little chip off the heart every time it wasn’t.

The shelter had a large, bright, clean kitchen, showers, a back patio where Moonbeam and I smoked cigarettes and sometimes pot, and a television that I never used because there was a large black family living there who were always fighting over the remote and I didn’t want to get in the middle of that. There was a room in the back that was stocked full of second hand clothes. A woman who worked at the shelter told me I could take whatever I wanted and I giddily picked out a few t-shirts, hoodies, and jeans. They weren’t stylish, but I’d developed a knack for making it work.

A few days later I had all my second hand clothes and my few remaining belongings packed neatly in a plastic blue bin the shelter had given me. I didn’t know it at the time but I would shortly be living out of that plastic blue bin—its contents being everything I owned. I got a hold of a Penn State bumper sticker and I put it smack on the top of my blue bin. I didn’t know where Pennsylvania was, exactly, and I’d never heard of Penn State but I assumed it was a college and the thought of college was inspiring to me, though farfetched.

Shortly thereafter, I was informed by my caseworker Pam that I’d be moving to Washington State to live with my father again. As it goes with “the system” — I was given about a 24-hour notice.

I visited my high school to collect my grades. This was necessary if I were to enroll in school in Washington, Pam told me. Some of the teachers were surprised to see me as I hadn’t been in attendance in their classes for weeks. I was required to go to each classroom and have the teacher write down my grade on a slip of paper. My grades were: F, F, F, D, C. It was the dance teacher who’d given me a C. When she handed me back the paper she sympathetically told me, “It’s not your fault.”

Later I learned she’d gone to high school with my Dad and being a small town, she knew a little bit about our family and situation. I thanked her, almost cried, and wondered if any teacher would ever call me “talented” again.

Back at the shelter, I kept it light when telling David goodbye. “Don’t worry” I told him, “I’ll run away and come back here as soon as I can.” And that was exactly what I intended to do. The only thing between us would be the state of Oregon.

David and I french-kissed passionately as Moonbeam, my brothers, and the ladies from the shelter looked on. I was wearing his navy blue hoodie, the one I always wore, and I thought he’d let me keep it. But in-between kisses, he asked for it back. I gave the hoodie back to him but somewhere on the inside of me — a fissure. I climbed into my caseworkers van, plastic blue bin in the trunk, and watched the two most important people in my life, my mother and my lover, strike flames to their cigarettes, growing smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror, as my destiny moved onward and elsewhere. I didn’t cry. I was just trying to breathe through the magic eight ball in my throat. Outlook not so good, it might have read.

Terah Van Dusen

By Terah Van Dusen

Terah Van Dusen is a poet, essayist, and Postmaster for the United States Postal Service. She lives in Elmira, Oregon (outside of Eugene) and is inspired by hard truths, rock concerts, seafood, sex, intimacy, letter writing, and reading memoirs.

2 replies on “Magic 8 Ball”

Ben, thank you so much, it pleases me to hear my writing moved you. It does not please me to hear you lack stability, you look so young..I hope you are old enough to work at achieving stability for yourself, as I did. To say it’s worth it is an understatement.

Thanks again. Take good care.

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