What’s happening in my Human Sexuality class at 8:30 at night is: over-sharing.
“The textbook is wrong, not all men experience the refractory period,” somebody says. “I orgasm five or six times a night without needing a break.”
“Say what you want, there’s nothing wrong with getting a labiaplasty,” says another.
“Monogamy is dead,” says somebody else. “Nobody is interesting enough for forever.”
“I’ve had an abortion.”
I don’t know who any of you are. I’m not telling you shit.
The room is brightly lit, the windows are dark. There are 28 of us sitting at 15 tables. I have to sit next to somebody. I hate that. I hate reading about prostate massage while almost touching knees with a stranger.
“Any girl can squirt,” somebody says. “It’s about technique.”
“Do penile implants really work?” says somebody who doesn’t come to class next week.
“I want my foreskin back,” says someone else. “They took it without asking.”
The teacher is patient; she addresses every question, every statement, with calm and understanding. In my mind I can’t imagine how we ever populated the Earth being so individually fucked up.
She’s reined them in now, lecturing about water-based lubricants. This is a forward-thinking curriculum. The room is quiet, eyes wide with slippery wonder.
The classroom door opens fast but silently. A man pushes his head in, his face intent—searching. The door is open for so long that eventually everybody turns. He makes eye contact with a young woman sitting at a table in the front row. I see the back of her head, beyond her the intent man waves her to join him. She stands and steps away from the desk. “Bring your stuff,” the man says. She hesitates over her binder and backpack, I can see her face. It’s soft and afraid. The room is quiet. The lecture waits around us, like impending relief.
When her binder is zipped away she leaves the room. The whole class exhales. The moment was pregnant but we don’t know what with.
From the hallway, through walls and door and wood and glass and steel, the soft-faced girl starts screaming. She screams no and she screams god and then she just screams her scream.
Some of us lean towards the door, hands over mouths. Some, like me sink into my chair, waiting for things to get worse. The softest one, he stands up and begins to shuffle his feet, unsure where to go.
The young woman is crying loudly now.
The soft boy says, “Someone go out there, please. Find out if she’s alright.”
She isn’t alright.
The teacher moves to the door, pauses, then goes through. For the two seconds it takes for the door to close, her crying is unfiltered. It’s goddamn awful.
When she comes back the teacher says, “That was her dad, her brother has been killed in Afghanistan.”
She’s on the floor of a dim hallway outside her Human Sexuality class grieving the loss of her brother 7,000 miles away. A part of me thinks: she is over-sharing.
Eventually the crying stops. Not because the girl has stopped, but because her father has pulled her down the stairs and out into the world. Her sad is too big to be inside. It’s probably too big to be anywhere.
In the classroom, we sit. The teacher offers us a break, but we’re all too afraid of what’s beyond the door to leave, even though we know the young woman left. We sit. We wait.
“Jesus,” somebody says.
“That was fucked,” says somebody else.
“Who tells someone something like that at school?” says another.
I think about the desert and young boys with shaved faces smiling and grimacing and shooting and fucking dying. I’m low in my chair and I have tears running down my cheeks and I wish we could just go back to talking about lube.
The soft boy is still sidestepping behind his table.
We can’t go back.
Except that we always do.
“Do Kegels really work?” somebody says.
“It was my counselor who touched me,” says somebody else.
“I’m friends with lots of sex-workers,” says another, “and that’s just not the case.”
“Do you think she’s okay?” says the soft boy. He’s sitting now.
Matthew Robinson’s work has recently appeared at Word Riot and Apocrypha & Abstractions. He lives and writes in Portland, OR and studies at Portland StateUniversity, so someday his list can read: lives, writes, and works.