Losing It - Emma Rathbone


I sat at my desk and stared at a calendar with a bunch of dancing tamales on it and played with a little piece of paper and thought about the fact that I was twenty-six and still a virgin. There was that, and then there was the fact that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Chelsea Maitland. She was my first friend to lose her virginity. She was fifteen. She told me about it one afternoon on her parents’ remodeled back deck after school. The railings were made of a bright white vinyl material that hurt my eyes. It was when she’d gone to visit her sister at college, she said. They’d gone to a frat party, and there was a guy there who had been a counselor at a summer camp she’d gone to. She’d always had a crush on him, and they ended up getting drunk and walking to a lake together and one thing led to another.

“How did it feel?” I asked. I focused on a laid-back ceramic frog with an outdoor thermometer in it. We lived in San Antonio, that’s where I grew up, and fixtures like this were common. “I couldn’t say,” said Chelsea, with a little smile, her face folded and smug, like she was in possession of a secret I couldn’t possibly fathom, and she had to crowd around it and protect it. Chelsea Maitland of all people. We’d been friends for almost eight years, since we were kids, but the implication beneath our friendship had always been that I was the special one. That I would always be the one to get the thing.

The phone on my desk rang. It was my boss.

“Hi, Julia,” she said. “Can you meet me for a quick chat? Sorry, are you in the middle of anything?”

“Oh, no, no,” I said. And then, before I could stop myself, “I was just staring at a calendar with tamales on it. That someone left here. I think. It’s not mine.”

There was a pause. “See you in ten?”

“Sure!” I said.

I shoved the calendar into a drawer and brushed off my desk and picked up and stared into my pen jar and put it back and just kept sitting there like that.

Then there was Heidi Beasley. We all found out at a sleepover when we were sixteen, on a rare weekend I wasn’t away at a swim meet, that she had lost her virginity. What was it about her? I thought later, curled in my sleeping bag, staring at a wooden sign that read “Heidi’s Bistro” in their finished basement. I’d known her forever, too. I remembered one afternoon in the activity room of a church—this was when my parents were going through their Christian phase—she’d cried because she was trying to thread a bunch of jelly beans into a necklace and they’d all fallen apart. And now her face was always soft with daydreams and she would thoughtfully chew the end of a lock of hair and stare into the distance. I’m sixteen, I thought at the time. It wouldn’t be long before it was my turn.

I swiveled around and looked outside. I was on the twelfth floor of a glass building in a new development called Weston Corner in a nondescript suburb of Washington, D.C. I had a view of the plaza below where there was a fountain surrounded by large concrete planters, all deserted now because it was raining. A sandwich board fell over in the wind. In the distance was a half-completed hotel, and then beyond that, fields, nothing.

Danielle Crenshaw. She was on my high-school swim team and so