As I recall, the date of my first kiss was April 17th, a Saturday, so it was the day before the Sunday feast where my mom found out that I was at the runaway shelter.
I spent Sunday night sleeping on the floor of Mom’s hotel room at the Holiday Inn. The next day I saw Mike a few blocks away from the temple and he agreed to return to Iowa with me. We got his stuff and were on our way.
We arrived at my mom’s apartment, 1129 ½ High Street, above a day care center. Off the stairs going up to the apartment was a little room off to the left. Inside was an attic-like space with bare beams and a small window. It was meant for storage but made a nice little room for Mike to stay in.
Up the stairs and around to the right was the kitchen, with room for a table and chairs. The bedroom and living room were off the kitchen, in that order. There was no hallway, one simply walked through each room to the next. That meant that Mom had little privacy.
It was a nice apartment. There was linoleum in the kitchen but the bedroom and living room had wood floors. There was a large braided rug in the living room. The bedroom had a large walk in closet with a window.
We arrived late Monday and there was little time before we all settled in for the night. I slept on my sleeping bag in the living room; Mike was in his little attic hideaway on his sleeping bag. We made out for awhile before I was expected to leave and go to my room.
When we got up Mom was already awake and we set about cooking something we could eat—most of Mom’s supplies were for a meat-based diet. She gave us some money so we could get supplies for cooking our own food. On a tight budget, we bought lentils, milk, rice, flour, butter, oil, yogurt, and a few vegetables. We made dahl, rice, home-made yogurt using the culture and a gallon of milk, and puris. I had tried to learn about cooking Indian food before I went to the temple, and had observed some cooking in the temple, but this was my first chance to really learn how to cook. We had a lot of fun cooking together.
I spent the evening making out with Mike. It was all we could do to stop when Mom told me I had to go to bed. All night it was all I could think of. Finally I felt ready to lose my virginity, and I was feverish and anxious to get past this nerve-wracking step. What would it be like? How would I feel about undressing and being seen for the first time? Would it hurt?
As soon as Mom left to return to work that next morning I went into Mike’s room. I was wearing a nightgown with no underwear beneath it. When Mike saw me he opened his sleeping bag and motioned for me to join him.
Soon we were kissing and the next thing I knew, Mike had pulled up my nightgown—without removing it—and was ready to enter me. I was a little startled that it was happening so fast because I had read so much steamy romance and soft core porn that I pictured quite a build up to this stage. But here we were and Mike was pushing past the resistance of my hymen and after a few brief minutes it was all over. He used the “withdrawal” method of birth control, he explained.
I was a little stunned and I thought, “So that’s it? That’s all it is?”
In fact, those words were running through my mind the rest of the day. I made a note of this important date: April 21, 1976.
During the day we cooked and talked and walked around town. I showed him the main city park, Rand Park by the Mississippi river. As we were walking around the park that evening we talked about our future, about marriage, and we reached an understanding that we were going to marry. He didn’t so much ask me as speak as if it was a given. He talked about “Gandharva marriage” where the kshatriya carries off a woman who is then his wife. He was very excited about the position and role of kshatriyas in the varnashrama system of ancient India. He talked a lot about his study of martial arts and guarding Srila Prabhupada, as he’d had the opportunity to do.
As he was talking I was still thinking, “So, that’s all sex is? I’ve waited so long and that’s all it is?” Most of my girlfriends had had sex much younger than I. I don’t know what I expected, but nudity, foreplay, and an orgasm were among my feverish imaginings.
We settled into a pattern of having sex in the mornings and throughout the day while Mom was at work. We did finally get around to removing our clothes, and Mike showed me other positions—the first time was strictly missionary. I was insecure and wanted to be sure I pleased him.
“What do you like?” I asked Mike.
“I don’t want to freak you out,” he replied.
“I won’t freak out, tell me, please,” I pleaded.
“I will someday, when the time is right.”
I suspected he was referring to oral sex and so I talked to Aunt Gin, who had always been open-minded about sex and whom I saw as experienced. I asked her for some pointers, and she gave me some good ideas and also talked to me about birth control. I told her about his idea of the withdrawal method and she explained why that didn’t work. So I got some contraceptive foam at the drugstore.
Soon I surprised him by going down on him and doing some of the things my aunt had suggested. My jaw muscles hurt, so it was more difficult than I suspected. But I was haunted by the fact that he’d had a skinny girlfriend before me, that his first wife was thin and beautiful, and that his former girlfriend Elaine was a model. I felt pressured to do more, to give more, so that he wouldn’t leave me for a prettier girl. As a young fat girl I hadn’t expected to find anyone who would love me. Now that love had struck, like lightning, I didn’t expect it to strike twice. I suspect that was part of the reason why I didn’t question that this was going to be a marriage. I felt compelled to make it so, to hang on to him so I wouldn’t end up alone.
So in spite of the pain, I kept going down on Mike and he grew to expect it from me, pushing my head downwards. It became both a means to orgasm and a form of foreplay for him—though foreplay for me was still rather lacking. As I continued to perform oral sex the pain subsided. I guess my jaw muscles stretched. I was happy and proud to be improving my technique and paid close attention to his reactions so I could gauge the effectiveness of each new thing I tried. Looking back I suspect men have paid a great deal of money for the quality I provided for free.
When we weren’t cooking or having sex, we talked for hours and hours. Mike shared his books with me, books about going back to the land, living off the grid, about beachcombing, and traveling cheaply. He knew a devotee who used to make catamarans, and one of his ideas was that we would travel the oceans on a catamaran, free and easy, moving from island to island and harvesting the fruit. It sounded so cool and romantic and adventurous. I was swept up in his vision but sometimes mundane details would occur to me. What about tampons? What about money? When I broached these questions to Mike I remember once he got frustrated.
“You American women,” he said, “you’re all so spoiled!”
Was I being lumped together with his former wife and girlfriends? I noticed he didn’t really answer my questions. I brought the issue up another day.
“Oh, there are natural things like sea sponges. Women were taking care of these things long before tampons were made.”
This ticked me off but I buried my resentment. I didn’t want to rock the boat.
He was expected to get a job and so one day we went down to the unemployment office. I waited in the front while he was taken back to fill out forms. When he came out he seemed relieved to see me.
“That was weird—I really missed you. That’s the first time we’ve been apart that long.” He looked really surprised to have reacted that way.
“We have been spending every waking moment together.” I said. “It makes sense.”
It was spring in Keokuk, everything was in bloom, and we were in love. We cooked and talked and made love all day long, planning our future. Every love song on the radio seemed to be about us and I sang with them all. I had never experienced any of this before. It wasn’t the first time I was in love—my eighth grade science teacher was my first love—but it was the first time I was loved in return. It was a heady experience and I floated around on a wave of euphoria. I didn’t know about the “love chemicals” back then, but my brain was awash in them.
While I was back in my home town I got in touch with one of my friends, Jeanne Long. She was in a relationship with a boy named Ray. I was shocked to find out that he was hitting her. I couldn’t imagine why she’d put up with this for a second. She was such a strong-willed person. It was hard to picture. I of course told her I didn’t believe she deserved such treatment and urged her to leave. She was afraid to leave him, worried about what he’d do to her if she dated another boy. She was still in high school and this was my first exposure to domestic violence and the fact that it could take place during teen dating relationships.
I told Mike about this and he was shocked at this boy’s behavior too. We both thought she should leave him.
Mike got a job at the rubber plant in town but it didn’t last long. He hated it there. He started talking about going back to Chicago and finding a job there and sending for me when he got one. Mom was beginning to resign herself to the idea that I would be leaving with him at some time, and was saying when he got a job she’d sign the papers so we could marry.
In May Mike decided to return to Chicago, so he got on a bus one day and we bid each other a tearful goodbye. I wrote frequent letters and we found a way to call long distance that didn’t cost us anything—a total scam. I no longer remember the details of how we did this but it was something he taught me. I knew he had a history of criminal activity and that he had been involved with grand theft. I didn’t let this phase me because I believed passionately in redemption and figured we’d end up “surrendering” together at a temple some time. Certainly his past activities didn’t matter any more and he’d become purified as a devotee.
--to be continued--