Rubber romance

By Allegra Tepper

The condoms were everywhere. Everywhere. In his bedside table, his desk drawer. In his wallet. In his car, tucked into the glove compartment between his insurance and registration. She wrote it off to chronic teenage boyhood, but couldn’t help but be frustrated that just days before she had to be the one to ask the question, “So, can we talk about, condoms and stuff?” But the question had no doubt been looming in the fresh laundry scented air of his bedroom time and time again. And she loved him. And even more, she knew he loved her. He had calculated the train distances between their possible collegiate destinations. He had taken her to family dinners and woken her up with breakfast. So she bit the bullet and popped the question.

And there they were. For a month, his face glowed with anticipation, hoping that any moment they had alone would be the one. He’d cross the picket line. Swipe his V-card at the express checkout. Maybe some higher power would send him a Members Only jacket, an identification badge, or teach him a secret handshake.

The day did eventually arrive, and she remembers it as awkward, cumbersome and quick. She called it a stabbing pain, and he tried to cover his glee with the guilt that only he had enjoyed the encounter. The typical intimacy between them was made sour by uncomfortable pauses and tension. They’d try again, to no real avail, but the tension dissipated and the pain subsided. It wasn’t the candle-lit moment she had pictured, nor was it the transformation from boy to man that he had in mind. But they took solace in the closeness. And he kept counting the miles from one college to the next.