I lost my virginity on the 3:15 to Portland.
I had set it down on the seat next to me when I got up to use the restroom, and when I got back it was just gone. I asked the others sitting around me if they’d seen anyone going through my belongings, but the older woman in front of me sniffed as she turned away. The middle-aged man across from me leered. The family with two small children shielded me from their sight using their bodies while the mother looked at me with scorn and the father, with hunger.
It was only the beginning.
I reported it to the proper authorities.
The kindly woman who took my information patted my hand in what was meant to be a warm gesture. A comforting touch to ground me in my skin. Had I not been robbed of something valuable just moments before, I might have been able to accept it. Might have considered it something more than cheap. Something more than mildly invasive. But at least it was better than the knowledge she bestowed upon me. That nothing was likely to come of the report.
Nothing ever did.
My father turned to stone.
A granite statue of the man who had once thrown me in the air just to make me giggle. Who would carry me on his shoulders to make me feel tall. Who would read to me at night as he tucked me in. Who cherished me, and comforted me, and just held me when I was sad. In light of this one incident on a train, I was no longer his little girl. I wasn’t even a victim of a crime. Instead, I was a woman, and in his eyes, women had only ever had two roles: mothers or whores. He could’ve faced that idea. Fought it as he promised to always fight anything that hurt me.
Instead, he sat so still for so long he never moved again.
My mother blamed herself.
She should have raised me to be more careful. To be more aware. Raised me to believe that I was the only one I could count on to safeguard my person and my possessions. I was just a babe in the woods and she’d left me to be eaten by wolves. As she cried over her failures as a mother, I was expected to comfort her. To tell her it was okay. To tell her she was good and still had value.
Something no one told me.
My boyfriend lied to me.
He had said that he was fine with it. He failed to mention that his acceptance had conditions. Because now that I was without this one item, there were certain expectations that he had. Behaviors he wanted to be changed. Actions he wanted to be taken. And when I didn’t fundamentally change in the way he deemed acceptable?
He left me, lying to everyone else as to why.
First to his parents.
For what felt like forever they had told me I was like a daughter to them. A part of the family. And I had thought, foolishly, that perhaps they could be for me when my parents weren’t. But with a few words, I was no longer good enough for their son. For them. For a ditch to bleed to death in slowly. A gutter was too good for me. I thought nothing they did could be worse than their abandonment.
I was wrong.
They told our community.
My former boyfriend peddled his lies to our friends, his parents to theirs, and within a blink of an eye, the entire town knew. I was an outcast. A pariah. A scarlet letter that shamed everyone who had the simple misfortune of breathing the same air as I did. As if instead of a victim I was a criminal. And my crime, my moral failings, were somehow an airborne communicable disease.
I was less than nothing and I was all alone.
Until they found my virginity.
The one I’d lost on that 3:15 to Portland. In a series of unfortunate events someone had bumped into someone and knocked over my bag and when picking everything up my virginity had been shuffled in with someone else’s possessions. Their bag was set aside when they got home, shunted to the back of a closet and not thought of again until it was needed six months later. It was returned to the authorities with a sheepish smile and a soft apology. The kindly old woman delivered it to me personally. Everyone I knew breathed a sigh of relief that it was all over and I could be a person again.
That we could all go back to how it was before.
Except that I couldn’t.
I couldn’t go back to before the moment I returned to my seat and found that something was different. It had been months, and I’d had been in pain. Alone. Suffering. Alone. A part of me had died. Alone. And finally, finally, with my virginity back in my hands and the community’s acceptance and love once again surrounding me I learned. I learned that my personhood was conditional. My value was an if, then equation.
And that wasn’t good enough.
I left my virginity on the 3:15 to Portland.
It was the last time I took that train, and the symbolism appealed to me. A clear statement that I had outgrown it. That it no longer fit. My virginity. My family. My boyfriend. My community. I moved on. Found new traits within myself to cherish. A new family and friends who loved me without asterisks. And eventually, I found a partner who valued me as a whole being. One they chose to spend their life with and support. Through the good and the bad. And while all of it could never erase the pain inside of me, could never give back what I lost. It was enough.
Even without my virginity, I was enough.