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  November 2016
volume 13 number 2
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Jan Steckel
November 2016



photo by tess. lotta

    Jan Steckel was a pediatrician who took care of Spanish-speaking children until chronic pain persuaded her to change professions to writer, poet and medical editor. She is an activist for bisexual and disability rights. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her creative writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her work won the Goodreads Newsletter Poetry Contest, a Zeiser Grant for Women Artists, the Jewel by the Bay Poetry Competition, Triplopia's Best of the Best competition, and three Pushcart nominations. She grew up in West Los Angeles and lives in Oakland, California.




    You met the son who's black like me, but I have another son who's Jewish. His mother was my first sexual experience. I worked for the post office twelve hours a day while going to community college in New York. I'd get to Latin class after my shift and just have an hour to do the homework before class started. I was tired, getting further and further behind. I asked this white girl who sat next to me if she would study with me and help me.
    She was Jewish. Her father was a doctor. At first she said no, because she had a boyfriend from the time she was about twelve. Later on she told me they had been having oral and anal sex since the seventh grade, but never regular intercourse so she wouldn't get pregnant. That first time I asked to study,with her, maybe she didn't want to be around me because I was black, but she thought about it that night. The next day she said yes.

    We went over to her house while her father was seeing patients and her mother was out at some charity thing. We never cracked that book. We got our clothes off pretty fast. I was shocked to see how hairy she was down there, all this huge mass of curly black hair. I was afraid the hair would cut my penis when I went in, that going back and forth would irritate it, that it might take a long time to heal. So I dove in under the hair, under all that forest of curly black.
    Her mother wasn't out that often, and I couldn't bring her back to the flat I was sharing with two other guys, so we didn't get to make love too frequently. The third time we did it, there was blood everywhere. I didn't understand. There hadn't been any blood the first or second time. After my shift at work, the guys used to sit around talking about the women they'd been with, so I told them what had happened.

    There was an older guy who always had an unlit cigar in his mouth. He took it out, barked "You were fuckinerintheass, John, you were fuckinerintheass!" and stuck that cigar right back in. No, I said, I wasn't, I knew what was what, but he just pulled that cigar out and repeated, "You were fuckinerintheass, John, you were fuckinerintheass," then shoved the stogie back in his kisser.
    I guess when I went under that tangle of curly black hair, the first couple times I went a little too far. The third time she lost her virginity, and that's all it took, because a couple months later she told me she was pregnant. The day she had the baby I ran to the hospital as soon as I got off work. I wanted to go earlier, but I couldn't afford to lose that job. By the time I got there, her mother and father had already made her give the baby up for adoption.
    I was just eighteen. There was nothing I could do. I only saw my son that once, before they took him away. But I know I have a half-white Jewish son somewhere, because his mom was Jewish. That's how it works, isn't it? I think of him at certain times of year, which is why I brought you this Manischewitz
wine and chocolate-covered matzoh. Happy Passover.

copyright 2016 Jan Steckel