May 20. 2023
When I was sixteen years old and a junior in high school, I found your condom supply in your dresser and took one. I couldn’t figure out what you needed them for, you were already forty-six, and I figured you would never notice one was missing. I put the condom in my wallet behind my subway pass. Sometimes in school I’d show it to the guys so that they knew that I was prepared. The condom went to camp with me that summer, hidden away with acne medicine and aftershave lotion. Over time, the condom left a permanent circular indentation in my wallet.
I dated some girls in high school and my first year of college but I never had a girl friend. Part of the problem was that the girls who interested me were usually wound a little tight like me, and when I was with them, I would get all wired up and just talk on and on. I never really learned what they were interested in because I wasn’t good at listening.
The mid-sixties was the start of the sexual revolution, but I don’t think any of my friends were sexually active in high school and when we started college one of our first goals was to have sex. I did a lot of reading in biology textbooks, manuals, and independent newspapers to get ready. I didn’t want my first partner to think I was a novice virgin who didn’t know what he was doing. One of my favorite sources was EVO, the East Village Other.
After our freshman year at CCNY, my friend Kenny and I headed on a search to find Big Foot in the Pacific Northwest. Once when we were hitchhiking, we were picked up by two young women. The four of us decided to buy some wine, food to cook, and to spend the night on the beach together. I hoped I would finally get to use my condom, but the wine was a big mistake. The woman I was with and I both got too drunk to do anything and she ended up throwing up. I still had hopes for the morning, but at dawn the local police drove everyone off the beach.
A few weeks later Kenny and I went to an anti-war meeting in Seattle and I met a young woman interested in sports and talking about politics. The night before Kenny and I were scheduled to leave, she and I were alone in the attic of her mother’s house and she told me she wanted to do it. What 18-year-old boy with a condom in his wallet could say no. I unwrapped the condom, put it on, and we got started. It turned out that all of my research and reading did not really prepare me. Neither of us had ever done it before so we were very awkward and it probably wasn’t very good for either of us — but we weren’t virgins anymore.
That fall I finally had a genuine relationship that lasted for about six months. It was over 50 years ago and I’m not sure what happened, but it gradually ended. Over the next year, I had a series of sexual encounters and one short relationship. What I came to realize is that encounters without a relationship always left me unhappy.
I think the need for relationship is something I learned from you.
Hard copies of these typed letters were discovered in an old camp trunk in the basement storage facility of one of the few buildings that remain standing in this Brooklyn neighborhood. The building is quite decrepit and is scheduled for demolition. The letters were found in November 2048 by a teenager who believes they were written by his great-grandfather. The letters are addressed to Mendel, the letter writer’s father, who appears to have been dead for at least six years when his son, whose name we are unsure of, started to write him. The son appears very agitated in some of the letters. With permission from the family, we are publishing them on the date they were written, only 28 years later.