My first sexual encounter was with a boy, sometime around the fifth grade. We were close friends, maybe best friends. We had a regular crew of summer sleepover buddies and all the moms would rotate hosting us. And it was always the moms who scheduled and wrangled us. The dads were off at work, doing dad things.

I can’t remember which specific toys he had at his house. It was always something different — one boy collected Legos and another had Transformers. Or GI Joe or Thundercats or He-Man action figures. One kid had a gigantic Star Wars collection that required a dedicated room.

I actually think he was the one with the educational Speak-N-Spells that taught various levels of language and grammar. I guess they worked.

It didn’t happen at night or in a blanket fort. It was the middle of the afternoon and he asked if I wanted to kiss. I wasn’t sure, but he swayed me with the argument “how will you know what to do when you start dating girls?” It was reasonable and I was curious, so we kissed. This went on for a couple of weeks, as we would lock ourselves in a bedroom and practice making out and undressing each other. Things never got R-rated — it just felt nice to express this new sexual energy and to feel the love of someone who welcomed it. Being with him was one of the most beautiful encounters of my young life and the feeling of being wanted made everything seem brighter.

We weren’t particularly great at hiding it and we got caught. The repercussions were swift and definite as my Proper Catholic Upbringing informed me that these actions were ugly and disappointing. There was no punishment, other than the shame, and no explanations of how to use this energy productively. Only the knowledge that I had sinned and that “good” boys didn’t act that way. The disgusting behavior would stop immediately.

I don’t remember what happened next. No recollection whatsoever of how this affected him or what conversations we had in the days or weeks that followed. Now that I’m typing it out, I wonder if this was the start of the disappearing memories. I only know that we drifted apart completely and have seen each other twice in the past thirty years, in passing at a wedding or some such. We’ll probably never talk about it.

I’ve made out with only a handful of men in my life. There’s something inside me that tells me it is ugly and disappointing. Sometimes the feeling bleeds over to women as well.

I still feel shame.

I didn’t do anything wrong and neither did anyone else.