In the Hands of Men: a memoir excerpt by Laura Lifshitz, previously published in the Oklahoma Review

This is an excerpt from my memoir, and was previously published in the Oklahoma Review, a literary journal. I will warn you all before reading that it is graphic at times, and very dark, so if you can’t handle the heat, then this isn’t your kitchen.

**Background  before you read: at this point in my memoir,  I am a 14 year old girl, recently gone through puberty and discovering that suddenly, my body is more important than who I am as a person –i.e.,  my breasts, which are the focus of apparently everyone’s conversations, have now sexualized and shamed me. I have been bullied and stared at, yet I am still just an eighth grader trying to figure out what is happening to me.  In general, the confident girl I once was has gone by the way side. I have started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and I am extremely vulnerable.

In the Hands of Men

Now it’s a year later, and the summer before my freshman year is dragging. I spend my time at the swim club or with friends, especially Buddy, but I never tell them about the “Newton Boys” or Jimmy.  After that one phone call, I talk with a few of the guys over the phone, even though I haven’t met them. The one guy who does call me all the time, is Jimmy.  And after talking with him on the phone off and on for almost a year, the only things I know about Jimmy are that he loves music— Jane’s Addiction in particular, has long hair, and is twenty-two. He says the word dude a lot, and has a gritty like rocks against bare feet type of voice, as if he’s twenty-two going on eighty.

“When am I gonna meet you, girl?”

“I don’t know,” I tell him, terrified.

What if he doesn’t like me?

I don’t know what twenty-two year old men want; I can barely figure out guys my own age.

“Well, I’m nervous,” I admit as the little hairs on my arms stand at attention. A man wanting to meet little old me!

“Girl, it’s all good. Don’t worry.” and that is it.

Jimmy has short explanations and opinions on everything. To me, that’s just strange considering that in my house if someone wants to tell you what he or she thinks, which is always, you better sit your butt down.  So after a long period of coaxing with short words, and claims that, “Girl, it will be all good,” at the end of June, I meet Jimmy.

We decide to meet at a church close to me, about a twenty- minute walk from my house. I pull out all the stops, because I’m not going to meet him looking like a baby. I want to look like the sexy, inaccessible woman I wish to be, not this unsure little girl with the woman’s body. I wear a tight tube top and a Metallica tank top over that with a tight denim skirt and tall leather boots that just about hit my kneecaps. I’ll probably sweat to death by the time I get there in the leather boots, but I deal with it for the sake of fashion.

These boots are notorious on my block.  As I turn the corner, I see some of my neighbors playing basketball.

One blonde boy calls to me as he dashes to the hoop, “You look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman with those boots on,” while his pine twig arms swooshes the ball into the net.

I wonder if I should be happy or angry. I haven’t seen Pretty Woman although from the advertisements I know it’s about a sexy prostitute who transforms into a beautiful lady under the care of Richard Gere. After watching my Dad worship long-legged models with Greek Goddess like- faces, I know what sexy means. Sexy women have power over men, the upper hand over other women.

I finally reach the church, and I cross over onto the grass of the grounds, trying to avoid this statue of a saint that I have seen before. I swear it’s alive, I think to myself, passing it by, seeing it hovering over me, pinning me into a little mental corner with its eyes, saying—“Oh it’s you again—the town Jew.”

I’m not sure I belong on church grounds, but after five minutes of standing around awkwardly, I finally see Jimmy.

It just takes a split-second to realize that my fantasy version of him is way better than the real version. He is a real man, not like the boys in my neighborhood. A man with a potbelly like my Dad’s, only larger. He looks much older than twenty-two;  even though he’s a bit young for one, he has a receding hairline to match that potbelly, which leads to a mass of frizzy, long hair. Even his armpit hair is long and frizzy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen armpit hair before on a man, or actually, anyone before. Sweat gleams off the top of his hairline, and trickles down the center of his nose. I see that he is wearing a Metallica tank top like I am and I know I chose the right shirt. Even if he’s not Jim Morrison (my dream man whose face adorns my bedroom walls) or even Meatloaf, at least he is someone, and he’s here.  Besides, I can’t walk away now because he’s seen me already.

I hope I’m not as disappointing to him as he is to me. I hate disappointing people. When I do, I find myself wondering how I could have been better, been perfect. My father is easy to disappoint; he always manages to notice when something or someone is wrong.  A speck of lint is enough to drive my dad’s hands in frustration while he flicks or picks it off.

As Jimmy walks towards me, his dark, glimmering slits for eyes swallow me whole as he inspects me.

“Hey duu-de. What’s up?”

“Nothing much, man,” I try to sound cool, to keep in my disappointment.

“Nice boots,” he says, sliding his hand back to his chin.

“Thanks they’re my favorites!”

See? Here’s a guy who acknowledges me and appreciates my taste, even if the boys at school probably think I’m weird. What do they know? They probably had their wet dreams the other day. I just learned about wet dreams in seventh grade sex- education class. That very day I went home deciding to get a rise out of my father by asking him if he had ever had a “nocturnal emission”, knowing he’d be annoyed but any reaction is better than silence. My mother laughed.

“Answer her Hal,” she said, enjoying his discomfort.

My father sighed

“So where do you live? Are we going there?”

“Well, it’s a bit of a walk. I can take you over to my house but my parents get home soon so we can’t stay there long.”

“Let’s do it!”

The two of us walk back to my house, an odd pair. A six- feet tall man with his beer belly and hippie hair. Me with my small, awkward body with my oversized breasts and slutty boots. My eyes painted in black liner and my cherry red lips designed in Wet n’Wild’s just one- dollar lipstick. We walk down the main street of my neighborhood right by the swim club and I feel powerful, like I’m an adult or something, walking with this man next to me. When we finally reach my house, we walk inside and I offer this sweaty man a drink.

“Are you thirsty?”

“Yeah, girl, I could use a beer.”


I can’t believe he wants beer. I feel like an idiot; I don’t think we have beer. I’ve never had any myself. I look in the fridge and see no beer.

“I don’t have beer. Will iced tea do?”


Three of the six cats in my house surround him, but he doesn’t pet them, which surprises me and makes me kind of sad. To me, being human means loving animals, and I’ve never gone a day without a pet. Animals comfort you when you are sad, and when they’re mad it doesn’t last long, just a shake of the tail or a growl and then they forget about what happened, rubbing their body against your leg.

I hand him the glass and he goes to hug me. It feels awkward, like I’m trying to shove my foot into a baby’s slipper, but not as awkward as the silence that chokes the air.

“Girl, you look good,” and his hands go down the front of me.

Wow, this situation is way too fast, and it’s nothing like I imagined in the movie reels of my imagination. I imagined he would be someone wonderful. That some magic would happen to transform my life, transform me.

He puts me up against the kitchen sink and kisses me. I don’t like it. I just do it. I turn my movie reel mind off and let the credits roll.

He puts his hands up my shirt, “Man you got some big tits,” and his mouth starts to suck on one of my nipples, as he uses his hands to pull away my bra, the under wire poking the side of my breast. It hurts, but I don’t say anything. He sure didn’t waste time. I look at the clock and start to panic.

“Uh, I don’t know when my parents are gonna come home.”

“Where can we go?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let’s go to the woods dude, you got a lotta woods around this block.”

It’s funny that he mentions the woods. I never bothered much to look over there, despite the fact that I grew up with woods right in my backyard, but I always was in wonder with the sky. Whether it was blue-black with flecks of stars, or Crayola yellow, I loved looking at the sky, especially when the clouds would turn into animal forms; from meaningless tufts to white skinny dachshunds, I’d stare for hours wondering what they sky held, and if there was someone watching me from above. Lately, I always seem to end up in the woods I never paid attention to before somehow; whether it’s cutting through them to get to the stores where all the local kids hang out, hiding there to smoke a cigarette with Tanner, or that one day when with friends, I tried my first sip of alcohol in the woods, this nasty tequila that burned my throat as if I had swallowed a curling iron, I seem to be finding myself in the woods more than I thought I’d ever be.  It’s not as pretty as I thought they’d be: branches bite at my calves as I walk, graffiti adorns trees, and on the pathways, there are old beer cans, condoms and cigarette butts that linger together in little cliques.

The two of us walk down to the end of my block where the street disappears and breaks out into woods. As we walk, I wonder what the neighbors are thinking; if anyone notices us, or if they make mental notes to tell my parents that I was hanging out with some thirty-something looking dirt-bag, because I know what he looks like and what people would think if they saw us walking here. As we take the trail, I grab Jimmy’s hand, which feels disproportionately large, and he starts to lead me. He tries not to walk too fast for me, making sure he’s not pulling me like a rag doll behind him until we come up to a big pile of dirt.

“This looks good,” he says, “Let’s sit down.”

I don’t want to sit or even squat on that stuff. I hate getting dirty. When I was little if I got a grass stain I would get very annoyed, and now we were going to fool around in a bunch of twigs, bugs, and dirt. I look up at his face and see determination.

“Uh, okay.”

I resign myself to him. Besides, he walked all the way here from another town and no one really does that for anyone, anyway, right? He chose me.

We start kissing and my shirt is off in a ball behind us.  I panic looking back repeatedly to see if it is there or not, wondering how dirty it will get, if it will collect bugs, and then once I put the shirt on, I’ll find them crawling all over me. His mouth is greedily chomping on my breasts.

“God you’re so sexy,” and he goes to pull down my skirt.

“Be careful,” I say to him, starting to be scared of what I think he wants. His weight shifts on top of me and I feel smothered.

“Ow! You’re smushing me!” I say this to him, my words muffled by his chest.

“Sorry girl,” he says, shifting his body to the side, “let me see these panties. Mmm.”

My skirt is off, thrown someplace, somewhere with the bugs and dirt. Everything seems to close in on the two of us. I hear noises and they make me jerk. I cannot relax on these twigs. Every time a birdcalls or a noise goes off in the distance my head jerks.

“Whoah girl, it’s just out on the street, chill.”

His fingers enter inside of me, his fat knuckles kneading me like dough, his middle finger stabbing me. He pulls down his pants and puts my hand on his part. I thought it would be bigger, maybe because he is older. He smells a little sweaty, so I don’t want it close to me.

“Touch it, yeah baby,” he demands.

I slide my hand in an up and down motion not knowing if this is good or bad because I’ve never done this really, despite my experience dating Brett, and being with Ricky.

“No, not like that, let Jimmy show you.”

He shows me while he thrusts his fingers inside me. I whimper a little, but he doesn’t hear me. I try to ignore the pain.

“Oh god, I gotta get in you,” he says.

The branches are cutting into me and I tell him so. He puts his shirt underneath me and I feel flattered. He didn’t want me to hurt.

“There you go— better now.” he smiles while his fingers still thrust.

I feel no sensation of pleasure, just some moistness—maybe urine? – but it feels like it’s coming from someone else. I try not to think about anything, but there is one thought that refuses to leave. I have a secret now—something I cannot tell anyone, not even my sisters who share some of their secrets of romance with me. I can’t tell them their little sister was swimming in a lake of leaves and broken beer bottles, with a man underneath her. I can’t tell anyone about the woods.

He starts right in, without holding back.

“Whoa, you’re tight!”

“Ouch!” I grab on to his back, digging my nails into his skin.

“Shit! Watch the nails dude!”

I try to keep my face away from his because I don’t want to kiss him. I encourage him to thrust fast, to get it all out of him.

“So good girl, so good.”

“Faster, my parents have gotta be home by now,” I tell him and he says he’s almost done.

When he finishes, he stretches his arms over his head in satisfaction. I feel dirty.

He grabs my hand and says, “Okay girl, we gotta find our way out.”

Now that it’s over, I push aside my secret, and imagine it’s something better. Pretend we are two young lovers on a stroll, he, the military man on his way to war, and I, the young maiden as we decide to make a pact to wait for one another until after his hopeful return from the war.

But my imagination is shattered, once I take a good look at the two of us. We look like two dogs that have run away from home—unkempt me, a little stray mutt, with a crown of leaves and twigs and he, a beaten down hound dog with bloated belly, red-rimmed eyes and matted fur. How we will return to my house, I do not know. I start shaking the dirt and leaves off me, pulling my fingers through my hair. Frantically, I inspect my clothes for bugs, my eyes tracing the same spots, while I try to convince myself that it is okay, and that everything is fine.

“Jimmy, I gotta get home now,” I whimper, not caring if I sound like a baby, wishing like little children do that my mother could come and make this all go away.

“Ok, ok, just chill girl, chill.”

He is always chill, somehow. I find myself annoyed that everything seems okay to him, when it is not okay at all. I push the annoyance into my gut, and focus on finding our way out of the woods. Somehow, neither of us can remember the path we took to get here.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be out soon,” he tells me, so sure of everything.

I stay quiet and simply point out if I see something familiar, other than that I hold his hand and try to stop thinking about peeing, which I really have to do because I hurt right now.

When we finally see my street, the purple dusk of evening has descended upon us. Even though I know that this is the same street that I took to the woods, I feel like the street changed when I was gone. Maybe I have landed somewhere else, I think.

When we finally reach my house, I see my worst nightmare: my Dad’s car is in the driveway. I reach out to touch his car, and it is still hot; he must have just gotten home. This cannot be happening. It would have been better if it had been my mom, I think. Then again, my mom would probably kill Jimmy first, and then me afterwards.

“Shit, my dad’s home,” I start to freak.

Jimmy nods, “Just stay cool.”

We walk into the front door, and my Dad is standing in the kitchen, just home from work, taking a drink from the refrigerator.

“Hi Dad,” I say through the bulge in my throat, trying to sound normal.

Jimmy is standing next to me, in the hallway between the kitchen and the living room.

My dad barely looks up at me, “Hi.”

I don’t think he’s looking at either me or Jimmy, but I decide to introduce him to Jimmy anyway, because I cannot pretend he’s invisible.

“This is Jimmy Dad. He’s just gonna use the bathroom.”

“Uh, yeah. Hello. Okay.”

My dad lifts his head up and then looks at us. He swigs a sip from his glass of iced tea, puts it back down on the counter and then he walks up the stairs.


It is now July. On a weekday afternoon, Jimmy invites me over to his friend Larry’s house who Jimmy says is almost eighteen.

Jimmy entices me saying, “Larry has a pool.”

“Can we go swimming?”

“For sure, and we’ll order pizza too.”

I bike into Jimmy and Larry’s town in the sweltering heat in a pair of cut-off shorts, and a bikini top with a tank top over it. I pedal uphill to the soundtrack of the Doors, wondering to myself now that high school is only two months away, what it will be like. I make a wish to myself that I can be the well-liked, intelligent, and funny girl I was before puberty again. That I can talk to boys like I used to, back when we were equals, and no one cared if you had breasts or not, if you were pretty or ugly, or cute or fat. It was the boys and me in almost every academically gifted class straight from kindergarten. I supplied the jokes and they— the boys—supplied the spitballs.

It starts getting hot, so I take off my tank top and a group of men shouts from inside a car to me, “Nice rack!”

I scream back at them, my words cutting through the wind “Screw you assholes!”

 I think to myself, I am woman hear me roar.

Finally, after an hour bike ride, I pull up to the house, and Jimmy is waiting outside.

“Hey girl, come on in,” he greets me with a bear hug.

It feels different than last time, as if we are friends. I am hoping today can be a fun time with a group of people.

I walk into the house and see two guys waiting for us. I didn’t know there would be two other guys; I only knew about Larry. I don’t see any pizza yet, and none of the guys are wearing swim trunks. There aren’t any cars in the driveway, (none of the guys have cars which surprises me) so I’m assuming his parents aren’t home. In fact, all three men are so quiet, I wonder if they were all mute up until I came.

“Hey guys, this is Laura. Laura this is Larry and Grizzly—that’s his nickname,” Jimmy introduces me to these two strangers.

Larry isn’t exactly my type, but out of the three guys, he’s both the most attractive and the youngest, at almost eighteen. At least I think he’s younger than Grizzly; Grizzly looks like he’s forty years old. Larry’s hair covers most of his face and is so pinstraight and blonde that I picture him brushing his hair with one hundred strokes just to get it so lame. His only true special feature is his small eyes of robin’s egg blue. I like his shiny hair and baby bird’s eyes, but I notice he has some acne wandering around on his face. I wonder if it bothers him, having it there on his face. I hate getting a pimple, but he seems carefree, just sipping a beer, ignoring the tiny hen-pecked cysts that form crescent moons all over his cheeks.

“Hey Laura, wanna beer?” Larry asks me from underneath his hair.

The hair is a smart idea; he never has to look at anyone if he doesn’t want to. I envy the way he seems so unaffected.

“No thanks, but I do want some pizza,” I smile and try to look sweet, although I’m secretly biting the inside of my lip. The pizza is supposed to be here; where is the damn pizza?

          “You want pizza?”

Larry sounds surprised, and Jimmy just sizes me up while he pours himself a drink, something with alcohol.

“Yeah, Jimmy said there would be pizza,” I say this feeling dumb, but hell I just rode a bike here, and I’m hungry.

Then Grizzly speaks up. I’ve been trying to ignore him because he scares me.

“No pizza here, eh Larry?”

Grizzly looks exactly like his name sounds. He has massively thick curly white hair that is tinged almost blue.

“Feed the girl Larry, and make her happy, she came all the way here,” Jimmy chimes in for me, licking some alcohol off the top of his lip.

Rising from the dead, Larry gets up slowly from his chair. His arms come up from his sides first, and his head seems to shoot straight up, until I can see that he is tall. Very tall.

I could maybe like this one. Maybe.

“Grab me a beer while you’re at it Larry. You don’t want any?” Grizzly asks, looking at me.

“No, I don’t. How old are you?” I look back at him reluctantly, because I just don’t like looking at him.

He looks like no one I have ever seen before, or want to see, ever. He has glasses with thick frames, his hair falls from underneath a dirty trucker hat, and his skin is so translucent that you can see the blood pumping through him. I wonder if he is a vampire, or if he stays inside all day. He looks older than both my sister Dena who is twenty-four and all her boyfriends combined.

“I’m thirty-four, thirty-four,” he says, and after that, he doesn’t say much at all.     From behind the freezer door, Larry announces he’s found some microwavable pizza and offers to make it for me, albeit a little begrudgingly. He makes the pizza with such heavy movements, it’s like he’s doing the hardest work he’s ever done, and with a flourish, he brings it over to me, pushing the plate in front of my face, smiling this grin that shows his canines. Jimmy and Grizzly are just drinking their beers, and I ingest the pizza in less time than it was made. I was hungry and apparently, I’m not the only one. Hunger, desire, something… is all around me.  The tension is so heavy that the room is starting to close in on me.

Jimmy looks up from his beer and says aloud, as if the idea just struck him, yet clearly it hasn’t, “Let’s go downstairs to Larry’s room.”

The guys just nod yes and we go downstairs, Jimmy turning his head to smile at me.

With a smoky film in the air from Larry’s Newport cigarettes, black light posters, black lights and no natural light coming inside the room since there are no windows, it’s like a cave. Now, I finally understand all those “man and the cave” jokes my mom and her friends used to tell me; they weren’t kidding.

Then I notice the snake.

In the corner, Larry has a tank where a snake slithers around not caring for anything or anyone, just choosing his path through the rocks.

“You have a snake?”

Larry nods and turns on Black Sabbath.

I’m fascinated because my mom loves lizards. She had one as a child—an iguana, maybe? Anyway, her mother hated it so she left the light on, and the lizard died. When my mom told me this, I almost didn’t believe her. What kind of mother would do that to her kid’s pet?

“Yeah, she killed it on purpose because she hated it; she thought it was ugly. She never wanted me to be too happy.”

I asked her how she put up with it.

“Because, that’s how it was in those days; you respected yaw parents.”

I wish that she hadn’t been so respectful to her mother; she didn’t deserve it, and I wish I could tell her about this snake too, but I know I never can.

“Yeah man, I like that snake, dude. Very cool. So Laura… how about you have a little fun with Larry and me? And Grizzly too?”

Jimmy stops and looks at me as I sit on the edge of the bed, seeing how the other gender lives.

All the men are now looking at me, waiting for a word to stumble out of my mouth. Jimmy smiles at me like he’s a proud parent, as if he created me himself.

“Laura’s a cool chick; very cool guys, very cool— right guys?”

I feel their gazes evaluating my worth. I won’t look at Grizzly but I can feel his stare. Larry views me head on, trying to will me to say yes, this pleasure inscribed on his face. Even though it makes me feel weird, I like that he seems so excited about me— maybe he thinks I am pretty. Jimmy stands with his legs shoulder width apart, and his arms crossed. I feel as if he is about to lecture me on the very reasons why I should submit to his request, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t look at me head on; he slants his head towards his shoulder as if it’s about to roll right off his neck. I like that he doesn’t look at me, because if he did, he’d make me feel uncomfortable. He gives my face and me some privacy to express what I want…or don’t want.  My face can never keep its lips sealed; my face is the front page news for my soul, as it blares my emotional headlines.

I look back at the snake lying camouflaged in between some rocks; he probably thinks I cannot see him, but I can. His tongue lashes out towards the glass, and I lock eyes with him. No one can see the story on his face; all he is, is instinct and survival, hiding himself, coiled up in a ball. We all have survival skills, but the snake, I like his best. Maybe my mom liked lizards and snakes so much because of their ability to camouflage themselves.

“Uh, I don’t know…”
“Come on girl, you know I like you, and Larry thinks you’re sexy, don’t you Larry?”

“Yeah, hell yeah. You have great breasts. Right Grizzly?”

“Yup, yup,”

Grizzly just goes along with the ride; he knows he’s not a selling point. Then Jimmy comes from behind me and starts to touch my neck, and tries to kiss me.

“Come on baby, we’ll be easy.”

I know Jimmy likes my body, but I don’t like him or his body. I want Larry to like me as in a girlfriend-boyfriend kind of way, even if I’m not totally sold on him. He’s not perfect, but he’s still kinda cool.

Jimmy mouths, “You’ll like it,” and so I do it, but I don’t think I’ll like it at all. In fact, I don’t even know what I like, but this isn’t it. This is about what the men will like and everyone knows that. Larry’s face sparks at the blank look on my face, taking it as a sign that I won’t back down, and I don’t. Instead, I imagine I am someone else because now that I’m here, I realize that I’m really here, and I can’t imagine myself here like this.

My clothes are off, and Grizzly and Larry watch as Jimmy’s hand reaches for the back of my head, bringing it down to meet him. He peeks at them slightly out of his right eye, while watching me.

“I taught this girl good, huh? Go on girl,” he pats my head, the dark olive pits of his eyes shining like he’s about to cry.

I calculate each movement, trying to be as precise and quick as possible so it will end fast. His hand is on my head, and I feel his dirty fingers in my hair.  I see dirt or some other creature of grime lodged under a few of his nails, and I want to puke. I avoid opening my eyes as much as possible. My neck wants to rebel from his tug, but I don’t, hating this feeling of forced submission. Time is going by so slowly I have to focus on keeping my eyes closed and suffocating the thoughts that pop up in my head like comic book dialogue bubbles.

When I crack an eye open to gage how much longer I will have to endure, I see that Jimmy is enjoying himself; his eyelids are like velvet stage curtains draped over his eyes, while his hands push my head down as gorilla grunts escaping from his mouth. I am disgusted by his face and grunting.

Opening one eye in a wink he calls out, “Isn’t she doing a good job Larry?”

“Yeah, impressive dude.”

           Jimmy opens both eyes on me, “Why don’t you show Larry some love, girl?”

I look at Larry and he starts to unzip his pants, answering in the affirmative for me. I am aware that from this point on all questions are simply nicely phrased commands.

Larry is sitting to the right of Jimmy and me, on the bed, just waiting. I feel like the air is suffocating me, and I try to breathe, try to gain my bearings. I change my posture to assume confidence; I smile to look sexy, assured.

“Go down on me,” Larry says, loudly with so much energy that he tires me out.

I move over towards him while Jimmy watches in his corner. When I start, I notice with relief that Larry doesn’t use his hand to guide my head.


Larry’s pleasure babblings make me feel a little better, like I’m needed…wanted in some kind of way. I struggle in the act with Larry, my mouth rebelling. That’s when Jimmy decides he’s had enough of being on the sidelines.

He calls out to Grizzly like he’s some perverted sports commentator, noting how the home team is playing.

“Is this a good girl or what? Hey don’t forget me girl,” and he puts his penis in front of my face, and he reaches for my head, pulling me towards him.

I hate this. My jaws want to shut, like a heavy lidded coffin, keeping my mouth closed for eternity. But like a mechanical mouth, I navigate the two men in structured rhythms, going from one to the next, tracking what mouth motions produces what type of noises so this hell will end. I will achieve the end.

Impatient, Larry starts to grab my head to force me into the rhythm he wants, “Yeah- fast like that, not like the other way,” he says, and I try not to cry, the rawness of my throat killing me.

I tell myself I can do it, that this too shall pass.

“Slower, more towards the top girl,” their instructions come at rapid fire, and tirelessly, I follow.

I am a big, blank canvas. If Larry is happy, I am, if he isn’t I’m not. I use big, bold strokes and color myself in with their feelings. I don’t have any of my own, or at least any that I can stand to feel.

When the men get tired of my mouth, I have sex with them. Both. I produce these sounds of pleasure that come from nowhere, encouraging them so the men can feel good and get it over with. I feel them inside of me, proud of how much I can take, even though I hate it. When the men are done, they both lie flat on the bed, as if they have just eaten their Thanksgiving dinner.

Jimmy calls to Grizzly, “She looks good doesn’t she? Man, that felt good, didn’t it Larry?”

“Hell yeah, she was good.”

I sit Indian style, looking at nobody. I can only be blank. I look at Grizzly. He forms a smile that seems to develop in time over his face– first a half-moon, then a smirk, and finally teeth. I realize that the show is not over. Jimmy leans over to me, speaking to me in a hushed tone, although I am sure everyone knows what we are saying.

“Hey Grizzly’s a nice guy, can’t you give him a blow job, or sex, something? He’s lonely dude,” his finger tracing my thigh.

I look down. I really don’t want to do this. Every time I look at Grizzly, I imagine him as old father time, the way they had him illustrated in children’s books when I was little, except for creepier.

“I don’t know,” I whisper because I am ashamed that I do not want to do it. That I cannot handle anymore. What I want to ask is just how he’s lonely with the whole sha-bang going on in the room, but as an empty slate myself, painted with everyone else’s happiness, I should understand.

“Come on girl, you’re so good,” as if I’m his prodigy

“Ok,” I whisper.

Saying it loudly would mean that I really want him, so I say it just so Jimmy and I can know the truth that I don’t want to go this far, but I guess I have to.

“Come on Grizzly, Step right up!”

Jimmy ushers him to the bed.

“Cool, thanks,” and Grizzly walks from his previously assigned corner, and sits on the bed. The other two look on like proud parents. Grizzly’s dirty Wrangler jeans- come off in celebration. Bleached out and yellow, they lie in a lazy lump at my feet. I wish to be like those jeans, lying lazily in a ball, enjoying myself as much as the men are.

The guys move towards the back of the room, to give Grizzly privacy. I go down on him, comparing the stark white of his penis to his dirty yellow jeans. I guess I thought the penis would be yellow too. I concentrate on the motion and hide myself somewhere in between exhaustion and confusion. Two minutes go by, and he finishes. The shot of him comes into my mouth, sharp and punitive.

Later on, when I see Jimmy again, which I do, but only a few more times until I cannot handle anymore, he will instruct me, “That’s it girl, swallow, please? That’s so good. No dude wants you to spit.”

Then for the rest of the time I spend with him, he will only let me off the hook if he is taking too long, then he’ll say, “You did good girl, you did good, it’s okay this time.”

But I will hate the taste; hate feeling a shot of venom into the space where my teeth and tongue live.  No matter what men tell me, not even soda can take away the taste. The smell disgusts me, and the texture–the coated layer in my mouth– will remind me who is on his or her knees.


“Thanks, I appreciate it,” Grizzly’s words so soft, I am taken aback by his genuine feelings.

I turn away from everyone and put my clothes back on, not knowing what to feel.

In ten minutes, I will be gone on my bike, riding into the heat towards my house. But I will be back the next time, and every time they call me, which they do when they want something that they cannot give to themselves.  I never say no. I don’t know the words.


© Laura Lifshitz-Hernandez and, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Laura Lifshitz-Hernandez and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


12 thoughts on “In the Hands of Men: a memoir excerpt by Laura Lifshitz, previously published in the Oklahoma Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s