Hugo, 1989


After coastal waters stretched into our homes, our lives, our histories, days stretched into weeks. Mourning washed over us in hot waves of stillness, silence, and salt.

The twenty-six years since could have been twenty-four hours. Flooded memories know nothing of time.

Image credit: Post & Courier, 9/23/1989, File/Wade Spees/Staff

c for clarity

Between the V-(card) and the X-(boyfriend),

I found

C for cruelty—


In cold shoulders, callous caresses, blank futures.

Between 22 and 23,

I found

C for confidence—

Opened cautiously

In distant cities, double-takes, second chances.

And that’s where I found you.


my sexual education

Middle school sex ed. taught abstinence (over protection and preparedness).

So high school offered only these choices:

a.) Square

b.) Slut

But college, brought to you by the letter O, was a teacher of experience.

And finally, I separated sexuality from shame.

if at first you don’t succeed

I could tell you about the first time I was ever with a boy. He was 16 and I was 16 and we were foolishly, horribly, obliviously in love.

Or maybe only I was. After all, it’s hard to tell with 16-year-old boys.

But I’ll spare you that story as it’s anticlimactic (in more ways than one).

Life only gives us so many firsts. And often, those firsts don’t live up to our seen-it-on-YouTube, Instagram-filtered, hashtag-ridden expectations.

Which is why I never forget the ones that did.

Like the day I got my driver’s license. It was an unbearably sweaty Georgia-summer day. My dad and I drove to the DMV in dirt-road Villa Rica to avoid waiting in line at the more suburban locations near our home. And despite blowing past a stop sign toward the end of the test course, I managed to pass.

The first time I drove that cherry red ’96 Mustang with no adult riding shotgun, it felt like I’d just been born. It felt like freedom. I cruised through the fifteen minute route to my first lifeguarding gig—windows down, radio blaring Third Eye Blind—believing I was a brand new human being.

Or there’s the day I landed in Paris for the first time. The City of Light came with so many expectations. It was a movie for which the trailer was so good—too good—and you knew you’d only be left disappointed.

But I was not disappointed.

I turned 21 in France—eating fresh baked baguettes and cheeses with names I couldn’t pronounce and drinking cheap wine and gawking, wide-mouthed, starry-eyed, at the sparkling Eiffel Tower. Le Paris did not let me down.

Of course, there are the other kinds of firsts too: the first time I totaled a car (that same Mustang from sweet sixteen). The first time I flew alone (and managed, beyond all possibility, to actually board the wrong plane). The first time my heart was blown to bits (by the same boy from my aforementioned not-so-memorable first time).

Some of these were comical. Some devastating. Some embarrassingly legendary.

But all my first-timer mistakes were worth making. I learned something about me or life or choices or consequences. Definitely something about consequences.

So when it was time to drive again, I knew to make sure my foot was actually on the brake before turning into a parking space. When it was time to fly again, I knew to check that the plane at the gate was going to my intended destination. When it was time to love again, I made sure two hearts were ready—not just my own.

And it turns out that sometimes the second time is even better than the first.