The first time I saw a condom I was nine years old and slightly too old to be playing pretend. This sounds wrong, but let me explain. I was sitting my friend’s parents’ 1992 Subaru station wagon and we were playing a game called “Hippie Road Trip” where we were two hippies driving across America. I’m not sure what this game entailed besides my friend sitting in the driver’s seat of the parked car and turning the wheel every so often to not crash into imaginary pedestrians and animals. While looking through the glove box for a map (we had gotten lost—apparently our hippie sense of direction was not up to snuff) I came across a box of condoms.
I had heard about the legendary pieces of latex in class from the school nurse. She was a portly woman with red hair who had clearly been uncomfortable explaining the birds and the bees to a class of fourth graders. Her perspiration and rushed tone, however, had made the topic more exciting, more mysterious. And so it was no wonder then that finding a box of condoms to us was like discovering buried treasure.
“They’re my parents’,” explained my friend, who had christened herself ‘Sparkle’ whilst playing pretend. I too had taken a new name for my character the most beautiful name I could think of, which at the time happened to be ‘Crystal’.
Her parents were in fact real hippies and as a result Sparkle was somewhat of an expert on the subject of sex. “Here– let me see those,” she said, extending her hand. She opened the box and grabbed a small, plastic square before tearing it open. It was long and cylindrical with a strange almost soft texture.
“Can I have one?” I asked excitedly. It was not so often that I had such easy access to illicit objects. There was something so thrilling about finding evidence of the adult world. She handed me a small plastic square of my own. Pretty soon the entire box had been completely emptied and every one of the six condoms was unwrapped. It turned out that condoms could fit over your hands, your feet and even the stick shift of a 1992 Subaru station wagon. Finally, tired of playing with them, we put all of the unwrapped condoms back into their box and into the glove compartment.
Sparkle readjusted her seat and went back to concentrating on driving. I stared out the window of the unmoving car, satisfied with our new found hippie secret.