AN OPEN LETTER TO THAT GUY I BLEW ON 9-11 by SHANNON FROST GREENSTEIN

Dear David,

To begin, I want to say that I forgive you. I forgive you for not calling. I harbor no resentment that the only tangible remuneration I got for sucking on your cock was a slightly salty aftertaste and waves of queasiness for the next few hours. In fact…and, I know this is going to blow your mind, but bear with me in the way you did not when I blew your penis…I want to say thank you. I know, right?  Where did that come from?  But I mean this with complete sincerity: That blow job shaped the rest of my future.

Let’s reminisce for a second. You may not, through the haze of years and aging, recall the vivid details of the encounter, but I certainly do. We were the class of 2004, the latest crop of 18 year-olds to enter the doors of a liberal arts institution to learn to think liberally. It was our sophomore year, a typical start to a perfectly ordinary semester, the leaves beginning to change and sorority sisters’ suntans finally fading.

Then 9/11 happened.

CNN was on in the background. The clips were playing, over and over and over again. We were both supposed to have Psych 101 that evening, but there was no precedent for that kind of day, and so we didn’t go. It was getting dark; we were in the dorm. I’d been watching the news for so long that my ass was numb and my eyes felt like they were coated with sand, but then you stopped by after the campus vigil. Normally, I would have been studying, rehearsing, socializing.

But 9/11 happened.

That morning, plagued by Calculus, I wasn’t paying much attention to the world at large until I started to hear whispers about Manhattan and a plane crash. It didn’t take long for the details to trickle down, exponentially more and more horrible as the morning progressed. Before, I had been lamenting my lack of sleep and my love handles, thinking about auditions that evening and frustrated with my desktop computer circa 1999.

Then 9/11 happened.

We spoke about the beauty of the vigil, about fellow students who were volunteer firefighters and EMTs summoned to New York. We sat on your futon, watching the news; your hand crept into mine, your foot massaging mine through our socks. We both knew what was about to happen, and, in the moment, it didn’t seem wrong. It seemed a comfort.

Because 9/11 happened.

You’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up now. I mean, this was 2001. Why would I possibly still reflect on what you have, in all likelihood, long written off?  Well, I’ll tell you a secret. It was my first. It was my first blow job, and just pause for a second to imagine that gestalt for me. We were dry humping while the world was deteriorating, while the foundation of everything was shaking, while the Dark Tower was falling.

Because 9/11 happened.

Do you want to know another secret?

I knew…I just knew…that I was going to be good at it. I knew I was about to blow your mind…among other things…and, in that single moment before I dropped to my knees, I felt pure, unadulterated, addictive power. You see, I was confident about fellatio in a way I’ve never been confident about my looks or intellect or character; even in the face of my extreme inexperience, I was certain that, from that point forward, I would give the best head that some boys would ever get to enjoy. A true story, but devastatingly ironic in its juxtaposition to the situation at hand.

I never told you just how I happened to get so good at oral sex, and if you really want the details, that’s another letter for another day. Let it suffice to say that I had a good female friend who was a good teacher with a good and willing guinea pig who couldn’t believe his good luck. But I knew, after that night, that I had found something I could do well. I just didn’t think I would be exercising this talent on a September evening as the world wept.

So, yes, my first blow job was a memorable one. It empowered me; it bolstered me. And, if I’m not mistaken, it was particularly good for you, too. If it was, though, we’re back to the inevitable question: Why didn’t you call?  Why, Dave?  Why didn’t you call?  You were perfectly happy leaving me messages and visiting my room before I sucked on your cock. You were flattering and charming and attentive until your penis was in my mouth. Then…what?  Conquest attained, another check mark in the box, masculinity reinforced?  That’s a dick move, Dave, double entendre intended.

But, I’ll repeat it so you really believe me. I forgive you. I forgive you because that night cemented the self-assurance I brought with me into your room. I knew full well that I was prepared, that I could meet the challenge, that your penis was a miniature Everest I was fit enough to summit. I walked through your door the first time a sheltered girl, doubting her worth, distraught over 9/11; I exited a woman, secure in her sexuality, distraught over 9/11. That single blow job proved to me that I am capable, worth loving, worth fucking.

I would go on to compare all future oral sex to my experience with you. I would remember that Tuesday, landmark in our nation’s history book and my personal story as well, and, consequently, remember my innate ability to make a man’s thighs tremble. Now, whenever I give head, I remember the sound of the Best News Team on Television; I remember the white noise of college life beyond the closed door; I remember a blue-sheeted futon, posters of Dave Matthews on the wall, empty beer cans like trophies on the windowsill.

I remember 9/11.

I Hope You At Least Remember Me,

Shannon Lorraine Frost Greenstein


Shannon Frost Greenstein currently endures a day job while penning the Next Great American Novel.  She resides in Philadelphia with her husband and heir, whom she aims to raise as a user of gender-neutral pronouns.  Shannon has an unhealthy interest in Friedrich Nietzsche, Game of Thrones, the Summer Olympics, Mount Everest, and the Hill Cumorah Pageant.  She was bitten by a koala during her Australian semester abroad.  On the ear.  Her work can be found, or is due to be published, on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the Corvus Review Literary Journal, WHYY’s Speakeasy column, the Philadelphia Stories Arts Magazine, the Philadelphia City Paper, The Mighty, The Manifest-Station, The Philly Metropolis and the elephant journal.

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