Sam Simon

Proudly born and raised in Oakland, California, Sam Simon began his career by telling kids at school that he was the famed executive producer of the Simpsons. Before arriving at Goldsmiths, he lived in Oslo, Barcelona, and Medellin, scraping by on an English teacher’s salary. An avid traveler, language and dialect often feature prominently in his writing. While he struggles with the Queen’s English, he speaks Spanish, Norwegian, and Portuguese, though he is admittedly glad there are few people who can challenge him on that fact.




Is That It?


I swiveled back and forth in my pleather office chair cruising Myspace and watching Sunday Night Baseball. It was still early in the evening but I wanted to get a particularly good night’s sleep because Monday was the first day of school, which meant it was the first practice of the season; my first practice as the varsity quarterback. I was anxious to start on a good note after spending all summer working out with my receivers to make sure we had our timing down. I was ready for my big moment.

Mom had been out of the country for two weeks, leaving me home alone. I had a car and plenty of food money so things ran more or less as usual. When she got home from the airport it was like she had just been out for the afternoon.

My gray Kyocera lit up in a flash of neon-blue lights and vibrated loudly against the glass desk. I only had fifty text messages per month so I was always selective about who to respond to.

Contact with Mandy Wallace had stopped months ago but she went to school with my best friend Jonah so I often heard about her. For a while we spoke often, even going to the Winter Formal at my school together. That came to a jolting stop at the after party when I chased a tequila shot with a kiss and threw up moments later. It was sort of understandable but I had hoped things would progress.

What are you doing tonight?

Mandy was the type of girl who did things on Sunday nights before the first day of school.


Im finna go to the movies at 9:00 then I think u shud come over.

To your house?

Its time.

I knew exactly what she meant and I felt my heart rate quicken. It reminded me of my sixth grade physical education project where we had to do a variety of activities and then measure and chart our pulse afterwards. Run a lap around the track and then chart your heart rate. Swim a lap in a pool and then chart your heart rate. Listen to your favorite song and then chart your heart rate. Why couldn’t she have made this decision during the two weeks that I was home alone and unencumbered by school? Mom called me upstairs for dinner but I was too nervous to eat so I told her I would just heat it up later. We chatted briefly before she headed to bed. Thank god for jet lag. Now all there was left to do was wait for the text.

I turned my phone ringer on high so I would have no doubt when she messaged. Then I turned it on silent so any random noise wouldn’t startle me into thinking it was her. Eventually, at about a quarter to eleven, my phone vibrated.

Park on my street but not in front of the house. Open the side gate and walk to the back where my room is. Ill be waiting.

This was beginning to sound complicated. My mind was flipping through potential escape routes and Mandy could sense my hesitancy on the other side.

Come on, itll be fun.

Fun. I had to remind myself that this was something that I wanted to do.

My mom’s bedroom sat underneath the driveway where the cars were parked. My ‘91 gas-guzzling clunker made too much noise so I stole the keys to her new car and set off towards the part of East Oakland where I only ever went to get tacos.

There I was: a seventeen-year-old white boy in his mom’s hybrid driving down Fruitvale Avenue at eleven o’clock at night.

I turned onto 38th just before East 14th and looked for her house number. I parked the car, careful not to occupy the free space directly in front, and turned off the quiet engine. Underneath the glow of the lone streetlight I eyed the porch steps that I wouldn’t be using. All the windows were dark, which hopefully meant that her parents were fast asleep. I stared down the side of her house knowing that Mandy was waiting for me on the other side. First though, I needed to cross into enemy territory without being detected.

The hinges on the wooden gate creaked as I swung it open. The concrete sidewalk gave way to a gravel walkway, which crunched with every step. Overhead was an open window where I could hear the rumblings of her father’s snoring. My eyes fixed on the curtains as I crept through the minefield, successfully passing the guards, and ultimately reaching the back entrance where her room was. I stood in the darkness at her door, confronted with the realization that stealing my mom’s car, driving deep into East Oakland, and sneaking into Mandy’s house had been the least of my problems.

I knocked once before opening the door and walking inside. Incense was smoldering in a corner and flickering candles placed along all the desks and dressers lit the room. If I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable before, seeing her laying on the bed underneath the soft glow didn’t ease my nerves. I wondered how long she had been sitting there like that waiting for me.

‘There you are! Come sit with me on the bed.’

I kicked off my shoes, careful not to stumble, and sat at the corner of the bed. It was a warm summer night so I stood back up and took off my jeans before scooting next to her. She was wearing gray sweats and a white t-shirt but her tight curves still showed through. She pulled my shoulders down so we were both lying flat and then covered us with the duvet.

‘Are you nervous?’

‘Should I be?’

She eased the tension by casually rambling in that way that lets you ignore your surroundings. We talked about school, about football, about mutual friends. She playfully slapped me on the chest when she brought up how I had been sick before kissing her. I wished she had been so casual about it in the moment – then maybe it wouldn’t have to be this way. She mentioned how she had told her parents how much she had liked me. I wondered if they would be pleased to barge into her room and find me now. She told me that she had thought about kissing me again but had never gotten the opportunity. I kissed her then, completely unaware of what timing was or how to use it to my advantage. Like everything else, she worked around it confidently, returning the kiss and then smiling as she rubbed circles along the soft skin on the inside of my elbow.

We continued talking for a while, the touching intensifying, pieces of clothing falling away until she fell across my lap. It was late and she had decided that play time was coming to an end.

She settled on top of me, thin layers of cloth the only thing separating us. The conversation continued as a thin veil, like hiding a surprise behind a pane of glass. Every few seconds she would shift her weight, building pressure inside me as she felt my hardness underneath her. She leaned forward, steadying herself on my chest and kissed me before rising up and unhooking her bra. The conversation was over.

She mocked modesty by covering herself with her hands before removing them and letting me touch her breasts. I fumbled at them like dollar bills in the cash booth in eighth grade when there were only ten seconds to collect as much money as I could. She smiled, grabbing my right hand and bringing it to her mouth before letting it drop to her side. She bent down again, kissing my neck before sliding off of me and onto her back. She shimmied out of her sweatpants and threw the duvet off, exposing her pale skin and black lace underwear. She again took my hand, this time bringing it down past her navel and sliding it underneath the delicate cloth. She pushed down on the tops of my fingers, pressing the right spots like a piano teacher showing her pupil the correct combination of keys. Having only ever played the intro, and never the entire overture, I repeated the refrain for what felt like an appropriate amount of time before making my move. And what a move it was. I stopped the music and clumsily leaned over her to reach my wallet and the condom that had been inside it since our school assembly on safe sex the year before.

‘Whatchu doin’ down there?’ she asked.

I reappeared and proudly produced the wrinkled red package like a diver clutching a rock he mistook for a pearl. She smiled and cooly pressed the cassette slot of the stereo on her bedside table. It clicked open to reveal two condoms and a bottle of lube. She grabbed the condoms, Trojan Magnums no less. The gold packaging dwarfed my offering. I was flattered before I realized that Magnums were just what she had in her stockpile; they were the norm. Intimidation washed away the flattery. I watched her open the lube and put a small dab on her finger before licking it off and laughing.

‘Wanna try some?’

‘Nah, I think I’m alright.’

‘I swear it’s hella good.’

‘I’ll take your word for it.’

She tore off one of the condoms and bit the edge, slicing open the wrapper; exactly what we had been taught not to do at the assembly. She handed it to me and pulled off her underwear before playfully tugging at mine. I slid them off, my erection catching in the buttoned fly and being pulled forward like a sling shot before slapping against my stomach with a smack. I pinched the tip of the condom and slid it on, allowing her to smooth it down. Every touch felt like I was an unstable Jenga tower and she was placing recently removed blocks on top. I could feel the crash coming but there was nothing I could do about it.

She navigated herself underneath me and I pushed myself inside, inching my way deeper until my hips kissed hers. I felt like a mountaineer; tempted to declare myself a champion after simply catching a glimpse of the summit. But I forged on, lifting myself up again and repeating the action until the blocks came crashing down. I pumped a few more times but it was like inflating a bike tire that had a nail sticking out of it.

Breathing heavily I pulled myself out and laid down on the bed next to her. She rolled onto her side to face me.

‘Is that it?’

I looked back at her and extended my hands in defeat. How the hell am I supposed to know?

An prolonged silence followed during which my head flushed out whatever it was that had compelled me to undertake this journey in the first place. It certainly wasn’t for those twenty-seven seconds. My thoughts shifted away from the act itself. I thought about how I would break the news to the boys the next day. Surely everyone would notice this new me so it would only be a matter of time until someone guessed what had happened. I thought about whether I should call Jonah on the way home but then I remembered how late it had to be. I checked my phone and saw that I had to be up for school in a couple of hours. I wasn’t sure if she thought I would be spending the night but Mandy seemed irritated when I said that I had to leave. I asked her to pass me my boxers, my shyness having returned, and pulled them up before putting my pants and shirt on. She still looked pissed.

‘Well,’ I started, before realizing that I was similarly ill prepared for this part ‘thanks, Mandy.’

I left her bedroom, shoes in hand, and crept past the minefield, the guard station, and the creaking gate – exhaling only when I was safely inside the car. I started the engine and turned on 106.1 KMEL JAMS. Instead of the normal mix of hip hop and rap, at this time of night they played something called ‘The Lounge’, which was R&B. I began driving home, practicing my smooth radio DJ voice as I turned off the side streets back onto Fruitvale.

‘This next track goes out to my man Sam out in The Town who just handed in that V-card. I see you baby.’

I am a mountain,

I am a tall tree, oh,

I am a swift wind,

sweeping the country

With a stabilized heart beat and R. Kelly instilling confidence in me I snaked up the hill before seeing a small group gathered around one of East Oakland’s many taco trucks. I hadn’t ever eaten the leftovers from dinner, and for the first time in hours I was hungry. I pulled into the lot and parked before exiting and taking in the scent of fried chilis and fresh citrus. The crowd sipped their 40s and smoked their Swisher Sweets in between bites of carne asada and carnitas tacos. One car had its doors open and the radio on to complete the makeshift block-party.

I walked towards the golden glow of the mobile kitchen before I felt something damp and cold on my leg. It was then that I remembered that I hadn’t removed the condom. I had been unsure of how to dispose of it while in Mandy’s room and had rushed out of there without taking care of it. Did I just take it off and leave it in her trash can? Should I tie it in a little knot and bundle it up inside a napkin? Was I supposed to flush it down the toilet? Sex-ed hadn’t covered much about condom etiquette. Now I was caught in a far more compromising situation: Whatever discomfort I was in, no matter how gross it was, this was not the neighborhood to roll up to in the middle of the night, run up on a bunch of strangers, and immediately reach into my waistband.

I was too far to turn back and I didn’t want them seeing me squirming around in the car. I played it cool, pretending that I was simply reading the menu, despite barely being able to see it in the dark.

Too Short’s Blow the Whistle came on the radio next and the group began singing.

I go on and on,

cant understand how I last so long,

I must have super powers…”

I pictured another radio DJ, this one less impressed, giving me a different kind of shout out.

‘This track definitely doesn’t go out to Sam.’

‘Yo, you next little homie,’ a voice called out.

With the attention now on me I approached the window and ordered three tacos. The same person called out again.

‘Bruh, don’t I know you?’

I turned around to see a man, a few years older than I was, looking at me.

‘Uh, I don’t think so.’

‘Ain’t you Sam? Don’t you play ball up at O’Dowd?’

I nodded my head and leaned up against the truck, trying to remain as casual as possible.

‘I thought I recognized you. My little bro Marcus play up there too.’

He came over and shook my hand.

‘Man, whatchu’ doin’ outchea’ this late. Ain’t y’all start school tomorrow?

I laughed it off, unsure of what to say until his friend came to my rescue.

‘Dude, leave little bruh alone, you know what you woulda been doin’ when you was in high school. I bet bruh was just gettin’ it in and now he’s gotta fuel up’ he said.

‘Sir, your tacos.’

Grateful for the interruption I turned to collect my steaming paper plate and reached in my pocket for my wallet. My friend’s brother stopped me.

‘Don’t even worry about it, little homie, I got this.’

He paid for my tacos and gave me a head nod, which I returned, before heading back to my car. I inhaled the tacos before starting the car and speeding out of there. On the ride home, I unbuttoned my pants and carefully pulled off the condom, tying the end in a knot after all, and folding it inside the greasy paper plate. I then rolled down the window and checked the rearview mirror before sending it soaring into the night among the excess cilantro, onions, and salsa. It was my first official pass as the varsity quarterback, I was happy there was no receiver on the other end to catch it.