It was in Portland that I first learned to sin and learned to enjoy it. Maybe it was the endless suck of gray days, allowing us ample time and reason to think up acts of diversion. Huddling in the rain on NW 21st and smoking clove cigarettes, swiping wine from Safeway, flying on acid at the Lincoln High football game, cupping my younger cousin's rubbery penis in my hand under the gaze of his blue, bewildered eyes.

Of course, by the age of 12, I'd long suspected that being a good little girl was a recipe for boring nights where I did all my homework and baked oatmeal cookies. Bad girls, like blondes, seemed to have more fun, and stolen things--whether candy or kisses--offered a thrill I could get nowhere else. Most of my sins had to do with lust. Riding the bus to school in February, I'd see a flash of throat as a boy adjusted his scarf or a band of his belly as he stretched, and I nurtured fantasies, all my thoughts of warmth involving one boy or another from class, even my best friend's boyfriend.

Ironically, my sinful adolescence now seems like the most innocent time in my life. I was looking simply to escape, to learn, or to be loved.

Twenty years later, I've come back to Portland, no longer a child, and what can I say of my sins today? At least this much is true: I'm no longer innocent. The seven deadly sins are old friends, but on a grand scale, my crimes are small and common, and do little damage. Some I get no enjoyment from: white lies told out of weakness, faces turned away from on the street, betrayals of lovers. The sins of omission.

But most of the time, I do like my darker side. Sin can mean a wild weekend or a warm body at night. And I like what happens to me physically when I transgress, even when just thinking about it: the flush, the way my heart tightens. It's almost sexual. I am alive. Each sin grants me some pleasure, no matter what the guilt or pain that so often follows.

There's another reason why I've yet to change my ways. The timeless struggle with sin is what we all share, and it creates compassion and understanding--for whom in this world could cast the first stone?