In the dark, my toes curl and touch the floor-length vertical blinds. I hate vertical blinds, but they are not going to change for me. It’s not my apartment, after all. My twenty-seven-year-old boyfriend wants to go down on me. I’ve done that. He is the boyfriend who reads books about sex, who encourages my interest in porn, he is the boyfriend who is smarter and funnier than anyone I’ve ever had sex with in the six years I’ve been having sex with men. I’m barely twenty.
The mini-drama of it is that on the other side of the blinds is the walkway of the courtyard and all the other apartment inhabitants could just happen by. So could my boyfriend’s friend Mike, who I think is sort of cute, though a little dumb. My boyfriend, though, is cute and smart. But I didn’t always think he was hot. In fact, I shrank away from him when he intentionally sat next to me in the first class meeting of Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft. He complimented my rosebud earrings and my recycled paper. We became study partners. He made me laugh, and when I laughed, which was almost all of the time we were together, I noticed my panties got wet, consistently, undeniably. We became lovers. We fell in love.
So I let my toes flex. They feel hot, like the circulation in them has gone berserk, as he fucks me with his tongue. Okay, no, I have never done this. I mean, not like this. Holy shit, this is a new day. This is a new life. He always has the radio on, KCRW, a station new to me, where I am learning this new language of music. He has his own apartment, which is also strange, a foreign, exciting land to me, a place one calls their own, decorates themselves, has whatever kind of sex they want all over the place, as we have-the kitchen table, the counter, the toilet, the bathtub, the floor. I live with my mother, though I’m about to embark on a transfer to a mysterious, sexy college in the Pacific Northwest where I will study political economy and social change, among other things. I don’t yet know that my boyfriend will follow me up there. Right now all I know is that I am turned on by the fact that he’s a little older than me (and not fifteen years older than me, like the man I’m trying to forget), I’m turned on by his love of women and their bodies, and how he loves me and my body. The body I’ve messed with, various drugs ingested, reckless and dangerous diets and inordinate amounts of alcohol. I’m starting to leave all that behind, because what he is doing with his tongue, and what he does with me all the time, how he looks at me, how he talks to me, is making me consider I truly am hot, and most of my hotness is actually my brain, and the parts of my body I’ve been exasperated with-my thick thighs, my small but pert boobs, my hair that wants to perpetually curl and go wild when I want it straight, tamed.
His futon jiggles, which is common now, with all our fucking, but I am the cause of this jiggle, my squirming becoming more of a bucking that I can’t control. A song plays out on the stereo, a band new to us that we really like, Smashing Pumpkins. The sound of a bell tolling, and a seductive voice accompanies me on this thrashing journey to a place I have truly never been. I have come, oh, I’ve come, plenty of times before, but not like THIS, his studio apartment the universe, the window a membrane I want to burst through, my toes feeling like fire, clenching, unclenching, wanting to grind not just my cunt but my ass, everything, up into his face. And I do, and I burst: millions of colors, more than I ever dreamed, light up the darkness, explode, push my groin up and out, and then he’s matching my slower rhythm, the fall, the sighing, the mess of wetness underneath me, on his face, on my inner thighs.
I don’t yet know that when we are living up north we will experiment with non-monogamy, and his face will be between the thighs of another woman, and my cunt will be explored by my good friend’s tongue on my own futon, in my own apartment. I don’t yet know this will be our undoing. And years later, after we’ve been broken up for a few years, when I agree to meet him at the airport coffee shop before I head back to Los Angeles, which is home again, he will tell me this:
You know what I miss the most?
Licking your pussy â€˜til you came.
And with that, I smiled, picked up my bag, walked away, into the safety of the security line.
It’s after two in the morning and I escape to the bathroom next door to my bedroom. I’ll never think of this as my bathroom, even though my father moved out a year ago. So it’s even weirder when I get down on the linoleum and start the familiar rub grind to get me off on my father’s bathroom floor.
There’s no way I’ll wake up my mom-she’s passed out in the living room, the tv volume a white noise. I’m tired but happy. I’m coming down now. Yeah, this must be it, the coming down. The day started around eleven in the morning, when I let Veronica put the tiny square piece of paper on my tongue. Within an hour, I was in on it. I was feeling that thing that she’d described to me, only it was sooooo much better. Yes, the plants are breathing. Yes, the swimming pool is multi-layered and shimmering. Yes, I want to chew on tin foil. Get me some orange juice. Intensify! Intensify!
Her mom was coming home unexpectedly and she had to get me out of there, so I called Ed, housemate and sometime friend of the eighth grade teacher I’d been fooling around with. The phone was a foreign object to me, and after pressing all the buttons at once, then one at a time, Veronica forced me to push the numbers to get someone over there to shuttle me off. Ed came. He took me for a drive, and things happened between us, things that seemed ridiculous later, especially because I was only fifteen and on my first acid trip.
It wasn’t Ed I thought of when I was humping the bathroom floor, though. In fact, it was hard in general to concentrate on any particular person. We’d been through it that day: we’d been riding around in a car that got pulled over and our drug dealers had to split because the car got impounded, which meant we were busing it; we watched “The Exorcist” and I laughed my ass off; I bounced pennies off the carpet to examine the trails they left for what seemed like forever. In the middle of the night, as we walked to my house from the bus stop, talking ourselves down to a degree, or trying to, I asked Veronica if she saw the words taking shape on the lawns that we were walking past. No, she said, and laughed. Oh, I said. Ugh.
For many years I would think that fifteen was the best year of my life. I would point to nights like this one as evidence. We crossed lines, zigzagged, fell down and up; we opened car doors with abandon, got inside; we spoke directly to danger and let it touch us but somehow got away, clean and okay, with a pack of cigarettes and maybe some Boone’s Farm for our trouble.
Grinding the linoleum with its scrap of bathroom rug underneath me: this was familiar. This was safe. This was a tried and true way of meeting mundane reality again. An orgasm, it was all I needed to connect back to the rational, straightforward plane everyone else was on. What to think about, what to think about. Bodies. Tits. Veronica sitting on the floor of my bedroom watching music videos on tv, coming down herself, smoking cigarette after cigarette. My hip bones were knobbing against the floor. Women, blurry faces, sharply defined bodies, hip curves, side swell of tit curves, juicy ass curves, flying, flying, gyrating, sweating, then OHHH, sucking in of breath to be silent, stealth, slow exhale, landing, landing.
I pulled myself to a sitting position.
The lights above the mirror tinkled and giggled.
Nope. Not down just yet. Time to return to the lair of my room, try something else. A cigaretteâ€¦
It’s yet another Friday afternoon that I’ve texted my husband. At the library. I’ll be here for awhile.
Really I’m in a near-stranger’s apartment in West Hollywood, having sex with my clothes mostly on with my friend/co-worker/woman I am falling in love with.
Danny allows us to use his one-bedroom apartment for our weekly trysts. I know that his boyfriend left him and now he lives in their old apartment, alone. Danny and my friend/co-worker/woman I am falling in love with are best friends. Danny works late on Fridays, so his sunny apartment is empty except for us on Friday afternoons when I don’t work and she gets off work early.
We smoke cigarettes on his balcony. We plug in our iPods in his stereo and play the equivalent of mix tapes we’ve made for one another. When we use his bathroom, we wipe the sink down. My new lover always washes Danny’s dishes before we leave, something I find endearing. After tearing at each other’s clothes on his couch, we rub the grain of it with our hands so it’s smooth and clean again.
I got married at the end of winter, under a full moon lunar eclipse in Joshua Tree. The summer of that year, I’m in Danny’s non-air-conditioned apartment, my lover’s fingers getting sticky and wet with me, my hesitant mouth on her, the excruciating ache of wanting so much more, wanting to be with her not just a few hours, but all day, all night.
But what we had was this afternoon, this apartment.
I lie back on the couch and she undoes my belt.
My hands in her thick black hair as she smells me, her face against my belly, my thighs.
The careful avoidance of sticking her face in my cunt, because she’s certain her girlfriend will be able to detect the smell of me. It’s just too much to consider.
It will be a few weeks of these meetings before I come, before I feel like it’s safe enough to come in this strange place. Before I feel safe enough to come with her. Forget the ménage a trois back in college, or the drunk tongue kisses with girls in Olympia, aka Dyke Central. Forget the girls I was in love with even as I was a serial monogamist with guys. This was a real live woman, strong, nostrils flared, staring me in the eye, using her hands to make me come again and again, once I let her. Because I knew that once I let her make me come, something would open that would never be closed again. My husband at work, hipster black glasses, black t-shirts, black jeans-he seems to have no idea what’s happening to me. He doesn’t know why I sit on our fire escape in Koreatown in silence, staring out at the tops of apartment buildings. He doesn’t know that when he said, months before we married, My therapist and I think we should talk about your sexual orientation, that he was butting up against something massive, something that stretched down into the core of me.
But then, neither did I.
This summer’s lesson, then, is about learning to walk on ground that has suddenly slipped sideways, an earthquake having loosened it, tilted it, in perpetuity.
I keep my eyes open. I watch her remove her thick silver rings and place them on the coffee table. I look back into her bright brown eyes. I tilt my center up to meet her. Our sweat mingles. The five years I’ve spent with the man I just married, destroyed. The life I’ve started to become resigned to, demolished. The whole of my life turning out some way I had said, okay, I guess, to, bombed. The body I thought I knew was underneath the body of another woman, grinding, smiling, biting, tearing out of the body she had inhabited for the past thirty-four years.
And I came, and came again, and it was good.