In the mornings when everyone is gone I masturbate. An act I had never been interested in before. But now, now it’s like a ritual and right after, I spiral into a shame vortex. I wonder if God can see me and if he feels bad. I wonder if he thinks I’m wasting my life away. I wonder if he could see when Richard used to kiss me in his basement. Or when I let boys touch me under the desk in school. And I carry those thoughts all day. During my coffee and on my lonely drives to work. I’ve marinated in these thoughts for years.
On the night of my 28th birthday I touched myself for the first time.
Earlier that afternoon, I stood in the rain nervously waiting for you to pick me up.
Have you ever stood in the rain, in the middle of a downtown street, on an empty Wednesday night? Unfathomably happy? Not happy. Happy is too simple. Jovial, delighted, lighthearted? The perfect end to a wonderful birthday.
You give the most delicate gifts. Perfectly catered to who I am. Four perfect lemons, rightfully picked from your tree. The book, neatly wrapped in a avant-garde theater announcement. A small white box full of chocolate croissants. A tiny little card with only about ten words. And always, always the offer of a cup of coffee.
I’m sure that night you thought:
Twenty-eight is still young. Twenty-eight is not even half a lifetime.
But without knowing, you fueled my little heart. There was an innocent yet erotic air about the night. The closeness of our laughs, the shared sips of coffee, Vivaldi’s Spring.
I rushed home that night. Enamored with how perfect the night had been. My hands vibrating, buzzing almost, from our earlier embrace.
The idea that someday you’ll kiss me lingered in my fingers as I made my way to an unknown territory. The dampness made me shy away. And at that shyness, I began to ask questions.
What embarasses you about such a natural process?
Why do you not shy away from embracing your lovers in your mouth?
Why are you quick to fake your moans but afraid to fully understand yourself?
My fingers lingered on my navel. My eyes closed, my breathing relaxed, my mind on you.
I pictured my head tilting slightly to the right. Lips very delicately parting, inviting your soft shy tongue. I could feel my arms lift up to your shoulders and wrap around your neck. Like two teenagers kissing in the middle of school grounds. Soon my fingers parted a desolate garden. My finger gliding, painting, remembering every sensation that brought me here. I could smell the lemons on my nightstand.
My eyes tightly shut as a calm sweetness made its way all over my body.
A surge of energy made its way to all my limbs,
goosebumps making all the hair on my body stand,
Dick haunts me like no other. His laugh, his smell, his sincerity. The first time I met him I was 8. My father was his plumber. I fell in love with the idea of Dick before I even knew who he was. I fell In love with his house. The bright red front door. The porch perfect for reading. The giant tree in the front yard which held a tire swing. I loved his elegant thin wife, the pictures on the mantle, the perfect Christmas tree. When I first met , he caught me in his basement. He sat at his desk writing. I leaned in closer through the books. I began to breathe with him. I could smell old cigars and pages. I could smell his sweat.
My knee buckled.
Down came the books.
I fell back with my eyes tightly shut. "Oh no." I tried to scurry back but he grabbed my leg. I opened my eyes and there he stood. His belt was undone.
"Does your father know you're in here?"
"No" I stood up.
"What are you doing here?"
"I like your books."
He kept looking at me. I was used to it. I mean, men were always pinching my cheeks or calling me beautiful or saying I'd be trouble but there was something about this particular look I really enjoyed. Richard had these deep blue eyes that I liked looking into. I think it made him uncomfortable so he always looked away.
"How old are you?"
"Eight but I'll be nine next month."
"Do you have a Valentine's?"
"Ewww that stuffs for girls."
I began to pick up the books and he asked me to be his Valentine. I giggled and ran off after saying yes.
The second time I saw him, a pipe in the basement burst and he called my dad. I asked if I could come along.
“Something's different about you."
"I got my period this Summer."
"You know, that's not something you say to men. It's private, it's not ladylike."
"I'm sick of everyone telling me to be a lady. I don't want to be a lady or girl or woman."
He took my small hand in his and walked me in front of a painting. I remember thinking how beautiful and delicate she looked. And I noticed him. I'd never noticed their embrace. How he protects her with a gentle kiss.
We stood in silence. We were, strangely, equals.
"What do you think?"
"Yes. What do you think of it?"
"I think it's beautiful. He loves her. He protects her."
"Can I look closer?"
He pulled up a chair to the frame.
He put his arm around me and kissed me, right in the corner of my lips. I'm pretty sure I still carry that kiss.