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.
“She goes downstairs to the kitchen
Clutching her handkerchief
Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside, she is free” She’s Leaving Home, The Beatles
She closed the door quietly and made her way to the front door.
A multitude of keys were placed in my hands.
This was the trade of. If you wanted to do anything. Go anywhere, in your car, you had to juggle moving and parking cars outside. My mother begins her usual ritual while watching me from the sidewalk valet the cars around.
“I would help you but I woke up dizzy.”
“Oh your sister’s car is so strange.”
“The phones ringing. Could be your aunt.”
I’ve finally moved all three cars in to the proper places and hand her the keys.
In the calmest voice she asks
“Where are you going?”
“Therapy.” I lie.
I’m 30. My mother never knocks before she enters my bedroom. She never apologizes for pinning my siblings and I against each other. She tells me my sisters think I’m lazy and to me she says they’re stubborn women. I’m in the middle. She does however, make me panes de gallina when ever I ask. Sometimes we all pitch in and she makes pupusas and we have a little cookout out back. My father plays pool and plays music out of this one speaker, loudly. I’m sure the neighborhood dislikes us. I am 30, I live at home and therefore, a giant woman-child. All this, according to my mother.
“Therapy.” She’s sniffing.
“Yes. It’s good for me.” I look straight ahead, surely she knows I’m lying. She can smell it.
“Okay, well I have to go. Call you on my way back.”
I watch her waving from my rear view mirror as I pull away. I wonder what she’s thinking of me. I want to turn around. I get on the freeway.
On the nights before our coffee I can never sleep. And when I arrive home none of the hugs are as sweet. I linger in them hoping to find you. But instead I retreat to my bedroom where it’s a slow spiral into over thinking how our coffee went. Moments of clarity that scream “you should have made a move.” Moments of angst because I realize I ramble too much instead of asking simple questions like how are you? What are your interests? Isn’t sodomy lovely? I should be more attentive of him but I’m 30. Everything still revolves around me.
I make my way over to the west side of town where we are both strangers.
“You forgot, didn’t you?”
“No no I didn’t forget, just needed to go over some things... I’m on my way.” I could hear him smile through the phone. Speeding cars resembled his but it was never him. As my stomach began to tie itself into intricate knots I looked up from my book and there he was. His eyes searching for me in a sea of coffee and loud.
We smiled. A subtle sigh of relief removed itself from my breast.
“Everything alright?” I asked as I hugged him tightly.
Before he could even sit and respond I handed him a postcard of my favorite Monet painting. I placed his chair in the sun because I wanted to see what his eyes looked liked under the rays. I wanted to remember what he looked like in the light. I began to ramble immediately. I don’t know why the involuntary word vomit happens. I wonder if it’s out of loneliness, anyone’s lack of interest in me, or that I might just like him far too much. But it happened every single time. Even after the countless pep talks in the car. When he went in to get the coffee, I watched him walk away.
“Just freaking stop.” I pinched myself.
“Ask him about his favorite painting or piece of music.” I continued.
“Ask him about the trees, his favorite memory. Ask him about Roseanne. For fuck sake just shut up and let him talk for once.”
He approached the table with two coffees and two seperate treats. My heart sank a little. I prefer it when we share. I sat quietly sipping and he began to speak.
But my eyes wandered. That white oxford with those blue jeans really brings out the blue in his eyes. And the way he smiles when he’s a bit embarrassed or right before a laugh. Oh no...I hope I don’t have some stupid face on. I straighten up. Become serious and try to listen but my mind. My mind has wandered off into some dark corner booth. Where he is sitting, waiting to kiss me and say “oh devil, where have you been?”