This guy I met the other week at a party had stopped replying to our conversation, even though I thought it had potential.
“So, do you reckon you can get me a job at Vogue?” he asked, and I replied, “Yeah, deffo, I’ll put in a word on Monday.”
“Oh no, I was just joking to flirt with you.”
“I know, I was joking too. I wanted you to think I’m funny.”
And after that, nothing.
“At least you didn’t have sex with him,” my mom said, like she always does when something doesn’t work out with a guy. I guess because she thinks if I had, then I would feel more cheated because I’d given myself over to that person. That in leaving the party in a taxi before anything happened, I’d retained some power over the situation. Though I can’t say I felt that way. I just felt bored—numbed by the endless conveyor belt of these interactions to the extent that I barely laughed when a friend said I should get screenshots of these conversations printed on T-shirts.
A week later, I was at another party when I bumped into this guy I’d first met a few months ago. I can’t say I liked him much, but my friends just said he was shy, that he was nerdy at school so probably wasn’t used to girls in mesh dresses running up to him and asking dumb questions like, “If you were a vegetable, what sort of vegetable would you be?” I just thought he was stuck-up and resolved to quietly hate him.
But at some point that evening, the dynamic shifted so dramatically that we ended up having sex. I’m still not quite sure how. I just know that we left the party at the same time, and as we walked to the bus stop together he stopped and looked back at me, a slight smirk flicking up his mouth at one side. Something fizzed in the air, and sensing this, I said, “Are you gonna kiss me or something?” And then all of a sudden my fingers were caught in his hair, his hands were on my ass, and we were stumbling backwards until we hit the brick wall of the nearby corner shop.
One by one, people came out and told us to “get a room.” Hearing this, I didn’t think about how embarrassing it was to be acting like this in public, like I didn’t think about how if I stopped it might increase my chances of a date, like I didn’t think about whether he thought I ended up in these situations all the time, like I didn’t think about whether it was too soon to be this intimate with someone I didn’t know, like I didn’t think of any of the usual things I think about when I get with men.
Instead, I just edged in closer and closer until his knee was pressing up in between my legs and my arms were wrapped around his shoulders. Until our limbs were plaited together, and there was no air separating us. Until we were airtight, vacuum-packed, and yet still not close enough. I wished I had eight arms so I could be all over all of him at once like an octopus. We tried to walk home, but kept ending up like this again, until eventually we fell back into the softness of his big white bed.
When I woke up, it felt as if there were something living in my brain that was trying to fight its way out. Pale blue light exploded through the open windows and I thought about trying to get water but didn’t know where to look and knew I’d probably end up walking into his flatmate’s room or something. I leaned down to him and kissed his cheek as if I were his girlfriend getting up for an early flight and walked out the door.
After a long sleep in my own bed, I got up, and while toasting a bagel, I rang a friend with the intention of filling her in on all the juicy details. Perhaps there was something stiff in my voice though, because she asked, “So, how are you feeling about the whole thing?”
And her soft coaxing made me feel as if something bad had happened, something I should regret. That’s when my mom’s words came into my head again—“At least you didn’t have sex with him”—and I wondered then if I had made a mistake, given something away I should have held onto.
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Sex is always framed in this way for women, that it’s something men take from them. They “lose” their virginities and then they keep on losing. You have to hold it back to the third date, make them wait, your body is a prize someone’s got to win. In passing it over, I wondered if some of my power had faded, like when bees sting and then they die. But that’s not how it felt to me that night. I didn’t feel like I’d lost anything. I took him as he was, in that moment, for what he could give me then. I sat right inside the now and let it carry me exactly where I wanted to go. And when I walked out his door and down the road to get in my taxi, I felt like I was in the scene of a film where I, the main character, was about to spin around a lamp post to a soundtrack of Katrina and the Waves, all jazz hands and big grins, to convey how the world can look different, brighter, after a shag.
“I’m going to make more mistakes this year,” I said to a different friend after I’d walked her through every detail of the encounter. “I’m going to embrace chaos.”
Her eyes flicked up at me from over her cocktail. “Why does it have to be a mistake?” she asked. “Maybe not doing it would have been the mistake.”
I went to say something but instead just smiled, hid my face in my hands. It’s funny how the correct decision so often looks like the wrong one, and realizing this, as I walked off to get another round in, I thought about what I could fuck up next time.