We made love and we slept.
The next morning, we made love and we woke.
We made love, we ate pancakes, we made love.
We made love, and she was gone.
I had asked her to let me know when she was back on campus. I took a shower, changed the sheets, and readied for my next date.
She dropped a line when she was safely arrived. It took longer than expected, but I didn’t worry. I recalled that she had originally arranged to phone a friend when she first arrived at my place, a precaution against the contingency that I might prove to be a predatory ax murderer.
Her phone began to sing moments after we met.
“Aren’t you going to get that?” I asked, as her incessant ring tone interrupted our fucking.
She looked up at me with eyes I couldn’t see. “No,” she said, pulling me back into a kiss.
Eventually, she got around to reassuring her friend that her Manhattan assignation was no assassin.
Mind you, by the time she got around to doing so, her body could’ve been deposited in swamps across northern New Jersey.
So I wasn’t surprised that she took her time to let me know she was back in her dorm. Not long after, she followed with a note reflecting on our weekend together.
I must remark briefly on the enveloping surreality that has accompanied my return to normal existence. Between the divergence of our brief, intense tryst from my quotidian routine, its disparity with my paltry previous experiences, and the mendacity that I have employed in (not) relating to my friends the weekend's activities, I am often almost convinced that those days were merely a phantasm. Then, though, in the shower, my gaze flows with the water down my exposed body, to my breasts, my thighs, where the bruises you made with your fingers and teeth are rouged by cascading heat. Inchoate feelings of impropriety urge me to turn my eyes to the tiled floor. Shyly, though now unobserved, my hand lifts to stroke the purplish swell around a nipple, pain blossoming into a gasp as the sensitive skin yields under my touch, and I swallow tremulously and I realize my throat still aches, and I remember.
I can't comment on what attracted you to me, apart from my being warm and willing and enticingly young. Personally, I decided to fuck you—you, in particular—because in addition to your many enviable virtues (already enumerated at the behest of Wilson, our brief acquaintance), you were discrete. Utterly divorced from my circle of acquaintances, in another state, another age group, you—I thought, smiling at my cleverness—were the perfect means to explore sexually without fear of social repercussions or reprisals. This would be a tiny sanctuary of inhibition in a life defined largely by its boundaries: schedules, due dates, requirements, and the ubiquitous constraints of expectations. Awash in prevenient self-congratulation, I failed to notice that one constant straddled both environments—myself. The quiet, simple I: too intimate to take account of separately, too integral, that insidious ligament which lashes together this memory and that, erecting a bony frame on which identity is hung, stretched tight like muscles and skin. I suddenly feel like a walking, breathing dichotomy (Nicole who fucks strangers, meet Nicole the nascent philosophe), and it is a struggle to integrate the parts of myself into a semi-coherent whole. Like the fairy-tale prince challenged to scale a mountain of glass, I don't know where first to fix my grasp, let alone how to reach the summit.
Exacerbating this inner schism, I can't discuss my thoughts with the students matriculating here; they are largely fifth-generation plutocrats whose banal moral compasses were willed to them with their trust funds. Most trot from point to point along the narratives of pre-authored biographies, silently obliging as their personalities are scraped away like excess ink. Clouds of smug complacency screen them from self-reflection, as though they have been obscurely influenced by the livestock of neighboring pastures, the cows and goats that drowse through life in a haze of cozy flatulence. They hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
Ack, I must be feeling sentimental if this is a Tennyson day. Sorry for the protracted epistle, but I really felt the need to vent. Silly, silly you, in a post-coital semi-stupor, offered yourself up as a target.
So, how are you, hon? I hope not quite as existential as your erstwhile jailbait-flavored lay.
I read the note a few times, admiring its craft (the correct distinction between “discrete” and “discreet,” the use of a word, “prevenient,” that was new to me and my spell check, and that splendid sentence that begins with the phrase “the quiet, simple I”) even as I mentally translated it.
Behind a thicket of eloquence as deliberately considered as the hair hiding its author’s face, the note articulated a thought buzzing in Nicole’s mind—what the fuck, man?
In our brief time together, we had opened a new, intimate reality in her life, a bubble of sex and pleasure populated only by two lovers, no matter the witnesses, no matter the surroundings.
Most of our time had been spent nude, limbs around one another, skin touching, minds racing.
This lovers’ intimacy feels rare, though nearly everyone has experienced it, and every poet tries to describe it. Nicole had known it in literature. Now, she knew it in her body.
Yet, as she wrote, there she was, back in her familiar surroundings. Here was the laundry that still needed to be done. Here was the friend down the hall, waving. There was the book she was reading, just where she left it. Her toothbrush was returned to its usual place.
Her mind was settling into the commonplace, even as it sorted memories and sensations that had no previous templates. Now and then, there were reminders—a soreness, a bruise—that confirmed that her memories, jumbled as they may be, were real. All of this had happened.
All of this had happened, because she had dared.
She had planned to allow herself to be daring under proscribed conditions—a distant bedroom, a lover outside her cohort, intellectual curiosity in the place of emotional entanglement. As she wrote, she came to realize that the one constant in her algorithms—herself—was the unfactored common denominator.
Her daring had left her changed. Her change would be more durable than the memories, bruises and welts she had collected as souvenirs.
I know the feeling. I can recall it from the first time I felt it. I feel it renewed now and then.
After Nicole’s visit, I promptly finished my Bing Crosby biography. I picked up a copy of The Adventures of Augie March.
I figured I should get to know Esther.