This time there was no way my religious parents wouldn't find out.
The week that Lauren and I broke up, my father had slipped an envelope through the cat door sawed into the bottom of my bedroom door. A sticker of a mockingbird sealed the clasp. The front read: (to read after you've had your coffee and are awake).
A month later, I sat in front of Lauren's dad's house in my car, with the engine on, and the lights off. It was ten-thirty p.m. and Lauren was alone. But it wasn't a me-stalking-her situation. It was me having come over to see her in the late afternoon and make her homemade buttermilk biscuits. It was her saying they were amazing while curling up next to me as we watched The Triplets of Belleville on her bed. It was us making out, and me taking off my shirt, and Lauren saying we shouldn't go much further than kissing and touching with our shirts on — just yet — because it was the first time we'd seen each other since agreeing that we were going to try again.
When Lauren said that we shouldn't go much further, I stopped. I put my shirt back on. I hadn't come over to fuck her. One of the most intimate times we'd had sex was on a Sunday when my parents were at church. Lauren and I were on the carpet of my bedroom with our jeans around our ankles.
"It's just so good," Lauren whispered.
"Why's that?" I asked.
"You're not fucking me," Lauren said. She was on the pill, but she'd always said that she liked being so close without a condom. On top, I looked into Lauren's eyes, making it last. After, she told me that I was the only guy she'd ever let come inside her.
So later, when I was idling in front of Lauren's, a half-hour drive from my parents' house, unable to get my car's lights to work, all I could think about was my father's letter:
Now that you've been with Lauren awhile, I wonder whether you've thought about your future with her — how your relationship with her is unfolding. Have you given thought to the various aspects of intimacy that you and Lauren are cultivating — social, emotional, spiritual, physical? And have you established any boundaries to physical intimacy?
My father is the copy coordinator at Campus Crusade for Christ's corporate magazine Worldwide Challenge™. (They always use the trademark symbol.) My parents have been missionaries for longer than the thirty years they've been married. From them, I grew up with the commandment to save sex for marriage. But my parents didn't know that their youngest son, who mom introduced as her "baby," had a pack of Trojans in the pair of motorcycle gloves that sat next to his Swiss Army knife and Good News Bible in the drawer of his bedside table. Bottom line: my father's letter was way too late.
Stranded without headlights, I turned off my car's engine and I thought through the possibilities. I could drive home in the dark on the interstate; I could ask Lauren to drive me home; or I could call my parents to pick me up. But these options were respectively illegal, unfair, or ridiculous. I realized I'd already made up my mind, because the engine had already cooled down.
I walked back to Lauren's front door. Her dad was gone on a hunting trip that weekend with her brother. Lauren was alone, and I was about to ask to stay over. I couldn't think of anything else. I knocked, Lauren answered, and I immediately started to explain ("It's probably a fuse or the switch"). But before I could finish, Lauren said, "Stay."
I knew I had to call home. My parents had never imposed a curfew, but I'd never not come home before, even if that meant unlocking the front door as quietly as I could at three a.m. to find my father sitting in the front room reading some proofs and him saying, "I hope you had a good time. I'm glad you're back, safe."
My cell phone had died, too, so I had to use Lauren's to call home. And as my parents' phone rang, I prayed to God: "Hey, man, I haven't asked you for too much recently and I know we don't talk a lot, but you know I'm listening and if you could, this time, would you hear me out? I realize that this is an emergency prayer that I could've used on having my lights work, but I'm here now; so could you please, please, please not have anyone pick up, so I can leave a message and my folks won't worry?"
The machine turned on and I rushed, "Hey, it's Chris. My lights aren't working on my car. It runs. I'm okay. I'm at Lauren's and I'm going to spend the night here. She has another bed I can sleep in. Oh, and my cell phone died. I'll be home in the morning. Love you. Bye."
Lauren heard my message and said that there was another bed in her dad's office. We cleared off some papers from the blanket of the single bed. I took off my shoes as if I were going to sleep. Lauren said she was going to watch an episode of Six Feet Under and that I could join her in her room.
Next to each other on Lauren's bed, we watched the screen. Lauren reached out and took my hand, rubbing my fingers. She'd brushed her teeth and changed into short-shorts and out of her bra, and put on a loose t-shirt. I thought how less than an hour ago we had been messing around and I had been ready to sleep with her, but I hadn't even thought about falling asleep with her. I'd never stayed and slept the whole night with a girl before.
My father and I had kept a silent agreement that I would come home to sleep in my own bed. I knew in the morning I would have to face my father. Even if I explained that there had been a boundary, and that I thought he should be proud of me, I knew I wouldn't be telling the whole truth: that I didn't agree with him about holding yourself back from someone you loved. I was frantic thinking of what I would say.
Lauren squeezed my hand, checking on me. My eyes were closed. I knew tomorrow would come, but I was comfortable right then and there. I was content. Then Lauren straddled me. I kept my eyes shut. She slid my glasses off of my face as gently as a goodnight kiss.
In the night, I heard a small phht. Then a sigh. And I realized that Lauren had just farted. Our relationship had ended for the first time after I had told Lauren that I needed her to open up and Lauren said she didn't think she could let me in any further. Lauren farting wasn't exactly what I wanted, but nonetheless, there was a certain sweetness to hearing it, and I realized how vulnerable sleeping together was for both of us.
A fiesta ringtone went off. I didn't know where I was. I had all my clothes on and I was under a blanket on a bed that wasn't mine. Something was shuffling next to me. Everything was blurry without my glasses. I squinted in the hazy sunrise coming through some blinds and snatched my frames from a nightstand. As I put my glasses on a TV came into focus. Then I turned to Lauren. Her hair was a hot mess of bedhead.
"Good morning," I said as I tucked one of her curly bangs behind her ear and then kissed her forehead.
"Five more minutes," Lauren said and she turned off her alarm.
I spooned Lauren while rubbing her back. She told me that she had dreamed that she had been deaf, but then was trying to convince a guy that she could actually hear. I decided that her dream was about us.
At her front door, I turned around to Lauren and we kissed, tasting the coffee off each other's tongues. I sat in my car — lingering — thinking how grown up all of that was.
When I got home my father asked me, "So, your lights aren't working?" I said, "Yeah," and showed my father the switch that didn't work. I felt the need to prove it to him. He said I should get it fixed so I would be safe. And that was it.
He hadn't ever asked me what was happening: how Lauren and I were doing when we first got together, or how I was after it fell apart, or anything about me and her trying again. And I almost wished my father had asked me what happened, because I thought that if he wasn't going to ask then, he wasn't going to ask me ever. If he'd said something, maybe we could have talked about the thrill of sleeping with someone you love — about waking up next to someone in the confusion of the morning sun, and realizing you're still there with them, and wanting to stay with them for just five more minutes, always just a little longer.