I am standing in my living room spluttering defensively as if trying to cover up a lie. I gesture down with my chin, towards my arms crossed tightly across my chest. Nearly shouting I say, “Look, I know this isn’t the right body language but you’re just going to have to believe me. This is hard for me to talk about.” I am trying to be sexy. But I am afraid that what I’ve just done offered a verbal coupon for one free blowjob might qualify me for some psychiatric distinction. It sounded so eloquent the eighty million times I went over it in my head in the weeks leading up to this moment.
But tell me if you can think of a better way for a recently sober thirty-seven-year-old woman to entice a young man to try out her wares. We have shared months of flirtation, then dirty talk, then something just ambiguous enough that I can’t tell if he’s being a wicked tease or extending an invitation.
I actually thought of two others: “Hey, I want to fuck you.” And, “Look, pal, you started it with all that sex talk.” But the former doesn’t exactly roll off my uninebriated tongue and the latter is even more defensive than aforementioned crossed arms. I am sure that all sorts of factors (single parenting, working, generic exhaustion) have impeded my attempts to end a two-year no-sex spell. But I am convinced that my one-year, no-booze spell is making it hardest of all to get laid. (The first year I was coming out of a bad break-up and was content with tame, vague fantasies about various male companions/neighbors/deli workers.) One alcoholic pal insisted I could get laid: Just go on down to the Poodle Lounge, take off your pants, hop on a stool, and have a few drinks. I laughed, but it wasn’t funny, this barely exaggerated description of how foreplay once was for me, back when I was getting booze and dick on a more regular basis.
I started binge drinking at fifteen. Penetration came years later (my first time remaining unclear courtesy of the booze). For twenty years I immersed myself in a drink-fuck world. I have had many drinks without attendant fucks, and there have been more than a few fucks without booze as foreplay. But here is a most embarrassing truth: I cannot recall a single instance in decades and dozens of lovers where a first fuck was a sober fuck.
I quit drinking finally not “just for a while” but for good at thirty-five. It was that or choke on my own vomit on a barroom floor. Or, less dramatically, alive but wishing I wasn’t, providing a classic child-of-an-alcoholic childhood for my son, whose other parent is somewhere far away, fast dying from the drink eleven years after that day we first had sex (after at least a six-pack each).
The bottle’s absence hasn’t been so hard. The absence of sex, though which was in no way calculated or declared has pushed me to the edge of weep while my hormones crash around and beg to be relieved. I am aware that youth and a particular beauty are the keys to the bedroom door and each day these keys are becoming harder to find. And I’ve just burned out another vibrator which acts like it’s got whisky dick, requiring much jiggling of the wires late at night to keep it barely buzzing (as with worn out windshield wipers on a sunny day, I only remember needing a new one as I am jiggling that fucking wire). And when I am jiggling I think, Christ, how many more of these must I burn through before I get the real thing?
At least once, I actually do weep, bemoaning to my best friend that goddammit, I want to fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. But I cannot pursue what I desire, not without the fuel of liquid courage. Nor, if that fails, can I drink away sexual desire when it overtakes me. I sit here and contemplate my lack of fuck. It is not as narcissistic as it seems. Drink was more than a great lubricant or a precursor to coital relief. Drink was once a fire escape from third degree burning thoughts raging out of control.
And then, along comes The Musician. He talks about his cock. He asks about blowjobs. We look at my picture book, A Thousand Nudes. We are shy and we are not shy. Whenever he goes home and he always goes home, he does not stay I fly around the house in a frenzy. He has reopened the place that slammed shut with the departure of the last lover. Nights he sits at my table late and I wonder: How do I get him to my bedroom? How do I get him inside me? Finally, I settle upon the idea of the blowjob coupon. That’s funny I tell myself. Keep it light. Give it an expiration date. That way you’re the one in control.
He doesn’t mention the coupon at subsequent table dates. The silence is one big blank screen upon which I project every goddamn insecurity I’ve had and honed in my lifetime. He is rejecting me. I am ugly. I am stupid. I am not funny. Whoa, hold on, I tell myself. I don’t want to hand power over. I only want what my poet friends like to call a Good Deep Dickens. Instead, I have taken simple desire and turned it into complex neurosis.
I still have a lot to learn. One theory goes that, when you start over-drinking, you get frozen in time at that age. So, I am fifteen then. I am thinking, as I did when I really was fifteen, that I must do all the work. It will take months of major frustration before I will realize, Hey, he isn’t a quadriplegic, he could make a move if he wanted. I revisit the cycle of unrequited. I write irresistible come-ons in my mind. I envision how it might occur, this first sober first fuck. I strive to make it all just right: procure birth control and a clean bill of health from the health professionals. I jiggle my vibrator alone but in my mind he is there behind me, beneath me or, when I am lazy, astride me.
Two weeks pass since coupon presentation. The next time we meet I am twitching. I am going to say what I am thinking. I’m stressed with you the words come out of my mouth and I cannot believe I’ve said them. I need you to stop . . .
Teasing you? he asks.
Was I shaking up your bottle with the top on? he asks.
This is not the end, not yet. There will come a late night phone call where I revisit the need to not be teased and he, in response, will tease and I, in response, and still fifteen, won’t say or think that no means no. A humid summer night will materialize between my legs as his deep voice, like a super-bass low rider pulled up beside my libido just as the light turns green, vibrates me into an eager, lusty stupor.
Later in the call he will ask what I’m wearing. I will lower my voice and say, “T-shirt.” He will ask if I can guess what he’s touching. I will say it’s a sin to do that, says so in the Bible, do not waste your seed. He will ask where to put it. I’ll say there are lots of good places. All at my house.
He’ll ride his bicycle over and I’ll be sprawled out on my bed. We’ll both feel silly, awkward, a little stupid. He’ll have a beer and I know he’s already had a few. I’ll acknowledge the thickness of the air first, point out he’s nervous, making him more so. We’ll attempt to negotiate a beginning but we will flail. If I was drinking, I would not be wasting this time. But I am not drinking. I am sober and I can see the difference in our ages, our styles, our desires. I can realize, to coin a phrase like he might, that he is much wind and little fire. It was flirtation, not proposition, after all. If I am fifteen, he is ten. I don’t begrudge him his nervousness, I’m just surprised to see it so clearly. How many other nights drunken nights and other lovers did this happen with and I never saw? How many times did flirt err into fuck thanks to fifty proof? We are in these frozen positions, dressed fully, me sprawled, him upright, not one bit of my flesh touching his. We abandon our ill-conceived plan. We will not revisit it. (And this will, later, remind me of how many unrevisited moments I have had in my life drunken sex performed and, when next in the presence of the physical representation of faux-intimacy, never spoken of again. And I will wonder if it is better to have sex and pretend it didn’t happen or vice versa.)
The desire to weep recedes, though the desire to fuck does not. I have saved something here, approaching this non-interaction without a cocktail in my hand. I have missed out on some blurry moment for blurry is how it would have been three years ago. But I have long-term clarity. I am fifteen years old again, but trapped in a middle-aged body, pants on, eyes open. And this is most sobering of all.
Spike Gillespie and Nerve.com