“The first time I had sex.”
Catchy title, no?
Yes…but I'm going to tell you the naked truth.
(read between the lines)
Okay, tell it. The first time you had sex.
"It was with a friend. There's actually not much more to it."
Just tell the story. You've baited them – sex – you've pricked the hook in – sex! – and now you have to deliver. Or they'll be pissed off.
"Well, afterwards, it was kinda awkward between us for a few months because we were housemates. We didn't ever talk about it. It just kinda hung there between us, in grins. Or when one of us left the kitchen just a little bit sooner if we happened to be making tea at the same time.”
"Well, we stayed friends. Almost three years later when I came back from Korea and visited her and her girlfriend (yes, her girlfriend) we picked up our friendship just like that. It’s funny, but we've never spoken about it, that one night, and how we felt when it happened. But it doesn't matter, we don't need to. Who we've become...we'd laugh about it now."
Tell them the story. Or they'll get annoyed. Be nice, she's going to read it too. You want to stay friends.
(yes, her girlfriend – she's going to read it too – you want to stay friends – we've still never spoken about it)
"It was just sex."
(read between the lines)
Okay, fine, here it is. The story.
We dropped Heather off at the airport.
When we got back home Anna got me drunk in the lounge. On Old Brown Sherry. Then she confessed, she said David you’re the only guy I’ve ever felt I could be with.
I had no idea what to say.
She told me to tell her something really big too. I told her the truth about how I was mugged that night in Salt River.
She said that’s not quite the same, and it wasn’t.
We stared at each other, and there was this distinct feeling hanging in the air, this tension. Something that had started then changed and stalled. Just a moment too long; a stale breath, like being let down.
Then she jumped me.
We made out on the bed in the lounge for a while. Then I said let's go to my room. We did. My room was outside the house, a narrow storage space attached to the garage. I fumbled with my keys in the dark on the step at the door and her hand was down my pants giving me a bad handjob. I was only half hard.
Inside I got naked. She kept her bra and shirt on. She was lying on my bed. I had to pee a little. I said wait, turned around, put a condom on.
Her soft moan as I slipped in. Trying to be gentle, not sure how hard or deep I could go. She kept her eyes closed. I wasn't very hard or very big. Alcohol? Not turned on enough? Or just too small for her?
After a while she got on top. I slipped out every now and then. After a while she got off and lay next to me.
I said I wanted to go again, but she said no. Neither of us had cum. She turned onto her side. Her back was to me. I put my arm around her, and it fit weirdly across her.
I tried to sleep. Knew it was going to be one of those nights where I wouldn't. After a short while she began to snore. There was nearly no space between her and the wall. I don't like sleeping in the same bed as someone else.
I climbed over her to go pee.
Standing outside in the garden, naked to the moon, with the house grey and quiet behind me. I pulled the condom off, tied a knot in it, dropped it in the big black bin. Thought about jerking off but didn't. I pissed in a corner of the garden. I still had an erection so I aimed upwards and it made an arc.
The glorious release of having held it in and then just letting it come out. The way it sounded so noisy as it sprayed against the bark of a tree, and the concrete wall. I shuffled around until the stream landed in a quiet patch of dirt. The feel of the grass under my feet. The cool night air.
Climbing back over her, that last drop of urine dribbling out.
She was still snoring. Eventually I fell asleep.
The next morning she had to leave early for a meeting.
She couldn't find her panties. She grinned and told me to throw them away when I found them.
Well that’s it, the truth, the story of the first time I had sex.
But you're not satisfied with it.
No. It’s…the tone, the style – I left so much out, I don't think it comes across right – how it felt, how it happened. How it all came about. The circumstances.
You mean the context? Stripped of context it's easy to get the wrong impression. To misinterpret things.
I'll need to go over it again, I'm not sure I got it. All of it. I'm not sure I got it at all.
Be objective. Tell it as it happened. And be nice – she's going to read it too. Prompt: the first time you had sex.
“I was drunk. I couldn't feel anything through the condom. I didn't cum, didn't come close. It was disappointing. I held myself back. A lot, because I was thinking about what she was thinking the whole time; anxious about whether I was pleasing her, so much so that I hardly got any pleasure myself. I was nervous because I didn't know what I was doing. I asked her out loud to put it in every time because the truth is I didn't know how to. I said, ‘you do it.’ There was no foreplay so it felt sudden and forced.
“Oh, and, I felt strange during and after it, self-conscious, very aware of not being turned on, not the way you’re supposed to, because something was lacking, the emotional high of intense attraction was lacking and it became this thing we just did. Which was also weird because there was this other time then it really felt right but we didn’t follow through –“
You’re drifting further from the truth of it. That was far too subjective.
What exactly do you want from me? The raw facts – they’re all in there. If what you want is a procession of bare events then I haven’t left anything out.
Any more is mere interpretation. It’s a re-telling, really, a re-interpretation.
I resent that. There is a truth in subjectivity.
Just be objective. Don’t extrapolate. Don’t elaborate.
But where's the fun in that? I mean, isn’t the whole idea rather ridiculous? Find me someone who can be objective about sex.
Tell it as it happened.
I can't. I mean, I don't think anyone can, not fully, it's always going to come out angled. Something's always left out. Or poorly expressed. What I think I’m trying to say is when you tell it it’s always inadequate.
Objectivity is a choice.
It's a mindset. A trick, you trick yourself and you say you're being objective like when you write a news report.
But every decision the writer makes is subjective, and each of those choices is hidden from the reader: include this fact, exclude that one, keep it short and concise, use this term and not that one, the connotations...I mean, come on, just stop and think about it:
‘We had sex. Afterwards, I…
…went to the bathroom.'
…took a leak.'
…climbed over her to piss outside in the dark.'
…urinated, alone, in the garden.'
All of these are the truth. Sorta.
Are they? Are they really? Are they descriptions of what someone else would see, an impassive observer – a fly on the wall, as it were?
What you’re doing is you’re trying to get me to settle on an objective ‘truth.’ What I’m trying to tell you is that I don’t think it exists. I think objectivity is every bit as fictitious as the story itself.
And even if there was such an object – some indifferent video recording of what happened – the thing is, what happened…it happened to me, and how can that video be more true than what I felt, and what I saw – how can it be more valid than the deep subjectivity in my own version? A video can only capture the façade.
Such a recording would, at the very least, remain consistent over time. It wouldn’t change like memories do. It’s a record; video maintains and upholds some standard, authoritative version of an event.
Well, yes – and no. No, because of the connotations. When you watch the video again, each time you’ll be little older, and you’ll feel a little different about it.
And also because the…uh, permutations, no, the connotations each of those images conveys, because the subjectively experienced connotations can make even a video kinda inaccurate. Even if it’s factual it can be false to the spirit of what happened. It can never capture my version, the one in my head. And then what about the version in her head?
Well let’s have it then. Her version.
Okay. Just give me a sec. I have to change gears. Alright, here we go.
She got me drunk in the lounge.
Quickly, by gulping down sweet mouthfuls of OBS. It was her idea, a drinking game called ‘I've Never.’ How it works is you take turns making statements like, "I've never broken a bone," or "I've never eaten ice-cream by myself," or "I've never slept with a girl."
And then, if you have, you admit it by taking a drink.
So if you know a lot about who you're playing with you can get them to reveal some pretty personal stuff. Or you can just keep saying things you know they've done to get them to swallow a lot really quickly.
The bottle was empty when she said: "David, you're the only guy I've ever felt I could be with."
She was expecting me to share something with her, to share something about the way I felt about her.
I told her a guy stole my phone in Salt River. It wasn't what she wanted to hear.
Then she kissed me. There was intention behind her kiss, her tongue sliding over mine, she pressed me down onto the bed in the lounge. Then I said: "Let's go to my room."
On the step outside my room her hand was down my pants.
I remember that moment so clearly, how she had this gleam in her eye, the way she was grinning, tugging on the skin of a penis.
We stripped, but she kept her bra on. She was lying on my bed. She moaned as I slipped in. I tried to be gentle because it was her first time with a guy. I thought about the sheets and if there would be blood and then I’d have to throw them away and walk to Cavendish and buy new ones and what if it got on the duvet too that would be expensive.
After a while she got on top, moving with a rhythm just like how she dances, and I looked up at her. I slipped out every now and then because I'm small and it brought her out of the moment.
She kept her eyes closed the whole time.
After a while she got off and lay next to me. I said I wanted to go again, but she'd got what she wanted. Neither of us had cum. She turned her so her back was to me and after a while she began to snore. I lay awake against the wall.
I climbed over her, went outside for a bit, came back inside, climbed over her again and she didn't budge, still feigning sleep.
When she woke up she tugged on the same clothes. She couldn't find her panties, grinned, told me to throw them away when I found them. Then she rushed out of my room to get to her meeting on time.
I lay in bed, heard her car sputter to life in the garage behind the wall of my room, listened as she drove off and the door banged shut.
That was rather different.
It’s the exact same story.
Well. I mean, you know.
Yeah. But the story has a life. It becomes what the reader remembers, what the reader makes of it. In his mind or hers. That’s where it lives.
You will never know how the reader takes it. You can't, no writer can. People misunderstand each other every single day; when they speak, when they text on their phones. Everyone knows language is imperfect and mistakes happen. We use it anyway. Warts and all.
Yes but as a writer I'm in control of the words. I consciously choose 'this' over that. It's on purpose.
I've thought about it; put thought into it, put thought into 'it.'
I'm aware of when a reader might (miss)interpret something.
I have to take responsibility, then, I have to craft each paragraph as carefully as I can to minimize this slippage. To get at the truth of a thing.
Always an obsession with the truth of it. With my truth, because that’s all I have any claim over, it’s the only thing I’m an expert on.
You're taking this too seriously. Your tone even changed there. You're making a big deal of something so small, so trivial. Overanalyzing.
I can't help it.
You can't help yourself.
No one outside of English 101 cares about this stuff.
You're trying to get attention, still that little smartass kid sticking his hand up to answer all of teacher's questions. It's annoying.
These ideas, planted many moons ago; thus they germinate.
But really the truth is:
"We'd laugh about it now."
“It was just sex.”
How those four words can collapse years of shared experience, of momentum, adventure, stories, into a platitude.
A conversation ender – the truth.
You changed things.
Nope, not really. Maybe the memory’s a little foggy now, and what I said was: "Do you want to go to my room?"
But I did say it. At least I said it.
Because girls, they all do this one thing. They will signal their intent, over and over again, unconsciously perhaps, showing boys all these little signs. You know, like touching his arm, playing with her hair, laughing at his terrible joke or putting up with the bumbling arrogant swagger he’s draped over his insecurity. She’ll say that she likes him – a million things, some subtle, some blindingly obvious – but here is the thing, the one thing they all do: they hint at what they want, and then they wait for him to give them that.
A woman wants a man to take charge, even if it’s for an instant, then that's enough: "Let's go to my room," I said – and it was enough. Despite everything else, this one tiny act was enough to flick the switch ON.
That's deeply chauvinistic: a radical oversimplification of a radically complex set of variables.
Oh, come on now. Really? You really don’t agree? In the quiet privacy of your own mind where you answer only to yourself I dare you to say that’s not the truth: that a woman wants a man to take charge.
Say it ain't so. Turn the lights off, carry her home.
You've got it completely wrong.
Whatever, man. Na naa, na naa, na naa na na na na...