It's 8:00 AM and I can't stop thinking about licking that hairy leg. It was the shuttle to Fulton Avenue yesterday morning; he was tan, probably Jewish, very Berkeley, in Diadora shorts and a shirt with the sleeves cut off. His head was balding but his arms and pits were dense with black hair. His legs were forested as well. In a glaze-eyed daydream I knelt before him and licked the salty, furred skin from shin to hip, gulping in the yeasty musk of soccer and anointing the fatless thighs with thick kisses.
In reality he sat in the center of the car; I sat 6 seats down and across the aisle. He got off at Park Place and we never exchanged so much as an "excuse me."
In a similar glazed state I lie here now, in a double bed in my white walled studio apartment, imagining coarse black hairs lodged in my soft pallet. I've awoken in the gap between the wall and the mattress. The latex paint is sticky with humidity and Liz is open-mouth breathing the sweet rot-stink of last night's beer across my face. We've been together since the November after my graduation from college. She is my first real girlfriend. Before her all of my long-term affairs were with men̵Mark, Stephen, Eddy, Elvis (really, no joke). But Liz changed me̵she made me a drinker of vodka, an optimist and most importantly, a lesbian.
We weathered the winter together, holed up in my tiny, unforgiving apartment. We survived a minor flood, fostered a kitten together until we realized that she was prohibitively allergic. I love Liz, I'm sure I love her, but now in this oppressive summer bedroom I'm repulsed by the thought of kissing her. She turns face-down in the mattress and sleep talks a phrase like a parrot with its tongue cut out and I am overcome with a sense of impending...something.
Kissing, in these eight months, we've done. Reviving her ficus tree we've done, even a couples' backstrap loom class at the Brooklyn textile center we've done, but we haven't consummated. There's never been any sex between us, and it's never really mattered. At least Liz had never mentioned that it mattered. But, suddenly and calamitously, last night it did matter.
We had just returned from the inaugural meeting of Liz's charity arm wrestling league. Although there wasn't any actual arm wrestling at this meeting, by the time Liz and I finished the half hour walk home we were both gamey. She beat me to the bathroom and flipped the tag hanging on the door, signifying that the room had become “private space,” so I stripped down to my underwear, stuck an ice cube under my bun and promptly nodded off on the couch in front of the fan.
Liz shook me awake ten minutes later, red faced and snotty. She raged̵flailing her arms and barking that "something really bad could've happened" and "do I really even want her living with me" and why hadn't I come running when she said “FUCK! OH MY GOD!” in the shower?
Apparently she had been panicking in the bathroom for at least a whole minute. Like, sixty-mississippi. Somehow I was napping so hard I didn't notice.
After I apologized enough to get Liz to calm down, she told me that she was freaking out because she had made a huge fucking mistake. She was doing some pubic landscaping, just taking off a little on the sides and around the top, and she noticed that the borders were uneven. It bothered her so she tried to straighten out, and like a crooked heart cut out of paper for a valentine she kept shaving more off each side to balance. Eventually it was all gone. Bald. A paper-white swath of skin save the angry red razorburn left in her shaver's wake.
She was getting really worked up, saying she looked like a little girl and it would be so itchy and miserable growing back and on top of it all she had thighves (that's thigh hives) from the insufferable heat and the walk back from Crown Heights. She was really getting irritating so I kissed her. Hard.
“We'll get through this,” I promised, half laughing. “I'm sure I'll love it just the same,” and as the words left my mouth I saw the muscles of her forehead constrict. Oh shit. I tried hard to back-pedal. “You need to get high. And we can rub some aloe on the spot and maybe ice it and I bet you'll feel better in the morning.” But the damage was done. She started in on me. “You'll love it just the same? How can you say that to me? How much have you ‘loved it' before? You've never even touched it!”
“Yeah, I know Liz, but it's not the most important thing, plenty of people don't have sex much̵some people just aren't all that sexual, right?”
“But I do want sex! I want to fuck you, but every time I start something you tell me it's too hot or you have too much on your mind or you're too drunk. Admit it, you think I'm disgusting.” “You know I'm just kind of...new to this kind of a relationship.” Oh shit oh shit, not a good start. “I want sex too, eventually. You know I think you're perfect. You know that.” It didn't sound convincing.
Liz walked to the fridge and came back to me, cracking a Bud Light Lime and visibly processing something.
“This isn't nice, but I think what you meant is that you'll love it just the same as all the dicks you've had, and I don't think you can do that. I don't know if I can keep doing this̵I don't think I can wait anymore for you to start wanting me.”
I sat for a few seconds, stunned, and then made a final, clumsy attempt to triage our hemorrhaging relationship. “It's hot, Liz. It's late and everything always seems worse at night. Seriously, I'll roll us a joint and we'll go out on the fire escape and we can talk about this tomorrow. We still have a whole weekend together̵we have that trip to the Cloisters on Sunday.”
She let me get her high, had a few more beers and let me feed her two Benadryll to stop the itching. Eventually she slept̵aggressive as always, but things were quiet and I had time to prepare.
And now the decisive moment is upon me ̵8:20 AM, I've finally got the leg of my dreams out of my head and Liz is on her side next to me̵one breast exposed over the bust-line of the polyester slip she fell asleep in, eyes glued shut with mascara crust. I can see her top front teeth̵they don't match in color or thickness because one is made of porcelain. She really is beautiful, but I can't see any of that right now. Her breast is stretch-marked, her nipple is soft and her areola as large as a slice of pepperoni. She's still sleeping densely with a head full of antihistamines and I'm faced with a tough reality̵I need to prove to Liz that our relationship isn't a lie. I need to eat pussy. It's now or never and never would mean a complicated series of emotional discussions about oppression theory and queer theory and a fairly inconvenient move to a different studio with about half the furniture and twice the rent.
I shift the sheet. Liz doesn't notice. The bottom of the slip is tangled up around her waist (why did she even bother?) and I see before me a set of legs that look like mine̵chubby enough, nearly translucent, pitted with a scar on the side of the knee from falling when she pogo-sticked down her driveway as a kid. And they're so smooth. Scanning her legs, trying so hard to want them, to crave the smell of the space between her inner thigh and her sorry naked vagina, imagining it offered to me when she awakens in the punishing Saturday morning light, glossy and cold pink, grayish brown around the mouth, so hairless and so the opposite of what I want. I imagine its taste and I feel so much, and none of it is sex. She's a woman, was a girl with a scrape bad enough to need stitches after tumbling down the driveway, lost a tooth playing field hockey in college, buys her clothes at obvious, overpriced vintage resale shops. She's too real, too possible, and everything we have is too false.
I get out of bed, still in last night's clothing, change my shorts without changing my underwear, find sandals and leave. I walk East towards the Botanic Garden stop to once more ride that above ground train, to consider my next move and perhaps to meet my destiny once again somewhere over Franklin Avenue.