My friend Karen and I had been going to this hotel lounge. It had deep loveseats and a dark interior that sprouted men like mushrooms. We went there on weekends because guys our age weren’t interested in us. I was fat and Karen was thin; if insecurity were size, I would have been just as skeletal as Karen. Maybe even more so. I was emotionally emaciated.
Some unpopular girls cope with their lack of sexual demand by devoting their lives to their textbooks. I used to think that girls like this were very noble, but I knew that I could never make such peace with celibacy.
It wasn’t all famine, though. Karen and I discovered that although we weren’t a commodity in the hallways at school, we were highly coveted by middle-aged men. We frequented places that had a lot of them, like the hotel lounge.
One Saturday night, we were sipping our beer when I saw him heading toward our table with a mug of beer in his hand. I knew he was trouble as soon I saw the stripes on his shirt. They reminded me of those black-and-white striped shirts on the bad guys in Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Immediately, I wanted him. Even the way he moved fascinated me: he had a blasé, self- confident stroll, as if he owned everywhere he walked.
Karen hadn’t seen him. She was sipping her beer, gazing at an old married couple. I nudged her.
She followed my gaze. I watched her assess him and we started giggling. We always got giggly when we sensed an impending pick-up.
“What do you think?”
Karen eyed him doubtfully. “I don’t know, Julie. He looks kind of rough.”
I looked at him and smiled. “I know.”
He was short for a man — about 5’4″. His body was squat, as if he’d once been tall, but had somehow gotten squashed. When he arrived at our table, he didn’t smile. He didn’t even look at us. He just sat on the loveseat across from us and sipped his beer.
I smiled at Karen, then back at him. I was the more daring of the two of us; the one who got things going.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi.” He still didn’t smile. He stared idly towards the bar.
He was different, alright. I liked that. The men we met were so predictable. We played naive and let them flatter us, buy us a few beers. Then we’d go up to their hotel room and make out. We never went all the way and the men never pushed us. We were lucky that way. We never got raped. We were, in fact, still virgins.
“Making yourself comfortable?” I asked.
I looked at Karen, smiled, and shrugged. Okay, I thought. Don’t talk.
The three of us sipped our beer for a few moments, listening to the sounds around us: mingled conversations, clinking glasses. I didn’t look at him directly but I stole glances of his squat, muscular body and his blank, impassive face. Finally, he spoke.
“I’ve seen you girls before. I always meant to come over and buy you a drink but I never got around to it.”
“Really? That’s funny…we’ve never seen you before. Where have you been?”
“At the bar,” he said.
“Well, no wonder. We always sit out here.”
Silence again. Now that he was talking I wanted him to keep going.
“So what took you so long?” I teased.
He directed his gaze at Karen, who had been a mere spectator of all this until now. My shoulders sagged at the way he stared at her.
Karen was very frail-looking. She was the physical opposite of me, as well as the personality opposite. She was very demure. She wore thick wool sweaters buttoned up to her neck, even in the summer. Her hair was boyish and short.
But her dowdy appearance usually worked to her advantage. Guys were attracted to her for the opposite reason they were attracted to me. She was the epitome of a virgin and I was a plump nymph, beckoning lechers with my low-cut T-shirts. I think she brought out the protective urge in men.
“What’s your friend’s name?”
“Ask her yourself,” I said, trying to sound bored.
Karen fidgeted with her gold necklace. They talked quietly but intensely, ignoring me.
“How old are you?” he asked her. “Do you have a boyfriend? Do you want one?”
Karen blushed and started fiddling more flirtatiously with her necklace. I kept thinking I could turn things around and change them. Somehow.
“Tell us about yourself,” I interjected.
His name was Alec. He’d been in jail. Not for too long; not for anything serious. He told us about stealing cars when he was a kid, jumping fences with his brother, getting in fights. He had his own business in the summer. He paved driveways.
“You remind me of someone,” I said.
“Well, I’ve been told by a few people I look like Robert Blake,” he boasted.
I grinned. He did look like Robert Blake: dark and streetwise. He had that aura about him: Don’t fuck with me.
“So what do you think of us?” I asked, towards the end of the evening. I tensed up for his answer.
He paused. Then he looked right at me. “I like to be honest. I’m not into bullshit.”
I braced myself.
He flicked his eyes at my nail polish. “You shouldn’t try to be someone you?re not.”
I felt a jab in my throat, in the same spot that always ached when I cried.
It always came down to my weight. But up until then, the hotel lounge had been my haven from it. There, I was young and pretty. There, I was wanted. He’d brought reality crashing down on me, and I felt like I did in school: a fat slob.
Devastating as it felt, there was something forgivable about his cruelty. The undistilled way he said things made them seem like irrefutable fact. There was a beautiful purity about his honesty, no matter how ugly it sounded.
He started talking again. Despite my hurt feelings, I listened hard to discern any scrap of positivity.
“Julie’s great. Julie’s a riot. She’s like one of the guys. You can have a good time with her.”
I tried my best not to look mortified. But I felt like dying.
He turned to regard Karen, very thoughtfully. “Karen … she’s very quiet. Shy. A really nice girl.”
Karen’s eyes glittered like a chandelier. I tried hard not to feel angry and jealous. But he was so much more willing to overlook her flaws. It wasn’t fair.
He asked Karen if she would go out with him. I clutched my beer and averted my eyes, tried to pretend I didn’t give a shit.
“No,” Karen kept saying, but smiling at the same time.
He kept trying to coax her. She kept saying no.
Finally, he set his empty beer mug on the table. “Well, it’s been really nice meeting you girls. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime. I’ve gotta go get some sleep.”
I panicked. I was terrified I’d never see him again.
“Don’t go! Stay a little longer! Please?”
Even Karen piped in. “Yeah! Please?”
He regarded us seriously. He seemed surprised that we were so plaintive. He didn’t know how much we lived for our weekends. He looked like he was mulling something over.
“Tell you what. My buddy’s van is across the street. I was gonna go over there and crash for a few hours. Why don’t you girls come on over. We’ve got a case of beer.”
As soon as we entered the van and I saw the mattress in the back, I knew I’d glimpsed my destiny. I was going to fuck his ass off on that mattress. But for now I would have to wait.
I sat in a cheap little fold-out chair, sipping a bottle of beer. Alec and Karen sat on the mattress and he kept grabbing her, making her squeal. Not angrily, playfully — like a kitten fending off a cat.
I drank my beer while this foreplay went on, my resolve to have him setting firmer inside me, like gelatin. His friend Dieter — a painfully thin, anemic-looking man — had joined us, but I wasn’t interested in him any more than Alec was interested in me. He sat in the driver’s seat, watching the antics.
Alec kept bugging Karen to give him a kiss. She kept saying no. Finally the amount of beer I’d drank gave me the gall.
“You want a kiss?”
Alec looked at me. “Yeah.”
“Well, come over here then. I’ll kiss you.”
A smile spread across his face. “Hmmmm. Yeah … I think we?re paired up all wrong here.”
I smiled triumphantly. Karen gaped at him, still smiling, but somewhat less smugly.
“Yeah, right,” she sneered.
I smirked at her as he came toward me. “What’s your problem? You don’t want him.”
She watched him come over to me, then got up and slammed out of the van. Dieter followed her out.
“I think we pissed her off,” Alec said, his mouth slightly ajar.
He looked at me in a way that thrilled and frightened me at the same time: a starving man staring through a palace window at a feast.
“Yeah, I think we did.”
I was nervous now that we were alone. A little ashamed. All the thoughts I’d discounted before rushed in at me now: What the hell was I doing? I’d never acted like this before. Karen was my best friend.
“Give me a kiss,” he said.
“No.” I turned my face away.
“C’mon,” he whispered. “Kiss me, Julie.”
The helpless way he said it froze me to my chair. I ached the way he did. Night after night in my single bed at home, with the pictures of all my favourite rock stars on the walls, I ached too.
I let him kiss me. I didn’t kiss him back. His lips were soft and clumsy, nothing like his personality. I guess I’d imagined they’d be as abrasive as he was. He tried to pull me closer and put his tongue in my mouth but I pulled away.
“No,” I said.
Dieter came back in the van.
“Your friend’s sitting outside on the curb. She says she won’t come back in.”
I looked at Alec. “I’d better go.”
Outside, he pleaded for Karen’s phone number. She crossed her arms and refused. One thing about Karen: she looked weak, but if you offended her, she was merciless.
I gave him my number even though he hadn’t asked for it. Now that we were out of the closeness of the van, I felt safe enough to want him again.
I could kiss him now, I thought. With my whole body naked against him.
We hadn’t started kissing yet. But the first beer had been cracked. I was sitting in the cheap little fold-out chair. It was a couple of weeks after I’d met him. He’d called asking for Karen’s number. That stung, but I told him I couldn’t give it to him; Karen wouldn’t let me. He kept bugging me but I kept saying no.
“Why are you bothering?” I asked, extremely irritated. “She doesn’t like you. She’s not interested in you.”
I had to admit it felt good retaliating with a little reality of my own. But the satisfaction was only momentary. His obsession with Karen didn’t make me want him any less.
A warm orange glow from a thermal heater on the floor lit the belly of the van. Alec lay on his back on the right side of a mattress, leaving plenty of room for me on the left. He crooked his arm under his neck and rested a bottle of beer on his stomach.
“Why don’t you come over here, Julie?”
I grinned at him and sipped my beer. I tried not to let his hastiness bother me. At the same time, I felt a stab of satisfaction. I thought I’d better put up a bit of a fight first, though; that’s what girls were supposed to do.
“I just got here. Can’t you wait five minutes?”
He patted the mattress. “Come on. It’s more comfortable over here.”
I sighed, pretending to be annoyed. But I slid beside him on my stomach. He set his beer bottle on the makeshift table beside us. Then he put his arm around me.
“C’mere,” he whispered, looking at me in that starving way.
“Wait a second!” I ached ferociously, but the reality of the situation intruded on my hormones: He was much too old for me. Too dangerous. I lived in a nice neighbourhood, a middle-class household, with doilies on the tables.
“What’s the matter?” His eyes crawled.
“I don’t know. I just? ”
I searched for a legitimate delay. Why had I come here, if not to fuck him? That was all he wanted. He’d made that very clear.
“I just got here,” I repeated.
“Hey. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Don’t worry about it.”
I liked it when he talked to me gently. When he talked to me gently, I could let myself love him. I plucked at his sweater.
I ached and wriggled to relieve it. I let myself do what I wanted. I kissed him, using my tongue, and touched him through his clothes. He felt what I was doing to him for awhile.
“Kiss my chest,” he whispered.
I felt myself throb as I pushed up his sweater. His skin looked orangey from the glow of the heater. His chest was hairless and smooth. Normally, that didn’t turn me on: I liked hairy men. But with Alec, bare skin was sexy. I kissed his nipples softly. I tapped the power that abounded in me, that was so insistent on being used.
“That’s nice,” he whispered.
I wanted to kiss Alec all over, make love really slow. But then he spoiled it.
“Go down,” he whispered.
I pulled away. “All you want me for is sex,” I sulked.
“No it’s not.”
“Yes it is.”
He touched my hair.
“Take your top off,” he suggested.
I flopped happily onto my back, glad he wanted to do something for me. My breasts were the one thing about my body that were undeniably gorgeous, the one thing I knew he wouldn’t reject. They were my man-magnets. I always wore tight, low-cut tops.
I pulled my top out of my jeans, pulled it up over my bra, then pulled my bra up to my neck. My breasts bulged out, big and round and ready to be kissed. My nipples jutted up like little towers. Alec looked at them for a second, then got on top of me.
Most guys moaned and made happy little noises when they got hold of my breasts, but not Alec. He just sucked them and kissed them. I did all the moaning.
He stopped abruptly and began unbuttoning my jeans. I looked down warily.
“What are you doing?”
He smiled at me as his fingers worked. “Just getting you a little more comfortable.”
“But I’m comfortable like this.”
“Honey, it’s okay. I told you. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want.”
Because he called me honey, I let him take off my jeans. Then he started unbuttoning his pants. He pulled his underwear down. I felt him pulling at my panties. I bit my lip and ground myself into the mattress so he couldn’t pull them off.
“Don’t worry,” he whispered. “It’ll be okay.” He stopped pulling, waiting for me to relax so he could pull them off easily. “C’mon honey,” he kept whispering, “don’t worry…”
I let him pull them off. He got back on top of me and got between my legs.
“Shhhh,” he said, looking down, directing himself. He tried to push himself into me. I tensed, closed my body to him, and started to whimper.
“No. I can’t … ”
“Jeez you?re tight,” he muttered. He tried a little more but it was no good. He looked at me resignedly.
“It’s okay, hon. Why don’t you just suck me?” He lay down beside me and I stared at the ceiling. He nudged me. “Kiss my chest.” What’s the use? I thought. The harder I tried to make a fantasy come true, the more it eluded me. I began to kiss his chest again. I went down and took him in my mouth. He lay silently, not making a sound, even when he came. I wasn’t even aware of it until I noticed a subtle difference in the tension of his body. I looked up at him. “Did you come?” He grinned mischievously. “I don’t know. Did I?” “Come on. Did you?” He just smiled. After awhile he said, “You didn’t feel it?” “No.” I hadn’t tasted it. I felt cheated. I lay down beside him and Alec propped his beer back on his stomach. “You really know how to suck. You know what you?re doin?. You know how to turn a guy on.” I watched him drink and smoke. He smiled at me. “And when you got hold of that thing, it was just like you got hold of a jam sandwich. You just got it in your mouth and wouldn’t let go.” He chuckled a little. “C’mon, I better take you home.” He sat up. He put his clothes on and while I got dressed, he got in the front and opened the passenger door to take a piss.