What Comes Naturally


Words are not necessary.  They seldom are.  A noise is enough, a sound, a riff, the strumming of a young Irishman’s hand across the strings of his guitar.  I know the riff, millions have come to know this sound and not just the millions who own the album.  It is a song and the song is called “Where the Streets Have No Name”, a desert song of mythical images that speaks of pain and rain and far off places where love turns to rust and it is the calling card for what Rolling Stone declared the single best album of the 80’s.

One.  That is what the track is.  Fifty is the number of minutes left before the album will be finished.  Three is the number of rooms between mine and Paul’s and one hundred would be the number of miles you would have to be away from this campus before you would be able to escape it at the volume which he has the stereo turned to.  It is more than an opus for the band, it is also the signal for Paul to let loose, to relax, to let himself fall into another world where no problems can reach him.  Most especially me.

I used to like this album.  I loved this album.  I loved this song.  I played it over and over again, throwing down all sorts of money so I could I drive out to Tacoma and see them live my junior year of high school.  It was a great night, one of the best nights of my life.  But I can’t take it anymore.  I can’t listen to them anymore.  Because they are his.

This album is his.  It belongs to him.  Not because he physically owns the CD, likes he owns every piece of music ever recorded by that band it would seem, but because he lives it, he makes it his own.  He makes it his.  And the things that he makes his own I can’t take anymore.  Because I used to be one of those things.  He made me his own.

Did I make him my own because I slept with him?  Because I let him have my virginity?  Because I let him cum in my mouth?  Because I let him fuck me in the ass?  Or because he just wanted me for his own, for however short a time it was?  Or because I wanted to be his?  Whatever the reasons, I was his and then I was not.

So I run from the things that are his.  I run from the memories of being with him, of nights out with him and Jim and Sarah, even of the later nights when it was still the same four of us but I was sleeping with Jim and Paul was fucking Sarah possibly in all the same ways he used to fuck me.  Boy did he fuck me.

And so I run.  I run from The Joshua Tree.  I run from Garp and the Hotel New Hampshire and any other literate comic thing that John Irving ever wrote.  I run from Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer, from Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlan, from Daniel Day-Lewis as Tomáš, as Cecil, and most especially, of course, from Daniel Day-Lewis as fucking Hawkeye.  Those are the things that irrevocably belong to Paul.  Unlike me.  I was released.

I love you because I need to, he said to me, not because I need you, his words drawn from yet another U2 song, pure pop poetry intruding upon my life.  And even that wasn’t true.  He didn’t need to.  And he didn’t love me.  But at least he said he didn’t need me.  I don’t need you, he said, and then it was over.  And I never had a chance to say a word.

So I try to push all of this deep down inside and I flee.  I need to be farther away from his music, from his soul, than I am.  So run to Sarah because Sarah’s room has always been a safe destination.

He burned her worse than he burned me and his music doesn’t penetrate her walls.  It’s always been safe to hide with Sarah, the only person I have ever seen literally grab a guy by his balls and squeeze.  Maybe she’s still squeezing.  Maybe doing something else with them.  I wish I could use sex as a weapon.  For me it doesn’t even stand as a halfway decent shield.

Sarah’s been with the only two guys I’ve been with, the only two guys who have ever seen me fully unclothed in good lighting.  Maybe that gives us a connection, something that transcends friendship.  She thinks Jim was better.  Maybe for her he was, but that night Paul and I spent at his brother’s house will always stand in my mind as the moment to beat.

What distant homespun angel gave us hope that we could fly?  Night will hold its ground against any who dare try.  Patterns formed around me start to crumble at the folds.  The hope to fly, the right to die, is all that still stands whole.

Paul told me that, something he was told, something he whispered to me one night, saying it was the only way it could possibly be passed on, as it had come to him, whispered in the night.  I would eventually learns its origins, that it came from Xian, who was perhaps Paul’s distant homespun angel, unless that’s Kate, that Xian had learned it from her high school boyfriend, a boy she did watch try to fly only to die.  I’m not certain about how the story goes.  I never wanted to know about her, that ghost I was always forced to compete with without any chance of victory, so I push all knowledge of her down below the surface.  All I know is the words that I was told.

But something about the story haunts me.  I can’t imagine watching someone die.  I can’t imagine having to be there like Bruce was, to watch a friend breathe their last and for their soul to pass from this world.  Death and birth and sex seem like the sacred ground that no other should be allowed to watch.  I’ve had too much of people watching my life.

I remember watching Paul.  It’s one of the only good things from our time together that I’m able to hold onto, the memories of seeing his eyes.  Watching Paul is the only time you can actually get inside.  He shuts himself off to the world and draws himself into his shell and only lets glimpses of what’s inside show through.  But when he thinks he’s alone, when he thinks he can’t be seen, everything crumbles and you can see inside.  I remember when he broke it off.  Broke it off.  A year and a half almost and I can’t come out and say up front that he dumped my ass like he was allergic to me after taking my virginity, my dignity and almost my sanity.  I remember him sitting on the toilet seat as I was taking a shower.  I remember peeking out around the edge of the curtain and catching his reflection in the mirror.  He didn’t know I could see him, didn’t register this glimpse into his soul.  I remember the words slowly spilling forth as he found a way to wash his hands clean so that he could go back out into the world.  And into Sarah’s legs as it turned out.  Well, I ended up with Jim in a straight-up trade so I guess the semantics become irrelevant.

I can’t be Sarah, running from one guy to another and I can’t be Bruce, running back to the same person after a million stupid fights until his love runs so far away he can’t find her.  I need to be somewhere else.  I need to be someone else.  There has to be somewhere to run to.  There has to be a safe destination for everyone somewhere.  And I have Sarah.

This shouldn’t be so hard.  Four more months.  I can take it and then he’ll be gone and I won’t have to think about him anymore, won’t have to remember the way he spoke to me, the way he treated me, the way he touched me, the way his eyes rolled back when my tongue slid along . . . Fuck that.  Forgetting him is not working.  Running to Sarah’s room is the best plan I’ve got.  And I better do it now before it gets to “With or Without You” and I start to think of Daniel and our first fumbling kiss in the Tacomadome and begin to cry because Daniel was so much a better boyfriend than Paul.  But I never loved Daniel.  I did love Paul.  So I flee before I get to that point, almost running down the hall, braving the louder music for the time it takes me to get from my room to Sarah’s.

She’s not here but the music is gone, or at least hard enough to hear that I can block it out, especially once I put in her copy of Automatic for the People, which always help bring me down from the heights of nervous exhaustion.  The slow, low sounds of “Drive” kick on and I begin to breathe again.  It gives me time to think.

He could have stopped with that first kiss, the night I told him he had an amazing ass.  Or maybe it could stopped with his hand on my breast.  But I think he had things he wanted to escape, the pretty little girl he wanted to forget who had gone away and I wanted to find out what everything was like and his hands were everywhere and I loved how strong his arms were, how safe I felt inside them.  And so, a little push of pain, and there it was.  I guess that’s all it really comes down to.  A little push of pain, a little bit of something to give up and never get back.  He didn’t have anything to give, since he had already given it away.  And I had Jim later and he had Sarah.  And now he has Sharon.  And Kate too, for all I know.  I don’t know what happened in the dark by the lake but there was enough time and something sure as hell happened between them that neither will ever let slip from their lips.  Fuck away, Paul, fuck the whole world because you know you’re really fucking me.  I think they’re all me, your little escape into someone else’s legs will bring you no further from my bed.  Or so I wish.  John Lennon said that we should hide our love away.  It makes sense.  A hidden love can not be stepped on, can not be broken, shattered or destroyed.

It’s been well over a year now since I felt someone’s dick rub against and then inside my body.  After Jim it never seemed to make much sense, to try sleeping around in a hope to fill the space that he and Paul left.  It did not strike me as any sort of reasonable solution.  A hole was there, the space was emptied.  And what happened after that?  My life.

I lay back on her bed, spread myself out, let my body relax, try forget everything that has come and just let the music take me over.  Just barely, I think I can hear the words outside is America, just barely through the walls and I nudge the volume on her stereo and let Michael Stipe tell me to try not to breathe.  As I lean back, I see all the song lyrics on her bulletin board, a calling sign for the years of her life and I read the words ‘I want to go where I will never hear your name.  I want to lose my sorrow and be free again.’  Those aren’t my words and they aren’t her words, just another singer-songwriter on the California map but in two lines it says all I’ve been trying to get straight and sometimes I wonder why I try.

I’m there, staring at the words, the tears rolling down to my lips, when the door opens behind me.  I don’t turn when she enters, just as she doesn’t have to ask what I’m doing here.  Some questions need no answers.

“What’s up there, Sally Ride?”  She is the only one who gets to call me that, the only one who has the right.  She colored my hair once, early in our Sophomore year and it didn’t turn out right and I was sitting in the hall, waiting for Paul to come back, wanting to know what he might think.  And when Sarah looked to him with excitement and asked ‘Well?’, he answered in the kind of way that only Paul can: ‘She looks like the astronauts celebrated the moon landing by dumping a punchbowl of Tang over her head.’  Some things you never forget being told.  And some friends can make it seem so funny.

“Just had to be somewhere other than my room.  Somewhere the music couldn’t penetrate.”

“Are you gonna run from them for the rest of your life?  They’re just a bunch of Irish guys singing songs.”

“I sold all the U2 CD’s I had.”

“To who?”

“Michelle.  She was making the transition from tapes.”

“You know, you could just accept that they’ve got some masterpieces of modern music.”

“Knowing that Joshua Tree is a masterpiece and being able to accept something that’s such a part of him aren’t the same thing.”

“Lots of things are part of him.”

I turn and she sees the tears and knows this isn’t a regular day and I softly whisper the words “I’m not.”

“I don’t know who’s worse, dear, you or Bruce.”

“At least my obsession is still around.”

“Bruce might have broken his obsession.  He’s been with Jenn an awful lot lately.”

“What, did Bruce and Kyle make a trade like Paul and Jim did?”

“I didn’t hear you complaining when Jim was rolling his tongue along your cunt.”

“That was you, Sarah.  He said you taste amazing.  He barely ever went down on me.”

“You’ve got to get a grip, Sally Ride.  This unrequited love is gonna break you.”

“What else can I do?  I can’t exactly jump his bones with fucking Sharon around all the time.  I’m not gonna do the Bruce and Jessie thing.”

“Fall in love with someone else.”

“Oh, right.  Because it’s so fucking simple to just fall in love with someone else.”

“You telling me that in all the time you’ve been at this school, you haven’t fallen in love with anyone else but Paul?”

I look at her for a second and then when I try to speak, it comes out as a sort of stammer.  I feel a blush rising to my cheeks and don’t really know what to say.  Finally I at least manage to get a few words out.

“Maybe I have.  Maybe it hasn’t helped.”

“Oh, Sally, honey, all you need is love.”

I look up, catch the gleam in her eyes in the dim lights of the room, take a little snippet of green and make it mine.

“Don’t,” I whisper.  “Not now.  Let me have this,” I say, but she comes close and her lips brush against my nose.  “No games,” I whisper, a shudder running across my back, burning where there is nothing left to fill me.

“There are always games,” she whispers.  “It’s all a game.  You just learn the rules and play with them.”

And she’s right, all of it, so much of life is just a little game, just like I was taught, down the road from where the Great American Novelist stuck a rifle in his mouth and fled the game.  There are rules, you stay inside the lines, you do what’s right, they say, it was okay for him to do that because it was his choice, his life, and you need that gun as a last stand between yourself and what lies out there beyond the mountains and so boys will sit at the kitchen table and take that first beer and they will grow up to love the taste and the girls will stay straight and prim and proper and if a boy gets you pregnant then you’re a slut and if he won’t marry you then you’re worthless and didn’t deserve him and you don’t break these rules, you don’t outside these lines, because if you do, you might as well be gone now.

I know all those rules and they’re all broken now, so I’ll walk away from home to find a school and won’t stick around like I should and I’ll hate the feel of a gun, hate the sound of a gun, gag on the taste of beer, hate the whole life, and I’ll sleep with whoever I want to and when he gets me pregnant I’ll take a drive down to Sacramento with my best friend and get rid of it because it’s not something I need, won’t use it as a hook to keep him mine and I’ll look for any other rule you can find and I’ll break those too because this game sucks.

So I’ll play Sarah’s game.  Because it’s fun. And that makes it all worth it.

“Well the line it is drawn, the curse it is cast,” I say.

“And the slow one now will later be last?  Please.  Dreams they complicate my life.”

“Can you tell me the meaning of love?”

“Words like violence break the silence.”

“Well you can always kiss off into the air.”

“Let me go on, like a blister in the sun.”

“Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

“It figures.  I mean, hell, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

“Don’t, don’t, don’t let’s start.  This is the worst part.”

“That sounds like it describes how you’re feeling all the time.”

“I will try not to breathe, this decision is mine.”

“Love is slowly stripped away.  Your love has seen its better days.”

But when she says that, I feel beaten and fall back on her bed.  The flush rises to my cheeks, the feeling as if I’ve been slapped, licked, humiliated, fucked, kissed, all at once and she knows that she kept to the rules and she should be able to celebrate a win since I can’t say anything but she knows there’s a very different rule that she broke which she shouldn’t have touched.

Her hand is against my cheek, a soft touch that takes a tear away, makes things feel better, if only for a little while.

“Why do we fall in love?” I ask her.

“That’s not any song lyric I know.  Now if you had asked why do fools fall in love?  Or why must I be a teenager in love, which would be untrue, since you’re 20, or mentioned that you wondered who wrote the book of love, or even if you had said I know something about love . . .”

“Sarah, just tell me.  Why do we fall in love?”

“Rhetorical questions are stupid.  They can’t be answered.”

“All it does is hurt.  Why?  What’s the fucking point?  Isn’t love supposed to be the thing that makes everything better?”

“Oh, you mean like never having to say you’re sorry?  Fuck that.  Maybe John Lennon was right the first time.  You’ve got to hide your love away.”

“I thought to love another person was to see the face of God,” I reply.

“That was a musical that claimed that, not a rock song.  You can’t believe anything those damn theater kids say.”

“I want a love that matches up to all the love songs.”

“Have you listened to most love songs?”

“A real love song.  I want someone to sing to me, ‘Don’t go changing to try and please me.'”

“You want to live life in a Billy Joel song?”

“It’s better than this.”

“Losing Paul is not the end of the world, honey.  Lots of people never find love.  You found it once.  You should be glad for that.”

“Paul didn’t love me.”

“Maybe Jim did.”

“Give me a fucking break,” I snap at her.

“Look, Laura, don’t do this.  Don’t give me this shit.  This is just a bad day.  Everyone is entitled to a bad day.  You’ll get over it.”

“Don’t you quote the Eagles at me.”

“No, seriously.  Get over it.  Everyone does.  One bad love affair is not the end of the world.  Look at me.  Jim fucked me and then ran away.  You don’t see me crying, don’t see me calling for him to come back.  You’re stronger than this.”

“Maybe I’m not,” I whisper.  She reaches out and I’m in her hands, in her arms and I don’t know what to do, don’t know how to keep the tears from falling and I reach out to touch something and I find her, such beautiful hair, short brown with a touch of red, falling to just above her shoulders, always perfect no matter what she’s just been doing.  So much different from what I’ve been blessed with, the mop of Tang on my head, which I actually prefer to the natural worthless brown rag that sat on my head and dropped down past my shoulders like a dirty piece of cloth that no one wanted to use but couldn’t bring themselves to throw away.

I turn slightly and my eyes catch hers and I let that little snippet of green become mine again.  She’s not sure what is going on, something a little more out of control than she’s used to dealing with and my tongue slides along the edge of her ear and I think she has some understanding.

She turns slightly, takes her eyes away from me.  She’s got more rules to wonder about than I do.  I have the northern little hick area but she has the most conservative county in the nation, the stronghold of the religious right that’s given us Richard Nixon and the Christian Broadcast Network within ten miles of each other.  And she’s gone on to break every rule she’s been able to find.  As a high school freshman she was hidden in the bathroom, smoking, then a year out behind the school drinking, then wasting her way into dope and finally a year dropping acid.  Then she left high school.  And she got bored with all the waste of life so she tried to embrace it, found the right guy to slide between her legs and when he was gone found no shortage of guys willing to fill that space.  All I’m doing is giving her another rule to look at, another line to cross over.

I press closely against her, run one hand down her cheek, the other up her side.  I feel the shudder.

“How?” she asks.  “Why?  When?”  She can feel me against her skin when I shake my head.

“I don’t know.  Too many questions to try and figure out.”

“Are you sure?”

I run my hand down along her throat and between her breasts and I can feel her back start to arch.

“Now that’s a stupid question,” I tell her.

“For me, or in general?”

“I don’t know.  Does it matter?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you scared?” I ask, a question that I doubt anyone has ever dared ask Sarah before.

“I’ve been done a little.  I’ve never done anyone else.”

“So a partial new experience for you.”

“Something like that.”

I bury my head in her hair as she puts her arms around me.

“Are you still crying, Sally Ride?”

“Maybe,” I whisper, trying to wipe the tears into her hair.  She looks at me.

“Don’t.  Stop.  Please.  Laura, don’t cry.”

“I don’t want you to hate me,” are the first words I can think of to say.  She starts to laugh, a hearty, beautiful laugh that makes me want to tear everything off and taste every inch of her, starting just above her throat.

“I could never hate you, silly girl.”

My eyes slowly slide into hers and I wonder if this is what Jim felt, Paul felt, any of the others who have come between then and now, who have walked through her door and found themselves trapped in her web, sliding into her flesh.


“God given name.  Considering changing it.  I like Ariel.”



“Paul.  Jim.  All the guys.  Did any of them ever say they loved you?”

She looks away for a second and I catch the picture on her wall, Paul and Jim together, perched in front of their television, playing some stupid NBA game, ignoring whoever has the camera in their hands as they flow into each other’s world and shut everyone else out.  Including us.

“No.  Some, I can’t even remember what they said.  The ones I remember best, Jim, Paul, no, they never said it.  I’m not sure either of them even can say it.  At least not to me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Jim never loved me.  Even after everything we did, my lips on his balls, his tongue exploring every inch of my cunt, he never loved me.  He never made any claims to.  And I never asked anything like that out of him.  So we never bothered to say anything about it.”

“What about Paul?”

“Has Paul ever known what he feels?  Sharon’s opened a real can of worms with that one.  I mean, he loved that chick, Xian.  But what he says and what he feels are rarely the same thing.  And I’m not sure that he’s been able to connect the two since she left.  So, most of the time he doesn’t bother to say anything because he hates to lie about it.  I never made him lie.  Besides, we didn’t say much of anything.  It all happened so fast, it’s hard to believe sometimes that it ever even happened.”

“I love you,” I say, quick and fast, get it out there before I can change my mind.  Her smile slides onto her lips but I think I see a hint of sadness behind it.

“Do me a favor,” she says.

“What do you need?”

“Say my name when you say that.”

“I love you, Cocksucker.”

The astonishment that wipes across her face is so quick and so funny that I can’t help but laugh.  It surely is nothing she was expecting and it’s fun to finally shock someone who’s used to taking everything in stride.  And, of course, as soon as I think I have the situation firmly in my control she takes it away and her lips are on mine and the kiss is softer, softer than a guy’s but rough because she knows how to kiss and her tongue pushes my lips apart and is against mine and it is so good and I don’t ever want it to stop and of course it’s already over.

“Well?” she asks.

“You know you’re a great kisser,” I tell her.  “You don’t need me to tell you that.  I’m sure any guy on campus could tell you that.”

“Watch it, Sally Ride.  You keep calling me a slut and I might not sleep with you.”

My eyes come wide open in response to that and I can see that her smile is as wide and glorious as I have ever seen it.

“What happens now?”

I’m starting to shake and if she kisses me again like the last one I might lose all control.  I can feel the blush returning to my face.  Makes sense.  Every time that Paul and I ever started fooling around I always turned a deep red and started to shake.  The bastard could get blown and walk out of the room looking perfectly calm sixty seconds later.  If he so much as touched my pussy I was red for hours.

“What do you want to happen?” she asks.

“I don’t want this to stop.”

I don’t know what she’s going to say and I don’t know if a positive answer will be good or will just scare me too much.  But she’s got that smile again and I know what her words will be.

“I love you, Laura.”

So I was wrong.  I didn’t know what her words were going to be.  So I answer the only way I know how.

“I love you, Cocksucker.”

And now she’s tickling me, making me giggle out of control and I fall back on her bed and she’s down on top of me and pressed so close and I feel so much better, better than I have since before that bastard Paul came into my life and came in my body.

She’s looking at me and I wonder what she is thinking.  She is smiling, that wry smile she does so well.

“No song lyric?” I prod.  She squints a little, a pretend irritation.

“Jenny came over and told me ’bout Brad,” she starts to sing but I react quickly, reaching for her stomach to tickle her as much as I can.

“Oh no.  You’re not fucking singing that,” I say, and then I’m on top of her.

“You know the rules,” she says, with a smile and is about to start singing again and I know that kissing her won’t make her stop so I play the game as fast as I have ever played it.

“This bed is on fire with passionate love.  The neighbors complain about the noises above.  But she only cums when she’s on top.”

For the second time today I have either surprised her or impressed her or a combination of both.

“It is true,” she admits and kisses me on the neck again.  I shudder a little.  Her smile at this moment is so silly, yet so sexy, I can see why every guy who was walked through this door has ended up in bed with her, a smile so infectious you can’t help but want to be inside whatever can bring that smile into the world.

She gets up from underneath me and goes over to her computer.  Before she sits, she grabs her towel off the rack and puts it on the chair, to prevent any fluids that might still be coming out of her from leaking.  She wakes up her computer and starts to check her e-mail.  I continue to stare at her.

When she notices I’m staring she, in an uncharacteristic act of shyness, pulls her legs in, sliding her entire body onto the chair and tries to focus but my eyes can not move from the thing that is her naked body and I can start to feel something within my own body as I lay on her blankets.

Enough lines have been crossed today, enough new feelings to sort through.  I have no need for anything else.  But, like so much of what we get in life, I have no warning, no chance to say I’m not ready for this, I don’t want anyone to know about this yet because I don’t know where things go from here.

It’s hard to react to someone knocking on the door when they don’t pause between the act of knocking and the act of throwing open the door.  Jim’s like that, especially with Sarah’s room.  Mine too.  He knows he’s seen us without anything on, even seen Sarah fucking someone else, so nothing can come as a shock to him and he feels he has the right to intrude upon whatever may be going on.  It’s too bad we didn’t lock the door because he pulls his regular stunt and before any objections can be made he is inside the room.  A little ray of good luck shines through and he launches the door open with such force that it bounces off the wall and slams shut behind him and Sarah is locking it before anyone can follow him through.

“Hey, Sarah, can I borrow . . . What the fuck!”

He tries to step backwards quickly, but his forward momentum combines with the carpet slipping beneath his feet and he goes sprawling on the ground.  Sarah and I can’t help but giggle.

“Well maybe that’ll teach you not to walk in rooms without knocking first,” Sarah says when he hits the ground, “but probably not.”

“What the fuck is going on?” he asks, his eyes closed, his head lying on the ground by her feet, just inches from every part he’s enjoyed so much in the past.

“I’m checking my e-mail.  Laura is lying on my bed and staring at me like a giddy schoolgirl who just got her valentine.”

“What the fuck was going on before I walked in?”

“Whatever you want to think was going on.”

“I’m thinking that the first two girls I ever had sex with were fucking each other.  Or something to that effect.  I’m not sure if that’s what I want to think, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind.”

“Jim, you don’t understand . . .” I start to say but he sits up, opening his eyes and looks right at me.

“This requires understanding?  Fuck that.  Just show me a video tape.”

“Then we’ll never get you out of your room again,” Sarah comments.

“You’re right, Jim,” I snap.  “You don’t have to understand a fucking thing.”

I stand up and kick out at his legs, forcing him to move.

“But you are on my fucking clothes.  So why don’t you move your ass so I can get dressed.”

He moves aside, slowly, putting up his hands in a defensive posture, tries to find words that will help him come to, what, some sort of understanding?  I guess.  But he may be right.  This may not require understanding.  Such things rarely do.

“Laura . . .”

“You’re still on my panties, Jim.”

He moves back a little but keeps his hands up and the look in his eyes gives all the understanding I need, a sense of closure in that he never loved me, just needed to be somewhere, needed a space to fill.  Think of me what you will, I could say, I’ve got a little space to fill.  My mouth could form those words and the game could start again but I can hear Sarah responding in my head, with the lights out it’s less dangerous, here we are now, entertain us, and I’m not in the mood, just want to be somewhere where I can find love because he didn’t love me, because neither of them ever loved me.

I stop.  I still have his eyes in my sight.  They haven’t dropped to any other part of my body.  He isn’t looking at any of the parts that he’s touched, kissed, enjoyed.  I understand.  He might not have loved me.  But at least he cared.  He still cares.  Not Paul.  But he’s not Paul.  He still cares.

“I didn’t mean it that way, Laura.”

“What did you mean?” I ask and the anger has gone out of me.

“It’s a strange thing to walk in on, you know, seeing the only two females I’ve ever slept with sharing a post-coital moment.”

“Which brings us back to the concept of knocking on a door before you enter rather than during, dipshit,” Sarah says, typing an e-mail about God only knows what, but hopefully not about this.

“Is this thing permanent?” Jim asks.

“This ‘thing’?” I say, trying hard not to laugh.

“Are you a lesbian now?  Is that better?”

“I’m not,” Sarah says.  “Shit like this is fun, especially with the right person,” she says as a smile crosses her lips, “but I’m not giving up on cocks yet.  Too much fun.”

“What about you?” Jim asks me.

“I don’t know.  I just needed to be with someone I loved.  Someone who loved me.”

And that seems to take some of the wind from his sails.  He puts his hands down and a guilty look creeps into his face as he stands up.

“So this is about me.”

Now I am forced to smile, but that’s nothing compared to the laughter ripping free from Sarah’s lungs.  Jim is forced to sheepishly produce a smile of his own.

“If it’s anyone,” I tell him, “it’s about Paul.”

“I could believe that.  He could drive anyone to lesbianism.”

“Then why did you room with him for two years?”

“Because he can drive anyone to lesbianism.”

Laughter again and it feels good because this is all so new, so different and I don’t know what comes next except for Jim reaching out for me and pulling me closer and holding me in his arms and right now that feels okay too because right now just being held seems about the right thing and before too long Sarah is there too and I am in their arms and thoughts of Paul slip away and I’m able to just let go and things feel so right and I hear them whisper, it’s okay, it’s all right and sometimes I wonder why people just don’t disappear without knowing it and I know it’s because people will not let each other, that things must stay visible because we keep them here and I follow their advice and it really is okay and it really is all right and I follow their last two words to the letter and am in the arms and somewhere else all at once and it really does seem like everything can be okay in the end.

I let go.