You will remember this night always, but not continuously. It will come into your mind less and less often as the years pass, until someone will ask you, during a truth-or-dare game, to describe your first girlfriend or boyfriend, and you will answer incorrectly, and have to be reminded by your current-who-might-as-well-be-first, to whom you will have recounted this night and the months to follow, and you will have to revise your answer with some embarrassment—an embarrassment mild compared to what you’re feeling now, as the pot you smoked earlier wears off and you search your mind trying to figure out how to respond to the whispered words and lip and finger touches of this man beside you in the bed, his bed. It should be perfect, this carefully planned event. It took all week to arrange it: You phoned Dial-A-Ride twice, first scheduling a one-way wheelchair van trip from your flat in London to his (they knew the way, of course, he’s a regular customer too) and then hanging up and calling back to schedule another one-way trip, the next day, from his to yours. As if they wouldn’t figure out that it’s an overnight stay. And who cared if they did. Dial-A-Ride customers need sex too.
Then you spoke with your attendant, Margie, delicately explaining that you needed her to work right through, 2 p.m. Wednesday to 2 p.m. Thursday, to go with you to his flat, and then you would arrange for her to have some time off later Thursday afternoon and evening. You would be having dinner, breakfast, and lunch there, sleeping there…Margie got it. Your blushing was unnecessary but unavoidable.
It should be perfect, this long-awaited chance to lose the virginity you were beginning to think you’d be stuck with forever. You’re already composing a letter to your high school friend Cam who beat you to it, who gloated when at last she convinced her gay friend Michael to give her a go. You’ll announce that you too are now officially not a virgin though of course you officially are, still, because nothing has happened yet, except that it is happening, something is happening, right now, and that’s what seems to be the problem. It isn’t perfect.
He’s trying awfully hard, he’s well into it, kissing you and caressing your cheeks and arms and so on, and you’re thinking that you should be enjoying it, but it feels more ridiculous with each second that passes, and you tell him you’re sleepy. You’re not, really, and he rightly ignores this, but then not so rightly he begins saying things into your ear, things like I can make you feel amazing, I know just what to do, and Is it all right with you if I put my mouth on you, you know, down there, and just to move the plot along you say with a little laugh that you guess so, and so he does, and he wants to know right away how it feels, and so you tell him with the same laugh that it feels weird. You don’t tell him that it’s not you that feels weird, not that place on you (you think about that place a lot, how you want someone there, want it so much that sometimes you can’t think about anything else). You don’t say that what feels weird is him, his snaky lips on that place. He keeps doing it for a while and you wait patiently but you don’t feel anything except irritated at what he promised, he’s so full of himself, always lecturing you about arcane policy controversies, and thinking he’s the world’s expert on pleasing women sexually, and finally he stops doing that and then he’s back at your ear, saying things into it, things like It’s okay, it’s your first time with a guy, right, it’s sometimes hard the first time, it’s okay, and you’re thinking that you never said it wasn’t okay and who is he to tell you it is okay, and then he says into your ear something you can’t quite make out but he’s saying it in an urgent way. You catch a word, the word excited, and then he is asking you something. You agree to let him take your hand, pull it behind you, put it on his hard penis. He does, and you listen to him moan for a while and you realize that you really are fairly sleepy. Then all of a sudden your hand is all wet. He grabs a handful of tissue and wipes your hand. He huddles against your back and into your ear he says Does it make you proud that you can turn a man on like that? You almost say, but don’t, that you’ve seen men turned on by moronic movies, by headless tits in department stores, by empty pairs of shoes.
You fall asleep then, with him there, and it’s fine. It wasn’t perfect but it’s over, or rather it isn’t, you suppose you’re still officially a virgin, but you aren’t so worried about that aspect of it anymore. The letter to Cam will have to wait, or be vague, or maybe you’ll tell her the whole story. She has a good sense of humor.
You never do tell her. You wake up in his bed. A bit of cloud-soaked sunshine pushes past the books and papers he piles on his window ledge and everywhere else. He is already awake and he is looking at you. His hazel eyes are wider and deeper than you’ve ever seen them. In them you can see a distorted picture of yourself, your nose and forehead enlarged in the convexity of his eyeball. He smiles sweetly and says, I love you, and he looks and sounds so sincere but you suspect he really isn’t. Or maybe it’s that you hope he really isn’t.
Here is what you don’t know now:
In about six years, you will be in another bed, another room, another country. It will also be a carefully planned event, involving reservations, maps, another delicate conversation with another attendant, and all the logistics of passion and hope.
It will have all started four years before that, with you gliding down the middle of a wide road in suburban Detroit, flanked on all sides by people limping rolling jogging marching and all shouting as you go Access Is a Civil Right! and Lifts on Buses NOW! Everyone staying in a cheap hotel, riding in overcrowded vans—people and wheelchairs of all shapes and sizes and colors—and chanting, writing slogans on posterboard, taping them to wheelchairs, to walkers, to dogs. Everyone feeling so happy because this is a strength you always knew you had, this idea of being organized together as a group to insist on equal treatment, not asking for pity or handouts, but calling loudly for a place on the bus. You will be thinking about your friends back in England where you first encountered such ideas, including him for he will still be your friend, and maybe in your head you compose a post card to him, to be dictated later to your attendant, but for now just marching on, appreciating the sun that shines down on you so generously.
At some point you will realize that of all the people marching with you, you can’t stop looking at one person, the two of you moving along side by side on that street and looking and smiling at each other. Later, back at the hotel, you will actually talk with her, discovering obscure shared songs and a desire to see each other again. Returning to your separate states, you will write and call, and see each other again.
And again. And again. And again.
One day, after bidding her goodbye and watching her fly away, the silence, the waiting, will become intolerable, causing you to speak a letter to her into your computer, a letter which sounds exactly true, truer than anything you have ever written, causing you to turn red and smile, and to file the letter in the recesses of your computer and not print or send it. But later you will write a poem saying the same things but taking place on a beach in the third person, and you print and send that. She’ll like the poem, she’ll love the poem, but won’t get the underlying message, or will pretend not to get it. Things will stay the same for a while until another letter, what the hell, it’s Valentine’s Day and you will find the perfect card and put the letter into the card and sent it off without giving yourself a chance to change your mind and, amazingly, she will have the same idea and your valentines will arrive in each other’s mailboxes on the very same day.
A month after that, you and your attendant Linda will drive to the airport and pick her up (she will be utterly exhausted from another march, a night in jail, two cross-country flights in the same week, a job that works her long hours) and you will drive up mountain roads to a sprawling house where you will check in for three nights. In the ground-floor bedroom Linda will quickly lift you into the big bed, fending off the family who owns the B&B who have tired of each other’s company and want badly to talk to you and your friends, and then Linda will leave and go to her own room upstairs.
Inside that shut door, under a frilly bedspread, you will look at her, wondering whether she is really about to lean in close and kiss you, which you want her to do more than you have ever wanted any promise before.
And she will. The night will begin. So many nights will begin.
She will lean in close and kiss you, and you will ask her to do it again. And again. And again, until you finally believe it is happening. Then she will slide her strong hand down your belly to your right thigh, and back up, all the way to your right nipple. Then down again. She will throw off the sheet, and lift your thigh and knee, opening you to the slightly chilly air in the room. You will open your mouth wide with astonishment and intense wanting. You will feel wetness, your own long-held secret, welling up onto her fingers. As she rubs, you will hear a sound like smacking lips, and you will love her, and you will love your own juicy cunt.
You don’t know any of this right now. You don’t need to. This is all you need to know: Now, tonight, with him, though you are bored and sleepy, you are on exactly the right path toward that other night to come.