It was easy enough when we were friends. I could lean against him at dinner, and he’d drape his arm over my shoulders, and it was wonderful, this little giddy thrill of being touched. I didn’t have to take it further. I didn’t even really think about taking it further, not then.
I liked him, from the first day we met. I’m not going to deny that. The way his lips looked when he was thinking. The way he talked. The way his brain twisted around problems. His big hands and the way they looked like they’d fit my shoulder perfectly. I was drawn to him, pulled in the way I get. “Moth to a flame,” some people say. My friends call it “sexually attracted to fire.” If he’d been another guy at the gaming group…
…but he was Jay, and it became quickly obvious that he had no interest in me like that. And that, I admit, was even more intriguing (call me arrogant if you want, but I was a non-ugly girl in a gaming club. Men that weren’t interested were generally also unfriendly). Jay was just Jay, like it didn’t occur to him that he should or could or would be interested. Like he was really talking to me, and not to a mobile opportunity for sex.
I didn’t chase after him, but I did go out of my way to talk to him, to make friends with him. “You know what colour my eyes are,” I joked, but the truth was, I just liked being able to talk to him, to be close to him. I liked being talked to, instead of around or past. I liked that we had things in common, other than games. I had games in common with everyone I knew.
He didn’t like being touched by strangers, so I knew we were close when he put his arm around my shoulders for the first time, and I knew I was gone when I couldn’t stand to move away from that warmth. He had no interest in sex, he’d explained (when I, rather awkwardly, asked if he was gay), so I knew something was up when he kissed me the first time.
I was raw and all jagged edges from a badly-ended relationship that time, and the kiss was shaky and awkward, and we both pretended it had been the bad beer and the bad moonlight, and We Shall Never Speak of This Again, patched up the little hole in our friendship and went back to talking about how Dumas had written such better stuff than Three Musketeers.
The kiss, like his arm on my shoulder, had burned its way into my nerves, and I’d wake up with a nagging suggestion in my mind that I ought to have more, or look at him and wonder how I could get him to hold me like that again, kiss me again, teeth or no.
By the time he got around to a second kiss, I’d managed to heal the raw spots in my heart, and had deciding that the normal boys were just not what I wanted. I wanted Jay. I wanted my friend. Sex? I thought I could do without. A small sacrifice to have a relationship that worked. And I loved him. And, to be honest… deep in my heart, I thought he just hadn’t had a girl he clicked with. I thought maybe sex with me would be different.
I’d been looking forward to cuddling, to having someone who liked touching without always wanting sex, to being held, but… I had habits built up from a few years of relationships, and it seemed natural for cuddling to turn into kissing, for kissing to turn into necking, for necking to turn into sex.
I knew better, at least on the surface and the first twenty or thirty times I started, I stopped myself. But I’m not asexual – pretty much the opposite – and, after a while, it started to get to me. I could masturbate, sure. Gods, I did. But playing solo is never the same as playing with a friend, and I wanted to know what he felt like inside me.
More than that. I was starting to get messed up about the whole thing. I knew he loved me, not just from his words, but from the way he held me, from the way he looked at me, but I wanted him to want me, too. I wanted him to touch me, and so I’d kiss, and then push the kissing further, and further, until he would tell me, so patiently, “please don’t.”
Please don’t. I started to wonder if something was wrong with me. I cut my hair, dyed it, bought new clothes. Other boys at the gaming club started flirting with me again, even Jay’s friends. I ate it up, but I wanted more. (I wanted it from him, even though I knew I wasn’t going to get it. Everyone else was just a substitute. Everyone else could be lying to me; I trusted Jay. Everyone else were just mooks; Jay was my partner. It was his opinion that mattered). I tried to replace substance with quantity; I started hanging out with the gaming club more, just to feel the rush of someone noticing I was female and alive. I started staying out late. Letting the boys drive me home. Letting them steal kisses that didn’t taste right, so I could pretend they wanted me. Letting them slide their hands inside my shirt, so I could remember what lust felt like.
I started feeling guilty, and the guilt started making me angry. I justified it to myself at first: I was home for dinner every evening. I came home to Jay every night. I wasn’t giving away anything he wanted – I didn’t even talk Dumas with anyone else, much less Descartes or the more obscure topics we both loved. I was there when he wanted me, to joke about politics and complain about work, to try strange exotic foods with cheap wines. But I don’t think he was fooled, and, sooner or later, I stopped being able to fool myself. I’d stopped giving my all to the relationship. I’d stopped giving much of anything, including a damn. I don’t think either of us were surprised when I moved out. I still loved him, as hurt as I was. But sometimes love really isn’t enough.
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