Read City of Girls Online

Authors: Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls (9 page)

“You okay, Vivvie?” Celia asked. “You
sure you want to do this?”

“I want to do it,” I said. “I’m sure I want to do it.”

“My suggestion,” said Gladys, “is that you don’t think about it too much. I never do.”

This seemed wise. So I took a few deep breaths—as my mother had taught me to do before you jump a horse—stood up, and headed for the exit.

“See you girls later!” I said, with a bright and slightly surreal sense of cheer.

“We’ll be waiting for you right here!” said Gladys.

“Shouldn’t take too long!” said Jennie.

SIX

Dr. Kellogg was waiting for me just inside the servants’ entrance to his town house. I’d barely knocked before the door flew open and he hustled me in.

“Welcome, welcome,” he said, glancing about him, to make sure no neighbors were spying. “Let’s get that door shut behind you, my dear.”

He was a medium-sized man with an average-looking face whose hair was one of the regular colors of hair,
and who was dressed in the sort of suit that one might expect a respectable middle-aged gentleman of his class to be wearing. (If it sounds like I have completely forgotten what he looked like, it’s because I
have
completely forgotten what he looked like. He was the kind of man whose face you forget even when you are standing right in front of him, looking directly at his face.)

“Vivian,” he
said, and extended a handshake. “Thank you for coming in today. Let’s head upstairs and get ourselves situated.”

He sounded every bit like the doctor he was. He sounded just like my pediatrician back home in Clinton. I might as well have been there to have an ear infection looked at. There was something both
reassuring and immensely silly about this to me. I felt a giggle rising in my chest,
but kept it suppressed.

We walked through his home, which was proper and elegant, but unmemorable. There were probably a hundred homes within a few blocks of us decorated exactly the same way. All I can remember were some silk-upholstered couches with doilies. I have always hated doilies. He led me straight to the guest room, where he had two glasses of champagne waiting on a small table. The
curtains were drawn—so that we could pretend it wasn’t ten o’clock in the morning, I suppose—and he closed the door behind him.

“Make yourself comfortable on the bed, Vivian,” he said, handing me one of the champagne flutes.

I sat primly on the edge of the bed. I was half expecting him to wash his hands and come at me with a stethoscope, but instead he pulled over a wooden chair from a corner
of the room, and sat directly across from me. He put his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, in the manner of one whose job it is to diagnose.

“So, Vivian. Our friend Gladys tells me that you’re a virgin.”

“That’s correct, Doctor,” I said.

“There’s no need to call me Doctor. We are friends. You may call me Harold.”

“Why, thank you, Harold,” I said.

And from that moment on, Angela, the
situation became hilarious to me. Whatever nervousness I’d felt up until that point was gone now, replaced by a sense of pure comedy. It was something about the sound of my voice saying, “Why, thank you, Harold,” in that small guest room with its stupid mint-green acetate quilted bedspread (I can’t remember Dr. Kellogg’s face, but I cannot forget that hideous goddamn bedspread) that struck me as
the pinnacle of absurdity. There he was in his suit, and there I was in my buttercup-yellow rayon day dress—and
if Dr. Kellogg didn’t believe that I was a virgin before we met, the little yellow frock alone should have convinced him.

The whole scene was absurd. He was accustomed to showgirls, and he was getting
me
.

“Now, Gladys informs me that you wish to have your virginity”—he was searching
for a delicate word—“removed?”

“That’s correct, Harold,” I said. “I wish to have it expunged.”

(To this day, I believe that this line was the first intentionally funny thing I’d ever said in my life—and the fact that I said it with a straight face gave me no end of satisfaction.
Expunged!
Brilliant.)

He nodded; a good clinician with a bad sense of humor.

“Why don’t you get undressed,” he said,
“and I will also get undressed, and we’ll start.”

I wasn’t sure if I should take off
everything
. Usually at the doctor’s office, I kept on my “step-ins”—as my mother always called my underwear. (
But why was I thinking about my mother right now?
) Then again, usually at the doctor’s office I wasn’t about to have sex with the doctor. I made a hasty decision to strip down completely. I didn’t want
to look like a modest little dolt. I lay down on my back on that nauseating acetate bedspread, naked as can be. Arms straight down at my side and legs stiff. You know: like a proper temptress.

Dr. Kellogg stripped to his shorts and undershirt. This hardly seemed fair. Why was he allowed to remain partially dressed, when I had to be naked?

“Now if you’ll just kindly move over an inch or so, and
make a bit of room for me . . .” he said. “There we go. . . . That’s it. . . . Let’s have a look at you.”

He lay beside me, head propped by his elbow, and had a look at me. I didn’t hate this moment as much as you might think. I was a vain young woman, and something within me thought it quite right that I
should be looked at. Appearancewise, my chief concern was my bosom—or, rather, my near absence
of a bosom. It didn’t seem to be an issue with Dr. Kellogg, though, despite the fact that he was used to a different class of figure altogether. In fact he seemed delighted with all that was offered up before him.

“Virgin breasts!” he marveled. “Never before touched by man!”

(
Well,
I thought,
I wouldn’t say that.
Never before touched by an
adult
man, maybe.)

“Forgive me if my hands are cold,
Vivian,” he said, “but I’m going to begin touching you now.”

Dutifully, he began to touch me. First the left breast, then the right, then the left again, then the right again. His hands indeed
were
cold, but they warmed up soon enough. At first I was mildly panicked, and I kept my eyes closed, but after a bit of time, it was more like:
Well, this is interesting! Off we go!

At some point, it
began to actually feel good. That’s when I decided to open my eyes, because I didn’t want to miss anything. I suppose I wanted to watch my own body being ravaged. (Ah, the narcissism of youth!) I gazed down at myself, admiring my slim waist and the curve of my hip. I had borrowed Celia’s razor to shave my legs, and my thighs were looking beautifully smooth in the low light. My breasts looked quite
pretty under his hands, too.

A man’s hands! On my naked breasts!
Would you look at that?

I stole a glance at his face and was pleased with what I saw there—the reddened cheeks and the slight frown of concentration. He was breathing heavily through his nose, and I took that as a good sign that I was successfully arousing him. And it did feel very nice to be stroked. I liked the effect his touch
had on my breasts—the way the skin got all rosy and toasty.

“I’m going to put your breast in my mouth now,” he said. “This is standard.”

I wished he hadn’t said that. He made it sound like a
procedure
. I’d been thinking a lot about sex over the years, and in none of my fantasies did my lover sound like he was making a house call.

He leaned over to take my breast in his mouth, as promised, which
I also found that I liked—once he stopped talking about it, I mean. In fact, I had never felt anything quite so delicious. I closed my eyes again. I wanted to keep still and quiet, with hopes that he would just continue offering this delightful experience. But then the delightful experience ended suddenly, because now he had started talking again.

“We’re going to take this in careful stages,
Vivian,” he said.

God help me, but it sounded like he was about to insert a rectal thermometer inside me—an experience I’d once had as a child, and which I didn’t want to be thinking about just now.

“Or do you want this over with swiftly, Vivian?” he asked.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Well, I would imagine that it’s alarming to you, to lie with a man for the first time. Perhaps you wish for the
deed to be done swiftly, so that your discomfort will be fast over? Or would you like me to linger and teach you some things? Some of the things that Mrs. Kellogg enjoys, for instance?”

Oh, dear God, the last thing I wanted was to be taught the things that Mrs. Kellogg enjoyed! But I truly did not know what to say. So I just stared at him dumbly.

“I need to begin seeing patients at noon,” he
said, not at all seductively. He seemed irritated with my silence. “But we do have enough time for a bit of creative dallying, if that interests you? We will need to make a decision soon, though.”

How is one supposed to answer that? How was I supposed to know what I wanted him to do? Creative dallying could mean
anything
. I just blinked at him.

“The tiny duckling is frightened,” he said, his
manner softening.

I only slightly wanted to kill him for the patronizing tone.

“I’m not frightened,” I replied, which was true. I wasn’t frightened—just baffled. My expectation had been that I was going be ravaged here today—but this was all so
labored
. Were we meant to negotiate and discuss every point?

“It’s all right, my tiny duckling,” he said. “I’ve done this before. You’re awfully bashful,
aren’t you? Why don’t you let me chart the course?”

He slid his hand down over my pubic hair. He palmed my vulva. He kept his hand flat, the way you keep your palm flat when you’re feeding a sugar cube to a horse, because you don’t want the horse to bite you. He began to rub his palm over my little mound. It didn’t feel that bad. It didn’t feel that bad at all, actually. I shut my eyes once more
and marveled at this slight but magical uprush of lovely sensation.

“Mrs. Kellogg likes it when I do this,” he said—and again, I had to stop experiencing pleasure in order to think about Mrs. Kellogg and her
doilies
. “She likes when I go round and round in this direction . . . and then round and round in
this
direction . . .”

The problem, I could clearly see now, was going to be the talking.

I debated how to get Dr. Kellogg to stop speaking. I couldn’t very well ask him to be quiet in his own home—and especially not when he was doing me this tremendous favor of puncturing my hymen for me. I was a well-bred young lady who was accustomed to treating men of authority with a certain deference: it would have been highly out of character for me to have said, “Could you kindly shut up?”

It occurred to me that perhaps if I asked him to kiss me, that might silence him. It
could
work. It would keep his mouth busy, without a doubt. But then I would be required to kiss him, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to kiss him. It was difficult to know which scenario would be worse in this case—silence and kissing? Or no kissing, and this bothersome voice?

“Does your little kitty cat like to
be petted?” he asked, as he increased his hand’s pressure on my mound. “Is your little kitty cat
purring
?”

“Harold,” I said, “I wonder if I might ask you to kiss me.”

Perhaps I’m not being fair to Dr. Kellogg.

He was a nice enough man, and he was only trying to help me out, without alarming me too much. I do believe he did not want to hurt me. Maybe he was applying the Hippocratic oath to this
situation:
First, do no harm
and all that.

Or maybe he wasn’t such a nice man. I really have no way of knowing, as I never saw him again. Let’s not paint him as the hero here! Maybe he wasn’t trying to help me out at all, but was only enjoying the thrill of deflowering an uncomfortable and nubile young virgin in his guest room while his wife was off visiting her mother.

He certainly had no trouble
becoming aroused by this situation, as I found out soon enough when he pulled away from me to apply a “safety” to his erection. Now, this would be the first erect penis I had ever seen—and therefore a banner moment—although I didn’t get to see much of it. Partially, this is because the penis in question was covered by a condom and blocked by the man’s hand. But mostly it’s because he was on
top of me in no time.

“Vivian,” he said, “I’ve decided that the more quickly I enter, the better it will be for you. In this case, I believe it is better
not
to move by degrees. Hold tight, for now I shall penetrate you.”

Thus he said it, and thus he did it.

Well, then. There we were.

It hurt far less than I’d feared. That was the good news. The bad news was that it also felt far less pleasant
than I’d hoped. I’d hoped that intercourse would be a magnification of the sensations I’d experienced
when he’d kissed my breasts or rubbed my mound, but it wasn’t. In fact, whatever pleasure I’d been experiencing thus far, faint as it had been, vanished quite suddenly upon his entering—replaced by something very forceful and very interrupting. Having him inside me was just an unmistakable
presence
that I could not identify as being either bad or good. It reminded me a bit of menstrual cramps. It was just tremendously
odd
.

He moaned and he thrust, and through his clenched teeth he said, “Mrs. Kellogg, I find, prefers it when I—”

But I never did find out how Mrs. Kellogg preferred her copulation, because I started kissing Dr. Kellogg again, as soon as he began talking. The kissing did help
to keep him quiet, I had found. Moreover, it gave me something to do, as I was being taken. As we’ve established, I hadn’t done much kissing in my life, but I guessed pretty well at how it was done. It’s the kind of skill that you have to learn on the job, really, but I did the best that I could with it. It was a bit of a challenge to keep our mouths linked as he was pounding away at me, but my
incentive was great: I
really
didn’t want to hear his voice again.

At the last moment, however, he got one more word in.

He pulled his face away from mine, shouted “Exquisite!” Then he arched his back, gave one more powerful shudder, and that was the end of it.

Afterward, he got up and went to another room, presumably to wash up. Then he came back and lay next to me for a spell. He held me
tight, saying, “Little duckling, little duckling, what a good little duckling. Don’t cry, little duckling.”

I wasn’t crying—I wasn’t anywhere
near
crying—but he didn’t notice.

Soon enough, he got up again and asked if he could please check the coverlet for blood, as he had forgotten to put down a sheet.

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