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BOOK: loose
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“You coming?”

I straighten my shirt and skirt, run a hand through my hair.

What just happened? He walks ahead of me, a stranger again. Another boy who doesn’t want me. My stomach is hollow, and I realize I am very tired. We go into Danny’s room where the three of them are sitting with beer bottles. They look up at us. Danny smiles at Peter, but I don’t know what Peter looks like as he grabs a beer from the top of Danny’s bureau. I think back to the look Danny gave when he saw us going outside. Maybe he didn’t expect Peter to want me. Maybe instead he expected Peter to mess with me like he just did. I hate the elusiveness, not knowing what’s going on in their minds. Boys are mysteries with no recognizable clues. They’re like aliens, sent to earth with the sole mission of making girls feel like crap. I take a beer too, though I have no desire to drink anymore. I feel deflated and confused. I really just want to go home.

For the next hour, Peter ignores me. I try to stay in the conversation, but I am too distracted by my thoughts, going over what happened again and again, hoping to figure out what I did wrong. Did he think I was fat? Was I too eager? Finally, Amy and I call a cab to go back to my apartment. On the ride home she looks at me.

40 •

A H o u s e w i t h N o M e n

“Well?” she asks. “Did you get together?”

“Sort of.” I keep my gaze out the window, not wanting her to see my expression.

“You either did or you didn’t.”

I still don’t look at her. Even though Amy is interested in boys, it’s different with her. She wouldn’t let someone play games with her like Peter did with me. She would walk away, lose interest. It’s not that she’s prettier than me, or even thinner. It’s not that I feel infe-rior to her for these reasons like I used to with Liz. It’s the opposite, actually. She struggles with her weight. And I’m prettier than her. I know because when we’re at the West End, boys turn to me first. I would never admit it, but I like it this way, not having to see myself as less all the time. Still, Amy wouldn’t stand being treated the way Peter had treated me. Why couldn’t I do that? Why couldn’t I hold myself back, stop being so needy? Needy, just like my mom. I turn to look at Amy, the emptiness in my stomach spreading, turning to anger.

“Look,” I say, “we fooled around a little bit. It’s not a big deal.”

She shakes her head. “Fine,” she says. “Relax. I don’t really care anyway.” She turns away. “Peter Rafferty’s a big slut. It’s not like you’re going to be his girlfriend now anyway.”

“I know,” I say, but inside I cringe because, of course, like an idiot, that’s exactly what I had been hoping for.

When we get home, I go to the bathroom and see two hickeys Peter left on my neck. I touch them, wishing I could keep them there, proof he had wanted me even for a few minutes. But by the time Monday comes, they are mostly faded. I see him only once that week. He walks right by me with a small group of his friends. He doesn’t even say hello.


b a c k a t t h e West End, Amy and I stand against a wall with our drinks and cigarettes. “Take On Me” by a-ha floats down from hidden speakers. I sway a little to the music. A few guys approach us,

41 •

L o o s e G i r l

but they are ugly or too old. We turn away from them, hoping to look involved in conversation. Soon, another boy and his friend come in and stand near us. I glance over. Not bad. Not bad at all. One is tall and dark-haired. He looks just a little bit like the guy who played opposite Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. Gorgeous. The other one is shorter and stockier with light hair. I angle my body to catch their attention, especially the tall one’s. I laugh loudly at something Amy says, throwing my hair back. When I bring the cigarette to my lips, I look right at him. Our eyes meet, and I see a flicker. I’ve got him.

That night, we wind up at his place. His name is Paul and he lives in a penthouse apartment on Madison Avenue, not far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The apartment itself is like a mu-seum, filled with angled leather furniture, abstracts in primary colors on the wall. The kitchen is pure white—cold, glistening—as though nobody ever goes into it. Only Paul’s room, where I jerk him off sometime before the sun comes up, has some air of comfort to it.

When Amy and I leave, I write my number on a scratch pad and press it into his hand.

“You’ll call?” I ask hesitantly.

“Of course.” He laughs and kisses me on the mouth, surprised by my doubt.

Sure enough, Paul does call two evenings later, when I am doing homework and watching television in the living room. We chat briefly and I learn more about him. He’s a wrestler at his school, the same school in Riverdale my sister still attends. He’s sixteen and his parents let him drive their Porsche sometimes. He invites me to watch him wrestle next Friday, and I hang up smiling. I have a boyfriend. Dad is in the kitchen, and he comes around to where I’m standing.

“Who was that?” he asks, seeing my expression.

“A boy,” I say.

He smiles, holding a half-eaten sandwich. This is usually how

42 •

A H o u s e w i t h N o M e n dinner goes with us. You eat what you can find when you’re hungry.

“Oh, really.” He takes a bite from the sandwich. “What boy is that?”

“He’s from Tyler’s school. A wrestler.”

Dad makes a face that means he’s impressed. Is he surprised? I wonder. Does he think I can’t get a nice guy? Then his expression changes, but I can’t read what he’s thinking.

“What?” I say.

“Just don’t screw it up.”

My stomach sinks. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He smiles. “You know how you can be.”

“No,” I say, that hollow feeling spreading. “I don’t.”

“Bossy,” he says. “Everything has to be your way.”

“Screw you,” I say. I walk away from him toward my room. Tears prick my eyes.

“I’m just telling you what boys like,” I hear him call after me.

I slam my bedroom door and lie on my bed, hating him, wishing I could be someone else. Not this person who’s bossy, who’s always aching with need. I get up, pull open a window, and light up a cigarette, a social habit that has quickly become a plain old habit. At the bar cigarettes give me something to do with my hands. Whether by association or because of the chemicals, turns out they calm me else-where, too. I hear Tyler rustling around in her room. She’s probably closing her own window, annoyed by my smoke wafting in. Not that I have any idea, really, what she’s thinking. She never leaves that room, the door is always closed. I’ve lived with her my whole life, shared childhood baths and well-worn blankets. I’ve dressed in her hand-me-downs, all scuffed and threadbare from the points and chafes of her body. Her scent is as familiar to me as my own, yet she’s a complete stranger to me. I try to put my mind on Paul, reminding myself he’s asked me out. Reminding myself someone out there wants to be with me.

Friday Dad drives Amy and me to Riverdale. We step into the gymnasium, where people are scattered in the bleachers. The room

43 •

L o o s e G i r l

smells like sweat and socks. It smells like boys. We take a seat near the front and I spot Paul with his teammates. Like the others, he wears one of those tight halter outfits wrestlers have to wear. They are watching a guy out on the mat who is struggling with a guy from the rival school. Paul’s expression is hard. He takes this seriously, that’s for sure. The whole scene is sort of silly to me—the outfit, the boys pushing and hugging on the mat, the seriousness. But I push these thoughts away. I want to like Paul. More, I want him to like me. And if becoming interested in wrestling is what I have to do, then so be it.

When it is Paul’s turn, he and the other guy thrash about for close to ten minutes, but in the end he pins his opponent. I clap loudly, hoping he’ll see me. When the match is over, the bleachers clear out and Amy and I wait, my eyes flicking nervously back to the locker-room doors.

“Does he know you’re here?” Amy asks.

I shrug, my anxiety soaring. “He invited me.”

“That was back on Monday,” she says. She speaks nonchalantly, as though she’s not saying something that is making my heart race.

“Maybe he forgot.”

“He didn’t forget,” I say quietly.

Then, like an exhaled breath, the door to the locker room opens and a group of boys pushes through. One of them is Paul. He is freshly showered, wearing normal clothes again. He comes right over.

“What did you think?” he asks.

“You were great,” I tell him.

“I did OK,” he says. “Eight minutes to pinning. But I got him with a neck hold.”

I nod, wondering if it means anything that he didn’t kiss me hello.

“I brought Amy,” I say.

“That’s cool.” He smiles at her. “I’ll bring Davis.” He calls to one of his friends, a nice-looking boy with curly hair, and we agree to meet in the parking lot where his parents’ Porsche is parked.

44 •

A H o u s e w i t h N o M e n Back at Paul’s apartment, he orders a pizza, and he and Davis eat the whole pie. We sit in the kitchen, and I keep my hands in my lap, afraid to dirty anything. Paul is friendly and kind. He refills my soda. I look up into his dark eyes, wanting him to touch me, to show me he still wants me. Only once does he put a hand on my back briefly as he passes, and the heat where his hand touched stays there the rest of the night until Amy and I leave. He hugs me at the door, a friendly hug, not the sort of hug you give a girlfriend. And I walk away, untouched and cold, like his apartment.

I discuss this with Amy for the next few days.

“Just call him and ask him to do something again,” she says. “If he likes you, he’ll say yes. If he doesn’t, he won’t.”

She makes it sound so easy, but the possibility of his rejection is unbearable. I don’t want more evidence no one will ever like me. At the same time, the wondering is torture. So I call, and, surprising me, he says yes, and we make a plan for the following Saturday. I meet him at his apartment. This time I go alone. We head straight for his bedroom and fool around. My mind slips away, body taking over. This. This is what I want. My body in his hands, his face, his breath right there against my skin. It feels good, but not just sexually. His hands, his body, his mouth. He breathes me into being, making me real. I unzip his pants, wanting him to feel what I feel: beholden to me. I want him tied to the memory of me here in his bed. I want him to remember I made him feel this good. I kiss down his body as he stretches out, letting me do what I want. At his crotch I stop, thinking about how I can trap him. I had read in a Cos-mopolitan in my dentist’s waiting room about tricks to drive a man wild. One was to challenge him to a sexual game. Every boy loves games.

“I’ll bet I can make you come in under two minutes,” I whisper, improvising.

“You’re on,” he says.

So I take his penis into my mouth, and I begin. I have never given

45 •

L o o s e G i r l

a blow job before, so I run through everything I’ve read or heard about them. Some spot on the head is most sensitive. Some tech-nique they tend to like best. But nothing seems to make a difference. He is not moaning wildly with ecstasy like in the movies. He is not moving at all. My jaw gets tired quickly. Spittle runs out of my mouth. I feel clumsy, amateur. From the corner of my eye I see the red numbers on his clock. The minute changes, and Paul smiles down at me.

“Ha,” he says. His voice is controlled. “I win.”

I keep going, knowing I have to finish what I started, and after another quick minute or so he comes into my mouth, the hot liquid surprising me. It is gross, but I squeeze my eyes shut and swallow it, suppressing a gag. I heard somewhere guys prefer that. He buttons his pants and gets us water from the kitchen. He remains kind, but a feeling nags at me, staying with me long after I leave. And it’s this: It doesn’t matter what I did to him. He can choose to remain detached, untouched by me. Something I can’t do back.

I call him the next day, and we have a nice conversation. He can’t hang out, he says, because he has a lot of homework, but we can make a plan for the next weekend. In school that week I think of him constantly, twice going silent when called on because I haven’t heard the question. I refer to him as “my boyfriend” when I talk to Amy. I call him three more times, though we only talk once, as he’s out the other two. By the time Saturday comes I’m eager to see him, my anxiety high. I need to know he still wants me.

I arrive at his apartment and once again we get right down to business. I give him another blow job, but this time I feel angry while doing it, put out. Afterward, he buttons his pants and goes to the bathroom, leaving me on his bed. When he comes back, I won’t look at him.

“What?” he asks.

“You always do that.”

46 •

A H o u s e w i t h N o M e n

“I always do what?” He stands near the door, shock on his face.

“What could I possibly always do in the time I’ve known you?”

“Leave me in here.”

“I went to the bathroom.”

“Whatever,” I say. I start putting on my clothes.

“I don’t understand what the problem is.”

I yank my shirt over my head. A small voice in my head rises up, telling me to stop. I am acting like one of those girls, those needy, crazy girls. But I can’t seem to stop it. That feeling—he doesn’t need me, I can’t have what I want—bubbles up, and the words tumble out of my mouth. “The problem is, you don’t seem interested in doing anything for me.”

He laughs, a short burst. “What are you talking about?”

“Do you even want to be with me?” I ask.

“I’ve known you for, like, three weeks.”

“Forget it,” I say. I look down at my bare feet, tears pooling in my eyes.

“Maybe you should go,” he says. I look up at him. “The doorman can get you a cab.”

I put on my shoes, gather up the rest of my stuff. We say good-bye, and I can tell he is anxious for me to get out of there. I know I’ve blown it, exposed myself once again. On the ride home, my dad’s words echo in my head: Everything has to be your way. I look out the window at the lights that line the slopes of the bridge, clutching my purse to my chest.

BOOK: loose
2.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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