While she was being fucked, Sylvie was thinking about loneliness. Not in a morbid or dramatic way. Not in a heavy, sodden, weighty way. Not in a self-pitying or all-encompassing way. Not unending, no-way-out loneliness. Sylvie was thinking of a quiet kind of loneliness. An adult kind of loneliness. The type that is both subtle and necessary. Which can fit neatly inside a person whilst they are being fucked in the garden at a friend's 30th birthday and even as their body melds with another body, quietly reminds one of their isolation. This thought was so compact and eloquent in its smallness that Sylvie was also processing three other thoughts at the same time.
Thought one: Of all the many different words for intercourse (ie: sex, making love, fornicating, rooting) tonight we are definitely 'fucking'.
Thought two: There is something so urgent and animal about fucking with your skirt hiked up and his pants around his ankles. It is clumsy and ridiculous but at this point we're not after elegant and sensual, are we? We want to feel illicit: the thrill of possibility that we might get caught.
Thought three: God, I hope we get caught. Not to satisfy a kink or fetish (Sylvie does not believe she has any kinks or fetishes) but just so word can spread of my broken 'dry spell' without my having to say a word.
Sylvie's friends were very involved in her lack of sex life. Everyone had words to say on the subject. More than words; whole paragraphs. Novels with graphic illustrations. Sylvie's friends started sentences with 'what you need' and 'you deserve' with the occasional 'you just don't' thrown in for good measure. Sylvie was not good at being pitied and even worse at being advised. She would sit miserably opposite them, mute and staring into her latte as they clasped her hands from across the table. 'You deserve to be loved. To feel sexy, wanted! And of course, to be pounded like there's no tomorrow.' The friend's eyes would mist over and then, since Sylvie's friends were all, without exception, over-sharers, would proceed to describe in graphic detail their own most recent sexual encounter. What incredible thing he had done or not done, how their expectations had been met or disappointed, the exact magnitude of their orgasm. "I've become selfish in my old age," declared Annie, in a voice too loud for the crowded café, "if I'm not satisfied I'm like 'that's not good enough! Get back down there, buddy!'" The group shrieked with laughter and two young men a table over looked up, shifting uncomfortably. Annie met their gaze and sipped her piccolo latte, never once breaking eye contact.
Sylvie sighed. Sometimes she wondered if she had been born in the wrong era. An era where women were expected to know exactly what they wanted and vocalise it. She had had sex exactly three times in the last three years. The last two men had both whispered enticingly into her ear "tell me what you like?" which had just made her feel self-conscience, hyper-aware of how little she knew of the mechanisms of her own body.
At least tonight's man had not asked her anything so fraught. He hadn't asked her anything at all. His month was next to her ear now and his snuffling, panting breaths and wet lips reminded her of animal rooting about for bugs on the forest floor.
Sylvie's eyes looked past him and up to the window of the party above. No one seemed to have noticed her absence. Silhouetted in the amber kitchen she could see heads bending close, trying valiantly to maintain conversation against a throbbing electro-pop track. A hand lightly resting on a breastbone or shoulder and then a sudden explosion of head-thrown-back laughter.
Sylvie wondered if the mechanical noises she was making sounded too mechanical. She tried a variation, a sudden hitched breath, which could be interpreted as either 'oh that's a new spot' or 'careful, that was a bit on the hurty side' but in truth, alcohol had killed all sensation below the waist. She didn't mind. The novelty of the situation, the very thought that she was fucking a stranger in a garden was considerably more exciting to her than the actual sex. She was well aware that she would be more aroused tomorrow in retrospect than she was right now.
Sylvie re-adjusted her position. There was something digging into the base of her spine. A scrunched up packet of cigarettes perhaps, now crushed and suffused in their mutual sweat. Sylvie reached up her hand to find something to hold onto. Her alcohol-fuddled fingers closed on the edge of a potted plant which she knocked over just as the man on top of her gasped his climax. Potting mix filling her eyes, ears, mouth and nose, entwining with her curly hair and ensuring that there would be no returning to the party tonight.
The man (Jackson? Jacob? Joel?) rested his weight fully on her, trying to catch his breath, completely unaware of Sylvie's coughing, forcing her to push him up and off so that she could roll to the side and spit clods of dirt onto the garden path.
"Shit! I'm sorry! Was that me?"
"No, no, no! Don't worry. Just me being my usual un-co self."
"Fuck! You're a mess!"
With a surprising tenderness and dexterity for a man who had downed two bottles of red since 9pm, Jackson/Jacob/Joel picked potting mix from Sylvie's hair and then sat back on his heels to survey her. Sylvie tried to focus on his face but couldn't see past the pants still around the ankles and the condom still encasing his softening penis. 'There is no poetry in sex,' she thought without rancour or disappointment.
"I'm sorry, did you...?"
Sylvie shook her head sheepishly, feeling absurdly guilty, as if she hadn't held up her end of the bargain, let the team down.
"Sorry." She muttered.
"What? Don't apologise! I'm sorry!"
"I was close!" she lied, "but the dirt incident sort of killed the moment."
Jackson/Jacob/Joel gave her such a knowing look that she couldn't meet his gaze. She pulled down her skirt and pressed her knees firmly together.
"Yes, of course I am! Why shouldn't I be?"
How was it that he could sit there, so comfortable in his indignity? So calm, so knowing, so completely unabashed by his limp penis while she, now fully covered up, felt so naked, so ashamed of her stunted sexuality.
Sylvie stood up, brushing the dirt from her dress. She searched for and found her misplaced handbag and tried to exude an air of 'well that happened! On with the rest of the night' but still he sat, beatific in his calm indignity.
"Want to sit and chat?"
"I'm too drunk to talk."
"But not to fuck?"
"Okay. Do you have a pen?"
"In your handbag. Do you have a pen?"
In silence she searched and found. He took it from her with his right hand and held her arm still with his left, while he wrote something on the underside of her wrist.
"This is my email. I get the impression that a phone call with you could be a bit quiet but if you want to talk about it, just drop me a line."
'About what?' Sylvie wanted to say but she couldn't feign indifference. The loneliness she had experienced, so compact and restrained when she lay on her back, was expanding. Filling her lungs and throat as the potting mix had threatened to do. 'I liked you better when you were fucking,' she thought as loudly as she could, willing him to hear, to experience a shred of the inadequacy that consumed her on a daily basis. 'Go on,' her mind screamed 'feel self-doubt! I dare you! Know you are insufficient. Struggle for words or just blush! Just fucking blush!'
But he didn't.
"I'm sorry couldn't get you there tonight," he said without a hint of remorse, as if he had read in her face that the issue was not his but her own. "You are a very beautiful woman. You deserve to feel sexy. Wanted. Satisfied."
"You sound just like my friends. 'You deserve.' They are forever telling me what I deserve."
"Good. If you hear it enough, perhaps you'll believe us."
The loneliness in Sylvie's throat welled up and vocalised itself in a hollow laugh which, even to her own ears, resonated with disbelief.
"Thanks." She said.
Sylvie left him there, half naked in the mud and potting mix. She walked inside, up the stairs and into the toilet where she threw up a mixture of spirits, corn chips and earth, then she rinsed her mouth and washed the writing off of her wrist. She caught a taxi home. She never learnt his real name. She never cared.