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.
1. Yes, adult themes. Sorry about that but this story wanted to be written and then it wanted to be share.
2. This won't be up for long, as this is one that I am actually hoping to publish so I'll take it down in a few days but I would love to get your responses before I do!
3. It has been a long time, DA and for this I am sorry. A few of the things that have happened in this time include my show latest show having a show in both Melbourne and Adelaide, separating from my boyfriend of two years, moving out of the house that I shared with him and being homeless for two months. Th generosity of my friends during this time has been unbelievable and, while it has been really tough I have come through this feeling even more loved than I did before. I write this from my new room in my new house with my new housemate cooking downstairs.
4. This story is NOT autobiographical. Or, if it is, I like to think we have all experienced a few of these moments. The moments when you think sex is something that is meant to happen only to other people. I am a sex-positive feminist and whole-heartedly believe in and advocate people indulging in responsible, fun sex but sometimes this is easier said then done. I think we have all been Sylvie, sometimes just for a night or sometimes for years on end. If you are experiencing this right now, I really hope that you can take some comfort from this piece and know that you are one of many. I also hope that you find supportive friends to talk to as communication helps so much.
5. Please do not get offended. I have tried to handle this with the sensitivity and love I believe it deserves. I would love to hear from you on how you think it went but please keep comments clean. This isn't an invite for dirty talk and anyone who has been following me for a while knows that I can hold my own against the inappropriate commenters. Happy reading!
Yes I do agree that the ending isn't quite right. One day I'll have to come back to this one and fix it as I do really love the start. Thanks for your thoughts! Sorry it took me so long to respond. I am the worst.
I wanted to comment on the piece, but in reading the other responses my comment has either been captured in a way that doesn't require emphasis, or exceeded in a way I can't muster the effort to outdo, and it seems unnecessary anyway.
What this piece did do for me that is unique is elicit questions: Do you find that your art (writing or photography, but moreso writing) is impacted in any way (better, worse, repressed/oppressed, or enlightened) by the relationships you find yourself in? Do you think are shame and/or remorse are components of sex, or components of the situation?
I sort of read this and about 1/3 of the way through realized it was an autobiography, and about 2/3 of the way through realized it wasn't. This was before reading your author's note. I'm not sure why I got those impressions as I don't know you well enough to decipher the influences on your writing, so perhaps it was something general. I don't know if that's helpful at all but I figured I'd share.
As always, it's great to see your work. Glad I caught this before it came down.
Um... bits are a little autobiographical but not the story as a whole. What the friends say a few paragraphs in is based on things a few of my friends have said to me and just generally, I think we've all had the feeling of being kind of disconnected during sex but the story is not autobiographical. To your question 'do you find that your art is impacted in any way by the relationships you find yourself in?' the answer is a very definite 'yes' but it is a very fictional and abstract reclaiming of these events and relationships. Hope that helped!
This is very *very* fine writing... up to (and including!) the no poetry in sex line. I didn't buy Jackson/Jason/Joe's conversation. I believed his basic concern for her, his ease in front of her, his unselfconsciousness, even the email address on her arm -- at a pinch. But his voice is wrong. Sorry I can't be more specific. Fucking a stranger (even a new friend) in a garden at a party... hell... it ain't about Satisfying The Examiner! Orgasms are a bonus. I wasn't convinced by her intense aversion to his niceness either, FWIW.
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before anyone asks,
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More