RICHMOND, Ind. (ZP) -- I'd never kissed a woman in a frigging closet before.
Never did the whole Seven Minutes in Heaven thing as a kid, only played Spin the Goddamned Bottle once in middle school. Actually, I'm pretty sure the last woman I was alone with in closet was my sister - and that was more than 20 years ago.
After showing "Ahab" (obviously not her real name) how to wire a few duplex wall boxes, I'd gone into the closet to turn on the breakers. For some odd reason, she followed and shut the door.
We're talking a four-foot-by-three-foot closet here, not exactly a space designed for two adults. Like an idiot, I thought she just wanted to see which circuits fed the master bedroom. I didn't even realize that, well, my heart was racing, my breathing as shallow as piss on concrete, and that I could feel electricity pulsing through fingertips as she touched my neck.
"Ahab" told me that the first boy she'd ever kissed, in seventh grade, had happened right there in Granny's closet, while in Richmond for summer vacation.
She asked me if I'd ever played Seven Minutes as a kid. I thought she was talking about a board game.
I figured it out ... eventually.
Lord, I'm not that dense.
* * * *
I'm certain both of us knew we were playing with some serious fire right from the start, before closets and lunch.
Ahab, though only married-awaiting-divorce-finalization, was still legally married. And her split from her husband wasn't exactly going smoothly, either. Her Bible-thumping in-laws continued to call, leaving messages on the answering machine about the sin of divorce and God's wrath. Though separated for two years, her husband wanted to live with his new girlfriend and talk reconciliation, too.
And that's her stuff. I'm the Ohio-based asshole who'd shot down her younger sister only a few weeks ago - the guy crossing that Don't Come Between Siblings Line. The tryst leading up to my All Hallow's Eve drama? Ish had told Ahab all about it, about how I had led her on and of how I was hung up on yet another psycho bitch, about how I lost my temper because I couldn't take hearing about how women see me as a guy who refuses to grow up...
* * * *
It wasn't the steamy lunchtime flirting that led two adults to play children's games in a fucking' closet.
I blame it all on a few rounds and a pool table. After lunch, we left the mall and started to head back to Granny's Homestead - I really needed to get back to Oxford to get some paperwork done at the office, and Ahab had to hunt online for cheap plane tickets.
It was supposed to be just one game and one pitcher of Budweiser Select (stuff's not too bad), a quick Saturday distraction. Good, clean, innocent fun.
I blew three out of five games simply because Ahab had stripped off her sweater, down to a rather flattering black manbeater tee. Ahab also had a tendency to take quite a few behind-the-back shots, too, which didn't seem to improve my focus much.
She blew the other two, apparently, because I speak with a slight Virginia twang at times, when I let my normally robust, clear broadcaster's voice slip back into my childhood accent - supposedly, that's cute and distracting.
We talked about the Dwight Yoakam songs playing on the juke, the local alkies camped out at the bar, shared legends of our different experiences in places like Butte, Montana, and New Orleans and Fort Collins, Colorado.
Regardless of the subject at hand, the conversation always seemed to swing back to sex. She hadn't had a non-battery-operated orgasm in more than three years, the best sex either of us have ever had was under the stars in national parks, the worst sex was in the cabs of pickups, the sordid details of my last love triangle fling (Ahab actually predicted the Halloween theatrics), some Wyoming Rodeo God she'd "molested" when she worked bar out West, and the joys of talking dirty.
By the second pitcher, Ahab was touchy-feeling, doing that weird batting-of-the-eyelashes thing some women do, that gazing up over the brow with a sinister-looking grin. And the lip-biting thing. Why the hell do some women do that?
As usual, I was just about the last person in the bar, out of about 15 people, to figure out that, well, yeah...
I think this woman's kinda sorta into me.
* * * *
One of those 15 people was the bartender.
When I walked up to close out the tab, I realized why I'm really starting to hate this part of the country, why I'm convinced that beneath the badlands of the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky region lies a great cavern filled with bad luck demons and sadistic creatures who feed upon awkward moments and chilling irony.
So Jason...are you going for the family discount or was [Ish] just too single for you? And hey, how's Jack doing? Heard he's going for older chicks now, too.
The bartender knew me. He knew Ahab. And, being one of Ish's former roommates, he knew all about the whole Jack Nicholson thing, knew about the rejection last Mardi Gras, knew probably more of one version of one side of me than most people.
His mobile phone was on the bar. I watched the sucker bounce off the wood every time a new text message came through. There were a lot of them - apparently, somebody had been busy.
Hey, everybody loves a good soap opera, right? I'm sure he sent messages to just about every mutual friend he and Ish had in the span of maybe an hour.
I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking how his ex-wife was doing, the one who'd left him after he'd knocked up that 18-year-old in Indianapolis. I wanted to ask him how many high school girls had he lured back to his new place with tales of World of Warcraft glory and the ability to legally buy alcohol.
Ahab was in the Jane. I wanted to reach across the damned bar and choke the smugness right out of him as I signed the credit card slip.
Instead, I simply left a five-dollar tip on a seven-dollar bar tab and left without saying a damned thing.
* * * *
I tried not to think about anything in that damned closet. It's been way too long since I've kissed anybody who actually knew what they were doing, someone close enough to my life experience to understand that some things are better just savored for what they are, to understand that some things don't always need to be filled with excess drama.
I tried to just appreciate the fact that, yeah, I was in a frigging closet with a gorgeous woman in her mid-30s, a woman who's whispering into my ear about how to unhook her bra, about how that Depeche Mode song playing on the radio (YouTube clip here) reminded her of making out in high school, about how my neck smelled.
For those unaware, it's not exactly the easiest thing in the world for two people to move from a closet through a hallway, up a flight of stairs, and into a bedroom while making out like two horny kids. I slipped once and cracked my shin against the newel post. Ahab tripped on trashcan.
I remember jumping onto the bed like a little kid, bouncing about a foot into the air, and then getting tackled.
Then off came various items of clothing, hands started wandering lower, deeper in between skin pressing against skin...
And then everything stopped.
* * * *
"Ahab" was the first to flinch. She'd looked over at the nightstand that used to be her sister's, the family photos she'd unpacked on the dresser, and then back at the guy underneath her, the guy who'd supposedly led her sister on, the asshole who'd showed up unannounced, the subject of both infatuation and speculation.
Wait...should we do this?
That's the last thing I remember her asking after she rolled off of me. Doubt filled my mind the moment she pulled back. Plus, I'd started looking around the room, over at the other nightstand.
There was a picture of her soon-to-be ex, in his fatigues, a guy currently out in some goddamned desert, with a much younger Ahab. There was a stack of what looked like divorce papers and joint bank statements, and a mashed up Manila envelope.
Ahab kept talking; I pretended to listen. I was focused on making out the contents of the envelope based on the indentations in the paper. Three circles, two perfect and one egg-shaped.
Ahab rubbed my cheek with the hand that had previously hosted two of the rings in that envelope. I snapped out of it right as she was explaining that she didn't want me to feel used or to think that the sex would mean anything.
No worries, chica. I should go. Somebody's going to get hurt here.
We both got up and started to put our clothes back on. We didn't say much as we dressed, just a few things about how we probably shouldn't exchange numbers, mutual griping about bad fucking timing, and comments about construction loaded with double entendre.
And then I left.
* * * *
Sex is a wonderful, powerfully enjoyable thing, but it's also a game of chance. The older and more experienced one gets, the more one learns to hedge one's bets. I think somewhere along the line, I forgot that little detail.
The median age of the last five women I've been involved with is 22 years, 2 months. The age is irrelevant, however, when measured against life experience. I've spent time with women almost a decade younger than myself who were accidentally mistaken for doctoral candidates at the Local U., adult entertainers who are more well-read and intelligent than most academicians, women who defy expectation and the calendar with the best of them.
I've also been involved with some women in the last two years so sheltered and inexperienced that I question whether or not culturally retarded should be considered a legal disability. I've spent time with women who I've, in all honesty, been able to predict almost every melodrama, every childish tirade, every moment of passion. I've been able, for the most part, to control my passions from behind a nice, tidy wall of rather chaotic worldly experience.
As I drove back to Oxford, I realized something important, something about myself. For as much as I bitch and whine about wanting a mature, normal relationship, I've never really committed to making mature, healthy choices that lead to those types of relationships.
It took making out in a frigging closet in the middle of Indiana to realize that.
More importantly, it took having to drive 20 miles back to Oxford after making out in a frigging closet to realize that.
Yes, Virginia, there is indeed such a condition as the infamous Blue Balls. Sometimes, one can learn from such an evil, evil pain, can learn that there's a reason why Man was given a brain to counteract simple lust.
There is an art form to driving a manual-transmission Ford down a bumpy backcountry highway, with a cup of ice in between one's legs for... err... comfort.
I learned that trick a long time ago, back was I was a kid, back when some folks were learning how to play Seven Minutes in Heaven and Spin the Goddamned Bottle.
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