I can't believe I'm about to write this, but at the same time, there's no good reason not to tell the story. I'm a grown-up, and it's time I start acting like it and not hiding the parts of myself I'm embarrassed about.
Re-reading that--it's not that I've just now become a man, or something. I didn't mean that, and that's not the way it works.
So, to cut to the chase...I was a virgin. Until a few days ago.
It was Joanna. I never would have expected that. For the longest time, I didn't think she liked me, nor would I have said I liked her. She teased me too much, especially in the beginning, and not all her jibes were friendly. I think maybe I put up with that for too long and for the wrong reasons.
But the last couple of months, we've been talking more, and I mean really talking. And there's always been something like a bond between us. I'm not sure how to explain it, but even when we weren't getting along well, we always came back to each other. We'd always start talking again.
Anyway, so last week, we were walking along through the field under the Edge of the world, talking about the future, what we each plan to do after we graduate. I told her that I was going to grad school, that I'd started the application process for the place Charlie suggested--I don't mean I've sent in the application, I won't do that until after I've graduated here, but I've contacted the school and asked how the process works, what I need to do and when, and I've scheduled a campus visit for November, after our classes are over. While I suppose there's no guarantee I'll get in, I have a good feeling about this. I think this is really going to happen.
They don't give us grades here, but if you need grades to apply to grad school with, they'll give them to you retroactively, based on your evaluations. I actually made that request over a month ago, so, with the exception of my grades for my current classes, I now have the results--and I'm a straight A student. So, between one thing and another, I'm pretty confident about things academically.
Joanna asked me if I were nervous. I told her I was.
"I mean, I've been living here for four years. What if I can't make it on the outside?"
"We've all been living here for years," she told me. "I doubt the graduates would keep supporting the place if too many of them got out and couldn't make it." She had a point. The graduates don't provide a lot of money, but they do provide some, and many do volunteer work here. I've learned that if something happens, it's the alums who come together and keep the place going.
"It's not just that," I said. "I suppose I'll do alright academically, and that I'll get a job and everything. I'm not stupid or anything. But...I don't know how to talk to women."
"You're talking to me."
"No, I mean flirting and so on. Being seductive. I don't know how to do any of that."
"I think Ebony would disagree with that."
"Ebony was a friend. Still is."
"So? Date friends." She made it sound so easy.
"But you all know me...it's different."
"This is about sex, isn't it?" Joanna has known for a few months about my inexperience. Most of my friends here have known for longer, it's just that I didn't want to admit it publicly, by writing about it.
"I'm 23," I reminded her. "And I'm a virgin. I can't imagine anyone else out there is. So, how do I talk about that? How does that conversation work? Who's going to want to be with a guy who doesn't know what he's doing? I'm going to be a virgin forever."
For once, Joanna wasn't laughing at me. She tends not to, when it's really important. She just smiles a little.
"So, let me get this straight. You can't imagine asking a woman for sex because you're inexperienced, and you can't get experienced because you can't imagine asking?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"You know it's not that difficult, right? You don't strike me as the one-night-stand type, so you're not going to be asking anybody you don't know. It's just a conversation. It's not a magic spell where you have to get the intonation just right."
"Wingardium leviosa," I said, that being the spell they use in Harry Potter to make things rise. Joanna cracked up. Yes, I meant it that way. "I suppose so," I added, more seriously, but I still felt pretty glum. The thing is, I couldn't have that conversation with Ebony, and she and I were pretty close. We talked about everything else. So, I was pretty sure it wasn't as simple as Joanna made it sound.
"Hey, um," she began, "do you want to just take care of this? Have your first time so you don't have to worry about it?"
I turned and looked at her, searching her face.
"You mean, with you?"
"Yeah, if you want to."
I honestly hadn't ever thought of that possibility. Joanna and I weren't a couple, or even a potential couple. We just weren't. But I'd always found her incredibly beautiful. Almost as soon as I considered the possibility, my body responded. I think she could tell from my expression because she grinned, flattered, but I didn't say yes right away. I used to think that for real, red-blooded men, sex was the most important thing--given a willing partner, of course you'd go for it. I spent a long time, a couple of years, pretending to be that guy, hence my secrecy. I felt like such a loser. But that's not the way it works.
"What you're talking about sounds kind of clinical," I told her.
"It's only clinical if we do it wrong," she said. "I'm not talking about some kind of virginectomy. I like you, I think you like me, we can do this, and if we like it we can keep doing it. Maybe we'll, I don't know, fall madly in love and live happily ever after. Maybe we'll get up out of bed, say, well, that was fun, and go our separate ways. Or something in the middle. I don't know. I'm open to whatever possibility."
"Then so am I," I said.
It seemed sort of silly to go on treating each other platonically with that decided. If we were lovers now, I thought we ought to act like it.
I touched her face, cupping her cheek with my hand, like they do in the movies, and stepped in close to kiss her. It's not like I'd never kissed anyone before, but I felt really awkward about it because Joanna and I still weren't a couple. We weren't kissing because we wanted to, exactly, we were kissing because we'd decided to, it was an artificial encounter and called for an artificially romantic gesture. And yet I felt about as wholly turned on in that moment as I ever have.
With my fingertips, I stroked gently along her neck, her collarbone, her throat, as we kissed. I remembered Ebony had liked just that sort of light touch, at least in some of her moods, and Joanna must have as well because she grabbed my uniform in feral handfuls and pulled me against her, hip to hip. If she hadn't known how aroused I was before, she knew it now.
But then I remembered Charlie's habit of spying on campus from above.
"We shouldn't do this here," I said. "Trees have eyes."
"You would say that." She doesn't know about Charlie's spying and somehow I didn't want to tell her. It would have felt like violating something, between him and I, to reveal anything I've learned by so carefully getting to know him.
"How do you think the masters know everything?" I said, instead, because we've all noticed that they know more about us than we have ever intentionally told them. Joanna laughed again and stepped away from me.
"Where do you want to go and when do you want to go there?" she asked.
The logistics turned out to be a little complicated. There's no real privacy on campus, and very little genuinely free time. We know that the dorm rooms have no sound insulation whatever because we've all gotten used to overhearing each other. Sex, like snoring, is simply one of those sounds you hear at night. And I didn't want anyone to overhear me. I harbored a fond hope that I could make her scream in pleasure. I worried that I might make her laugh.
We solved that problem. We had the talk about preferred forms of birth control and disease prevention and what we'd expect each other to do if either failed. We kissed some more. And I am not going to tell you any more about any of that.
But yes, we did it, and we enjoyed it. And I rather hope we can do it again.