In My Hand

I don’t know if anything really happened to me, just a lot of living went on in a short amount of time. My first sexual experience is somewhat telling, perhaps. It was with a girl I never actually had sex with, in fact. I was 18, away at school when I fell in love for the first time — with a mess of a girl.

Aryn was twenty-four years old, my age now. And I was such a baby then. She was brilliant, driven, and hardened by a most disturbing past rife with every kind of abuse a child can be made to endure. She had bright blue eyes that shined when she was pleased, and a powerful voice that caught my attention the first time I heard her.

It was my third week in college, and I had walked into a room full of clusters of chattering students that all seemed to know each other. I sat down at a desk near the door, trying to look casual as I glanced around the room, but when I heard a quietly penetrating voice and then a burst of laughter I turned sharply. By the chalkboard sat a round-faced girl with a black bandana holding back long red hair from her face, which was crinkled in an open smile. Next to her was the boy who had made her laugh. His back to me, I was free to study his form, and smiled at short blond hair sprouted out of his head in an unruly mess.

He had strong shoulders, athletic arms and a tight torso showed off by a fitted white t-shirt. He wore baggy jeans with too many pockets, and black thick-soled shoes. Just then he turned around to call the meeting to order, and I found myself looking into his face¦ and was surprised to see the face of a beautiful young woman.

Aryn was involved when I met her, living with her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s piles of books gathered over years of graduate studies of some foreign past. The girlfriend was a tall, lanky woman always slouched over a book, with dark eyes hidden behind dark glasses and layers of dark hair. She was a mystery to me, always with a far-away look, inaccessible. And of course, I only heard about the unpleasant side of her. How she was cold and unkind, and couldn’t understand Aryn. Not like I did.

I listened and reflected back, pointing out patterns that Aryn couldn’t see, working with her on overcoming defenses, gently peeling down the layers between us using all of the therapeutic techniques I grew up learning as the daughter of a psychiatrist.

When her girlfriend was impatient, I was peaceful and soothing. I held her when she would let me, even though she wouldn’t cry and usually pulled away quickly. I think she was overwhelmed with my unfettered outpouring of affection for her, and by my lack of internalized homophobia or any puritanical bindings from youth. I was free to love her, having been raised in a loving home, for so many years unaware of the realities of the world she had suffered.

And with the promise that hung in the air that I could be the first to love her unconditionally — yes at 18 I played savior — she struggled out loud about leaving her girlfriend. Of course, she never planned to leave her for me, but then, of course, I believed that she would. I believed everything that she told me. She may have been the first person to lie to me about something important. She told me she loved me.

For months she never kissed me, but touched my hands, stroked my cheek, looked at me with sex in her eyes, and then went home to her girlfriend, leaving me tortured. She always said that she couldn’t let herself hurt me, and I never understood until years later what that meant. You’re so young, she’d say, you’re a baby, you’re pure and innocent, I can’t touch you, I won’t. Trust me, I’d say, I’m stronger than you think, I can deal with all of your pain, I’m not giving up, I won’t let you go, I want to be here, I can take it. She was scared, scared to let go of the threads that held her life together, not scared for me.

One morning we were arguing on the steps behind a classroom building on campus. I was sitting on the railing, my feet dangling below, and she was standing in front of me, arms crossed tight around her chest. I had gone to one of her classes to hear a lecture on¦well I can’t even remember what it was on, but we were on fire. Debating fiercely, equally stubborn, in raised voices, and I jumped down off of the railing and held my ground, chin up¦and I remember suddenly realizing that we were the same height and that I didn’t have to look up to see her.

Right then we fell silent. She looked at me, sizing me up, and I held her gaze with all of the courage I could muster up, my brow furrowed in concentration, I would win this time. I remember distinctly, how she put her hands on my waist and pulled me to her, unexpectedly forceful, catching me off-balance. She kissed me then, hard, urgently, and then softer, and then deeper, and then the world stopped moving altogether. And it was¦ it was like people say. I lost myself there. I felt her in my whole body, I felt an unfamiliar heat spreading through me, out to my fingertips, which found her cropped hair and tugged insistently, crawled down her neck, dug into the skin there, out to her shoulders.

And then she pulled away and sat down on the hard steps with her face in her hands, finally crying for me.

I convinced Aryn then to tell her girlfriend the truth, that she wanted me. Of course in my naiveté I thought this meant telling the girlfriend that she was leaving her to be with me, and I knew it would be intimidating but I would be brave and deal with it somehow.

I went to their small apartment that night, and the three of us sat there talking, cross-legged on the floor. The girlfriend made chicken for dinner, but I couldn’t eat, and instead stared at the lifeless flesh on my plate in anticipatory agony.

It was all very fast – Aryn told her that she wanted to kiss me, and that she had wanted to for some time and had to be honest about it. The girlfriend smiled at her, then at me, and shrugged. That’s okay with me, she said, if you want that to be part of your relationship, that doesn’t bother me.

I was so lost then. In retrospect, I have to believe that they had discussed this beforehand, and planned for the moment to go like this. It was beyond my comprehension at that stage in my life; I knew nothing of open relationships — I didn’t really know anything about sexuality even, or what happened in their bedroom. I only knew I wanted to be with Aryn badly enough to stay there that night, even though it meant staying in the bed that they shared, with both of them.

I remember staring at the textures in the ceiling, lying there in Aryn’s pajamas, cold, confused, trying again and again to swallow the lump in my throat. Aryn was next to me, naked under the sheets, and her girlfriend was fast asleep on the other side of the king-sized mattress. It was hours after we had gone to bed that I felt Aryn’s hand on my wrist, and she pressed hard, and then took my hand to her mouth and kissed my palm, and then her tongue was there, moving between my fingers, and I whimpered softly, aching, needing¦ I didn’t know what.

I turned on my side and looked at her, pleading, and she moved in and kissed me for the second time that day, and the room went out of focus, and I felt dizzy, and she pushed my shoulders into the bed, and I couldn’t move. I didn’t have to, she was moving for me, kissing my neck, running her fingers over the ache in my stomach that was scorching my insides. I was so terrified of the control she had over me that I was sure I was going to throw up.

My head fell back and my mouth opened and a sound came out that I had never made before, and her hand reached up to cover my mouth, and then I couldn’t breathe. And then I heard the girlfriend awaken, and I froze, petrified, so sure she would be angry, not knowing what to do. She crawled over, and then I saw her face and puzzled at her smile. The girlfriend touched my knee, ran her fingernails up my leg, and I found my voice somehow and no, stop, please, I¦ I can’t¦

She looked patronizingly down at me, shrugged and pushed Aryn down on her back next to me, and then disappeared under the sheets. Aryn found my hand, laced her fingers through mine and I sat up and looked into her eyes that were focused on mine¦and then her eyes rolled back, and for the first time in my life I witnessed an orgasm that didn’t belong to me, I held it in my hand.

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