Cats are attracted to people who don’t like them. Many chase the cat around and try to stroke or hug it, but it’s the person who ignores it that catches its attention.
That’s the person into whose lab the cat crawls. Even if he or she has allergies.
And so it is with men.
“It’s too bad Cobalamine is already used for a vitamin. It would make such a cool name.”
Julie stops mid-kitchen with the baking plate and makes a disgusted face in my direction before she remembers that baking plates are hot and puts down the nachos. Her big earrings jiggle when she shakes her head.
“Just listen to the word alone.”
She giggles. “I hope you never have babies.”
“Really? Because I’d name my son Cobalamine?”
“Oh my God, I thought it was for a girl. Cobalamine for a boy?”
Julie shouts into the living room: “Dennis, come.”
I frown and focus on the nachos as Dennis comes running through the crowd of dancers.
“Ooh, nachos!” he exclaims, picks one up and shoves it in his mouth. “Argh!” It’s too hot and he grimaces as he crunches it down. If there hadn’t been two pretty girls near him his tongue would have demanded that he spit it out. As is …
“Could a guy be named Cobalamine?”
“Exactly! Sorry, Sasha, it’s a dumb name.”
I laugh it off and shrug.
My neck is tense and I try to ease it up by massaging it. I grab a nachos and nibble at it. It’s just the right temperature. The cheese is still gooey and gives me an excuse for just shrugging her words off so they can change the subject.
The smell of food reaches the drunk people in the living room and they migrate to the kitchen. I grab a handful of nachos and put them on a napkin. I get up to leave my seat when a hand touches my waist and I start.
It’s Erik, the guy only a handful of people in the crowd know. He’s got a grin like a cheetah and hair with just the right, wavy length so he’s a definite hit with the girls who were practically grinding his leg down there on the dancefloor.
Hell, they probably wish he had more legs.
He leans over me and grabs some nachos.
“Uh, do you want my chair?” I ask.
“No, you keep it.” He smiles in a way that’s supposed to make me sigh like a swooning lady, I suppose, but all I can focus on is the speck of nachos by one of his canine teeth.
“That’s all right.”
I scoop out of the seat, away from his touch and choose a corner as my retreat. I continue to eat the storage of nachos on my napkin while I massage my neck. It always gets so damn tight at the end of an evening and I wish I knew why.
And I’m not even drinking. There are too many unknown men present. As soon as you start wallowing around like a wasp that ate fermented fruit they get this look in their eyes. It says “soon.”
The guys I know haven’t given me that look in a long time. Thank God.
I look around for my soda.
“Hey, so who do you know here?”
I glance up briefly before continuing my search for my drink. It’s Erik.
“I’m a friend of Julie’s – you know, the hostess?”
He looks around and nods in Julie’s direction.
“Yeah, that’s her. And … well, honestly I know most of the people here. It’d be easier to tell you who I don’t know but that might get tricky since I don’t have their names and I feel uncomfortable just branding people by their looks. ‘That blonde girl with the blue dress’, you know.”
His brows wrinkle. The non-flirtatious strategy works.
“You don’t know me.”
“That’s right,” I agree.
He moves closer. “Is something wrong with your neck?”
I’m still rubbing it.
“Nah, not really.” I try to scoop to the side but he follows.
His hand touches my neck and starts working on my shoulder blade.
“Does that help?” he asks and puts more force in.
I close my eyes with a sigh and smile. He deserves that response for making the pain, that has haunted me for an hour, disappear.
Somebody shouts that a drinking game needs to be started. It’s dumb – most people are beyond wasted. But the nachos are done and people need an activity.
“Let’s join,” Erik says and lets go of my neck.
“In a minute, I’m looking for something.” I smile and turn around to find my soda. When I hear him leave I feel a surge of relief and steady myself against the counter.
I startle. It’s Julie.
“What’s that about?” With expectant eyes she slurps down vodka and coke, a combination so dreadful that she must be beyond ‘casually drunk’ to down it so easily.
“What was what about?”
She rolls her eyes.
“I think he was sorta hitting on me.” I grab a new soda from the fridge.
“Say that a bit shriller, my eardrums didn’t quite burst.”
“Don’t downplay it. This is awesome!”
I laugh and try to get past her but she keeps getting in the way.
“He’s totally what you’re looking for.”
“I didn’t know I was looking for anything.”
“Come on. Dark hair, brown eyes, quirky but not arrogant.”
“If that guy doesn’t count as arrogant in your book I really don’t wanna see a guy who does.”
Julie rolls her eyes and grabs my arm. She leans down and her lips are at my ear.
“This is your chance. He’s nice, right? And he looks good and I guess he’s pretty self-confident. That’s good. Means he’s experienced.” She winks. “Go for it.”
“He’s probably just faking it till he makes it.”
I squirm in her grasp. A part of me agrees with her. It’s about time I shed my virginity. Apart from a blow job a few months ago I’m as pure as a babe. I’ve never even masturbated. It just doesn’t feel right when I put my fingers down there. I mean, it’s just sort of like putting a less soft tampon up. Not exactly what I’d call comfy.
The rest of humanity seems to disagree with me, though. If the world could have its way we’d be shoving refrigerators up vaginas.
It’s true. The world is so obsessed with stuffing vaginas that I’m surprised a ‘grandma’s stuffings’ self-help book hasn’t been published yet.
“Just flirt a bit with him, get to know him.” Julie sways in front of me with hypnotizing eyes. It’s her date-gaze, as she calls it. “Kiss, find a calm place. If you ask if he has a condom he’ll take it from there. Just tell him you’re a virgin, all right? He’ll love it.”
“A rigid girl with no experience? Right.”
“Okay, try to be less of a board.” She pounds me in the back and gives me a push with her hips.
“I’ll talk to him.”
“I’m not making any promises.”
She grabs my hand and puts me on a chair beside Erik. She pours vodka and coke into a glass for me but when she turns around I put it on a shelf and replace it with my alcohol free soda.
I smile at Erik.
“I’ve landed in unknown territory. What game are we playing?”
He explains the game to me. When he gets to the specific parts about when to drink he touches my drink, and thus my hand curled around it, in an impressively subtle way.
I smile. If nothing else it’s entertaining to see him make his moves.
Flirting is a delicate art, I find.
It comes naturally to people who are in love and don’t know it yet, but as soon as they discover it they become too self-conscious to continue. At least until they train a bit. Julie’s a veteran. She lays men down like a butcher cutting filets at a meat factory. She’s got so much blood on her hands I wonder how she hasn’t grown bored of me yet.
The other thing about flirting is this:
When you’re absolutely detached from the object of desire it’s easy to walk the line of flirting.
I send him a quick look before glancing down and smiling to myself.
“I guess I’ll drink again.” I lift my glass. “Won’t you be the gentleman and join me?”
“And who’d look after you when you get drunk?”
I lean towards him and giggle. “Oh, I’m sure we can figure something out.”
He’s on it.
Julie keeps flashing grins at me.
What the hell am I doing?
Suddenly I need to go to the bathroom. I ignore the shouts about me not having a ‘toilet-card’ and go to stare at myself in the mirror.
“What is it?” I ask myself.
My eyes are huge like a deer about to get smacked down by a truck. Inside the car the trucker keeps listening to his country music, not even flinching about the roadkill.
“Why are you so fucking scared?” I mutter, pretending to be Julie. For emphasis I make some wavy arm gestures as if I was drunk. “You want to.”
“I do. I guess.”
“Then go get it over with.”
I bite my lip. Breathe deep.
I look over at the open window.
There’s a cat.
It jumps in.
“No! Kitty, out!” Julie doesn’t have a cat or I wouldn’t be able to come here as frequently as I do. An hour with a cat will make my eyes tear up to the point of blindness.
Definitely not a sight that Erik would find attractive.
“Fine!” I mumble to the cat. “If it’s the lesser of two evils, I’ll do it!”
I march out there. The round is finished and people talk freely to each other before the next round.
Erik refills his glass in the kitchen.
I sneak up to him and put a hand on his back in a half-hug.
“Oh my God, it’s so hot in here!” I say. “You wanna go get some fresh air?”
He smiles and half-hugs me back. “Sure.”
We support each other on our way out the door into the star-laden dome of night. There’s that smell of spring in the air, that musty aroma the plants use to notify that they’re all about to jump into bloom as if it was a race.
I don’t wear heels and I sense it’s a good thing because I’m supporting him more than the other way around.
As soon as we’re out of the lighted zone around the house he grabs my neck and kisses me.
His breath is hot in my face and the tongue that parts my lips is wet and strange. I’ve kissed before but it never ceases to gross me out.
Luckily he’s pretty horny so he focuses his attention on my neck. His hands already move up my waist towards my breasts.
There’s a garden table which he lifts me unto and then he kisses my mouth again.
I’m close to just unbuckling his belt right away. Get it over with.
On the other hand I wonder if I should get out while I still can. I mean, what’s the point?
I lean back from him and smile. “Wow, how much vodka have you drunk? You taste like your tongue’s been marinated in that shit.”
He frowns. His breathing drops and his body becomes stiff. He takes a step back from me and a desperate part of me swings my arms around him and kisses him again.
“You got a condom?”
He lays me on the table and gets his pants off. I glimpse the condom and then he grabs me and we’re at it.
His eyes are so far off I don’t think he notices me. I try to do the motions but I’m stiff from the cold and the edge of the table taps against my spine.
I try not to grimace. This is like kissing except much more painful.
It doesn’t take long before he comes and he leans on me, sweaty and gasping.
After a few moments he retracts and throws the condom on the ground. I want to tell him to pick it up so Julie won’t have to tomorrow, but he kisses me again.
Really? I thought this was over with.
“Let’s go inside,” I mutter. “I’m cold.”
He nods, reshackles his belt and puts his arms protectively around me. It’s as if an invisible bond has come into existence between us. Like the comfort zone doesn’t apply between two people who just had sex.
We rejoin the party and he keeps embracing me. I cross my arms to create some sort of distance.
Someone notices us and makes a joke. I grin but can only keep it up for a moment.
“Hey, Erik, I need to go to the bathroom, okay?”
“Right.” He smiles. There really is something endearing in his face. Maybe he didn’t just want a quick lay; maybe he was actually interested in me.
I close the door to the toilet and hide from what I feel is a crowd of eyes.
I sit on the toilet. My throat keeps clocking up and I have to swallow all the time. My breath is ragged and I’m just about to either cry or throw a tantrum.
So I grab the towel, roll it into a whip and slash it at the wall.
I do it again and again until I have to hide my face in it and bite down on the soft fabric that’s probably infected with a bunch of bacteria from the long night.
I scream into the towel and it swallows most of the sound.
“Uh, Sasha? You O.K?”
Julie knocks on the door.
I’ve slumped to my knees and crawl around to open the door.
She steps in, sees me and gasps before relocking.
“Did he hurt you?” She puts her arms around me and I lean against her shoulder.
“You can tell me if he did, okay?”
“It’s not that.” I swallow another lump. It refuses to go down without a fight. Seems like it has hooks fasted in my throat. “I don’t think I like sex.”
“Oh. Look, the first time is always a bit weird. Maybe I was too pushy? I mean, if you don’t like the guy –“
“I don’t like any guys. Don’t you get that? I’ve never met a guy I was actually … y’know.” I shake my head.
Her legs shuffle beneath me and there’s this unrest about her.
I peek up at her.
She bites her lip.
“If you’re a lesbian –“
“I’m not a lesbian! I mean it. What is it with you people and your need to define everything through your sexuality?”
I get up, fiddle with the lock and get out. I ignore Erik’s gaze, which is instantly on me, find my jacket and am in the safety of night before anyone can stalk after me.
At first my walk is brisk – almost a jogging. The lights pass over me as if somebody turns a switch above me.
Finally I’m far enough away that none will find the willpower to follow me. Besides, even if they did they’d be too drunk to participate in a proper chase.
I slow down to a comfortable pace.
My pulse is high and blood surges through me and clears my head. That’s what I need.
I close my eyes and taste the spring air.
I moan. Turn around.
The brown-spotted cat.
“Go away. Kssssshhhh!” I spit the sound at it, trying to sound like an angry cat.
The animal looks at me with this ‘no shit, Sherlock’ gaze.
We stare at each other for a while.
Then the cat takes a cautious step closer, then another until it reaches my leg and rubs its back against it. It walks in eights between my legs.
“Oh well,” I grumble. “I’ve already done a bunch of other shit this evening. Guess it can’t hurt.”
The cat cocks it head to the side in what might be understanding and its eyes are huge in the glow of the lamppost.
I lift it into my arms. Cats are wild, they’re unobtainable, and yet this one decided to let me carry it.
The cat sniffs my face and I start walking.
“Just to make one thing clear. I’m not feeding you. I know how you buggers are once you think I equal food.”
The cat miaws.
“Exactly. I wish the rest of the world was as agreeable as you.”