|Oct/Nov 2004 fiction|
Annie Kang wouldn't kiss me until our third date. She didn't hug me until date five. On date six, she gave me a surprise under-the-shirt backrub but didn't venture below my ribcage. On date nine, things got intense. I was dropping her back at her apartment and we were making out in the car like high school sweethearts when suddenly she plunged her fingers deep into my khakis. "I touched it," Annie exclaimed, ripping her hand up and free as if my penis were a strange animal at the petting zoo. It was then I figured that she had to be a virgin. Who else would react like that?
"Is something wrong?" she asked, visibly worried.
"No," I emphasized. "Nothing."
"Did it hurt?"
Annie was a salty girl. She said things like "that sucks big dick" and rejoiced in describing to me the grisly details of a yeast infection. She was also a resident—a doctor. She had touched hundreds of penises, old penises, young penises. Cadaver penis. She had answered multiple choice questions on the organ and probably knew how to reference one in medical Spanish. Obviously, she understood that a quick tap on mine wasn't going to hurt, but she had still asked the question.
"It didn't hurt at all." I hated awkward topics and struggled not to grimace. "It felt good. It felt great." I nodded. "I'm totally fine."
"I know you're used to moving much quicker, Sam, but I'm Korean. I
know many Korean girls move very quickly, but I'm really Korean—I'm
not saying they're not Korean, of course they're Korean—but I practice
it." She threw up her arms. "Me being Korean," she said, weighing
each word, "has something to do with me not jumping into intercourse."
She sealed her lips.
Intercourse? I cringed at the term. The windows had steamed up. The car engine hummed, locked in the park position. The mix tape came to an end and abruptly switched sides.
"Are you okay?" I asked to break the silence.
"I'm fine with moving at this pace," I said. "And I totally understand if you're even waiting until you get married."
Maybe she wasn't a virgin.
She smiled devilishly and poked back into my pants. After a few minutes of that, I reached over and slipped my hand smoothly down her tights, brushing into a crop of coarse hair.
"No, no, stop," she said, "not yet."
That was the end to date nine.
When I arrived home I kicked off my shoes and stripped down naked. I had jerked off following each of my previous dates with Annie, but tonight I couldn't keep the focus. I got out of bed, grabbed my boxers off the floor and paced the apartment. I stopped in the kitchen to get a soda from the fridge and gulped down the ice-cold liquid. I had never slept with a virgin. My first time was with the slut of my freshman dorm. I didn't tell her I was a virgin, and she was drunk. It used to bother me that not only had I never slept with a virgin but the girl who took my virginity had no idea. Once I even tried to track her down just so I could write her with the information; she had a common name—Jane Lee—and I wasn't about to send out form letters. But all that was eons ago. I was twenty seven now. I removed my lip from the can. Plus I didn't want a virgin. I didn't want to deal with a learning curve.
Determined to masturbate, I marched back into the bedroom. I turned out the lights. I pulled the comforter over my body. I thought about Annie's tight legs, her shapely butt. How it would feel to slide myself inside of her for the first time. It wasn't working. I switched to ex-girlfriends, actresses, the tall librarian at my law firm. I scrambled for other images. High school girls I didn't get. The blond undergrad who jogged past me that afternoon. Jody from the dentist's office. Useless. I jumped up. I found my way back to the kitchen and drank more soda. With a virgin, I would be the only guy. I marveled at the prospect of not having to suffer through stories of ex-lovers. Or stomach a friend she used to fuck. As long as she hadn't slept with them, I'd welcome hearing about her past. I could be a good boyfriend. And if I slept with a virgin, I'd finally be able to watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High and All the Right Moves without feeling horrible. I had to piss. Urinating into the bowl, I saw that I was still holding the soda. As an experiment, I sipped some down. Liquid in, liquid out. I felt like a hose.
Annie called me up on Wednesday.
"Are you at the hospital?" I asked.
"Does it sound like I'm at the hospital?"
I listened for squeals and moans. "Where are you?"
"Home. Can you believe it? The chief resident gave me the night off."
"In return for what?"
"A blow job," she quipped. "Not everything is a quid pro quo, Mr. Lawyer. What are you doing? Do you want to come over?"
"Really?" I had never been inside her place. She had never been inside mine. The closest we had ever come to being alone with a bed was a Sunday stroll through the John Adams sleeping quarter exhibit at the MFA. "What do you want to do?"
"Do we have to do something? I thought we were past the activity stage, but you know if you need a reason to spend time with me, I got a movie. Have you seen Mississippi Masala?"
"With Denzel Washington and that guy from Gandhi? Yeah, I saw it."
"But I wasn't really paying attention. I'll see it again."
"It's okay," she said, "I got two movies."
"I didn't see it."
"Annie, I just want to tell you that the stuff we talked about in the car the other day. It's not important to me. I'll wait forever. I don't care."
"Well that sucks big dick."
"No, I didn't mean it like that. It's just that there are so many things that are so much more important than that."
"Yeah, like what?"
"Like everything," I said. "You want specifics? Kindness. Cuteness. Moral character. I really respect yours."
"You don't know my moral character."
"Yes, I do. Annie, remember when we were walking in the Commons last week and you saw that guy slumped down in the grass. You tended to him. You made sure he wasn't dying. Who else does that?"
"We're required to do that."
"But there are loads of doctors out there who don't. That's more important to me than sex or how many people you've been with or whether you're a virgin or not." I was shocked at what was coming out of my mouth. I needed to regroup. "You know the crazy thing about the law," I said to her, "is that in the past, like way back in the Dark Ages, the people who could speak very well became lawyers. And now, people become lawyers for a ton of reasons but the ability to speak well isn't really front and center. Isn't that odd? Like me, do you think I'm articulate?"
"Sam," she said, "are you okay to drive?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I'm putting the phone up to my shoulder now and I'm touching both fingers to the tip of my nose. There."
"Walk a straight line."
"Count to fifty backwards."
"I'll see you soon," I said to her. "Bye."
I sat in my idling car outside the Store 24 on Harvard Ave, confused about what to do. I had a streak going: every time I bought condoms, I used them. It was less impressive than it sounded. I only got them when I had a legitimate chance, not on random Friday nights when I didn't have plans. I hated buying condoms. It was torture standing in line with the purple box, all the other shoppers leering at me, knowing my business. But if she was a virgin, then I didn't really need condoms. I could pull out. Problem solved. I was about to drive away when it hit me: I wasn't a virgin. No way Doctor Annie was going to sleep with me without one. "Fuck," I said.
Ten minutes later, I was still there. A BU kid in a pea coat, not realizing I was in the car, leaned against my bumper as he smoked from a new pack. I was wasting gas and I was going to be late to Annie's. Decide now. The smart thing was just to buy the condoms. But I didn't want to force the issue. I didn't want to go to her place and act like a guy who brought condoms. Plus, there was the streak going, and I didn't think she was ready to sleep with me. I decided not to buy them. It was a good decision. Upbeat, I pulled into traffic and headed to her place on Boylston.
I parked in the lot across from her high-rise. Almost no one was out. The street lights pierced down like spears. I huddled in my winter coat. As I neared the entrance, I began to feel nervous. I was hoping she was a virgin and worried that I was going to find out otherwise. I tried to clear my head. I walked right into a square newspaper dispenser. The pain flared in my leg. I shook it off.
I was empty handed. Flowers. I stopped a younger woman. "Is there any place around here I can buy flowers?"
It was late. "They don't have to be that good."
"There's a convenience store down there. Go straight and make the second left."
I ran off.
"They're beautiful," she extolled, gazing at the bouquet.
In truth, they were dying, but I appreciated her generous reaction.
Annie was wearing gray sweatpants and a shrunken black t-shirt that slinked suggestively along her abdomen. She didn't look like a virgin. She looked like a girl who had lost her virginity in high school. But then, she never had looked like a virgin. The second girl I slept with looked like a virgin, and she had been with six.
"I should put these in water," Annie said.
"I'm a doctor." She smiled.
Then it just popped out of my mouth like an escapee from the prison yard. "Are you a virgin?"
She stepped back and refocused. "Am I the first Asian woman you've dated?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"I don't want to be with someone who has a fetish."
"You think I have a fetish?"
"Do you?" Annie's fist was clamped tight around the flowers, and she pointed the faded petals right at my face. "Have you dated another Asian woman?"
"Does it matter?"
"Of course it matters."
I was silent.
"You want to know if I've had intercourse before?" she asked.
"Please don't use the word intercourse."
"What do you want me to use? Fucked, banged, boinked, boned—"
"Annie, you don't have to tell me if you're a virgin or not. I was totally inappropriate. I'm sorry for asking. Why don't we just watch the movie?" I slid my hip past her and leaned against the couch. Two movie rental boxes lay on her coffee table. She had bought a bag of potato chips.
"I've had two partners."
I turned around to face her. The balloon had burst. Yet, it didn't make sense that a girl so taken aback by the mere touch of my penis had slept with two people.
"Your turn," she said calmly. "Have you dated another Asian woman?"
"Define Asian," I said.
She rolled her eyes.
"No, I don't know if you're talking about Indians, and what about people from the Middle East? There's a lot of debate about that. There is."
"Not the Middle East."
"So you're counting India. Okay, now I know what you're asking. I dated one girl."
Annie looked appalled.
"It was only one date. She was Bangladeshi."
"Did you sleep with her?"
"No. Not even close." I shook my head violently. "I swear."
Annie nodded and looked to be ruminating. Then a faint smile set on her lips. "I thought it was going to be a lot worse." She loosened her grip on the flowers. "Did you think it was going to be worse with me? Are you disappointed that I've only slept with two people?"
Only? "No," I said.
"I'm Korean. Plus with my work it's impossible to get out and meet anyone. I'm lucky I met you."
"I'm lucky I needed stitches."
"Has the scar gone down? Let me see."
I lifted my chin.
"Wait," she said. "If you've only dated one Bangladeshi woman for only one date—and never slept with her—how come you know that there's a big debate over whether Indians are Asian?"
"Everyone knows that."
"My best friend from home is Chinese," I blurted. "He was very politically active in college. Plus I took an immigration class in law school."
She threw down the flowers. "Fine, I'm a virgin. I'm a virgin. I've never had intercourse." She looked at me.
"Two Chinese. One Taiwanese. A Japanese girl. Three Koreans. That one Bangladeshi girl. But the rest white."
"Get out," she shouted.
I moved to touch her, and she recoiled. "What? What did I do? Is it that? No, I'm not one of those loser white dudes who only dates immigrants."
"Can we talk about this? I think you're misunderstanding me. I think you think I'm something, but that's not me. Annie, what is it?"
With two arms, she pushed me to the door.
"This is it then. This is fucking it."
"Go," she said.
"You're a virgin."
I was in the hallway. I could hear her turn the lock and hook the chain. I found the elevator. What a stupid way to end a relationship. I felt totally betrayed. I would call my ex-girlfriend when I got home. I'd patch things up with her. I wished I was home already so I could call her. The elevator was taking forever. I felt rescued when the doors finally split. I stepped inside and pressed the button for the lobby. There was nothing wrong with me. She was the twenty-six year-old virgin. Then I remembered a Vietnamese girl that I hadn't counted. I had given Annie the wrong total.
The elevator stopped at the lobby, but the doors didn't budge.