She’d grown up watching shows like Jersey Shore, with girls tallying their sexual exploits. And maybe it desensitized her, maybe that was why Laura found herself in this position again. Straddling a lame excuse for a man.
Okay, maybe lame excuse was a bit exaggerated. He was, after all, her friend. He was a good guy. He was kind and had the look of a sweet guy, even if he wasn’t quite handsome. But kind, sweet guys didn’t get the girls, because the girls didn’t want them. She didn’t want him.
Brian was a kind guy, a sweet guy. He was her friend and she wanted a lay. And he did too. But she could tell by the way that he murmured her name desperately, the way his hands trembled as he fumbled with the condom, that he wanted more than just this. He wanted her. All of her. And well, this was the only part she was willing to give.
He struggled some more and she giggled from atop him because it was just so ridiculous. She would never be his. She was saving her heart for someone worthy of her. You know, someone with rock-hard abs and a face that looked something like Channing Tatum’s. Her fantasy didn’t take into account personality. If it did, Brian would have won the contest for her heart long ago. Her fantasy was a picture of a man she wouldn’t know until she met him. Brian was not that guy.
So she laughed at the absurdity that he would even deign to imagine that he was. And then, just as suddenly, as he still struggled beneath her, the laughter drained and her body went cold. A cold breeze whipped through her insides and froze her stiff.
From below, Brian grunted, finally giving up and tossing the condom aside. He reached up to pull her down, to commence with what they were here for, why they were in his mother’s basement on an inflatable bed.
Brian was unaware of what had just transpired within her. He might have been present but he was far from being let into her inner circle. Friend or not, there were just some things that he would never be privy to. And her heart, her love, was one of them.
She wiggled free of his moist grasp, not bothering to cover herself up as she shifted her weight away from him. But his body just followed hers, her every movement causing the air to shift below them and gravity to pull them back together. Gravity should have minded its own business, she thought acerbically. She needed to be away from him and it kept pulling them together like magnets.
She wanted to scream to the universe to leave her alone. She was perfectly aware that Brian was a perfect guy, that he would make anyone happy. But she was twenty-one and naïve and she didn’t just want to be happy for the rest of her life. Happiness seemed so mundane. She wanted to live in a state of pure euphoric bliss. And she wasn’t about to settle for Brian. And maybe that made her a bad person. Okay, it definitely made her a bad person. Or if not a bad person, then a materialistic one, but she just didn’t care. What she cared about was herself and what she wanted. And that did not include him.
Not outside of this moment, that is.
See, while she was waiting for the man of her fantasies to wander on into her life, she couldn’t just ignore the sensation that burned between her legs, up into her belly, and completely controlled her thoughts. If she did that, she might explode. Men weren’t the only ones who thought about sex every seven seconds. She did too. She needed this. Just as she had needed it every time before.
She had never actually lain so with Brian, but she’d had a whole bevy of male acquaintances with whom she had flirted and led on to believe that she liked them. There was a line of men in her past, like breadcrumbs leading to the present, that she had stripped not completely bare for, from whom she had taken her pleasure and given none. The men who had seen her naked but never won entrance into her heart. The men who were allowed in once and then never again. They were each her friend at one time or another, and each discarded.
She couldn’t afford for their personalities to invade into her fantasy. Her fantasy needed to stay a picture. And as long as the men of her present did not fit that picture, they could never remain in her life for long.
“Where are you going?” Brian asked from behind her, below her.
Finally having extricated herself from the contraption considered a bed, she was jumping from foot to foot in an attempt to pull herself into her tight jeans as quickly as possible. She turned back to see him trying, and failing, to awkwardly prop himself up on his elbows in a clear attempt to look casual. But she would have to be blind not to see the clear neediness in his eyes.
There was nothing less attractive than the face of need.
A woman wanted to be desired. Even a woman just using a man for his body.
She turned away again, muttering curses to herself while she searched the dimly lit space for her shirt.
“Laura.” Her name was spoken hesitantly on his lips. It was more a question than anything else.
She whirled around, her voice hard. “What?” she threw at him like a ninety mile-per-hour fastball, only to feel said ball crack upon her own ribs as it did his.
Brian’s head lurched back at the disgusting tenor of her voice and his face crumpled into that of a kicked dog. She felt every bit the ass she accused men who didn’t ask for her number as being.
Brian recovered quickly, holding up a hand, her missing t-shirt in it.
The moment didn’t seem to want to end. Or more like, Laura didn’t want it to end. So she waited several long seconds before reaching out and taking it from him. Not caring that the garment was inside out and that the four two-dimensional Led Zeppelin band members were now basically reaching second base.
“Thanks she muttered,” as she pulled her head through the hole.
“Is, uh, something, uh, wrong?” he stuttered. She looked sharply at him. “It’s just that, um, you know, a minute ago…” he trailed off. “It just seemed like…”
“Get to the point, Brian,” she bit off.
She knew what he was about. He had entirely expected that within a few short seconds he would be joyfully buried inside of her. She had crushed that prospect, but he no less wanted it. He was trying to work up the nerve to ask for sex without actually asking for it.
And she wasn’t in the mood for that. She wasn’t in the mood for men who didn’t have the nerve to ask for what they wanted.
“It’s nothing. Forget about it,” he said quickly, not making eye contact.
Laura’s eyes darted around the space as if looking for escape. Of course, she knew the exact path to the stairs, could lead herself out the front door, to her waiting car and drive herself home. She could do it. She could just leave, right now. But at the same time, she couldn’t.
Brian was her friend. They were all her friends. But at least the rest she gave the air of enjoying herself. At least with the others she pretended, promised they would do it again soon, maybe they would even make plans for a date that she would inevitably cancel. She hadn’t even given Brian that courtesy.
Not that it could really be considered a courtesy. But it was nonetheless. Yes, she would still in the end never satisfy him completely, even if she had allowed him this one night, because she would never give him anything more. But now she hadn’t even let him keep his pride. She hadn’t given him one story to hold onto, one more notch in the proverbial belt. Now he was left with nothing but the memory of being turned over by her.
It wasn’t that she couldn’t live with the guilt of having hurt him. It was that she just didn’t want to live with it.
“I’m sorry, Brian,” she said sheepishly. “I’ve… I’ve… I’ve got to go,” she stumbled, eyeing the exit. “I’ll, um… I’ll call you.”
Brian brightened considerably as though her rejection was really just a postponement. She hated the lie, even as she exploited it. “Alright, cool. So, I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yeah. Totally,” she promised.
And then she left, with him still sitting there on the underinflated bed. She slid into her car which was rusted around the wheels. And for the first time in all the years since she had been carelessly tossing care to the wind and giving one part of herself to far too many others, she cried. Hot, stinging tears etched their way down her cheeks and into her soul. For the first time in years her fantasy didn’t seem so far away. Her fantasy had faded completely. No longer did she dream of the perfect man waiting for her in the next bedroom, while she enjoyed a passing moment of pleasure in the one she was in.
The tears crushed her dreams and her present. They changed her. Or maybe she changed her. Or maybe Brian changed her.
He was a kind guy, a sweet guy, and he wanted her with such an intensity that he was shaking too much to put on a condom. She didn’t deserve it. Didn’t deserve his like. She was nothing. She was only kind and sweet when it proved to be self-serving.
She didn’t deserve him. She didn’t deserve anything. It was not nothing, because it was not easy to change. It was not easy to change from the person people expected her to be, to someone else. Change was difficult.
She pulled out of the drive, the white lights signaling her reverse lighting up the night. She drove along Route 18, the interior of her car turned blue by the glowing screen of her cellphone, the words “I’m sorry” typed and sent through space. On the other end Brian’s own phone would buzz and he would smile when Laura’s face popped up on his phone. But then his brow would knit queerly and he’d be left with a sinking sensation he couldn’t quite explain. In the morning he would learn why.
Traveling at ninety miles an hour, the pace of her imagined fastball, Laura’s car wrapped itself around a tree. In the fight between tree, car and human, the tree emerged victorious.
Change had been too difficult for her to imagine. But in not wanting to change herself, she changed everything. She changed her life, in that it was no longer. She changed her parents who were unable to overcome the loss of her and ultimately lost their marriage. She changed Brian who sunk into a deep depression, left forever wondering if she had run into the tree intentionally, and if so, if he had been the cause and how he could have avoided it. She changed the small town where young death was always a shock. She changed the world when she became one more statistic.
Laura didn’t want to change. Changing herself seemed too hard. She took the easiest way out, and in doing so she changed a lot, and none of it for the better. She didn’t have a chance to regret all the change she had affected, because she was dead. But everyone left regretted her actions for her.
No one would know if she swerved into that tree on purpose or if she had lost control. No one could pretend to know her mind. No one had been in that car with her that night. And in the end, even Laura hadn’t been in the car.