Anya and I had almost three weeks. The flirt and tease of a young forever.
It felt good to be with Anya in this new way. We were no longer ourselves, we were ourselves as a couple, this third and wholly original thing. I was her boyfriend, she was my girlfriend. We had titles. It was like something out of a sitcom.
It felt good but it also felt awkward. I now felt a new sense of pressure, a responsibility that I didn’t quite grasp or understand. Anya was mine and I was hers. What did that mean exactly? What were we supposed to be, how were we supposed to act?
My concerns and confusions took a backseat to the high of coupling. I was concerned and confused but I was in love, which was different from being concerned and confused and out of love.
Anya and I had always confided in each other, but these confidences now came with kissing and hand-holding. It was confiding with benefits.
That being said, the shadow of Anya’s relationship with Angelo hung over us. Or maybe it was the shadow of Anya’s relationship with herself that hung over me. Did the shadow of my relationship with myself hang over Anya? I didn’t ask because none of these notions were conceptualized at the time. They were latent and wordless, awaiting a future vocabulary.
Anya and I were hanging out in my living room. My father was in Atlantic City. My mother was dead. Had been for almost three years at that point.
We watched TV and drank screwdrivers. Anya had poured about half of Boris’s Smirnoff into a jar, and had re-filled his bottle with water. It was a trick she sometimes pulled. I provided the O.J.
Anya and I started making out. It went on for a long, tangled while. I ventured to Anya’s breasts, smoothing my hands over them through her shirt. Then my hands went under her shirt and I was in exciting, unfamiliar territory. My fingers explored the breast-sculpted fabric of her bra. I tried to unclasp the back of Anya’s bra while maintaining kiss-contact with her mouth, like I had seen men do in the movies, but I wasn’t skilled enough and my clumsy attempt at multi-tasking met failure.
Anya took the initiative and unclasped her bra while continuing to kiss me. She obviously possessed more cinematic grace than I did. Once her bra was off I lifted her shirt over her head and tossed it to the side, with what I imagined was a small measure of cinematic grace.
My mouth naturally gravitated toward Anya’s breasts, specifically targeting the nipples. I kissed and sucked what felt like pebbly buttons or rubbery pellets. My hunger for Anya’s breasts was commensurate with the sound of Anya’s desire. The louder and more intensely she moaned, the greater my feeding frenzy. I rubbed my eyes and nose and mouth and chin against the tender geography of her breasts. As a child I hadn’t been breast-fed, and wondered if something innate and primal was kicking in, some long forestalled urge and yearning.
Anya stopped moaning. And stayed stopped even though I kept teething. I looked up. Tears were streaming down her face.
I raised my head until it was level with hers.
What’s wrong, I asked, taking her hand.
My guess was that things had gone too far too fast. That, despite the speed and intensity which flavored other aspects of Anya’s life and persona, when it came to intimacy she liked to move slow.
What is it, I squeezed her hand.
There’s something I have to tell you, she said.
My stomach instantly dropped. The stomach is always the first to know, and the rest of your parts catch up later.
She told me how last night she had gone to Manhattan Beach with some of her friends.
I told her she had already told me that.
What I didn’t tell you, she continued, is that I ran into Angelo there. He was hanging out with his friends.
Angelo’s name, and Anya’s speaking of it, was the landmine I had been waiting to step on. I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know when, nor its setting. Now I knew. Last night at Manhattan Beach. Boom.
We started talking—
Did you kiss him?
Daniel will you listen—
Did you kiss him?
I swallowed an important breath.
Anya, did you kiss him?
Anya lowered her head.
Yes, we kissed.
I couldn’t see Anya’s face anymore. I wondered what it was doing. Then, despite the fact that there was no sound, I knew she was crying because of the way her head shook.
She looked up. I could smell the warm wet coming off her face. Her face was bright and pink and scarred with sorry. It was like looking directly into the open hurt of a child.
You are the last person on earth that I would ever want to hurt Daniel—
And yet you have. So what does that say about you Anya? What does that say about you?
I don’t know what that says about me. I guess it says I’m a fucked up person.
Anya went quiet. Perhaps she wanted me to swoop in and gentle a reprieve by telling her she wasn’t a fucked-up person. Perhaps she wanted me to act as judge, jury and executioner and rip into her. Whatever she wanted, all I had to offer was frigid silence. That sort of silence which deep-freezes the center of everything, even the words you manage to speak—Well I guess that’s it between us.
I waited for Anya to respond. A part of me hoped that Anya would tell me that it was a mistake, a foolish drunken moment, and that she didn’t want to be with Angelo, that she wanted to be with me, only me. Yet my stomach, the weather prophet, knew that wasn’t the case.
Daniel, Anya uttered my name softly, like a small wound.
Photo by Anne Brigman