By Rachel Esser
She wants to be a therapist, she tells me when I hand her a glass for the cheap rosé she hid in her purse on the way over. For now, she explains between soothed sips, she is a researcher, an academic, a scientist. Hence her fascination with me.
When she laughs, her lips curl up like flower petals, exposing a small gap between her front teeth. Her brown hair falls haphazardly about her face, longer and straighter than my own.
My father, looming in the walls, behind the blinds, beneath the couch, whispers to me.
I ask her if I can shower and she nods, giving me permission in my own home. I slink away sheepishly to the warmth of the streaming liquid. I lather my skin, coating myself in bubbled armor, the effusion of pomegranate masking the aroma of anxiety.
My stomach ripples, the tides of emotion ebbing and flowing, pushing and pulling, longing and forbidden. Her presence, just outside the door, is intoxicating.
There is no such thing as same-sex attraction, my father insists. His words tap at my frontal lobe, demanding to be permitted inside. It’s sick, it’s wrong.
When I emerge from behind the curtain, I spy her through the crack in the door, seated agreeably on my unmade bed, examining my collection of classic books. My father wouldn’t like her, I observe decidedly. She is far too comfortable with her abnormality, too subdued in her embrace of the unnatural.
She studies brain development at the university. I wonder if she is able to unravel my mind as swiftly as she unwinds the towel that I cling to, saturated with vulnerability. She pulls the sheets from the bed, leaving the mattress exposed, a stage for our exhibition. The world is watching with horror and fascination, each corner of the room teeming with bloodshot eyes.
“Step into my office,” she jokes, patting the space on the mattress beside her. I sit down, and her hand slides behind my head, gripping my hair just enough to assure me of her command. Her lips are velvet, and taste of warm brown sugar and cinnamon. My hands fumble over her shoulders and down her chest, grappling at her breasts with inexperience. Her body is doughy and comfortable, a series of curves pronouncing a shapely figure. I trace her roundness, the dips and bends of her hips and stomach, fingers quivering with reticence.
Dampness spreads across my pillow in thick veins, shadowing the splay of my hair. Her fingers sail along my stomach, caressing my face, slipping between my legs, exploring, analyzing, researching.
Tenderness fills the space of love, patience in place of connection. Soft, sweaty hands guide my own, practice maneuvering reborn virginity.
When it’s over, she tucks a strand of hair behind my ear, assessing my perplexed expression. She kisses me gently, offering her approval. She suggests another shower.
The water scorches my skin like her touch. I avoid looking at her glistening body, similar and yet vastly different than my own. I scrub roughly at myself, nails scraping the flesh that clings to me like a poisonous past.
It’s sick, it’s unnatural, it’s wrong.
I swallow hard, suffocating in the steam, and she pats me on the back, mistaking mortification for awkwardness. She assures me of my performance with a tinkling laugh, and my vision narrows, blackness bleeding into my eyes, the whiteness of the tiles unbearable. The water stops, remaining droplets crawling over me.
She twists her long, thick hair in a towel and smiles up at the fluorescent bulbs that dangle over the mirror like severed appendages. The curtain pulled back, I stand in the tub, naked and dripping.
Rachel Esser is a young bisexual female writer and teacher from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She teaches high school English and has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Find out more at rachelesser.com.