Friday, January 23, 2015

More than a Hooker, Less than a Woman

Just Another Number excerpt
Number 23

       Once I started to pay attention, Number 23 and I were magnetic. Over emails, over phone, over Skype, I fell in love with him. I fell in love through devices, through screens, through surfaces that my nails would tap against if I reached out to touch him. I often thought about being with him. I imagined the details like the scent of his skin, the warmth of his neck, and the softness of his lips. Those thoughts kept me company during my hectic academic deadlines, dense reading assignments, and one after another brain cramming session. They stood as an unsatisfying substitute.
Number 23 had plenty of redeeming qualities that made falling for him a justifiable accident. But our connection had nothing to do with our similarities, our differences, our aesthetic attractions, or our emotional and physical needs. When we spoke, he was truly with me. Our egos, our personas, expected social cues, the facades that everyone builds around them that are supposed to sculpt the way the world sees us, were stripped with Number 23 and I. He was immediately my best friend, familiar and safe - an epiphany that I had been spending my life alone in crowded rooms.
            Our souls were naked. We initially curled into the warmth of that connection. But once we knew how real it was, we felt exposed, vulnerable, and raw. While his defense was his fearful recoil, mine was dictation. 
            Neither of us were what the other had in mind. I considered him an emotional fluke. His life experience contained the grit of an infant compared to mine. He was accustomed to the type of girls who said “ya’ll,” called everybody “hun,” wore sundresses to church, baked lemon bars for their sorority fundraisers, and vowed to be wives by their early twenties.
Number 23 was the type of guy who took girls to movies and made small talk with their fathers at July 4th picnics. He seemed so perfectly wholesome, like something that should have been delivered to my doorstep wrapped in a plaid bow. Number 23 represented the south, my family, and the military.
It seems quite bizarre how much I loved one big bundle of all of my demons, but that may have been his core appeal. If he could embrace me, there was a chance I could become tolerable, even passable in those worlds that considered me a plague.
            I snuck up on him, too. I’m sure Number 23 looked over my photos and saw a cute blonde, merely a twenty-something version of the girl who roamed his high school halls. Sure, I was attending a fancy school on the west coast, was obviously smart and a bit more cultured than cliché southern belles, but I was harmless enough. But as we unfolded our personalities, he got to know a woman with a past, a woman who’d been through drug use, eating disorders, military scandal, world travel, and a significantly heftier sexual history. Number 23 was just beginning to set foot on the paths I’d been trekking for years.
At first, he marveled in my stories, my unapologetically bold personality, and my profane dialogue. He gradually indulged in pushing his conversational limits.

Number 23: So, uh, I had an interesting experience yesterday.
Me: Oh? What was that?
Number 23: Well, when I whack off, it’s usually in the shower. It’s the only place I can get privacy out here.
Me: Okay…
Number 23: And the last time I did it, I kind of brought you into the fantasy.    
            The gentlemanly Number 23 would have never made such a crude statement to a lady. But I was not a lady. Sure, I was intelligent and strong, but I dared to be wide open. I was Maggie Young, chaser of boys, writer of scandal, dropper of f-bombs, tits on a stick. 
Number 23 was enamored when I was the truest version of myself. It was evident in the way his eyes seemed to dance in fascination during our Skype conversations.
            “This is amazing,” he would say every now and then, halting our conversation like a runner who needed to catch his breath. “This is perfect. These talks. I love them so much. You’re ADD like me. You can keep up with me. We bounce around and it never gets boring. I’ve never had conversations like this with anyone in my life.”
            But everything that he liked about me suddenly made me the female of steel - the mutant. Without precautions and considerations that were a requirement with anyone else, Number 23 loosely flung details of other women at me.
            He elaborated on his 4’10”, ninety-pound ex girlfriend and the blonde, high school sweetheart who wanted to become an actress who he still harbored feelings for. The grandiose look he got in his eye when he spoke of both of them made me flinch, but Sheryl was by far the most gruesome of the monsters. When he returned to our homeland for the holidays, she would be waiting. 
            “She’s the best friend of Joshua’s girlfriend,” he informed me. “We clicked right away and had amazing conversation. We had sex a few hours after we met, which is crazy because I was only the second guy she had sex with.”
            That stung, especially when I remembered Number 23’s judgmental grimace when we dished our Numbers: his four against my twenty-two.
I understood why Number 23 felt at ease with mentioning other women. I came off as the casual “cool girl” who was far too busy with my ambitions to give heed to pointless emotions like jealousy. But was it necessary for him to tell me about their romantic weekend when he snuck her away to his family’s lake house? Did he have to glorify her value in introducing him to his love of the outdoors? Was he obligated to inform me about the bush between her thighs and their premeditated hookup I would be scraping off leftovers from?

His unfiltered conversation topics reminded me of my female sailor status: More than a hooker, less than a woman. I was a brick wall he could chuck rocks at all day and not feel a thing. But they hurt. God, they hurt.

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