I was in New York, a place I don’t give a fuck about except in that it’s where she was. But I was there, and when I was near her, I needed her. I needed her when I was far away too, which was, at the time, the bulk of my strife: always longing bicoastally for some girl with an undercut. Living in California felt like my defining feature while I loved her, not because I appreciated it adequately but because it was the thing we didn’t share.
I was still in high school and she was newly in college and that night, in upstate New York, I was just passing through. The trip had nothing to do with her. My dad had been driving for too long, and we ended up in a motel near the highway. It was some kind of chance to do what we could never: the sneaking around of teenagers who want pretty basic stuff from each other. Attention and touch. I wanted her to fuck me as if she’d been longing for it, which luckily was our whole big thing. Yearning and planning. The drive to me was two or three hours from her home, I think. But she did it without a second thought, or more accurately, with delight. A few hours is nothing. Lesbians, of course, know this best.
It was sunset when she arrived, and it was fall too. I don’t mean to sound any type of way, but it was really fucking beautiful. The way the world looks more gorgeous when you’re doing something that seems impossible. And being with her often felt like living out an impossibility. I intercepted her in a parking lot near a sloping field of grass which we readily tumbled down. This is my favorite part of the memory, our playing while the sky did its thing. All I wanted was to roll around with her. And hide in her jacket.
We didn’t have anywhere to go, not once it got dark. We sat on the same side of the booth in an empty Panera Bread; I think I was in her lap. I remember this night as if we were fucked up, high in an ecstatic way on something prescription, maybe Percocet. But we were sober, and together. I spent a lot of time with her fingers in my mouth, probably. That seems right. I imagine we looked pretty stupid like that, licking each other over a bread bowl. Because we could.
Once we had overstayed our welcome in the strip mall Panera (“once” meaning immediately) we went to her car and parked it back outside the motel. We had already had sloppy and excited sex earlier in the afternoon when she’d arrived, which was fairly standard for us: the urgency of fucking over all else. I had fucked her, actually, though I don’t think very well.
In the car in the motel parking lot off the highway, she topped me with the windows rolled up. A tactical decision, as the resulting fog would hide us from potential onlookers. Though I don’t know if we cared too much. I loved being seen with her, something I haven’t felt in the same way with anyone since. My obsession with her became a sort of narcissism, an infatuation with myself as understood by her touching me, and my feeling it. I hoped everyone knew I was with her. It felt like a high and privileged calling: a new, more generous way to spectate myself by her side.
She was intense in bed. We laughed because we loved each other and because the car is a funny albeit classic place to make someone come. Not to be that person, but there’s this Elizabeth Willis line I get stuck in my head a lot: “O, / I think therefore I green the grass I’m pinned upon.” O indeed. She really pinned me. With her, all poetry became euphemism which frankly is the only kind of speech I really like. The back seat isn’t far from the field and we could play anywhere. The world was our grass, and my thinking more manifest in her proximity. Which is a fraught way of saying she gave me a ridiculous orgasm.
Our relationship, if I can call it that, was always like this. Isolated days or hours of togetherness structured by a feverish anticipation of their inevitable end. Going home became a charged phrase. Leaving her never felt like a return to where I belonged. When we finally did have to do it –– unstick ourselves from the back seat –– it was the usual show of despair. I imagine this is something one only gets away with as a teenager: sobbing at 3 or 4 a.m. on the hood of a steamed-up car. We looked really young, which I guess we were. I don’t think I had bothered to pull my pants up. It was part of the show, a performance which was itself a strategy toward closure. We needed to draw things out, and ensure that leaving knew its place in the narrative. As our enemy.
Loving her was fucked up in a lot of ways I didn’t care much about then. I just wanted nearness and wholeness, two things I believed she gave me. And desirability. It still gets to me, how badly I need someone else to make me feel hot, or worth loving. It’s not a unique desire, but I let myself believe it was as we embraced in the dark.
When she tried to drive away, her car didn’t start (we’d somehow killed the battery), so we waited a few more hours for the AAA guy. And when he arrived, I loved it. The extended self-inflicted humiliation, our awkwardness in answering his questions, the mess of my clothes. Time had stretched again, but now, on our behalf. We got to stand there together, her hand in my back pocket. For once there was no other choice.
Scout Turkel writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected]