On sexting

Sex on Tuesday

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The first time we fuck is over the phone. This is unexpected, though unavoidable. It’s late at night and we’re talking as we often do, quietly and in great detail. Describing carefully our separate days to make the distance between them seem less horrible. My sister is in bed across the room. I’m practiced at speaking under the covers in a tone easily mistaken for sleep-talking. 

And then it happens: Our descriptions move from recollection to fantasy. What would it mean to be next to each other, right now? Imagining her touch is something between practice and experience. Both real and preemptive. It’s the first time anyone has ever spoken to me about my body as something not just seen but wanted.    

I met her my freshman year of high school by chance in a state where neither of us lived, and we kept up the talking for years after returning to our opposite coasts. Our friendship was not new, but the digital touching was. We fell into it more than we chose it. It was inevitable, the one kind of language we hadn’t yet attempted in our cultivation of intimacy. My sexuality is just a series of accidents is what a friend told me the other day, at the summit of a long walk. He meant it as a joke, but I agree with him.

There, in my childhood bedroom, sexting became the central thrill of my life. Phone sex sometimes, as on that first night. But sexting (as sexters know) is far easier and more convenient than speaking aloud. I tend to think it’s hotter, too. I can be more precise with my words, how they look on the screen. I could trust her to interpret my manner, to find the clues in the form of my text leading her to what I needed. It was a testament to our closeness. We could say very little and still know what the other was thinking. We liked to think we were inside each other’s minds. We liked to think as if we were inside each other’s minds.

I’d never had sex before. Not at the time this was going on. We fell in love quickly and critically over text, which was ultimately all we had. Under the logic of iMessage, we could inhabit the same moment. So we did.

Four months or so after the phone fucking began, we got a chance to see each other. She came to Southern California and we left for the lower mountains. Have you ever gone on a long car ride with someone after weeks of texting them to cum for you? We didn’t touch (not seriously, anyway) until we got where we were going, though not for a lack of tension. It’s not that I feared actual sex couldn’t live up, but that we would lose a form of trust I had come to need.

Our mutual belief in being with each other — the kind of pleasure it could produce — was a generous sort of faith. No one had to prove anything, or even make a promise. I liked trusting her with my unrealized desires, which felt safe with her. There’s something special about sharing your body with someone who has never seen it before. She always took me at my word. It’s very addicting, being believed.

I showed her the chaparral, the shrubland landscape I remember my childhood as happening against. I liked my memories better when telling them to her. Once we were alone (and drunk, I think), sex was easy. We could fall into it as we had into texting. I don’t remember what fucking actually felt like on that day, not with any specificity. I do remember we were listening to Justin Bieber. “Love Yourself” became the unlikely new anthem of my time in the closet. I still think that’s a great song. 

No one knew where we were, not exactly. And no one knew what we were doing. The earth knew, though. That sounds stupid, but I thought about it a lot. Being together on this planet at the same time felt ridiculous, and unlikely. Though most everything about us felt insane to me, and we were a fairly dramatic pair.

While she fucked me, I kept saying “I can’t.” What does that mean? she asked with some alarm. What do you want me to do? I can’t handle how I’m feeling, is more what I meant. No one tells you how to express pleasure. I guess porn tries to. But I had never had to react aloud, or experience desire beyond my control. Likely, I was just having my first orgasm. I’m really shitty at masturbating, so this explanation makes sense to me. But I’m inclined to think it was something more, too. The grasses were dry around us, and around the oak trees. I’m such a simp for this. But that’s how I remember it — an orgasm-driven gratitude for life on earth.

A year later, this spot in the mountains burned up. I think about all the fantasies we played out over text, on our stupid iPhones. A friend says this means I’m re-virginized, the place I lost it now gone.

The texts are gone, too, necessarily deleted after our terrible breakup. Being out, now, I would hope all of this could matter less. The secret places for meeting and secret ways of speaking. When I drive past it on the 5, the hills are still blackened. This keeps happening, so I shouldn’t say “still.” Every year it burns. I look at it through the camera lens of my phone, which makes the landscape pixelated and permanent. More fucked up.

Scout Turkel writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected]