Alex was a friend of my friend Jake. He was tall and thin with fine dark hair and spectacles and a high color.
We met at Jefferson’s. The orgy was lively, with people tripping around naked, but Alex and I remained clothed and chaste. He had an interesting tattoo on his left forearm and another near his feet, and we discussed our families and our jobs with the sort of fervor that comes from knowing that while everyone else around you is about to have sex, for some reason you are Just Talking. I didn’t mean to Just Talk, but when Jed appeared at my elbow, despite my desire to get naked with him quick, for some reason I could not quit my conversation with Alex. He was a few years younger than I, an academic, with a serious girlfriend with whom he was experimenting with an open relationship. She was out of town for the summer.
“I think you’re really brave,” I said. “I could never do that.” It’s true: I don’t think I could handle the jealousy of not being the only one in a serious relationship.
“I couldn’t do what you’re doing,” Alex acknowledged, referring to my round-heeledness. “The only reason I can do this is because I have Katie to share it with, I can talk to her about it.”
As time wore on we both remained unmolested. But when I announced my intention to leave Alex said, “Listen, I enjoyed talking to you, and I’d really like to make out with you sometime.”
I beamed at him: “Me too! That’d be great. I’d really like that!” I was very pleased.
So a week later we met for a drink. We went to a bar not far from his place, which I took as a sign that we might get it on.
When he turned up we exchanged an awkward kiss, and settled ourselves in the dim, cool bar. Then he bought me a gin and tonic and himself a beer. He bought me a drink! This happens so rarely in my life: I liked it. We sat opposite one another next to a fish tank and Alex told me about himself: his father is a minister, he grew up in the Midwest, and he is a vegan and politically active, things I am not. But I liked his seriousness. It suggested goodness, a kind of moral purpose. Like Evan, but without the rage. And he had been married.
When he told me that I was taken aback; in fact I wasn’t sure that I had heard him correctly. I wanted to ask for details but figured this was not something he’d be keen to discuss, so instead I just nodded when he said he’d married his college girlfriend, but they’d split up a few years back.
We sat at the bar for awhile. Eventually Alex moved to sit next to me, with folded arms. And then he said, “You probably know this, but I find you really attractive, and would like it if you came home with me.”
I smiled at him: “OK.” We had barely touched.
We got a cab back to his place. At the door we were greeted by a tiger striped cat. “This is Mimi,” Alex offered.
“Hi Mimi!” I practically cooed. I took an immediate liking to the cat, who cocked her head at me inquisitively. I reached down to pet her, and her tail waved like a flag. She meowed.
I wasn’t sure what to do or say: it was clear that Alex was even less sexually aggressive than I am. I flirt, but in terms of physical contact I always let the guy take the lead. Alex and I hadn’t even kissed. But now we were planning to have sex. Good grief.
On the walls were photographs from a trip Alex and Katie had taken the previous summer. And stuck to the doorway to the bedroom was a Post-It note. It read: Hello beautiful. Welcome home. I wondered if this note was old or if Alex has put it up in anticipation of Katie’s return or what. This was clearly the apartment of a couple; you can tell because they tend to duplicate books. I was an interloper here, albeit an authorized one.
We put our stuff down and awkwardly stumbled towards one another. My back was pressed against the wall of his bedroom, and Alex’s eyes were closed: “Kiss me,” he whispered.
I obliged. No one had ever told me to kiss him before, usually I’m the one being kissed. Hmmm.
Our mouths sank together and I heard Alex sigh as I wrapped my arms around his neck. His skin was cool and soft.
We edged towards the narrow single bed and landed on top of the thin quilt, fumbling with our clothing. Soon we were just in our skivvies. Alex’s nipples were pierced. This seemed incongruous with my impression of him as a soft spoken minister’s son. “My nipples are really sensitive,” he explained as I gave each an experimental tweak.
Alex’s skin was smooth: practically hairless. The heat made his skin a delicious pink. When he took his glasses off I saw how delicate his features were; almost pretty.
“I so want to taste you,” Alex whispered.
Like I would object: “OK.”
He went down on me while I lay on his bed and all I could think was I feel like I’m being dipped in honey. It was the softest, most velvety oral sex. His tongue was slippery soft and I clenched my legs with excitement. After a moment he parted my thighs and stared at my cunt. Then he folded back the lips and held them there while he licked my clit. This always, always makes me think of how butterfly collectors pin specimens to boards.
I stroked his dick for a bit and after a while Alex said, “Can I fuck you?” I nodded, and he reached behind me to a shelf against the wall. From a shoebox he took out some natural organic health food store lube which appeared to contain wild yam, whatever that is. And a condom.
But Alex had lost his erection: “I get really nervous,” he explained, flopping back onto his pillow.
“That’s OK,” I said, curling up against his chest. “We can wait.”
“Oh,” he said, “I guess I should tell you the rules.”
“The rules? Oh, the rules.” He and Katie had explicit guidelines for what they could and could not do with partners during this experiment.
“Well first, this only happens when we’re apart,” Alex recounted. I nodded. “There’s no sleeping together.” I raised my head and pulled back for a moment. “I mean,” he explained, “You’re welcome to stay over, but I’ll sleep on the futon.”
For a moment I was insulted, but it did make a lot of sense – there would be nothing in the way of bleary early morning smiles and snuggling in the dark with that rule. And if you want to maintain your primary relationship, I guess that’s a good rule to have.
“We can only see other people once every three weeks, and we tell each other everything, before and after.”
I nodded. The rules seemed to pretty much guarantee I would have no chance to become a threat; that seemed fair, though I like cuddling and seeing the men I’m sleeping with more frequently.
“Anything else?” I asked. “I don’t want to break any rules without knowing it, you know.”
“Well, there are a few that aren’t relevant -- no sleeping with people from work or mutual friends.”
I digested this. “What about email?” Like, for instance, what if I wanted to send him a dirty message? Would I be breaching the walls of the Katie/Alex relationship?
“Well, we haven’t really discussed that,” Alex admitted.
“Oh.” And we lay there with my head against his chest, wondering what I thought about these rules.
But I have rules of my own, so I started asking him the questions. He had slept with a total of three women. There was no possible way for me to be intimidated by gentle, kind Alex. “You know,” I said after a bit, “I was really surprised when you told me you’d been married.”
“Yeah, we were really young,” said Alex. “It was more like we wanted to have a commitment ceremony but then…”
“It made me feel like in some ways you’ve more experienced than me,” I said.
The thing is, that wasn’t quite the truth. I think the fact is that I’m used to feeling intimidated by men. But there was no way I could possibly be intimidated by Alex, who has perfect manners and listens carefully and is sweet and endearing. So when Alex told me that he had been married, I grabbed onto that fact as a way to make myself get back to the (weirdly) comfortable feeling of being unsure of myself, of being with a more experienced man.
And then there was another surprise: Alex was not his name. “Colin is my real name,” he explained as we lay sprawled across his bed, limp in the heat.
“Oh, right, so Alex is your middle name?”
“No, I just chose it.”
I pulled my head back to stare at him: “What, really?”
“Yeah. I think people should be able to choose their own names. I like ‘Alex’; it’s not specifically male or female.”
I tried to wrap my head around this. I can’t imagine changing my own first name or being able to not think of myself as Lily. My name is who I am. “Does your family call you Alex?”
“My mom does.”
I found this very interesting. I had never really been involved with anyone whose sexual identity was not firmly male. I looked at Alex again: his delicate features and smooth, almost hairless legs. “Huh,” I said.
After a while we started fooling around again, and this time I climbed on top on him and he slid his dick inside me. His room was so hot, I couldn’t tell if the sweat was from our activity or just the heat. I slipped all over him, fixing my eyes on Alex’s gentle, handsome face. He smiled up at me as I rocked back and forth on his cock, the sweat sticking our thighs together. I placed my arms on either side of Alex’s head and stiffened my elbows, using the weight to leverage myself up and down his dick.
Within minutes I was ready to come, and with a gasp my body stuttered to a halt.
With a sigh I smiled blearily at Alex. “No kidding?” he asked, as if I’d been faking it.
My body relaxed: “No kidding.” I let my elbows give and slumped onto Alex’s body, resting my cheek against his chest. But soon it was his turn: “What can I do for you?” I said, hoping this didn’t sound too waitress-y.
“Pinch my nipples,” Alex said. So I did, pinching and twisting and licking, leaning up against him. He closed his eyes and pulled on his dick while I tugged at the small silver hoops threaded through the pinkish brown skin with my fingers and tongue and teeth. His breath caught. I paused with my teeth clamped around the hoop, unsure if I had tugged too hard. Alex shook his head, distracted: “It’s OK.” And so I went back to mauling his nipples.
He came with a groan, and, again, I lay with my head against his chest, listening to his heart rate subside.
After a while we got up. The heat was terrible, so I went to the bathroom and stood under the showerhead for a few minutes, letting myself shiver under an onslaught of cold water. When I went back to the living room, Alex was on the computer.
“Want to see some photos?” he asked. “This is me at a party.”
“You really look like a girl!” Dressed in a miniskirt and with painted nails he made a handsome, androgynous girl.
“This was the first time I ever did that,” Alex offered. And I guessed that the decision to rename himself had been a good one.
It was late and I didn’t want to go home, so Alex and I made up the futon. It was still stifling, but the living room was slightly cooler than his bedroom, so I waved off his offers of the bed.
“Mimi,” I drawled to the cat, who was watching us while keeping an eye on a mouse on a string Alex dangled in front of her, “Are you going to cuddle with me?” As I would not be cuddling with Alex.
Alex smiled at the cat. “She’s very affectionate,” he said. Mimi looked at us, and then went back to staring at the mouse.
We straightened the covers on the futon and looked at one another. “Well,” said Alex.
We kissed, and shared an awkward hug. Then he melted into his dark bedroom and I settled onto the futon, too hot to sleep. “Mimi?” I whispered. “Come here.”
The cat looked at me for a moment, then she, too disappeared into the bedroom.