August 12, 2018
On the fourth date, she came over to his apartment and they got naked. She was a sweet, reticent girl, pretty in her way, with a biblical name and a modern sense of style. He was a nice boy, imaginative and soft-spoken, with a good record collection and an eye to the future. They baked snicker doodle cookies before going into the bedroom.
Jon put on an appropriate album – serene, late-night songs with slow, rumbling guitar – and they kissed in the dark. She rubbed him through his pants and he took off her bra. They nestled together on the bed, his hand reaching into her underwear and gently stroking.
“I don’t want to actually have sex tonight,” Naomi said.
“Oh, okay,” he nodded quickly.
His hand continued its rhythm, eliciting sounds of pleasure from her.
They continued to date for another three months. Each time they got intimate, she would usually climb on top of him, her underwear still on, and rub against him until she came. Sometimes he would ask her if she wanted to have sex and she would say, “No, it’s just too soon.” They may have differing definitions of ‘too soon,’ he would think to himself, lying there in the dark. She often puzzled him.
At dinner, Naomi would talk about her job. Jon would ask her about her other interests, but they didn’t have a lot in common, and things quickly turned back to her work. Or turned silent. He tried to probe deeper. “What were you like as a kid? Are there things you feel guilty about?” But she would just shrug and say, “I don’t know. Not really, I guess.”
“What were your past relationships like?”
“They were fine.”
“Why aren’t we having sex?”
She chewed on her food. “Are you saving yourself for marriage?” Jon asked.
“Would that be a problem?”
“No,” he eventually replied. But it would be.
One night, as they walked through a quiet neighborhood, he asked Naomi if she worried about the future. “No. It’s out of my control, so I don’t bother. There are too many other things to worry about in life,” she said, belting her upscale overcoat.
“Oh.” Jon was quiet. Then: “I think about how everything is finite. We only have so much time to do everything we’ll ever want to do. And then it’ll end. Which adds a layer of sadness to everything, but also makes random bad events feel more tragic and destined. So it feels like the suffering will eventually bring something worthwhile. Which trumps plain suffering. Do you ever think about that?”
“No,” she said. “Who thinks like that?”
He dipped his head and put one arm loosely around her as they walked past palm trees and dark front stoops. “Yeah. I don’t know.”
Lately Jon had been running into his ex, Veronica. They were both part of the large Emerson College alumni community in LA and she had started coming to more events. He saw her at a New Year’s Eve party with her boyfriend, Ritchie.
He had an affinity for Ritchie, who seemed like a non-threatening, genuinely nice guy. Jon figured that if Veronica was going to date someone that wasn’t him, shorter Ritchie with his slight paunch and thinning hair was the best option. Maybe Veronica would eventually leave someone like that and return to Jon. Not that he wanted to seriously date her again, he told himself. For self-preservation, Jon tried to focus on her flaws as he danced at the party – her self-centeredness, her immaturity, her hours devoted to surfing diversionary websites, ignoring him, her lack of motivation, her breasts. Her full, amazing breasts.
Jon watched her dance with Ritchie, running her hands through her thick, lustrous hair and sensually rocking her hips back and forth in a tight, slinky dress. Jon hadn’t seen those seductive expressions on her face in quite some time. Not since she’d made them for him.
At the stroke of midnight, he watched Veronica kiss her boyfriend, as everyone around him welcomed in the New Year.
“This is gonna be our year!” someone shouted.
He thought about his ex as he lay in bed with Naomi. At this point, Jon no longer asked her about having sex. He knew it wasn’t going to happen. “The underwear has to stay on,” was her maxim. As it were, an unspoken barrier remained between them, obstructing a certain level of intimacy, forever trapping them on a third or fourth date.
Jon wrapped himself around Naomi, holding her tightly, as if she might otherwise disappear, abandoning him. Whatever else, he didn’t want to feel alone. She kissed him and, in her standard routine, climbed on top, underwear on, and rubbed against his half-erect member until she came. Then she curled up next to him, feline-like, closing her eyes. He watched her, massaging his sore dick, trying to determine whether or not she was falling asleep. Was this worth it?
Suddenly a steady thumping came from the apartment directly above his. Jon looked up at the ceiling, hearing the distinct squeak of mattress and thunk of headboard, a rhythmic din accelerating. He put on another album, and sat on the edge of the bed, his feet dangling in the cold, as if he were on the edge of a raft in the middle of an empty ocean, waiting for rescue. Jon sighed and massaged his scalp, imagining what was happening one bedroom above his. Down here, it was lonely as hell. His toes wiggled in the waves surrounding his bed.
“This isn’t right,” he said. Naomi’s eyes remained closed. She was almost purring. He scooted off the edge of the bed and, with a sudden plop, fell beneath the surface of the ocean.
Yaki Margulies is a writer, actor, comedian, and musician, from Seattle, WA, now living in Los Angeles, CA.
His writing has appeared in Word Riot, Flash Fiction Magazine, Every Writer, The Jewish Journal, and other publications. He also writes and illustrates the webcomic, Moose Hoopla.