first time

“What’s your ideal first time like?” my crush of the moment asked me, taking a swig of the cocktail we made from vodka and Ovaltine.

Uhh, with you? I thought as I watched him lick his upper lip, which he did, I could have sworn, in slo-mo. My ovaries must have been messing with my brain.

I’d met him that morning, when he led our group on a hike up the mountain, skipping on rocks like some grown-up, sexy Peter Pan in Adidas apparel while the rest of us trudged along the trail, sweating gallons, all poise thrown down the cliff so we wouldn’t fall off it ourselves. I struggled to keep up with him so we could share bottles of water and buko juice. We were almost lovers—or so my ovaries maintained.

Following the afternoon descent, we camped by the beach at the foot of the mountain and sliced up tomatoes, mangoes, and salted eggs for dinner. After our fellow campers had drifted off into their tents and called it a day, our group set up a hammock and laid down mats among the coconut trees, and talked about the sort of stuff people talk about while lying on the sand and listening to the waves breaking against the shore and trying to spot constellations in the night sky. Since most of us could only point out Orion, we decided to have a drinking game instead.

“So you ask me a question, and I answer by way of a story, and you have to guess if I’m lying or not, right?” I asked.

“Yup. If we get it right, you gotta down a shot.”

“Alright,” I said, not particularly relishing the possibility of drinking yet another glass of San Mig Light as I espied our all-but-exhausted supply of vodka. “Well, I really don’t know,” I said. “I’ve never thought about it.” And I hadn’t—the way I’d never daydreamed of my wedding day (oh horror of horrors!), or how it is to be kissed in the rain—until I got that question. Such things just never seemed relevant to my experience or to my plans.

“Oh come on,” said one of the boys. “You gotta have some thoughts about it. Like, do you want to be top or bottom? Dog-style or standing up?” Our groupmates giggled as if what he said was the naughtiest, funniest thing in the world.

“Fine,” I said, barely keeping myself from raising an eyebrow at him. I wasn’t drunk yet. “Let me give you this scenario then,” I continued. “I’m a grad student on a scholarship in a university abroad. Say, I’m in Tokyo or London. And I’m this really dedicated grad student, so I don’t do hookups, I don’t party. I hang out in the library, or with the same sort of people who talk about the same sort of things—like the future of the internet or the postmodern strategies and allusive images employed in the latest Lady Gaga music video, or the viral parody of ‘Prufrock’ on some author’s blog—except the crowd I’m with smoke cigarettes like they were chimneys, and guzzle beer like they were fish, and I don’t.  I just sit there, unfinished drink in hand, and talk and listen and when it’s late enough, I go back to my dorm and check my Facebook or write a paper—”

“But what—”

“Let me finish! Okay, so one day, say, near the end of the term, I meet this guy, just by accident, your typical meet-cute. He’s not like my crowd, he’s not even my type, but there’s something about his smile and the way he looks at me that just, you know, just short-circuits my system. And we become friends. And we go on dates in hole-in-the-wall cafes and watch art-house films and joke about them afterwards and hop on trains to wherever and walk around the city and stand atop bridges at sunset, staring at the horizon, holding hands. And sometimes he drives me home, and sometimes we kiss—that is, before I shut the dorm room door on his face. This goes on for a short while, until one day, right after graduation, I ask him to have sex with me. It’s my first time and it’s the strangest, most beautiful thing. The morning after, he wakes up in bed and I’m gone. My scholarship has ended and I’ve flown away. And we never see each other again.”

“What the fuck?” said a dude. “What the hell did we just listen to?”

“Well, you asked me to describe my ideal first time scenario! That was that. A few perfect weeks frozen in memory, made more poignant by what-ifs, never corrupted by jealousy or petty quarrels or breakups or marriage and noisy children and even noisier relatives and divorce. Did you expect me to take a leaf from the Kama Sutra?”

Everyone was so quiet I could hear the waves, the wind. I drew circles in the sand with a twig.

“Alright,” my crush said, interrupting the silence. “Who thinks she told the truth?”

No one raised a hand.

“Who thinks it’s a lie?”

“It obviously is,” said one, his hand shooting up. “I mean, what the fuck?”

All the others raised their hands.

“Well, I was telling the truth,” I said, standing up and dusting the sand off my shorts. “And I’m really sleepy, so I’ll be going ahead. You guys have fun.”

I walked away from our circle and lay down on the hammock and pretended to sleep. An hour later they were still drinking, and then giggling and hooting loud enough to drown out a tsunami. I craned my neck to look at them and saw my crush take off his shirt and gyrate in a bashful sort of striptease in front of a coconut tree. I closed my eyes again and this time tried to sleep. Not even the sight of his perfect pectorals could lure me back.

The next morning I woke up early to walk along the strand at sunrise. As I headed back to the camp, I ran into my crush. He grabbed me by the shoulders and gazed with such gravity into my eyes, his eyebrows knotted together as if pondering a particularly complicated math equation. I froze, dumbstruck.

And then he farted—a slow, blustery fart with a discernible crescendo. He grinned and patted my head, ruffling my hair, and walked to the kitchen for breakfast.

I have never seen him or his abs again. So much for perfect moments frozen in memory, made more poignant by what-ifs.



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