Allow me to bring you back to the sexless years of my college career. My chastity was mostly accidental, although at first it was by choice, and only later was it by habit.
You see, my parents were unfathomably brilliant guardians. They seldom forbade me from doing anything, and yet somehow raised me with a strong system of values such that I often forbade myself from doing everything. Since my sheltered suppression was internally motivated, it effectively ruled my life even after I moved away from home. It wasn’t until after a disaster of a relationship with a lovely young lady who was even more repressed than I was that I decided to throw off the shackles of my moral code and embrace the seedy reality of the outside world.
But the damage had already been done. I can’t change who I am.
To make many long stories short, the following years saw debacle after debacle as my many romantic endeavors collapsed on their own foundations, often at the hands of my own relational ineptitude, and usually not without humiliation. That is to say: the naive and unassuming habits of my younger self would interfere with the insidious goals of my older self, which would result in months of agonizing psychological deliberations during which the window of opportunity to act would have undoubtedly passed me by. Unforgiving be the impatience of women.
As time went on, it became harder and harder to involve myself in the romantic scene as a novice. While everyone else seemed to have gotten their basic training in human sexuality back in high school, I was busy playing the clarinet, and I wasn’t about to jump into combat having never loaded a gun before.
But even then, deep into my early twenties, part of me was skeptical that sex existed at all in the first place. I had never seen it (porn doesn’t count), I had never heard it, and even though people talked about it, I had no proof that they weren’t lying. After all, people talk about Santa Claus too. Is sex mythical? Perhaps. My high school friends certainly didn’t partake, and although the media had me believe I’d be surrounded by it in college, I was never sexiled by a roommate, nor did I ever hear rambunctious lovemaking in adjacent dorm rooms. For all I knew, sex was a lie propagated by the porn, film, and television industries.
It wasn’t until I was about 22 when I encountered sex for the first time. Not mine – somebody else’s.
Allow me to set the scene: It was nighttime. I was alone in my apartment composing music, or at least pretending to. The stained coffee pot had the dry remnants of blackish tar from earlier in the day, and my desk was covered in papers and shot glasses sticky with the residue of Polish vodka. Truth be told, I didn’t drink often, but I cleaned up even less often. A box of assorted stuff sat in the middle of the room – it had been there since I moved in a year previously. I never threw anything away.
That’s when I started hearing a dull thumping coming from directly beneath me. At first I thought it was an earthquake (this was Los Angeles), but it was of a different, unfamiliar character. It was consistent in rhythm, but it grew louder and louder, and after a minute or so I was fairly certain about what I was hearing. I was no longer able to focus on my work.
That’s when the vocalists arrived. At first, just one, but then he joined in as well, and together, they began to broadcast their rambunctious, violent lovemaking throughout the entire apartment complex. I didn’t think it would last long, so I went to the kitchen to make myself a PB&J, expecting it to die down shortly so I could continue working on my composition. But it didn’t. It got louder and louder, heavier and heavier. The grunting turned into yelling turned into screaming.
I cleaned up the shot glasses and washed out the coffee pot. It continued relentlessly. I paced around the living room once, and then again. There was no sign of relief. I had no choice – I was trapped in their production, unbeknownst to them, and it consumed my mind. This was the closest I had ever been to sex.
I grabbed a bottle of wine, a glass, and a chair, and headed for the balcony. It was a warm night in Los Angeles. I popped open the bottle and poured myself a glass, put my feet up on the patio table, and toasted the stars above and the pounding below.
Apparently they had their window open because their thumps and screams echoed down the street, bouncing off the facades of apartment buildings as it traveled throughout the neighborhood. Godspeed, virile young man. Godspeed.
And in the midst of indulging myself with fine wines and the harmonious music of humanity, I looked across the street to the balcony level with my own, behind which surely there were residents privy to the night’s festivities. I didn’t know who lived there, but I imagined a young woman not unlike myself, perhaps trapped in the conditions of her past, perhaps not, and I imagined her stepping out onto her balcony also with a chair and a bottle of wine (she would have white wine since I was drinking red). Tilting her head back to look towards the starry sky (or whatever starry sky could exist in the City of Angels), she would take a sip and sigh.
I would see her from across the street, and she would return my glance and raise her glass, as if communicating a mutual understanding, and I too would raise my glass. We would say nothing, partly because we would be too far away, but also because of the ferocious roar emanating from the apartment beneath my own. It would be best to preserve the illusion of private intimacy so foolishly held by those guests of honor below.
But she never came out onto her balcony with a bottle and a sigh. I gazed strongly at that neglected balcony, pleading with it, willing her, or anybody, to come out and share this moment with me. I needed her badly. But the balcony remained untouched, and the lovemaking ended.
I went inside and stared absently at my manuscript document. Where was she? Why didn’t she come out?