Even Steven

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Even Steven

My mother got sick on her Asian Simmered Halibut with Rice Wine in May, 2002. Because of that, Bradley and I didn’t have sex that Friday night. We didn’t get it on until a Saturday night in June, 2012, ten years after college and five years into my marriage. When that Saturday night finally came I think I was certain I was going to do it, but if there was any smidgen of doubt left in me then it had to be the wedding that pushed me those last few inches.

You know about women and weddings? They made a whole movie about it a few years ago: The Wedding Crashers, in which Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson spend the first twenty minutes of the movie harvesting the low-hanging fruit of bridesmaids intoxicated into a bleary frenzy of romance-ignited lust by participation in their BFF’s big day.

I heard from Bradley when he posted a greeting on my Facebook. I could have replied there or on his Facebook, but in the ten years since we graduated from college we’d stayed in touch sporadically, so I had an e-mail address for him. He, I presumed, still had my e-mail address, and that lead to my first dilemma: had he gotten in touch through my Facebook because he no longer had my address? Or did he have the address, but approached in a public way to see through what channel I would respond?

If I had to mount a defense of my behavior in this episode I couldn’t. First, I took the private, e-mail option. Second, I’m the one who brought it up. I really should have made him mention it first.

Hey Brad!
I haven’t heard from you in forever! How are you? Haven’t seen you since graduation. Well, yeah, you had to fly home the day before, so I guess I really haven’t seen you since that night.

There was more to my message, but that’s really all that had to be said.

Anny!
Sorry so long. I almost made it up for your and Steven’s wedding. Thanks for the invite. But in the end just couldn’t make it. Speaking of which — little sis is swapping vows and wedding rings (world’s smallest handcuffs! yuk-yuk!) on Saturday. Wanna hook up?
Brad
PS — Yeah, that night.

Bradley isn’t married, and at this point it appears apparent he likely never will be. The use of the term ‘hook up’ was a bit of overkill. Just the sighing ‘Yeah, that night’ in the PS would have been enough.

B –
DON’T. I’ve never spelled my name that way except for one week freshman year when I just had to prove I knew a better way to spell Annie than my folks or the rest of the world ever thought of.
A
PS: Yeah I do (I think).

Well, I had to be a little coy. Right?

A
C’mon to the wedding.
B

B –
Love to but my invitation must have gotten, you know, lost in the mail.
A

A
It’s just a small affair out at the Shrine. A few family and friends. I get to bring someone, so that someone can be you. OK?
B

B –
Okay. Steven’s out of town. I could use something to do.
A

That was the last crucial piece of information we needed to establish. The fact that all these messages flew back and forth inside of an hour is just more evidence for the prosecution. So, Bradley came up for his sister’s wedding. She’d gone to UAS also, and she’d ended up staying.

We had a long run of sunny weather in Juneau that late May and first half of June in 2012, when Bradley’s little sister got married. For nineteen days the sky was almost cloudless. I’m glad of that. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this story is heading toward some sort of personal calamity. Juneau, Alaska is probably the best place in the world for personal calamities. It’s cloudy and rainy all the time: the perfect setting for interior crises. As bad as Sweden. Worse, really. Ingmar Bergman’s film oeuvre notwithstanding, Alaska has a suicide rate half again as high as Sweden. But the sun shone high and bright and long – over eighteen hours near the Summer Solstice – through all this. It’s like it all happened on a stage: nowhere to hide, no mealy-mouthed excuses about how depressed the weather made me feel. It was all as brightly lit as an operating room.

So, the wedding was a wedding. Better than that, really. The setting, especially on a sunny day, is magnificent: The Shrine of St. Therese. A small stone chapel sits on a tiny isle four hundred feet from the coast. Before the chapel could be built a causeway, constructed by hand, had to be established from the beach to the island. Then the chapel was built among stately firs. The ceremony was lovely and moving and, sitting in the chilly chapel, I found myself hoping that Bradley’s sister or her guy didn’t have any unfinished business waiting to cut a swath of mayhem through their lives at some future date.

The unfinished business. I mentioned the wedding at the beginning, but I also mentioned my mother getting sick. The wedding happened in this story’s present: the late spring of 2012, but my mother getting sick happened ten years before, and that’s what led to the unfinished business.

It was Friday, a couple days before graduation. I’d known Bradley since freshman orientation. We were close. pendik escort We argued at times, which is how we knew that if we wanted to get closer it might work. There was enough tension between us to get a relationship rolling, and from there it would eventually either come together or fly apart. But, as much as we were able to hone our flirting techniques on each other for use on third parties, we never took the step.

I grew up in a house just a mile and a half from the University of Alaska Southeast along Fritz Cove Road. I could walk or bike to campus, even in the rain. There’s no more affordable education than the Alaska university system on in-state tuition and living and eating at home. I graduated with all my permanent fund money still in my T. Rowe Price account, although I had to dip into it some for graduate school. Bradley and some other friends were frequent visitors at our house.

Just Bradley was over that Friday. My mother and father said good night and left for dinner and then a play at Perseverance Theater. Bradley and I talked about going out for a movie, but nothing struck our fancy. We took a walk down to the stony, placid shore of Auke Bay. It was the first week in May in that year of 2002. The just-after-sunset, dusky light, and a few small orange and pink clouds were perfect to give you that feeling of being totally settled and satisfied while at the same time aching with the knowledge that it was the perfect time for something significant to happen.

Then we made our way back to the house, an arm around the other’s waist. Once inside we were kissing. I don’t know who started it. I guess we both did. But there wasn’t anything hesitant about it. We were too old for over-the-shirt, then under-the-shirt-over-the-bra, then push-the-bra-up, then unhook-the-bra. No, we pretty much went at it and got naked without much ado. Then we had a moment of, you know, just laying out the conditions. Yours truly led the way.

“What are we doing?” I asked.

“Duh.”

“Yeah, I know. But we graduate in a couple days.” Bradley was from Portland and would be returning there. In fact, he had to leave for family reasons the next day, the day before graduation.

“What would you like us to be doing?” Bradley asked. He was leaning toward me, placing little kisses on the side of my neck.

I thought I knew what we both wanted in that particular moment. I knew what I wanted. It wasn’t my first time. Sex was still enough of a novelty for me, though, that anticipation of the pleasure and intimacy made me delirious. I was a young woman (and at this point in my life I’m amazed to think of myself as ever having been that young) who had been raised in a (relatively) proper household. So, burbling under everything – as I got ready to do it with someone I had no likelihood of ever having even the illusion of a romantically committed and loving relationship with – my mind hummed an almost imperceptible, troubling dissonance composed of the words ‘slut’ and ‘skank.’ I was a college-educated woman, though, so I was able to conjure a mental boot and stamp that nonsense into submission. I was sure Bradley wasn’t just knocking off a piece, that he was sincere. Yeah, it could be with Bradley: a tender embrace before parting and a sweet remembrance to take with us, with someone who had been dear to me for a long time and could perhaps have been much more. I was fine with that.

“I want us to do something we’ll remember for a long time when we’re far apart,” I said. He was sitting back now and looking at me, and as I spoke I kept my eyes on Bradley’s, alert for whatever they might unintentionally tell me.

“I’m good with that too, Annie,” Bradley said, and his eyes were in perfect agreement with his words.

We were on the couch, Bradley sitting back and I facing him from the side. With the compact signed and sealed, I moved to face him and swung a leg over his lap. He was half into me (or I was half onto him, however you care to look at it; but I’m sure we both looked at my vagina as being half full rather than half empty), and Bradley’s mouth had just started on my breasts when the garage door opener clanked on.

I thanked my lucky stars I didn’t have to pee. I would have let loose. Wouldn’t that have been a sweet memory to carry into our futures?

I don’t think we would have had enough time except that mom had to stop in the garage and hurl halibut chunks all over the lawn mower. So by the time mom and dad came through the door from the garage Bradley was out of the downstairs bath, and I was out of my room and down the stairs, dressed again. There wasn’t really a need for panic. We could have just gathered our clothes and gone to my room and finished. I mean, I was graduating college, not in high school. Mom, and even dad, would have respected our right to be adults, because we were. I guess it was the rude shock of the moment that made us instinctively react like guilty adolescents.

Mom and dad ate dinner at one of Juneau’s oriental restaurants. Juneau’s a small town so I’d feel more comfortable kartal escort not naming which, but it’s the one that puts a boatload of MSG into everything. Dad had been driving from the restaurant to the theater, and it took mom a minute to convince him she was serious that they had to turn around and go home right now. She’d had the Asian Simmered Halibut with Rice Wine, and the joke our family carried forward from the event was that she must have misunderstood and thought it was catch and release.

The mini-crisis had Bradley on his way a short time later, after a few kisses that were more than pecks on the lips but that really weren’t sure what they should be beyond that. That’s the last time we saw each other before he picked me up to attend his sister’s wedding ten years later.

Back in 2012, the guest list for the reception was much more extensive than for the ceremony. We stayed long enough to eat and watch the major events like the cake cutting, and first dance, and for Bradley to dance with his sister. Then we made our exit without anyone noticing.

So, you must be thinking, ‘Great! More sex again so soon. And this time I think they’re going to make it to the money shot.’ But I have to take one more detour before we get there. If you’ve been an attentive reader then you’ve probably said to yourself, ‘Back when they were doing the e-mails didn’t Bradley mention something about not being able to attend Annie’s wedding? So where’s this hubby? What was his name? Steven?’

Almost there.

I went up to the University of Alaska campus in Anchorage for my Education Masters, and was there for three years. I enjoyed the program, and spending time on a larger campus and in a more cosmopolitan city. My big find there, though, was Ginny, a short, slight redhead with a spray of freckles and a bit of a potty mouth, but also someone who became a fast, tight, and trusted friend. She’s never let me down. You’ll meet Ginny further along in the story. When I got back to Juneau it was a year and a half before I landed my first teaching job with the district. It was a fill-in for a teacher who had to leave after the first trimester, but then I got my own full-time job the following year, and I’ve been teaching in the district ever since. I met Steven shortly after returning to Juneau. He was new to Southeast Alaska, transferred here by Hecla Mining to work at its Greens Creek Mine on Admiralty Island. We married two years and eleven days after we met.

Hecla has another mine, The Lucky Friday Mine in Idaho that was closed for most of 2012 for reclamation work. They wanted Steven down there to work on the management team for a part of the project. So he was gone for May, June, and July.

Also, if you’re on the ball you’ve probably wondered, ‘So this woman must be what? About thirty-two or so? No kids?’ It’s a fair question and one I try to avoid addressing, but I guess you have a right to know since you’re reading this. Our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage just short of viability. I grieved for a long time, and I suffered, and the result was I decided I never wanted to risk that hurt again. Is that selfish? Steven supported me totally; so, I got tied, and he got snipped. We’ve discussed perhaps having a discussion someday about adoption.

Anyway, all of that is why Bradley and I pulled into the driveway beside an entirely empty house. No husband or kids to shake a finger at us.

What do I want to tell you about that night? We put paid to the account we’d opened ten years before. We got that done, for what it’s worth. I really wanted to do it out on the couch, but after I’d poured some wine I had to use the bathroom. I used the bath in the master bedroom, and after I’d shut off the lights and the fan, opened the door, and stepped into the bedroom there was Bradley on the bed, on his back and up on his elbows, legs half over the side. You’d think he could have figured out I’d not want to do it in my marital bed. But there he was. The wedding really did its job. It revved my engine. I’d known I was going to do it from the moment I’d written ‘Hey Brad!’, but the wedding added some sort of sweetness, made me feel a bit more urgency, and informed me that perhaps I didn’t need to split hairs quite so much about where to do it.

My dress was already back in the closet and my heels were in the entry hall. Exiting the bathroom, I had on just my bra, panties, and a full slip, and all of that was soon on the floor. Bradley opened his pants and fitted on a condom. While he did that, I went to the window and drew closed the wide-open drapes. I came back to Bradley’s feet, grabbed a double handful of waistband and pulled his slacks and boxers down and off.

You remember how we almost did it ten years before? Me on top? Well, after Steven and I were into our relationship and sex became an all-the-time part of my life I found I like it on top. Steven calls it Annie’s Sexual Weirdness

. From behind – it goes by the dreadful name ‘doggie’ – is good for me, too. Missionary is at the bottom (no pun intended) maltepe escort of my list, but it’s okay when I’m feeling a little sub or, more often, when I want to be accommodating. Steven is easy to please but tends to like being on top, so I often enjoy surrendering.

But that explains why I climbed onto Bradley without preamble and without pausing to solicit any second opinions. I knew I wanted to do it, but I also knew I didn’t want to do it face-to-face. Had we done it face-to-face the position would be called ‘cowgirl.’ Facing the other way is called ‘reverse cowgirl’, and I rather like either appellation and the mental image they conjure. Yee-Haw! and Yippy-I-A! One of these days I’m going to get a Stetson hat to wave around while I do it.

Let’s see. What boxes do I have to check off?

It took a while.

Can’t say I had anything in particular on my mind.

Yes, I enjoyed the physical sensations.

And, yeah, I came. Doing it my favorite way, and not having to look at someone-who-wasn’t-Steven while I did it, got me eighty percent of the way. And from there I just needed to attend to myself with some determined rubbing and a bit of flicking, and I was over the top. It was the coldest, shallowest, most pathetically utilitarian orgasm I’ve ever experienced. It did nothing for me. While Steven was gone I got much better orgasms out of my magic wand.

While I waited for Bradley to finish, I returned to the state of rationality one reassumes after an orgasm, even a crappy one. My refocused mind told me how much I didn’t want to be sitting where I was sitting. Being done, I suppose I could have just gotten off but, hey, fair is fair. After Bradley finally finished, with a crescendo of sound and hands tightly clasping my hips, I lifted myself off, hoping I wasn’t recoiling too quickly or obviously. I spent a few minutes in the bathroom, and then visited the walk-in to slip my dress back on. When I emerged he was pulling up his slacks.

I took him by the hand, “Let’s go drink our wine,” and I led him down the hall. Bradley didn’t exactly put a funnel in his mouth, but his wine was gone in a few large but well-controlled gulps. After very little, very awkward, very halting attempts at conversation we were at the door.

“Coming by tomorrow?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Got a flight at three in the afternoon. There’s a day-after bridal brunch for the newly-weds, and then we’re putting them on a plane at one. I’ll just stay at the airport.”

I hope I hid my relief well enough. Then we were hugging and smooching cheeks.

“Bye, love,” Bradley said. “Good to see you. Thanks.”

“Thanks?” I said. “Get the fuck outta here with ‘thanks.’ Take care. Stay in touch.” Of course, I knew he wouldn’t. Then he turned, descended the steps, and walked to his rent-a-car in the lovely, pre-Solstice, midnight light.

I leaned back against the shut door and closed my eyes. As I slugged down the last of my wine the troubling sotto voce undercurrent from ten years before started in my mind again with ‘slut’ and ‘skank’, but I was a much older and more worldly woman by then, so it was able to add variations to the theme like ‘floosy’, ‘slag’, ‘ho’, ‘trollop’…Shut up! I used that mental boot again to stamp out the fire. It was funny. I knew that I could stamp it out only because we’d done it here, in my house. I also knew that if Steven had been home, and, if Bradley and I were to do this we’d have had to stop at the Super 8 Motel on the way from the reception, then that undercurrent would have swelled into a deafening Hallelujah Chorus. A weird distinction and, I’m sure, one with no validity whatsoever.

It really would have been okay, even wonderful and a pleasant memory, ten years ago. Now it was just cheap humping.

As I leaned against the door the words came unbidden, murmured, “Holy fucking God.”

* * *

Mid-morning Sunday – while Bradley and his sister and her new hubby and the rest of their family were eating quiche, cantaloupe, fruit salad, and blueberry waffles still hot from the Belgian waffle maker that had been unwrapped at the reception the previous evening – Ginny and I sat at my dining table. We meet every Sunday morning, usually here. Ginny has not just a husband but twin toddlers. So it’s mellower here. We value that.

I made the coffee. Ginny brought the eats, this time scones with both Devon Cream and Orange Butter to spread on them.

Ginny is my closest friend; she’s my girl. I mentioned we’d been in the graduate program in Anchorage together, and we’d graduated at the same time with our Education Masters in ’05. I’d missed her terribly after I returned to Juneau and she moved home to Fairbanks. We traveled back and forth from time to time to see each other, and the rest of the time e-mailed incessantly. Ginny’s mother is some sort of big cheese in the Alaska Republican Party, and when Sean Parnell took over as governor from Sarah Palin in the summer of ’09 Ginny was offered a political appointment in the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development as a Deputy Director. The job is located in Juneau, and she and her hubs talked about it and decided to make the move. I don’t know to what degree exchanging forty below winters for forty above winters figured into their decision, but I was happy, she was happy, and we’ve been nearly inseparable for the last three years.

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