Goddess Night (excerpt)

Amy Bonnaffons

I met Sharon at something called Goddess Night. I had come to meet girls. I wasn’t a lesbian, but I hoped to become one.

I felt qualified at the most basic level: like me, some lesbians I knew had started out with men but then switched because women kissed with softer lips and knew what to do down there because they had the same business going on. Also, women did not do things like ask you to “play dead” and then jerk off onto your face, or if they did, they Obtained Consent first and it was called Play. Men just did what they wanted and didn’t call it anything. At that point I was 23 and I had slept with three people:

1) When I tried to lose my virginity, at 17, Thomas couldn’t get it in. He kept saying I was too dry. “Then just jam it in there,” I said, “even if I scream. It’s for my own good.” But he flopped down on the shiny hardwood floor and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I feel like I’m in fucking Vietnam.” I don’t know how many sexual partners he had had before me. He was 34 and my piano teacher.

2) When Tony, my TA from freshman Statistics, took me out for curry at India Palace, I asked him about his first name, which I had always thought of as Italian and found unusual for a Korean man. He got sensitive and said he didn’t want to talk about it. Realizing I had been unintentionally racist, I invited him up to my room. It wasn’t exactly rape, because he said “I want to fuck you,” and I said, “Um, okay,” but what happened next bore no relation to what I had thought would happen next. Afterwards I said, “I’ve only had sex once, sort of,” and he said, “There’s no need to be ashamed of that,” and I said, “That’s not what I meant,” but he was already asleep. I was sore the next day.

3) When I moved to Brooklyn and started working at FLOAT (Friends and Lovers of Animals and Trees), I met Ben at my local fair trade coffee shop. He was a software engineer from Vancouver. He wore a hemp rope necklace with a seashell on it. We kissed on our second date, engaged in “heavy petting” on the fourth, and slept together on the sixth. During sex he referred to my body parts by their proper medical names. He kept asking “Do you like that?” in a polite voice, like a waiter, but I just kept thinking of new NGO vocabulary words I was learning, like “low impact” and “value neutral.” I stopped returning his calls.

Emily Gilbert