year of the slut

I meet up with my friend L. after work and she tells me about the man she left behind. “Suffocating,” she says. “Too intense,” she says.

For several weeks, she was juggling between the married man and the one who had recently divorced. After months of wanting the former, she tells him about the latter. “And suddenly, he is all over me, all the time.”

She says, “I asked him, where have you been all these months?”

“And what did he say?”

“He called me baby and said, I’ve been right here all along. You only had to call.”

She says, “Do you remember how this was supposed to be the year of the slut?” I admit that I did not.

“Well, it wasn’t the whole year, it was just a few weeks, but let me tell you, it was exhausting.” She says, “The laundry was the killer. I had to keep changing the damn sheets.”

In my first job after college, I work with a man who walks around and says, “Mmmm,” whenever he sees a woman he finds attractive, which is often. We walk to lunch – a few blocks from the office – and in that short distance he finds several occasions to say “Mmmm,” loudly enough to be heard. Invariably, he is met with stony silence.

He comes over to my desk one afternoon, and I have my legs up on a chair, and involuntarily, I think, he says, “Mmmm.”

That night, we go to dinner and then back at his apartment, I let him rest his head in my lap, let myself run my hands over his face before finding an excuse to go home. “I have to be up early,” I mumble as he follows me to my car in his socks.

I drive around the streets of Miami with D. She says, “Pull up over here,” and I say, “No that is a sidewalk.”

“You can drive up on it,” she says, “it’s the driveway.”

I inch forward, resisting. She waves me on with her hand.

“I don’t like to break rules,” I say, and she laughs.

“It’s the driveway,” she assures me. “Drive up.”

It is, in fact a driveway, and I do pull up and later, when I miss my turn for the second time, she says, “I know you probably don’t want to make a u-turn here, because the sign says not to,” but as she is saying this, I am already making the turn.

“Did you see that?” I ask her. “I just did that. An illegal turn. For you. But you will have to call my husband and tell him why I’m in prison. In Miami.”

She laughs. “Oh, I will. You know I will.”

At dinner, we talk about passion and how it fades over years. Someone says, “It’s what I’m missing now, after all this time. That fire. How you know you are truly alive.”

When I return after four days away, the boys are waiting. My son takes my hand, leads me into the kitchen to show me what he has made for me. A plate of cookies, a sign that says, “Welcome home.”

Later, M. pulls me in, holds me so tightly it leaves me breathless. He rushes me upstairs.

In college, I fall in love all the time. The drama with C. continues in the background, but I manage to find ways to direct my energies, usually, to stunningly disastrous effect.

In Russian lit, I find a boy with wild curly hair. We have mid-term papers to write, but instead of reading, we watch The Brothers Karamazov on the tiny television in his dorm room one night. I obsess. At a house party soon after, I express my desires. It does not go well. In the dark, with loud music pulsing all around us, he holds my hand while he says: “But I value you so much. As a friend.”

“I have enough friends,” I say, before walking home from the party alone.

I see him later with someone – tall, blonde, pale. When we get our papers back, he gets a C and I get an A. “Guess you’re better at faking it than I am,” he says.

“Think about the cherry tree,” my wise friend K. says. We are talking, too, about passion. “They blossom for a short time and when they do they are stunning. But they also need to rest.”

N., married for seventeen years says, “Yes, but they bloom every year. Not just once and then never again.”

We all laugh. And then we are quiet.