Talking to April about sex
April was lying on the double bed in my spare room. The afternoon was hot and she was sleeping naked, half-curled on her left-hand side, her face calm, he eyes shut. The yellow curtains of the room admitted enough of the strong sunlight from outside, and the door I had opened from the landing also, to allow me to look at her. I reflected that this was probably not the first time I had seen her naked. We had been schoolfriends and had used the same showers, I’m sure I remembered. Certainly since then we had shared the fitting rooms of boutiques and department stores and had seen each other in various degrees of undress. But unless I was mistaken, this was the first time I had ever stood and looked at her naked, and I lingered deliberately.
In my mind I likened her contours to the upper shape of the body of a guitar. Shoulder to waist to hip she was that, moving slightly as she breathed. Her arms were folded in front of her, but a nipple was visible as her right breast pushed up and over a little. In the shadow of her hip was a darker shadow, which was a delta of curls, visible even though she had drawn one leg up slightly.
I wanted to lie there with her. I had always loved her and had never told her, and at that moment I couldn’t think of anything I wanted more than simply to lie down next to her. I moved round the bed and gently eased myself onto it, making my position a copy of hers. I lay close enough to make out goose pimples and down on her arm, close enough to smell her musk, but not so close that we were touching. I studied the way her dark brown hair fell in a subtle cascade over her neck and onto the duvet. I found myself breathing in time with her breathing.
I must have been dozing myself because something alerted her to the fact that there was another presence on the bed, and when I opened my eyes she had twisted round slightly to look at me.
“What in the world are you doing, Edie?” she said. I noticed that she made no move to cover herself up.
“I came in to look for you, and you were so peaceful I didn’t want to disturb you. But then I felt sleepy too and I just lay down on this side of the bed,” I lied. She pulled herself into a sitting position, her hands by her side and her neat breasts free.
“You’re looking at my boobs,” she said, after a pause.
“Yes I am,” I admitted. Still she didn’t cover up.
“Why are you?” she asked. I shrugged.
“I don’t know. It occurred to me I have never looked at them before, not properly looked at them. Seen them, yes – you and I have never been shy around each other – but actually looked at them and appreciated them for what they are, no, never. And in fact they are beautiful. I am envious,” I said, and she gave a little laugh.
“As I recall,” she said, looking very briefly at my t-shirt, “yours aren’t too bad either. You’ve no need for envy.”
She was probably right. I hadn’t really given much thought to my own breasts, beyond popping a bra on every morning and taking it off at night. I had the impression they were okay, that’s all. Occasionally a lover had told me they were ‘nice’. Certainly they were – no, they are – one of my distinctly erogenous zones. That my mind was now considering this subject as I looked at April was a first for me. As I got myself up on one elbow I felt my nipples rub against the insides of my bra-cups, and I had to suppress a shiver of delight.
“You’re gay,” said April. It wasn’t a question, nor an objection, just a statement of fact.
“That’s no secret,” I replied. “I’ve never denied it, never hidden it.”
“I know,” she said, “but on the other hand it’s one of the few things we’ve never actually talked about, never gone into. I’ve just accepted it. And now my gay best friend is sitting here looking at my boobs!”
“I’m sorry, does that worry you,” I asked.
“No, no, I guess it’s only to be expected, and it’s flattering to be admired sexually. The main thing is that I don’t find it threatening at all. I don’t mind if anyone fancies me, man or woman, so long as it’s in a non-threatening way. You’ve never come on to me, not even flirted with me mildly.”
“It wouldn’t have seemed right,” I said.
“Yet you have feelings for me,” she said, and she must have seen me startle, because she went on, chuckling. “There! I knew it. You’ll have to admit it now.”
“Well, all right, yes,” I said, feeling my face and ears redden.
“How long for? And why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“God, years!” I said, “And I didn’t tell you because… because… well I didn’t want our friendship to change.”
“And has it?” she said. Goodness, she was putting me on the spot, sitting there naked as I confessed to admiring her body and having feelings for her. The truth was that I was in love with her, and that was that, though quite when I had realised that was another matter. It could have been as recently as a couple of minutes previously.
“Well damn it, it’s too early to say!” I said. “It’s only a minute or so ago that you managed to winkle this out of me! But no, okay, I don’t think it has changed things. At least yes it has – oh dear this is confusing – but I don’t think it’s changed anything in a bad way.”
“Well from my point of view I don’t mind that my gay best friend admires me and has feelings for me,” she said. “I have the honour of being fancied by someone who is herself attractive, nice-looking. So no harm there.”
We were silent for a while. I had stopped looking at her boobs and instead we held each other’s gaze.
“Well, while we’re on the subject,” she said eventually, “let me bring up an old chestnut. Men ask, ‘What can women do with women without a dick?’ and they add the rider always that talk of a strap-on is cheating. What do you say to that?”
“As it happens I have had that discussion before, more than once,” I said. “The usual answer is, of course, that there is a hell of a lot in having sex that doesn’t involve penetration. But the trouble with telling men this is that they think they know that already. They don’t. To them there are two things: the main one is getting their dick up, the other is all the rest, which they lump together as foreplay. It doesn’t really qualify as sex, because it’s just a preface to the actual fucking, and frankly if they could skip the rest and get right down to getting it up and shooting their load they would! Possible exception of course is being sucked, which is almost a separate category of sex for them. There is no afterglow for them either. Women sometimes fake orgasm, men always fake afterglow!”
April was laughing.
“I never had you down as a man-hater!” she said.
“I don’t hate ‘em. I pity the poor buggers sometimes, that’s all.”
“You don’t hate them, but would you let your daughter marry one?” she said, grinning broadly.
“Steady on!” I said, feigning horror. “She would have to convert to heterosexuality and bring her children up as heterosexuals! They’re very strict about those things.”
We were both laughing now. When we stopped and had caught our breath, April spoke first again.
“If you were going to make love to me, how would you go about it? Convince me that what men say isn’t true, and that what lesbians say is true.” This was a startling development. If I had known as I stood at the door that we would end up talking like this, would I have had the nerve to come in and lie down next to her, or would I have closed the door and gone downstairs? I took a deep breath, searched myself, imagined her and me together, imagined her responsive to my presence, to my touch.
“For a start,” I said, “sex – making love – isn’t a process, it’s not something you start, get to a point with, and then stop. It’s more often something where you can’t tell where the starting point was, nor the finishing point. It’s more like a state of being, a continuum, a spectrum.”
“It doesn’t start with a kiss?”
“Only in the movies,” I said. “Look, imagine we’re at your place, and you’re sitting at your dressing-table. No, not actually at the mirror, but sideways to it, sitting astride that bench-stool of yours. You’re thinking about heaven-knows-what, maybe thinking about warm sunshine on your skin – you’re thinking ahead to a holiday. Then I come in. What do you think I do?”
“I have no idea. What do you do?”
“I come and sit behind you, astride the stool, and I pick up your hairbrush, and I start to brush your hair – long, slow strokes, brushing it back from your forehead so that your head gradually tilts back. I can smell the scent of your hair as you lean back towards me. Brushing someone’s hair is very sensual. Do you think sex has started?”
“I… I guess…”
“No, don’t answer. Just keep imagining I am brushing your hair… brushing… brushing… then I nuzzle your neck, while I trail the brush down the front of your wrap. The bristles catch at one of your nipples through the fabric… ooh! You turn your head to say something and you find your face close to mine. Has sex started yet? I kiss you. It’s the first time I have ever dared to. Has sex started… don’t answer… you have already become dreamy because of the gentle brushing, and you don’t resist my kiss. In fact you respond, eager to find out what it is like. Little kisses become one longer, deeper kiss. I put the hairbrush down and reach both hands round to cup your boobs. Oh they are so beautiful. I don’t even have to caress them, because the movement I set up with the brushing has just continued even though the brush is on the floor, and even your breathing causes your nipples to move against my fingers. Nothing is obvious in sex, lovers just move according to nature. Another day it might be the right time to knead and tease your nipples, for us to get rough and raw with each other, but not today. It’s not that kind of day. We’re in tune, you and I, so we would know if it were. I pull at the bow that ties your wrap. It comes adrift and your wrap falls away from your shoulders. I explore your naked breasts with my fingers, gently, memorizing the shape. Your head is still turned towards me – we continue to kiss. You have one hand behind you, and it is simply resting on my thigh. It’s affectionate and reassuring. I reach one hand down, gliding my fingertips through your curls, seeking for your treasure. Ah! There it is! Now, has sex started? Don’t… don’t answer! Just imagine how long, or how quickly it may take to lead you up the mountain and to allow you at last to jump from the top. At that point, having leapt, you snatch my hand away – you can’t stand any more – but you kiss me, gratefully, swept away by love…”
I looked over, to find that she had stood up and was pulling on her clothes.
“That’s not the end,” I said. “It’s not even half way through.”
“I totally get that,” she said. “Sex isn’t a process, it’s a state. And for women it doesn’t simply stop, it ripples on and on, and you are hardly aware that the ripples have reached the other side of the river and dispersed.”
“Actually I meant that in the scenario I was describing, you reciprocate,” I said. “By the way, has anyone ever told you, you should write poetry?”
“Has anyone ever told you that you should write a manual?” she said, grinning. “Come on, we’re meeting the gang for coffee in half an hour.”
“I had totally forgotten,” I said.
Small wonder that I had!