We were smoking outside a bar that made decent Pisco Sours. One pack of cigarettes between the five of us, except Four didn’t smoke because he claimed to be on a “cleanse.” Purifying detox. Whatever that meant, because I’m confident he did a line right off the bathroom counter five minutes ago.
Two and Three were friends of One and Four. I was just meeting them now. In my hazed state, I took in the plaid shirts, dark jeans, sandy hair and eyes the color of stormy ocean waters in Hawaii. Their pupils were dilated to take in all the moonlight they could. Both had scruff that reached up the side of their jaws and lightly down their necks. They could’ve been twins. Or I was excessively drunk. They were white. They might as well have been twins.
One was a cold mix of Mediterranean and Irish. He’d been the one I was mildly attracted to the entire night. Slightly more tanned with dark hair that couldn’t qualify as black or brown; compared to the rest of the company - save for Four who only won out because of he was clean shaven - he looked like a baby. He’d bought the cigarettes and acted like a perfect gentleman, which frustrated me in the way failed directions did. When he asked if I wanted to smoke, I thought it’d just be us two. Weren’t guys supposed to be the aggressive one? Take initiative after all the shameless staring I was doing?
Or am I just robbing the cradle, I thought as he relit a match and brought it to my lips with a shy smile. Ah, smoke for my genetically prone to blackened lungs.
"So where are you guys from?" A drunk man leered openly from across the street. I flipped him the bird and he balked. Feminine crudeness is always turn off. "First time in the city?"
The taller twin, Three, nodded. Granted he was at least a foot taller than me, but his baby blue eyes held an innocence that needed to be shattered. Most of all, I had already lost interest in his answer. I exhaled over my shoulder.
"Manchester," he replied.
His voice was so pleasant. Polite, with that English accent tinging the end of his sentences in a way that alluded charm rather than heavy assertion.
"Nice. My favorite band is from Manchester."
That was all I could say. I had no interest in getting into football facts or delving deeper into a city I would never ever visit. Especially when I would never see or recognize these people again.
"Yeah?" Two piped, mildly interested, "Which band?"
"The Slowdown. You know them?" I cringed. My voice had become a chameleon, mimicking their accent.
They took no notice. One nodded. The act only caught my eye because I was forever aware of his presence like a dark silhouette in the distance. Four, not so much, he was more like a shadow, in the corner of my eye, but basically equivalent to the pavement.
"The tall one, we went to school with him. He’s from Seattle, isn’t he?" his voice was free of inflection, drawing me in the way anomalies and abnormalities did. "He’s…"
"Sexy," I finished. All the guys, One, Two, Three, and Four, stared at me in surprise. Holding the smoke in my mouth, my eyes darted back and forth. "What?" I said, releasing a thick cloud.
The right corner of One’s mouth twitched. I wanted to kiss it.
"Sexy wasn’t my description for him. I was going to say eccentric."
"Eccentric can be sexy. Look at David Bowie," I fired back.
Four came out of nowhere. “True that.”
See, I said with my eyes. If the gay man thinks so, then it must be true.
One laughed with his eyes. No sound. Just a crinkle around the edges as the faintest acknowledgment of our mutual attraction. I felt small. An unprepared lawyer in front of a biased court. Sweat formed over my skin, and the winter breeze sent a shiver down to my bones. I was a child battling for affection.
Rashly fueled by alcohol and a nicotine high, I just wanted to be taken seriously. Right from my heart came a potent combination of emotional exhaustion and depression. “I’d let him be my first,” I said much more casually than intended.
Two, Three and Four spluttered all over me.
"You’re a virgin?"
I raised the cigarette to my lips. “Yeah, why? You’re going to accuse me of acting like a major slut?” Elbow resting against hip like the sassy girl I was ready to become.
One snorted. I suppressed the urge to stab him with the glowing end of my cigarette.
"No, no," Three muttered. "Just didn’t think virgins existed in this day and age."
"Every child is a fucking virgin, you moron," Two exhaled, his smoke a thin stream into the air, "at least most children until the age of fourteen."
"Fourteen? Who has sex at fourteen?"
One had a second cigarette between his lips. “Evidently not you,” he mumbled, lighting it up quickly before I could vindictively flick it from his fingers.
"I’m sorry. At fourteen, I was too concerned over the fact that I’d started bleeding between the legs."
With my hands, I made an obscene, spraying gesture between my thighs. Shit. Definitely piss drunk.
"Yeah, puberty," One said. Whatever I’d said about him being a gentleman - gone. He’d just morphed from quiet cute idiot to an attractive dick-head. "Most girls consider that as a sign that their body is ready to take a man."
Tension grew palpable. You’re drunk, Mara, I repeated to myself, trying to calm my sky rocketing blood pressure. He’s drunk. They’re all coked up. Drink, and whatever, it’s okay.
"Don’t be a jackass, Mark," Two interrupted.
"Maybe we should go back in for another drink," Four said. Three agreed.
One shrugged. He turned to me. I felt sick to the stomach. This whole night, my head had never been turned any other direction but towards him. “I’ll help you get rid of it,” he offered.
He spoke like we were talking about the last Oreo on earth. Only he’d licked it thoroughly before giving it to me.
"I don’t need to get rid of it,” I spluttered. Shock cut through the mind-fog. “It’s not a problem or some disease I need to be saved from.”
"Mark…" one of his friends warned. Which one? I couldn’t say. All I had was tunnel vision. Pure tunnel vision with no bright light at the end. They talk about climaxes that way. A hurried moment that builds blindly in the dark with rushed stacks before a white light comes out of nowhere and throws your body into outer world sensitivity.
My breath was gone. My cigarette burned so close to my fingers that it seared me. Every nerve in me throbbed with clarity. “Shit,” I cursed, dropping it onto the floor.
"Just a warning, losing your virginity hurts. You probably will bleed." The right side of his mouth was high into his cheek.
"Stop it." Two voices now. "Mark."
His grin was toothy, cheeky in a way that should be endearing. Confidence dripped out of him like an overflowing glass. Four years earlier, the naive, pre-educated university me, would have rapidly found his words coaxing.
"I’ll be gentle though. If you want me to be."
Four years back, a thousand hours less of erotica and angry comments, the words “I can be gentle” would have me on my knees. Instead, I boldly stepped into his personal space and let his beautiful hazel eyes lock with mine.
"The hell will my first time be with you. Losing my virginity isn’t supposed to hurt, you fuck." His eyes were stunned to one hue. "The reason girls cry when you put your sexist dick up in them is because you didn’t get them wet enough."
"What would you know? You’ve never had sex. Most girls I’ve taken bled. You know blood proves virginity right? Unless you lost your hymen on a horse back ride or something."
Rolling my eyes so far back, I nearly had an epileptic fit. “Have you been having sex? Girls bleed cause you tore their fucking hymen, and fun fact: Hymens stretch. If you made them bleed, it’s cause you fucking shoved your misogyny in too hard instead of going slow, like a putting on a condom. That’s. Why. It. Hurts, you piss fuck.”
Everyone outside the bar was staring now. The cold air cleared my head and suddenly a rush of blood filtered its way to my face. It burned. I must’ve been tomato-red. Two and Three had the same hot, possibly just as red as mine look. My god, were they reminiscing all the poor girls that’d once been underneath them?
One stared at me, mouth agape.
"Fuck me," I whispered beneath my breath. It was still loud enough for One and Four to hear. His lips were still sexy. I still wanted to kiss him. How ironic. I shook my head and headed back into the bar. Completely anti-climatic.
Smoking is overrated.