I’m Only Telling You So You’ll Know
I met this guy through my friend Charity. She’s a real yenta. You’ll like him, she told me. He’s better than all the Tinder duds you’ve been finding. He’s a good guy.
He was cute. A little fat, with round glasses. He looked the part. At a cocktail bar where the drinks were too small, the menu too long, we had two rounds and hit it off fine. As we sat there considering a third, he said, Or I could bring you home with me. If that’s all right.
I’d been on Tinder long enough to know you have to put everything out there early on. There’s no sense in waiting to talk about the hard stuff. There’s no sense in wasting anyone’s time. So I said, Okay, but just so you know, I’m weird about sex. Who isn’t? he laughed. No, I said. A year ago I was raped. I don’t want to talk about it, so don’t ask.
He got serious then. He looked in my eyes. He said, Thank you for telling me. I got up and put on my jacket. I said, I’m only telling you so you’ll know.
His bedroom was on the top floor of a row house. Through his thin curtains the streetlight shone like a bogus moon. He lay next to me and we kissed. I took off my shirt. He took off his glasses. Without them his face seemed empty. There was too much room around his little eyes. He started to touch me but I couldn’t let him. I didn’t apologize. You’re not supposed to apologize. Instead I told him what it was like. I have a new built-in reflex, I said. When a ball flies toward me I duck. When I breathe in dust I sneeze. When someone tries to fuck me I shut down. Okay, he said. That’s okay. And in the yellow light we fell asleep.
I appreciated how he’d handled it, so I saw him again, then a fourth and a fifth time. Charity was rooting for us. She couldn’t wait to add another pair to her list of couples she’d arranged. I told her, Don’t push it. We haven’t even had sex. She said, Oh my god, that’s so hot.
Eventually we did it. It was a hot day and he was dripping with sweat. He lay on top of me. His body was heavy and slick, that empty face of his sweating into my eyes. It was as if he was quenching an unbearable thirst, and I was the well he was pumping. As he pumped he was losing himself. He lost himself completely. He was absent. Only his body was left there, on top of me, pumping. I gritted my teeth, gripped the crumpled damp sheets, squeezed the salt out of my eyes. He’s a good guy, I told myself, but my heartbeat was quick, my breathing shallow, my mind wild.
Afterward he put his glasses back on and gave me a goony smile. How do you feel? he said. What’s going on? He was a good guy. Talk to me, he said. You can tell me, he said. Good guy, good guy. What are you doing? he said. Where are you going? When do I get to see you again?
Rachel Lyon is the author of the debut novel SELF-PORTRAIT WITH BOY (Scribner 2018). Her shorter work has appeared in Joyland, Iowa Review, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and elsewhere. A cofounder of the reading series Ditmas Lit, in her native Brooklyn NY, she teaches for Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Catapult, and the Fine Arts Work Center. Subscribe to Rachel’s Writing/Thinking Prompts newsletter at tinyletter.com/rachellyon, and visit her at www.rachellyon.work.
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Image (rotated): Gustav Klimt