So, let's hear about it!" said Matt excitedly. He took a gulp of Guinness. "Go on. I'm listening."
We were sitting in the John Barleycorn in San Francisco, a bar not unlike many of the dark, seedy pubs that I'd just frequented in County Cavan. I took a careful sip of my pint.
"Well, I told you most of it on the phone," I began. "Cavan was amazing. You know, they have 365 lakes in that county alone. One for every day of the year, they say. And then, I drove down to Dingle, and I had to go over this mountain, called Conor Pass. Did you and Kristin get my postcard? How is she, by the way?"
"She's fine. Go on."
"Oh. Well, then. So after Dingle, I went back up to Belfast. You know, it's really changed since the IRA ceasefire --"
"Come on, Courtney," Matt interrupted. "It isn't like you to be so coy. Cut to the chase."
I took another sip of my watery Guinness. "What are you talking about? Oh, that," I said, sitting back. "No. Didn't happen."
He raised his eyebrows. "Are you serious?" "Yes. I didn't. Not once. Not even close." "Are you telling me that you didn't get laid once there? Not once? A four-week trip? In repressed, Catholic Ireland?"
"That's what I'm telling you."
"I can't believe it." Matt looked disappointed. Like many of my friends who were in committed relationships, he'd come to rely in a profound, vicarious way on my sexual life. Now, he actually looked like he might cry.
"It's not that big of a deal," I said. "Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. So what?"
"Well, you brought condoms," he said. "It wasn't like you couldn't."
"I brought one condom," I corrected him. "Maybe I tempted the Gods too much. Anyway, what difference does it make?"
"Not much, I guess," he said glumly.
"So anyway, I was driving over Conor Pass, and it was shrouded in fog. There were these lakes in the middle of the mountain," I paused for a moment. "Matt! Hello! I'm talking to you."
"But it's not like you couldn't," he said. "You said there were opportunities--"
"Yes! There were. But I didn't want to. So what? What is your problem? Sometimes it feels right, and other times it doesn't. The men I met were all pretty much involved and I just didn't feel like it. Okay? There's always masturbation, you know."
"Don't talk to me about masturbation," he said darkly. "I know all about that. It's just ... Courtney, we were relying on you."
"For God's sake, Matt. This is getting insulting." Maybe Matt was trying to rattle me deliberately. The last time I'd seen him we'd had a rather uncomfortable conversation about faking orgasms. "Just who is 'we,' anyway?"
"All of us, your friends, your supporters. Let me put it this way," he said, rubbing his hands together. "Say I was a championship tennis player. And then, something happened, say I got injured, and I couldn't play anymore. And you go to Ireland, and you take your tennis racquet. And you had all these opportunities to play, on these beautiful smooth courts. With wonderful, springy new balls. And yet, you don't! Why? Why?"
I considered for a moment. "Because I don't play tennis."
Matt banged his pint glass down. "You know what I mean."
"Clumsy though your metaphor is," I admitted, "I do like tennis. I like to whack a few balls around. Although, I wouldn't bring up that analogy with Kristin if I were you." I looked at my watch. "Look, I'm sorry to disappoint, but I don't know why I didn't sleep with anyone. I had other experiences though, which were just as exciting and fascinating and interesting. I'm not just this walking vagina, you know."
"I never implied such a thing," he said huffily. "Although, technically speaking "
"For one thing, it was too cold to think about taking clothes off. And for another, drinking and eros are not such good bedfellows." There were other, more salient points to make about travel and Ireland, but Matt was brooding. "You can borrow my tennis racquet any old time, honey. Just because you're not a top-seeded player any more doesn't mean you can't whack some balls around with Kristin." I leaned over and kissed the top of his head. "Figuratively speaking, of course."