Don’t move, I texted him. That seemed like a good place to start. I could imagine it, too: Julian sitting in bed clutching his cell phone, the early stirrings of an erection straining at his boxer briefs. I hadn’t seen his apartment yet but I already suspected it was gorgeous, a small but beautiful one-bedroom in a historic Georgetown brownstone. Just him all alone in that square footage, idly playing with his dick as he waited for me to reply.
Or maybe he was at some bar with colleagues, sneaking glances at his phone while they discussed the markets. I had no way of knowing and it sent a shiver through my forearms, nerves tightening with thrill. It was easy to picture that, too: him standing in some cluster of finance bros dressed up in light summer suits and loosened ties. They’d have no idea what he was thinking, what he wanted me to do to him. Those preppy motherfuckers with their yields and dividends and all that terminology I couldn’t remember from my Econ 101 course taken eight million years ago.
OK I won..
I felt a queer trickle of power pinging up the nerves in my spine. He was waiting for me to offer further instruction. Nothing came to mind after a decade of hoping and preening and delicately inquiring about some unresponsive idiot’s whereabouts via text message. It felt like some feminist failure to admit it, even to myself, but I wasn’t used to being in charge. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know what I wanted to take.
Fuck, he texted me next, and I could hear it in his voice, that breathless spurt of narration he always shared, even outside of a sexual context. Julian was a talker, extroverted and loud at cafeteria dinners and dormitory wine-and-cheese nights. It never bothered me back at school because he greeted the world with such enthusiasm and openness, the polar opposite of New York cynicism. I heard the text as if it were a helpless announcement, his throat dry. I still remembered hearing it in person despite the layers of postgrad life coated over the memory. He said it right into my ear like a plea.
Shut the fuck up, I typed, hitting send before my confidence failed me.
Before I had the time to doubt myself, he said, OK sorry. And then he waited.
Julian and I met during our sophomore year at Liberal University. He lived down the hall in a double room with a lacrosse bro named Peter whom I hated instinctually. Unlike his looming roommate, Julian got along with everyone, full of wide grins and a kindness that I couldn’t help but trust. I assumed a guy like that had a girlfriend and I wasn’t wrong, there was some girl back home in Virginia who sent him elaborate care packages every few weeks. When they eventually broke up, there was another girl with the same affinity for arts and crafts. Julian retained the sweetness that most men had beaten out of them in high school.
We didn’t become real friends until our senior year, when he was finally just Julian and I understood that good things were usually temporary. I had a night of him all to myself, eight giddy hours on his regulation double bed. It was the rare one-night stand that didn’t leave me depleted the next morning. I walked home across campus to my apartment feeling warm and whole. And then he moved to DC and I settled down in Brooklyn, wrapped in a new, bullshit Pinterest board of a relationship that spread its depletion out over time. And now I was single again and Julian was texting me and I had an Amtrak ticket to DC in my email inbox.
Julian was still waiting for instruction. I fished for ideas.
Where are you? I asked—curiosity was getting to me.
That was a bit of a letdown. I liked the idea of him in public attempting to hide what he was up to. He had such a transparent face; how much he wanted me would be all over him.
At home all alone thinking about me?
It was darkly funny: in three simple letters, Julian offered more clarity and validation than anything my ex had said in a year and a half of dating. The idea of him sitting by himself on what I’m sure was some expensive—also known as “not purchased at IKEA”—sofa, attention glued to his phone, eager and desperate for whatever I was about to say… I could work with that.
You’re not allowed to touch yourself, I said. I don’t think you deserve to. Nervous giggles flared up my throat and I bit my knuckle, glancing at my roommate’s door. It would be generous and inaccurate to call me a naturally authoritative person.
Oh god, he replied.
I picked up my laptop and ducked into my room, closing the door behind me. When religious deities were invoked, it was time to get a room.