by Usagi Anami (兎あなみ)
I lost my virginity on the bus on the way to work, getting felt up by this kid dressed a lot like Crocadile from One Piece. Okay, so maybe his coat and my work apron helped cover things up a bit, but it wasn’t hard to figure out what his hands were doing under there if you were paying attention. Not that anyone was paying attention, because, well, it’s the bus. Strangers forced into close space tend ignore each other and keep their AT fields up. So I suppose existenial angst is good for something after all…
Anyway, after he makes me come in my pants, he asks me if I come here often (no, seriously, he did) and he hands me a card with his number on it. It’s one of those community chest cards from Monopoly – advance to go – and that’s when I remembered that I missed my stop for work.
I haven’t seen him since then, and I’ve been trying to figure out if I should call him.
…and then what, collect two hundred dollars?
I’ve been carrying around that stupid Monopoly card for a week. It was crisp and stiff when that kid popped into my hand after our, uh, encounter on the bus. But now after roughing it in my wallet, sandwiched between my debit and library card, it was soft and yellow-gray, the corners rounded off, all frayed and fuzzy from where my fingers had ran over the edges a hundred times.
The number on the back is nothing but a blur of black ink. Not that it matters now, since I already know every digit by rote. I don’t need the card. It’s nothing more than a memento, tangible proof that I didn’t simply have a very convincing wet dream on my way to work.
It’s been a week since that kid made me late to work. He molested me (not that I’m complaining or anything) on the bus, punned that god-awful groaner of a pun, and then as if that weren’t enough he gave me a fricking monopoly card. It’s like he thinks he’s some caped crusader of anonymous sexual encounters. He could call himself Frottage Man. What a ham. What a dork. What a complete and utter dork. And what a dork I am for falling for his dorky charms.
I imagine he must keep thick wads of Monopoly cards jammed down in his pocket with his number on them, waiting to be passed out to every guy he gropes. He probably has to buy them bulk because he goes through them so fast. White-hot worms gnaw at my innards. Oh, jealously. I haven’t felt that in a while. I haven’t felt much of anything as much as that in a while.
And what right do I have to feel possessive, anyway? Am I desperate or what? He jacked me off; it wasn’t like he gave me an engagement ring and a ticket to Canada. Apparently I just fall in love with every random jackoff that jerks me off in public. I should have known that would be my secret weakness. This must be one of the downsides to a life of solitude – I’m so used to being ignored that even the slightest amount of attention throws my inner balance out of whack.
He’s even ruined my people-watching to boot. I don’t watch people anymore – not the way I used to watch, which is one of the few things in my life I truly enjoy. I watch humanity and collect their habits like charms. I used to notice a kid’s fingers twitch on the table in-sync to his iPod music, the ancient tattoos on a mother’s arms, and the cloying Abercrombie perfume of a mallrat. But now instead of watching people, I’m searching through the hoi-polloi for any sign of him: big blue eyes, the smell of sandalwood, and trench coats worn like capes. All other details are filtered through and discarded on the grounds of not being him.
I haven’t seen him on my usual bus route or any route at all, and currycombing through my memory has turned up nothing. There are a few things that I forget, and he’s not the type that that’s easily forgotten. People that are huge and dress like cosplayers really only blend into the crowd at anime conventions. The area code on his number is local, so it’s unlikely he doesn’t live in the area. So where did he come from? Where did he go?
Advance to go. Just thinking about it makes my brain itch. It’s uncanny that he gave that card when he could have used get out of jail or even second place beauty winner. It’s almost like he knows I’ve been standing still.
Eight years ago, I kind of dropped out of the human race.
I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop living. Like Nietzsche’s worm, I curled up when stepped on so that I wouldn’t get stepped on again. The details are tedious and not worth repeating here. All that needs to be said is that it was only by instinct that I kept forgetting to return phone calls, and it was purely instinct that made me sick to my stomach every time I was invited to a party. Before I knew it my social life had shrunk down to nothing. But once I realized I had become, I also realized that I was a lot more comfortable treating life as a spectator sport rather than being a participant.
So that’s what makes advance to go so strange. Almost like a call for me to return to the living. Of course it’s more likely an invitation for another round of unattached sex. Or it’s just the number for the local plumber. But it’s only human to wish that every hoof beat belongs to a centaur instead of a horse.
Advance to go. I’ve been turning the phrase over and over in my mind. Go go go. Go to the beginning. Hikaru No Go. Maybe I’m over thinking things. Maybe there’s definitely no maybe about it, and the only way for my brain to stop going around in circles is to go and call him.
After the end of my shift I work up my courage and dial the number. I have him entered in my cell phone as FM (Frottage Man). After a second the phone stops ringing and I hear nothing, not even breathing, on the other side.
“Hello? Hello?” After ten seconds, I hang up and call the number again. Once again, the phone rings and stops like someone answered the phone, but nobody says hello. “Uh, hello? I’m not trying to collect a debt or try to sell you anything. But I guess I have the wrong number. Sorry.”
I know I shouldn’t I keep wasting my minutes talking into thin air, but hope and the fact the line hadn’t gone dead yet keeps me going.
“Shit. Sorry. Is this even a real number? Somebody gave me this number on a Monopoly card, but I guess they were fucking with me. Or maybe I wrote down the number myself and I’ve gone crazy–”
“Or maybe I’m fucking with you,” a soft, smiling voice says, “in a slightly different way than you thought I was.”
” Why did you do that?”
“Why would you wait a week to call me? Don’t you know you can’t play hard to get if I can’t get a hold of you?”
“You know where South Park is?”
“No, the park on South Tacoma Way.”
“Can you get there by 6?”
“Wait, you mean tonight?”
I hear the dial tone.
With all the soggy Washington weather this time of year, nobody is here. He said to meet him, but he didn’t say where, so I wander between the community center and the playground waiting for him to show up. At this point I’m convinced he’s not a serial killer. I mean, serial killers are polite.
And anyway, I can always use my umbrella for self-defense.
“Hey,” he whispers into my ear. I can smell the peppermint on his breath. I don’t know how a tall guy in a bright orange parka sneaks up on people, but he does.
“Look,” I say, “don’t do that.”
“You didn’t mind the last time I invaded your personal space.”
“Can we at least get to know each other a little first? You don’t even know my name.”
“Does it matter?” For some reason way his question struck me as existential rather than practical – does it matter what our names are, not that we’re just two strangers having sex so we don’t need to bother to introduce ourselves.
“It makes certain things easier.”
“Oh, like what?” Who do you think you are, Socrates? Well, they are both annoying homos. I’m tempted by the obvious suggestion that he needs a name to cry out. He’s certainly dropped a line just as bad. But that would be stooping down to his level, and I choose never to stoop. I do have standards, damn it.
“So you’re going to introduce me to all your friends?” That is to say, no one. I sigh. He knows me too well.
“Normally when people talk they say each other’s names, occasionally,” I say, “but then you’ll probably say something like, ‘Why bother conforming to typical conversational patterns’?”
“Actually, what I had planned to say was something like, ‘As far as I’m concerned, there’s only two kinds of people in the world’.” Now we’re having a conversation about a conversation. I’d better get things back on track, or things may get dangerously meta.
“Those who say people’s names in conversations and those who don’t?”
“No. You and me.” Oh, damn him, how does he do that? He’s honed the obscure art of bizarrely sweet sayings. I can’t take it personally or anything. He must say that to all the boys. Geez, when did I turn into such a girl? “Hey, are you allergic to latex?”
“No. Why? Wait, you don’t mean–”
“Yeah.” He pulls out of a square of paper and holds it between his middle and pointer finger.
“But the street is right over there!” I point to the street, right over there. It’s maybe thirty feet away. Granted, there aren’t any cars passing by, but an old lady could look at her window see us and then she could have a heart attack. I don’t want to have that on my conscience, even if I’m totally hard right now.
“Because I like sucking cock and high-risk behavior? Besides, with you it’s not like this is going to take long.”
What a jerk. I look around one last time. No cars, no cops, no kids, no weak-hearted old ladies. Undoing your zipper and belt when you’re holding an umbrella is more difficult than I thought it would be, but desire makes me a fast learner.
He makes a great show of delicately tearing off the wrapper and popping the rubber into his mouth. Somehow he manages to grin while holding it with his lips. I can’t see his expression when he’s rolling it down my cock because of his parka hood, but I’m pretty sure he’s still grinning somehow. I’ve seen this maneuver in porn, but I didn’t think anybody did this stuff in real life.
The peppermint makes his mouth cold, even through the latex. His tongue’s lapping, slurping, and uh, I don’t know what at me, freezing and burning all at once. It’s just too, too much, his mouth around latex around my cock. I shiver so hard it’s like my ghost wants to shake off my skin. It’s too much, it’s like my favorite song played too loud, or a taste I love sharpened too much, and when I come it stings.
And that’s when I find out condoms don’t just slip off your cock when you go limp. They’re designed to hold snugly hold the shape of your junk. Imagine that. He laughs at me while I struggle to peel it off with my free hand and eventually deigns to help me.
“So do you do this a lot?” I ask.
“A bit. I don’t give them all my number, though.”
“I wasn’t asking that.”
“Sure, you weren’t.”
“So do you normally ride the bus, or was that just a fluke?”
“Sometimes. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen me around.”
“No, I haven’t. Are you stalking me?”
“Yes, I watch you sleep at night,” he snaps, “hello to your ego.”
“You seem to know a bit about me.”
“I’ve seen you around. I pay attention. And I’m very good at reading people.”
I suppose that would make him only semi-stalkerish – I know the phone numbers, marital status, spending habits, and favorite breakfast foods of quite a few regulars on my bus route.
“Then why haven’t I ever seen you?”
“You have seen me,” he sighed, “you’ve looked at me. You just haven’t really seen me.”
“So, uh, do you have one of those perception filters in Doctor Who?”
“Jesus wept!” he laughs. “You really are a nerd, aren’t you?”
“Who are you to call me a nerd? You’re the one who goes around in public dressed like Crocodile.”
“And you were a nerd enough to notice in the first place,” he smirks, “and I never said being a nerd was a bad thing. And a ‘perception filter’ is a nice way of putting it. I have to hide my true self most of the time. What you’re seeing now is my true form.”
“True form?” I blinked. “Uh…are you a shape shifter, a vampire, or…?”
He flicks my forehead. “No, reality here. So sorry to disappoint. You’re smart. You’ll figure it out. Okay, maybe you aren’t as smart as I had hoped, but you’re observant and thoughtful, so you’re bound figure it out.”
“Why do you have to be so cryptic if you aren’t even a vampire or anything?”
“‘But I am a cat, and no cat in the world gave anyone a straight answer’.”
“Okay, you win, okay? You can stop saying things that make me fall for you.”
“That so? Now all you have to do,” he jabs his finger in the middle of my forehead and keeps it there, “is figure it out. You figure it out, and if you’re okay with it, then come over to my place. And don’t call ahead. I like surprises.”
He hands me a perfectly normal folded square of paper and leaves.
In the middle of work, six days later, it hits me like a level 80 rogue. I smack my forehead and remember where I’ve seen him before. Oh, come on, how I was I supposed to guess that? There aren’t even any songs about that. That’s not fair at all.
I went to his apartment building after work and hit the button for his apartment.
“Hello?” I say. No answer. “You there? It’s me.” Still no answer. “Okay, fine, I’m leaving now.” I let go of the button. I wait for a few minutes and hit the button again.
“Me again. You’re not fucking with me, are you? Because my patience for this is finite. I solved your riddle, I think so anyway, so just give me some experience and a magic vest and I’ll be on my way. I have no clue how to have a relationship anyway, I mean, you were my first. No more unicorns for me. They were starting to annoy me, anyway.”
The door to the apartment swings open, and an older woman with a small dog comes out. She offers to let me inside, but I politely shoo her away.
“So maybe it’s better to just call things off. So don’t say anything if you want to call the whole thing off.” There’s no answer. I wait for an extra minute just to be sure. “Is that your final answer? Well, okay. Leaving forever now.”
Five steps later my cell phone rings.
I answer the phone with, “You’re a real jackass, you know?”
“I know,” he says, “so, you figured it out?”
“I’m going to look like such an ass if I get this wrong.”
“Just try. If you get it wrong, I’ll tell you.”
“But aren’t you a cat?”
“Yes, I am. I’m lying, duh. What’s your answer?”
I take a deep breath.
“What is transgendered, Alex?”
I hear the door click open.
“Second floor, first room to your right. I hope you like soba.”
I go inside.