Sam , Maya

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Amateur

MONDAY

Kurt and Kustler’s Mega Bookstore. Union Square. Dark and cold outside. Light and warm inside. I’m browsing, walking up and down each aisle. I turn and walk down another row of Fiction. Up ahead there sits a girl, on the carpet, back against a shelf and legs outstretched in front of her. Her gaze buried deep in a book that she holds open on her lap. Her green backpack sits beside her and it looks as though she probably bought it at some army surplus store. It has a rock band patch sewn onto it. The Ramones. She wears a pink, frilly skirt, almost childlike in nature, which is starkly contrasted by the black leather jacket that she also wears. Pretty face. Long brown hair. If there’s a ballerina biker gang out there, she surely is their leader. I step over her legs. At the end of the aisle, two more girls, both in long identical gray winter coats, which, if combined, probably cost more than four years’ worth of my college education. They’re chatting loudly.

“We’re seeing the movie. First day. Definitely.”

“Definitely. But I want to read the book first.”

“You will love it. It is hot. I mean red-hot. I mean have something battery-operated on hand hot.”

“Are you serious?”

“Of course I am. It’s the only book I ever finished. I want my own Christopher Black to come take me away… tall, dark, rich, sexy… he could whip the hell out of me, I wouldn’t care.” The other one laughs. “Come on, let’s go get you your copy.” And they make their move away from the actual literature and over toward the romance section.

“My inner-goddess is puking,” she remarks, dryly. The cute one. The cute one sitting down in the frilly pink skirt with the Ramones patch on her army green backpack. She said it either to nobody in general or directly to me. Say something back, quick. Respond before the moment passes because then it will be gone and it will be too late and you won’t be able to get it back, not without things getting all awkward, and then, eventually, you’ll walk away, alone, hitting yourself, hard, with mental slaps and then you’ll go home, alone, and start hitting yourself, hard, with actual slaps, and you’ll drape a sheet over the kitchen table and sit under there like it’s a tent, drinking Australian beer and crying all night, so say something now.

“Ha! Mine too.” You idiot.

“So… you have an inner-goddess, huh? Hm. Good to know.”

*****

Classic cut blue jeans. And a winter jacket straight out of an L.L. Bean catalogue, left open just enough to reveal the Star Wars tee shirt underneath. He’s a doofus. Total doofus… but not an asshole. I can identify an asshole in a second and-a-half. Sometimes, in just a second. And he’s not an asshole. And doofus trumps asshole.

*****

“Not into the whole “60 Secrets of Mr. Black” thing, huh?” I ask her.

“Oh, I read the book. I keep it in the bathroom now. As toilet paper.”

“That bad, huh?”

“That bad.” She’s looking right at me now, her face no longer buried in her book. “Did you read it?”

“Uh, yeah actually. I did. My ex was into it. Like, really into it. Like, she wanted me to be Christopher Black.”

“Was that her right there?” she asks, her head nodding in direction of where the expensive winter coat girls had just been chatting.

“Haha, no. Anyway, I read it, but, let’s just say, it… I really didn’t care for it either.”

“Yeah, I’m not so sure you could have pulled off the Christopher Black thing for her anyhow. Not for nothing, but you don’t really strike me as the Mr. Black type.”

“Really? You don’t see me starting up and managing my own multi-billion dollar company by the age of 25? Living on my own private tropical island inside a dark, enchanted gothic castle complete with a thousand foot sex dungeon? Whisking lovelorn women off their feet and away from their boring, mundane lives, back to said island to awaken their deeply buried, yet deeply passionate, erotic fantasies?”

“Judging by your dirt stained Nikes and the book of collected Spiderman comics you’re holding in your hands… No. Not really.” BAM. Got me good.

“Fair assessment,” I said. I took a hit but I was still doing all right. I think. Keep it up. “But hey, that’s fine by me.”

“Oh, me too.” She smiles at me. And then… she lowers her head and turns her attention back unto the book that lay squarely in her lap. Okay. Walk away. Fun time is over. It was nice while it lasted. Time to buy this Spiderman graphic novel and go home. Pick up some Australian beer along the way.

I begin to turn around, but suddenly, feeling the sharpest jab of courage I’ve felt since I was in fifth grade and rode a bicycle down a flight of stairs, I stop myself and say aloud, “Hey.” She looks back up at me. “You wanna… maybe… get a cup of coffee? Or something?”

*****

I make him wait a whole ten seconds. I count them in my head.

“Yeah, okay,” I finally answer.

*****

“To be honest, I found the book offensive. ” I say, followed by a sip of my coffee. Ew, coffee. Gross. I don’t even like coffee, but it seemed like just the right thing to suggest. You don’t ask someone you just met if they want to go sex izle out for hotdogs and big pretzels. I should have ordered a hot chocolate though.

*****

“Ah, I see. Does the idea of whips and chains conflict with your strict Christian upbringing?” I ask him. That is the crucial question after all.

“Oh, no. It’s not that,” he answers.

Good.

“Pray tell then, what about it offends you?”

“Well… I mean, I’m sure there’s probably a whole heck of a lot of problems with it content-wise, but, that’s not my main point of contention with it. No, I find it offensive on a purely intellectual level. I mean, the lady who authored it… her writing skills range from… bizarrely atrocious to completely non-existent. You’d think that… you know… dealing with the particular subject matter that she’s dealing with, you’d at least have an entertaining read on your hands, but… I’ve read lists of ingredients on the sides of cereal boxes that packed more of a punch.

So yes, it offends me. It offends me that someone with a 7th grade style prose, pumping out literary trash, is now shitting on a toilet of gold while real authors are starving to death in back alleys, slums and gutters.”

I smile.

*****

She smiles. Bam! I got a smile from her. Pat on the back! No kitchen cry-tent for me tonight.

“True. It sucks as fiction, plain and simple,” she responds. “But, unlike you, I do take a great deal of offense to the content itself.”

“Yeah, how so?”

“Well.” She pauses and bites her bottom lip, deep in thought. I wonder if she knows how sexy she looks doing that. “Let’s say you were going to write a novel about… figure skating.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Would you research figure skating, get an understanding of what it takes to be a figure skater, maybe interview some figure skaters, understand their mindset, try on a pair of skates yourself and skate around a bit, and, at the very least, learn the names of the different figure skating maneuvers? Or, would you just wing it and make up everything based on a figure skating commercial you saw late on TV one night when you were half asleep? ‘Jill got out on the ice and did a Squiggly-Wiggly that wowed all the judges!'”

“I don’t get it.”

“What I mean is, the woman who wrote it, Mary… What’s-her-name. She really had no business writing it in the first place. Her portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle is wildly inaccurate. It is quite possible to possess multiple kinks and fetishes and to still lead a healthy, normal life. It is also quite possible for two people to engage in a dominant, submissive relationship that is both loving and meaningful. But you wouldn’t know that from reading ’60 Secrets.’ Oh no. It’s portrays kinkiness as some sort of ailment or mental disease. In the world of ’60 Secrets,’ to be kinky is to use your intoxicating power to coerce an insecure woman into sexually depraved fetish-play that borders on the non-consensual. Sticking thumbtacks into the back of her neck and choking her out during kitchen counter sex with a long tube of kielbasa?? Demanding she address him as her Mighty Sun God and having her sign a written contract that prohibits her from looking him in the eye?? That’s not sexy. It’s ridiculous. Christopher Black is not a dominant male. He’s a complete and utter psychopath, detached from all humanity, with seemingly incurable mother issues. Perhaps Mary… gosh, what is her name?”

“Prudence.”

“Right! Perhaps Mary Prudence should have actually done her research. Explored the BDSM lifestyle. Spoken to people involved in it. Experimented with some S&M and fetish play herself. But no. She just wrote a book about what she thought it might be like, and so, aside from grossly misinforming the general public, she’s also helping to create a legion of young women whose predominant sexual fantasies now center around passively waiting for handsome rich degenerates to come and mentally and emotionally abuse them while simultaneously choking them out with a large assortment of dinner meats.”

“I agree,” I say boldly. She could have said anything at all and I would have said, “I agree.” “Ketchup is better than mustard.” “I agree.” “Speedy Gonzalez would make a great pope.” “I agree.” Anything at all.

“I’m glad!” she responds, with a warm smile. Wow, that’s a pretty smile.

“So you know a lot about, uh, that whole lifestyle, huh?” I ask.

“I know a lot about a lot of things,” she shoots back quickly. She pauses for a moment, biting her lip again. “I think that, to be ignorant about the world around you, is to do yourself a major disservice.”

We finish our coffees. Time to go in for kill.

“Well, I’d love to maybe meet up again. Discuss books, or whatever. Can I take you out for a drink some time? Like a drink-drink, not a coffee drink.”

“Do you like to bowl?”

“Yeah, sure, it’s all right.”

“Well okay, then. You can take me bowling. This Saturday. At the Gutter Ball. In Brooklyn. Have you been?”

“No.”

“I like it. They play punk rock over the speakers. Or, sometimes, they have live bands performing. You know, depending on the day you go. They serve cheap PBRs fransız porno and there’s none of that stupid neon-flashy light bowling, or whatever they call it. You know what I mean? What’doyoucallit?”

“Yeah, I think I know what you mean… it’s uh… uh,” I snapped my fingers with each “uh,” searching for the right phrase and then found it. “Laser bowling!”

“Yes! Laser bowling! Yeah, I hate that shit.”

SATURDAY

The place is pretty cool. Pretty hip. It’s a large, divey kind of bar, complete with an old coin operated jukebox, dartboard, and pool table. You take a number from the girl up front, and when that number is displayed on the scoreboard style lights that hang above a framed and autographed picture of Joe Dimaggio, that means it’s your turn to bowl. The lanes are in a large room over and they’re old fashioned, no frills, retro lanes. You have to keep score yourself on a piece of paper and there’s nary a laser in sight.

I sit at the counter, waiting for her to show. I look down at the piece of paper in my hand. It reads 92. The lights above Joltin’ Joe read 75.

I go through a couple beers. And then… she enters. She’s wearing snug fit, dark blue jeans and the same black leather she wore at the bookstore, her light brown hair tied back in a ponytail. Suddenly, it’s like a dream is walking towards me. If this was a movie, time would slow down and all the noises around me, the clinking of glasses, the boisterous laughter and shouting and talking, it would gently recede, replaced instead, by some song by the Ronettes, or Shirelles.

“Hey you,” she says with a smile, now by my side.

Be my, be my, be my little baby.

“Hey!” I stand and give her a kiss on the cheek. “I got us a number, we’re number 92!” I point to the scoreboard lights.

“Great,” she says. And we sit. And we talk. And we laugh. And we drink.

*****

The lights on the wall read 92. We rent our shoes. We hit the lanes. We bowl. He sucks. And I kick his ass.

“Is this why you like to take people bowling? So you can publically humiliate them?” he asks.

“Oh, suck it up,” I tell him. “What’s the matter, you’re afraid to lose to a girl?”

“Afraid? Nah, I’m not afraid. Of anything.”

“Wow, impressive.” There’s something wrong with the speakers tonight so we have to make do with no punk rock. Instead, we speak over the sounds of polyurethane balls colliding with maple wood pins.

“Yep. Besides. I didn’t really lose. I’ve always been told that it’s polite to let your date win the first game.”

“Oh, that’s such crap.” Someone next to us gets a strike and does a funky little dance to celebrate.

“Maybe.” He lifts a red shiny ball from the ball dispenser tray and preps it, getting ready to start our second game. “But I hope you paid your tuition. Because you’re about to go to school.”

*****

I win the second game. Thank God. I had never bowled better in my life and I just squeaked by. Two strikes in the last frame. I am the man! I am a champ! Okay, calm down. Play it off like it’s nothing. No big deal.

“Good game,” I say.

“Fuck you,” she says. I smile. “Ready for round three,” she asks, holding up her shiny ball.

“Yeah, but… let’s make it interesting. ” Our ears have adjusted to the constant toppling of pins and we’re no longer shouting. Just sort of… talk-shouting.

“Oh yeah? What do you have in mind?”

“A bet, of course.”

“A bet?”

“Yeah, everything’s better with bets!”

“Sounds good. Do you want to start at 1 grand, or 2?”

“Ha ha, no money. Money bets are predictable. And you don’t strike me as a predictable person.”

“Okay, then, fine. What do you have in mind?”

“How’s about,” I start, “if I win… you give me a kiss… not a quick peck, not a rinky dink one, a nice, real, long, deep, passionate kiss… right out here on the lanes for everyone to see.” She held her ball, narrowed her eyes, smiled slightly and cocked her head sideways.

“And if I win?”

“You name it.”

“Hmmm,” she thought out loud, staring at me.

*****

Back at the bar. She’s sitting close to me, smiling wider than a Cheshire cat, playing with a strand of her hair that has fallen out of place. I’m nursing a beer.

“Well… you lost the rubber match,” she tells me.

“It’s true. I did. But to be fair… I don’t think those were regulation-sized pins. They seemed skinnier. And more elusive.”

“Oh, wow, excuses now, really?”

“I’m not making excuses.”

“Well then… time to perform your half of the bet.”

“Okay.” I knew that was coming. I had half my beer left and I brought it to my lips and slowly downed the whole thing in one go, then dramatically placed the empty bottle down with a thud. “Here I go.”

*****

He stands up.

“Attention, everyone! Attention!” The bar quiets down and all eyes are on him. “I am a duck! And I have this to say for myself! Quack, quack. Quack, quack, quack. Quack! Quack-quack-quack! QUACK QUACK! Quack-quack, quack-quack. Thank you.”

He sits back down. I giggle and applaud. “Bravo! Well done.” He smiles.

SUNDAY

I teen porno wake up in my bed. Alone. The previous night had ended with a goodnight kiss. I didn’t win the bet, but I got one anyway. I like her. A lot. I think about waiting a day or two before I text her… you know, play it cool? Make her wait? But… I don’t. I text her before eleven. I should have at least waited until after lunch.

I text: I had a lot of fun last night! (Even though I lost!) When can I see you again?

Sent. I wait for a response. An hour goes by. Then two. Nothing. I go for a walk, run errands, mail a letter, come home, watch tv, go out again, buy groceries, come home, watch more tv, shut off tv. Nothing. And then… a buzz.

I read her text.

“If you want to go out with me again, I want you to watch these first and then when we meet up, you tell me what you think about them! ; )” Her message was followed by three hyperlinks. I clicked on the first one. It brought me to a website with a video. I clicked play on the video. Oh. Oh, wow. Huh. Well. Gee. Hm. Wow.

I was not expecting that.

SATURDAY

We set up a date and time for him to come over. “I’ll make dinner,” I say! “Cool,” he says! We don’t really mention the links. Well. It’s here. 9 o’clock on a Saturday. And I sit on the couch watching Youtube videos on my laptop, pretending like I’m not anxiously waiting for his arrival.

The dinner stuff sits on the countertop. Spaghetti and meatballs. I figure, you can’t go wrong with spaghetti and meatballs. Originally an Italian dish, it has since been adopted by the

world.

What is up with all these cat videos? Darth Vader cat, cats playing poker, a cat that sounds like he’s saying, “I love you,” a cat that sounds like he’s saying, “I hate you,” a cat that can do a backflip, a cat that looks like Richard Nixon. I’ve watched about 23 of them in a row and I don’t even like cats.

The buzzer buzz. My neck snaps towards it like a startled… cat. I slap the laptop shut, stand, and walk over to the intercom system. I hit the TALK button.

“Who is it,” I ask.

“Hey, it’s me,” he responds amidst a sea of static. I buzz him up.

A few moments later he is at my door and let’s me know it by way of a gentle knocking. I open it up.

“So. You made it!” I say, cheerfully.

“Yep.” He says. I pause… only for the slightest of moments, not even a full pause, more like half of one, more like just a pau. But it was enough to be noticed. This was not one of my carefully planned “on-purpose-to-emphasis-what-comes-out-of-my-mouth-next” pauses. No. I’ll admit it. I’m nervous.

“And you got the links I sent? And you watched them?” I was blushing as I asked him. Weird. I don’t usually blush. I’ve met plenty of guys at S&M clubs, at fetish parties and off of BDSM related websites before, and never, EVER blushed over my own desires. With them, there was a mutual understanding. We were communicating in settings where kinkiness was the norm. Where power play wasn’t some newfangled idea. I knew what I wanted, and, if they were worth a damn, I’d let them know what I wanted. And, if they didn’t like what I wanted… fuck ’em. I’d just tell them to buzz away like the little bees that they were. Drones. This was different though. This guy’s not from a club, or a party, or a site. He’s from a bookstore. And a bowling alley. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so upfront. I like him though. And this is me. This is a part of who I am, a huge part, and it’s not going away, so I guess I just need to have the same mentality. If he’s not willing to accept it… fuck ’em. He can buzz, buzz away too. But. I will feel really bad about losing this one. Really bad.

“Yep,” he answers, still in the doorway. I open the door wider… overtly welcoming him in. He enters. I close it behind him.

“What’d you think?” I ask him.

“They… were… interesting.”

“Interesting?”

“Definitely.”

“Well, I didn’t mean to pull you out of your comfort zone or anything. Just thought you’d like to know what type of girl you’re dealing with here. “

“Oh, I mean, good interesting.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yep.”

“That’s three yeps in under a minute.”

“Yep.”

“Four.”

“Yep.”

“Try it again and you’re gonna get smacked, Mister.”

He compliments me on my place (it is quite wonderfully decorated, if I do say so myself), and then we decide to eat spaghetti and meatballs and watch a movie. We bicker back and forth for a few about which one to Netflix before deciding on Ghostbusters. I have never seen it before and he says something about that being a “sacrilege,” and how I am about to embark upon a “holy cinematic pilgrimage.”

We sit close together on the couch, throw back some wine (for me) and beer (for him) and chat here and there during the movie and I do laugh out loud a few times at it. I watch him watch it out of the corner of my eye and can tell that he’s fighting back the urge to recite some of the lines aloud with the characters. It ends and I bust his balls for a while telling him it sucked before I concede that it was actually pretty good. I give him a tour of the rest of the apartment and… inevitably… we wind up rolling around on my bed making out. He is a good kisser. We use a lot of tongue. We kiss like teenagers. In a good way. We do this for a while. This is nice.

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