We’re all clairvoyant when it comes to the past. We can part back the veils of mystery and see all those little hints, breadcrumb clues that went by our eyes and then now in our heads appear like neon “mistake here” signs. With Shawn Stokes, I have several of those moments, like his terse history with women, the quickness in which I suddenly spent every other night in his apartment, his endearing dislike of sleeping alone, or the silence rule during football games. Then there was fate itself warding me off when I woke up to find my car towed two weeks in because I parked in the wrong spot or when three weeks in I came down with mono and gave it to the guy who claimed to never get sick. These were things I couldn’t see because when I wasn’t pretending to enjoying to the Colts, I strangely found myself fantasizing during boring lunch shifts at the bar about he and I living happily ever after.
Sometimes, I still don’t understand why it was Shawn, how I let him dig into my heart like dandelions into the sidewalks. We had nothing substantial in common, he wasn’t as smart as me, and he didn’t even own any books that weren’t required for school. For Christ’s sake, he liked four wheelers and wore preppie clothes. But I was smitten, the way any 18 year girl should be with her first grown up infatuation. I was like Bella Swan before there was Bella Swan. Like her, I just could not see past the fancy sparkles to the douchery underneath.
But if there’s one sign that I was not meant for a guy, one that really shouldn’t even need the magical ‘oh, there it was’ goggles of future reminiscing, it was when he actually suggested that I go sleep with another guy, going so far as to walk me to my car and telling me to have fun. At the time, I wanted it to mean he was that cool, laidback, free form. I thought it meant we were going to be a mature couple who understood each other’s needs. Instead, it was proof of my naivety.
After dating for about a month, which seemed a lot longer than it was, Zane, my summer crush and Shawn’s best friend, came back into the picture. Invites to his going away party were circling around via text and Facebook and I got one with all of my other friends, Nikki not included. The time had come for Zane to take his final send off before going to the Middle East. His parents were hosting at their house just down the road from my dad’s. It was expected to be fairly entertaining, knowing Zane and his parents.
The party was discussed briefly between Shawn and I, both of us remaining sort of non-committal about it. We didn’t make any plans to go together. Instead my friends met up at my house, which they were familiar with, and I gave backseat directions to the Harley place, where the yard was full of cars, guests our age up to over-the-hill, and everybody was drinking. Old rock classics played on the stereo and Zane’s mom showed us to the drink table. I ended up taking my first tequila shot ever with a salt haired lady whose name I never got. It was Jose and lime. I liked it.
Red cup in hand, my friends and I mingled. Zane introduced to me to his dad. As soon as he heard my last name, his eyes perked up.
“Oh, shit, are you Robert’s little girl?”
“Zane, are you trying to get us in trouble? Don’t tell your daddy we gave you alcohol.”
“I won’t, I promise.” Though alcohol would be the least of the worries by the end of the night.
Eventually, Shawn showed up, making the special trip out of Greenville for his best buddy. The easy time I was having got a little more awkward. The party marked the first time we were both out in the same place. We hadn’t discussed protocol or our status, though my friends were well aware of the situation. It had been difficult to pretend I wasn’t seeing anyone when I showed up to a dorm quiz bowl with a purple earlobe from his repetitive sucking. Elijah and the others had called it my ‘leprosy’ until I fessed up to how I got it.
“FLIIICCCKK….you naughty girl,” Garett had said.
“Stokes? Our Stokes?” Elijah had almost echoed until it sunk in.
When Shawn ambled up to my side at the party, Elijah and his girl Lisa gave me a few looks, but we all just said hello and mostly left it at that. There were old friends from high school and new friends of Zane’s for us to meet. Conversations occurred here and there, yet while Shawn and I stayed fairly close by to each other, nothing official was ever said or assumed. I think we both realized it was Zane’s night and kept things to ourselves.
As the hours went by, the level of drunkenness increased rapidly and no more evident than in Zane. It was around midnight and he was trashed, bouncing from group to group, holding a bottle of Jagermeister and slurring his words. Different friends jumped in to watch him and eventually he stumbled into our group. There were some difficult to light cigarettes and spilled beer. It was all pretty harmless but a clear indication that the night was coming to a close.
Elijah and Lisa were ready to leave but Shawn offered to give me a ride home later, so I decided to stay a bit longer. We hung around finishing out drinks while Zane slowed down on his. When Shawn was ready to go, we said our goodbyes. There were hugs all around, but as Shawn was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Harley, I was alone with Zane by the drinks table in the garage.
He was still massively drunk but we hugged and I told him I would miss him.
“Be safe,” I warned.
“Don’t go,” he whispered and then I felt something wet on my neck. He was kissing me.
“Hey, hey, now,” I said, nervously laughing as I pulled away. But Zane grabbed my hips and pulled me back.
“Don’t go. Stay.” His fingers trailed downwards past the waistband of my jeans. I grabbed his wrist before he could go any further. I turned, checking that Shawn was still a few feet away with Zane’s mother and paying no attention to us.
“I can’t stay.”
“I think you should stay.”
“You’re too drunk.”
“Oh, no I’m not.” He grinned and shoved harder into my jeans, trying to push into my underwear. I wiggled away, bumping into some of the chairs, which got a few eyes on us. I could feel my face turning crimson. I rushed a last goodbye and joined Shawn, heading to his car.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, fine,” I lied, getting into the passenger seat. “Hey, does Zane know that you and I are, whatever?”
“Sort of. I mean, what there is to know. Why?”
“Nothing. He just sort of drunkenly hit on me.”
“What did you tell him?” The ignition came on.
“No, obviously. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“You should do whatever you want,” Shawn said, turning out of the Harley driveway.
We drove in silence for the two minutes it took to get to my dad’s house. It wasn’t enough time to really think about what Shawn meant, so it was easier to let it go. Since no one was going to be home for several more hours, I invited Shawn in and hoped to move past the awkward Zane discussion. We sat on the couch, watching TV and going back to normal conversation. We were cuddling when my cellphone started to ring. I answered. It was hard to hear and sounded a bit muffled, then a rambling voice came through.
“Hey, why did you leave?” Zane asked. “Are you coming back?”
“Do you want me to come back?”
“What do you want to do?” He surprised me how strikingly sober he sounded for a moment.
“Is that Zane?” Shawn asked, turning down the volume. I nodded. “Do you want to go back?”
“I…fuck…I don’t know,” I said. I expected to have these men twisting me in separate directions, but Shawn and Zane were throwing me for a loop. Neither was pushing me anywhere. They both wanted to know my decision and an answer eluded me. I knew what going back meant. It would be the second half to mine and Zane’s unfinished night. It would be the last chance before his deployment, yet he was wasted and I didn’t know if that was the night I really wanted, even if despite myself I still wanted Zane.
On the other side, there was the non-consummation between Shawn and me. The intimidation from his penis was no joke. We’d been fooling around for weeks but no closer to actually having sex because I genuinely feared the unimaginable pain that would follow. I cared about this guy. I was so happy to actually be dating someone, even though I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to sleep with him.
I got up and started pacing the living room. I kept saying ‘I don’t know’ as Zane asked if I would come back and Shawn asked what I really wanted. Finally, Shawn stopped asking and just told me to go.
“You like him. You guys have history. Just go back,” he said. “He’s my best friend and he’s about to serve this country. I can take one for the team.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, if you want to, go. He deserves to get laid before being sent to the desert.”
“Okay, well, okay,” I murmured and then uncovered the talk part of my phone. “Zane, I’ll be back in a few minutes,” I said slowly.
“And I guess I should leave too,” Shawn said, getting up. I grabbed both of our coats and we went out to the driveway.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” I told him. He kissed me on the corner of my mouth.
“Sounds good. And have fun tonight,” he said before turning back to his car. He seemed completely unfazed by the entire turn of events, less so than I was, to a point that he impressed me at the time. There wasn’t much else to say, so I just watched him drive away then I started my own beat-up Corsica. I took a deep breath to reassure I wasn’t too drunk to drive, that it was just the nerves. Once Shawn was gone, I didn’t let myself think about him again. Under the bright moonlight, all I could think about was the curvy road between me and Zane.
My heart was pounding when I got back to his house. Nearly everyone was gone, some of his cousins were still straggling along but even they were about to head inside to crash. Zane met me between my car and the garage. He was definitely still drunk, but he wasn’t stumbling and the slurring had stopped. He took me towards the side of his house where the deck was being built, leaving a half circle for the hot tub that would eventually go in. There were no lights and so the sky shown in Technicolor levels. It always came back to the stars with him. As we laid down on the deck, they seemed to engulf us. It felt like summer again, shooting the shit in the truck bed way past the a.m. We’d spent so many hours together that way, and still the same things worried me.
“What if you get hurt?” I asked between meaningless filler.
“Then I’ll come back to Three Forks with my wheelchair and dance in the front yard,” Zane said. He made it sound so simple, so less scary than it was. I could almost forget that he was going into a war zone in a few days, except that was a huge part of the reason I was there.
It was mid-October and the temperature was dropping. I shivered in my thin army style jacket. Zane reached out and held my hand. Everything eased, my muscles relaxed. The cold felt distant from my skin. No more shivers.
Zane leaned over and his lips were warm on mine. He tasted like menthols, softer than regular cigarettes, slightly minty. His mouth was smoke, mixed with beer and “herskey” as he called it. And I wanted that taste. It sparked my fingers to clutch back, tugging lightly on his shirt.
“You taste sweet,” he said when the kiss ended. But I’m not, I thought, I’m not sweet. It was just a coating, cheap Tropical Punch lip gloss that smelled like watermelon and strawberries. I licked my lips but all traces were gone, leaving only the taste of him. “Do you want to go inside?” I shook my head yes. The chill was returning.
He led me back around the house to the front door, where we crept in like stealthy monsters as some of his family slept on the couch and we went up the stairs, his hand laced with mine the entire time. His room didn’t surprise me. It was littered with odds and ends of video games and books. I picked up one of the thick fantasy novels, making a mental note of the author. There were posters for bands and movies. The bed was unmade. It looked a lot like my rooms always did.
While I took a seat on the bed, Zane went over to his computer and set music to play. A Social Distortion song started things off, one his favorite bands that he’d gotten me into that summer. There was something about the lead singer’s deep, scratchy voice that was soothing. I’d fallen asleep several nights to White Lights, White Heat, White Trash. But that night, I was far from dozing off when Mike Ness sung.
As though he could sense the slight unease, Zane talked with me more. We sat up in the bed, talking junk, making jokes, filling each other in on the past couple months. He did ask about Shawn and my thoughts on the giant member. He didn’t believe me when I told him the truth.
“Wait, you guys haven’t done it yet? You and he haven’t…but you’re here now. Huh…”
“Girls always go for Stokes before me, for his big dick of course. They usually only come to me when he breaks their heart afterwards.”
“I had a thing for you before I ever met Shawn, remember.”
“This is true. This is true,” he trailed off, leaning in again. We fell gradually down into the bed, slinking under the covers. Clothes were unceremoniously flung off. I remember how it felt to be naked against him, writhing, kissing, and knowing what was coming. “So, if not Stokes, has there been anyone else besides Brock?” He rolled over on top of me.
Zane reached for the string of condoms by the bed, ripping one off. He braced himself up with one hand and used the other to open it.
“Are you sure then?” I nodded, biting my lower lip. “Tell me if it hurts and we can stop.”
It ached as he pushed against me. It helped that it was a quick thrust and I gasped from the shock and sharp pressure that I felt. I expected the pain to escalate to what I remembered with Brock but it didn’t. This time, my body seemed to adapt, opening up and shaping to the new presence. Zane pushed again, sending my knees closer to my chest. I curved with him. I grabbed rapid breaths between thrusts as each penetration seemed to knock them back out again. The pain melted to a dull throb and then, the more Zane pressed into me, the hurt deadened entirely. It felt tight but goddamn amazing. I groaned and shifted my hips to match him.
We wouldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. For the next six hours, we fucked mercilessly.
Zane’s excessive drinking made it almost impossible for him to come. So we periodically switched positions, he flipped me on top, somewhere I’d never been, which I explained. He kept his hand on my waist guiding my movements helping to find the rhythm. At times, when we got too tired to move, we took turns going down. There was no point when Zane wasn’t hard, but the liquor just made him go forever. Eventually, we needed bathroom breaks, me especially considering the constant knocking about against my bladder. We both made several trips without incident. Zane would grab his boxers and run down the hall and when I went, I took the comforter with me.
Somewhere around five or six am, I shuffled down the carpet hallway with the blanket like a backless evening gown around me. I saw something in the periphery of my vision and I paused halfway to the bathroom, turning to the stairway next to me. Zane’s mother was stopped mid-step, gape mouthed and staring up at me.
“Hi, Mrs. Harley,” I greeted, overextending each syllable. I even waved, keeping one hand firmly held to my only source of cover. “I’m just…going to the bathroom.” I pointed to my left.
She didn’t say anything. She merely turned around and went back down the stairs. When I got into the bathroom, I slapped my hands to my forehead and whispered ‘oh my god’ before pissing. Zane laughed when I came back and told him. Since I had taken the cover, he was lying across the bed, holding his green, military helmet over his penis.
“It’s not funny,” I said. “What if I’d been naked? And now, don’t you think they know what we’re doing up here?”
“Of course, they do. And they don’t care,” Zane said, wrapping his arms around me to pull me back into bed.
“I’m so embarrassed.”
“Be embarrassed later. We’ve got shit to do.”
With the persistent joking, I couldn’t stay serious. The more we laughed, the more turned on I got. Half of our foreplay through the night had been inside jokes and Zane’s random, witty commentary. Soon, we were back to filling in the hours until Zane had to leave with heavy breathing and shaking mattresses. Sometime before 8am, we finally called it quits. I lay with my head on Zane’s chest and his arm over my shoulder as we let our hearts and lungs settle back to normal.
“So, that’s what sex is supposed to be like. Good stuff,” I huffed. “I’m not sure Brock should count. He was obviously worthless.”
“He counts. Maybe just not as whole. He’s got like half of your virginity, while I’m the guy you had sex with first.” Zane sighed. “I still can’t believe I got you before Stokes.”
The playlist on his computer had shuffled and repeated all night and, as we lay there, “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters came on again.
“I love this song,” I said.
“Me too.” And Zane started to sing along very softly. “If everything could ever feel this real forever. If anything could ever be this good again. The only thing I’ll ever ask of you, you gotta promise not to stop when I say when.” The notes reverberated from his chest to my cheek. It was slightly off key but in those breathy sounds it still sounded nice. I didn’t speak as he sang the entire song to me. To this day, I can’t hear “Everlong” without immediately thinking of Zane and the one of the best nights of my life.
The rising sun forced us out of bed. Downstairs, in last night’s clothes, I met half of his Zane’s family, who were getting ready for church. His mother acted like she hadn’t seen me since the party. His cousin Kole, a year old than me, was the only one who looked at us with that scandalous glint. In front of his porch, Zane and I said our goodbye. Part of me was scared to let go of him. That was the moment I realized it wasn’t about the sex. Zane wasn’t just my first experience, he was my friend. I promised myself then, that I would see him again. Screw the Middle East.
When Zane and his family left, I followed out, stopping at my dad’s before heading to town. He was watching the weather channel from his armchair. I took a seat on the couch next to him and he asked where I’d come from.
“I was at Zane Harley’s, down the road.”
“What were you doing?”
“Him,” I said, kicking off my boots.
“Oh,” my dad swallowed a laugh, trying to keep his expression even. “Did you have fun?”
I settled in, watching the local on the 8s and the turning clouds. I smiled as flashes of last night replaced the television screen. The memories were like savoring the aftertaste and I would have them forever, they would be that real like the flavor of menthols and lip gloss. Thanks to Zane, I had a feeling I was going to really like sex.
But it would only take a few nights with Shawn to tear that feeling apart.