I extended my trip to Washington D.C. three times. Once was to see Lilu in Manhattan. The other two, well… The fact is I loved the city. By the time Monday rolled around and I was on the bus returning from New York and my tryst with Trystan, I wasn’t ready to leave. I still hadn’t seen the Portrait Gallery or the Arboretum. My excursion felt unfinished. Then there was JR.
Monday night, when I should have been packing, I met him for drinks at ChurchKey as soon as I left my bus at DuPont Circle. We spent several hours there. I told him about Trystan, which amused him. He told me what made sex with me so good. One, that I let him keep the lamp on.
“What lamp? There was a lamp?”
“On my bedside table,” he said, getting tasters from the bartender of several microbrewery beers before he ordered the next round. “You’re the first girl who didn’t make me turn off the lights. I like that. Being able to see everything, it’s a turn on. Most girls are too self-conscious.”
“Fuck, I didn’t even notice.” Then I thought about my ex, Graham. A few times he turned off my reading lamp if it was still on. I hated that. The dark made the person with me faceless, less human. Sometimes, it made it more difficult for me to get turned on enough to have sex with Graham. He was self-conscious about his body. He used to ask if I thought he was fat. He had fat, certainly, especially those love handles above his hips. I never thought he was fat though. But still, the lights went off. “I like being able to see too,” I said to JR. “Girls like to look just as much. I definitely enjoyed that man line of yours.”
“That’s the other thing. You knew what you wanted, and you went for it. You were into it,” he said. I grinned over my cider, flashing back to the flurry of limbs, being on top of JR and suddenly stopping, telling him I was turning around without any help or permission. Reverse cowgirl was becoming one of my new favorite positions. “Normally, being single sucks because the sex is so bad. It’s all missionary and the girl just sort of lays there. She’s too nervous or tense to get into it. It’s extremely rare for it to be that good the first time you have sex with someone. I think the only reason I was with my ex for so long is because the sex was amazing the first time.”
I couldn’t help but feel my ego blow up. I didn’t even care when he showed me the picture of his neck and shoulder, which looked like he’d been in a MMA fight. He laughed about that too anyway. Still, I thought about Graham again. Our first time had been awkward to say the least. A month or so of sexual tension, instead of blowing up Nagasaki style, fizzled more like a bottle rocket. Both of us so anxious that he struggled for half-mast and I stuck to the dread missionary, then panicked immediately after that we’d made a mistake because it wasn’t that great. I worried my first time with Graham was a bad omen. But then the sex got better. Amazing, occasionally mind blowing, he made me cum on the regular more than any guy I’d ever been with. Graham understood rhythm over speed. Luckily I was couple ciders too deep to really analyze the meaning of the difference between my shitty first time with Graham and my wet and wild time with JR.
Later, JR and I made out a bit outside the bar before splitting our separate ways. Not before JR said he had Wednesday night free however. I was supposed to leave Tuesday morning, for no reason other than that was the original plan. But with my cousin encouraging me to stay as long as I wanted, a few sights to still see, and JR offering another night of drinks and dick (though the latter was only explicitly implied not verbally confirmed), I said ok.
“Alright, if you’re free. I’ll stay.”
Wednesday, I spent the entire day in the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum until I met JR for drinks at the Iron Horse down the street. I swear, I drank more with my cousin and JR during a couple weeks in DC than I had in the last two months. I’d missed that part of urban living, and the joy of finding new places to drink with their different styles and vibes. Where I live there are no bars. Where I work has a few, but you sort of pick your place and stick to it.
There was happy hour. Then dinner. JR buying as usual. Then we took an uber car back to his place.
We fucked his bed two feet out from the wall. I’m not even exaggerating. IKEA doesn’t hold that well to a lot of heavy thrusting. One foot was my fault. I rode JR hard, partially because he was trying his damnedest to make me cum by rubbing my clit like it was a goddamn magic lamp. Wishes abound. For once, I didn’t want to smack the guy’s hand away. The issue usually that they can’t keep time and it distracts me from the fucking, or that they just don’t know how to touch a clit without being too rough or not keeping it wet. JR spun perfectly pressure circles and knew when to graze his fingers to my cunt for lubrication. Luckily, his roommate was out again after JR had warned that he would probably be bringing a girl home. I couldn’t have been quiet if I had wanted.
“How did you not cum from that?”
“I don’t fucking know,” I panted. And I was genuinely baffled as well. I had felt the puttering of fireworks from my knees to my gut, but no sparkling explosions. “But it was unfuckingbelievable.”
The other foot was definitely from JR after he flipped me over, hitting the top of my cervix in precision waves. But then, just as I could feel him cuming, he pulled out, finishing instead as he rubbed the rest out and fell backwards on to the bed.
“What did you do that for? That’s my favorite part and you took it away.”
“I always pull out.”
“That’s what the condom is for. And you’ve had a vasectomy.”
“Habit.” He shrugged.
“So weird,” I said, but I lay down and cuddled with him briefly anyway.
It was only when we got up to clean that we saw the huge gaping space between the wall and his bed. There was another naked high five before we started pushing the frame back into place.
Ever the gentleman, JR drove me back to my car once again, which was parked at one of the metro stations in Virginia. He had a fierce objection to letting me ride the metro late at night. He didn’t think the stations around Columbia Heights were safe for me alone. I often in turn reject such gendered paranoia, but I wasn’t going to object to more time with JR.
“You are glowing,” he said from the driver’s seat. “Is that just from the sex?”
“It was good sex,” I replied, grinning of course. I felt fluffy, like marshmallow whip.
“It was a good time for sure. We do good things together.”
“Mmmhmm,” I mumbled, leaning against the window. It isn’t often I get to enjoy the afterglow, while passing through DC at night, with the lights up and on the capitol and the Washington monument. It was a wonderful glow, except it didn’t last, because of the city.
Somewhere after JR pointed out Watergate Hotel, we got lost. The highway split with directions to the interstate we were looking for. We took the wrong side of the split. We hit one way streets. Roads sent us in circles. We ended up having to drive the length of the mall in order to turn around. The road we needed went under the bridge instead of intersecting it. When we got up there, the road to the bridge split, and we again took the wrong direction. By the time we got onto the right interstate, signs appeared and disappeared for our exit. JR pulled off unsure, afraid to keep going if we’d missed the exit. I pushed him, assuring him we had not missed Franconia. Eventually, we got the metro station with JR quiet and thus undeniably upset. What should have been a 45 minute ride took almost two hours. It was well after 1am and he had work in the morning. Worse still, it felt like my fault for not knowing the way to my metro station.
Often what I hate most about sex is that it ends. The outside world comes back into focus. At some point, the clothes are put on again and the step is taken to return to reality, which can crush the glow as quickly as it was lit. I wished that JR and I had never left his place or the comfort of his shoddy IKEA bed. If not, we could have ended everything in the morning. I could have wandered down to the metro station in day light with my bedhead and wrinkled clothes and my glow intact. I consider the morning after more of a walk of relish than a walk of shame. My vacation fling, full of flirtation and a touch of genuine romance, could have ended in terms more suitable to a Woody Allen movie than a Lars Von Trier dark mood fest.
I had two days left in DC after deciding once again to extend my stay in order to see the Arboretum. My cousin, of course, getting the full story of my ruined glow, kept asking if I would see JR. I told him I didn’t know. We hadn’t made any plans. Part of me was afraid that JR was so mad about the unfortunate drive that he wouldn’t even want to see me. A few texts had reassured me that wasn’t likely the case but I still didn’t ask to hang out. By Friday, my last night (officially and definitely since I had a job interview on Tuesday), my cousin and I were at Smoke and Barrel, drinking, eating barbeque and playing foosball on the only good table I’d found in the city. He asked once more if I would be going to see JR afterward. I shrugged.
“Oh, just call him already. If he says no, he says no. But he’s going to say yes,” my cousin told me. At his urging, I made the call from the bathroom, the only quiet place in the bar.
JR answered. We went through pleasantries. I asked what he was doing the rest of the night. He explained that his roommate had a house guest coming by, but other than that, he was uncertain.
“Well, do you want to hang out later? And by hang out, I mean get a little naked.”
“Flick, are you booty calling me?”
“Yeah, I think so. I’ve never booty called anyone before. Usually it’s the other way around, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m doing.”
“I’ve never been booty called either.”
JR told me about the house guest staying the night, that there would be people, that he’d been out late last night. Finally, I interrupted.
“Look, it’s up to you. I’m going to go have some more drinks with my cousin. You think it over, decide what you want to do. If you want to see me again, all you have to do is send me a text with the address.” I hung up quickly after that. I got another Jameson and ginger ale.
“What did he say?” My cousin asked when I got back.
“If he texts, I’ll go over there. If not, we can drink our way back to Virginia.”
About fifteen minutes later, my cousin pointed to my elbow. “Your phone is buzzing.”
The text didn’t have any words. It was nothing but a map pin, but it was enough to get me and a cab to the right place. I was positively giddy. Though I wish I’d been drunker and maybe the sex would have been better. It wasn’t bad sex. JR never tilted that far down the scale. But it wasn’t nearly as good as the previous nights. Of course, sex can’t always be phenomenal. JR chalked it up to frequency. For him, three times in one week was exhausting.
“Seriously? Shit, even when Graham and I went up to three times a week, I still thought we weren’t having enough sex. But then, maybe I’m just insatiable.”
“You’re the one who quit tonight,” JR pointed out. It was true, I’d put the kibosh on our interlude, tired of him banging me from behind while my arms gave out. There had been something off about the rhythm or maybe the shitty bed’s inability to be stable enough to let me anchor and push back. Either way, I liked getting fucked, but I like to feel as though I’m contributing. So, I stopped and spent about thirty minutes blowing him, even when he told me I could stop because it wasn’t going to happen, which I didn’t accept. I kept going and yes, he did cum.
“If it was your arms, we could have changed position,” JR said. I just shrugged and started putting my clothes on. It hadn’t been worth it to suggest other options. I had gotten what I wanted. Sometimes you just need some dick, the amount of time is irrelevant after a certain point.
Even with the disaster that it was last time, JR insisted once again on driving me to Virginia. We didn’t get lost again, thank god, so conversation didn’t die out into frustrated silence. We talked about sex, relationships. We talked about me moving out to D.C.
“If it wasn’t the capital, Washington would be a college town,” JR said. “There’s all kinds around. I bet you could find a job out here.”
I had fallen in love with city since I’d been there. I always love places more than I do people. Washington reminded me of London, my true love. I don’t know why my heart works differently, how it can open so widely for cobblestone streets, underground transportation, corner pubs, and converted art museums, yet clench up at the thought of throwing myself similarly into another a person. I miss London every day. I miss any city, whether Paris or Florence or New York, anywhere that felt like home, because they always felt like home. I knew as JR drove me to my car, I would miss D.C. that way, because I had given it a piece of me. It was sweet of JR to encourage the idea that my stay could turn from a temporary visit to a permanent move. Though, part of me wondered, if I did move out there, would JR want to keep seeing me? Because all I could think is that if I lived here, I could never sleep with him again.
At dinner the other night, JR had called us friends with benefits. I considered it more of a fling, but I supposed he was right. We were still friends. We were enjoying benefits. I saw his point. Despite the fun we were having as such, I wasn’t looking for that again. After a year and half hooking up, my one serious friendship with benefits had left me burned more than I cared to admit. Still, another relationship seemed far-fetched as well, certainly if it would be with JR, who while I liked immensely didn’t strike the chords around my heart. It didn’t help that I noticed him check out other girls. In the cab one night, he straight up rubbernecked for some girl on the street, complimenting her little black dress.
“What the hell, JR?” I asked, loud enough I know the uber driver could hear me. “You can talk about how hot a random girl is, but I get jack shit? You haven’t once told me I look nice tonight or any other night.”
“You already know you’re hot,” JR said. “And you already know I’m attracted to you. I didn’t take you for the kind of girl who needed to hear it.”
So, single is my option.
“And I like being single,” I told JR during the same dinner in Chinatown. “I do. It suits me, probably more than it should.”
When my relationships end, the response I get from most people is “well, you lasted longer than I thought you would.” I reason though that it’s a fair statement, when they know that commitment makes me chaff, sometimes literally. I like the freedom to go and do as I please, to flirt with men, to focus on my own interests and ambition. Everything about my character proves that single is my stronger state of being. I’m someone who searches for the next map pin, the next adventure, and the next sight to see. Relationships tend to make me feel like I have to put the map away. I’ve accepted that the likelihood of finding someone who makes unyielding love seem like a true adventure rather than shackles around my ankles is closer to non-existent. As one of the best parts of my trip, JR reminded me that there are other possibilities to the end-all, be-all of the one and only. He reminded me why I enjoy being single, from the thrill of flirtation and the romance of a first kiss and a first fuck, the wild abandon of giving over to someone so briefly. I love it, I do, being with JR and Trystan and even Rory before them. I love that being single grants me the opportunity to find these men.
I love it up until the point when I lay down on my bed.
It hit me more on the nights after I left JR, maybe because it was still a strange bed as well, no matter how many nights I slept there. The spare bed at my cousin’s apartment was a queen size, with mattresses all the way from Germany and soft, jersey sheets, pure white. It was incredibly comfortable, like sinking into sea foam. On that last night, I made it back JR’s place even before my cousin, who ended up meeting military buddies for another drink. So, even the normal late night television viewing wasn’t on in the background as I changed to pajamas and slipped between the milky sheets.
My wanderlust and the more than satisfying ending to my affair with JR wasn’t enough to sate that quiet moment in the dark before I fully fell asleep, when all I could think about was the empty space around me, an entire mattress open except for a few dirty clothes. Every day, I enjoy being single, making choices for myself and kissing new boys. Then, for the first time in my last hours in D.C., I realized that every night I miss Graham, like I miss the cities I’ve left behind. But we can’t live everywhere at once.