“I think you should come upstairs and masturbate with me,” she says.
It isn’t a question. Her eyes bore into mine. Her voice is steady. But still I hesitate. I assume she is joking.
“OK,” I say, and follow her up the stairs.
We had spent the evening at an L Word premiere party, splitting two bottles of wine. When we got back to her apartment, I started making up a bed for myself on the couch. That’s when she took hold of my wrist and asked me to follow her.
I am in love with Kara in a way I would generously describe as desperate, but the last time anything happened between us — a single, luminous kiss, several years prior — it ended disastrously. So I am wary of her advances. I am even more wary of myself.
She has a boyfriend, too, so I don’t think anything will happen. I think we will sleep next to each other chastely, as we have countless times in the past.
Upstairs, we sit on her bed, and she opens a drawer full of sex toys, a shiny sea of silicone and cords. “Pick one,” she says.
She is not joking.
We are so close: Already, I am almost on her lap. My legs drape on her, my hand on her waist, the other in her hair. I can taste the citrus of her shampoo. I can count the hairs on her neck. When we kiss, the room is still but utterly alive. I can feel the ground splitting. It might as well be my heart.
Then her boyfriend shows up.
This isn’t an accident. She called him. “Come over,” she told him. She did not, however, tell me. So you can imagine my surprise when Seth suddenly appears next to the bed, holding two glasses of red wine. I am straddling Kara, my hair falling all around her.
“Do you need a hand?” he asks.
How can I tell you that my bisexual awakening involves the movie Kissing Jessica Stein without losing your respect? Will you allow it?
Here’s what happened: I meet Kara in London. We are both straight at the time, but, as I would later learn (from The L Word!): “Everyone is straight — until they’re not.”
We watch Kissing Jessica Stein in a movie theater near Piccadilly Circus station. I watch and my skin becomes one giant staticky pulse and I hope Kara does not notice. We talk about the movie for hours afterward.
“Have you ever … ?”
“But could you?”
“I don’t know!”
Months pass, the tension between us thickening like a stew. One night, she says she can no longer take it and asks me to meet her at a motel. It is the middle of the night.
On the crisp hotel sheets, she runs her hand flat across my chest, as if she were trying to smooth the wrinkles out of a shirt. I take her face in both of my hands in the dark. We kiss, but by then it is dawn and we have to leave for school, for work. We have to go back to our lives.
After we part, she falls asleep at the wheel, drives her car into a ditch, and does not speak to me for a month.
When she finally does, it is to ask if I want to go hiking with her and her new boyfriend.
A girl I want to date tells me she won’t sleep with me until I get an HIV test. It’s unclear if she asks me this because I am bisexual or because she knows I have only had sex four times the entire year. I can’t help but wonder.
I don’t have insurance, so I go to a local women’s clinic that is free. While waiting for my results, a nurse asks me about my sexual history. I’m embarrassed by my low number and consider lying to her.
She has brown curly hair and kind eyes, and I’m not attracted to her but still don’t want her to think I’m a loser. But even more embarrassing than the truth would be lying to a health practitioner because I want to “impress” her, so I decide against it.
She writes something down on a clipboard, which I am sure is “loser,” so I tell her too many other things about my sexual history, including the time I had sex in a Gap dressing room. She doesn’t write any of this down on her clipboard, but continues to question me.
“Do you sleep with men, women, or both?” she asks.
“Both,” I say, and her face lights up.
“Wait right here!” she says.
I wonder if I have won some kind of sex-clinic lottery.
She returns with a paper grocery bag and hands it to me. My arms strain from its surprising heft. Inside the bag are hundreds of condoms, dental dams, lube, and a few conciliatory female condoms thrown in to round out the bunch.
“We give this to all of our bisexual clients,” she says.
I wonder what the lesbians get — one surgical glove and a coupon for REI?
But I don’t ask. I heave the grocery bag up next to my hip and scurry back out into the gray San Francisco day.