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Alison struggles to accept the experience
When Alison left Tom’s apartment and stepped out into a fresh sunny morning she felt giddy with a sense of understanding, an intuitive grasp of feelings in their right place. The optimism did not last very long. As the morning progressed she lost grip of what she thought she understood, and her intuitive insights began to break down, to blur and fade. She focused on her daily routine, hoping it would restore a sense of stability, to disentangle herself from a dream-like experience. Instead, she felt a growing anxiety that the benefits of her adventure were slipping out of reach. By the end of the day her euphoric understanding had atrophied into a shrivelled mood of discouragement.
Worse for her mood, she had already planned to meet Greg that evening. She wondered whether it was a mistake to not have given herself a rest and recovery day on her own. That might have been the brave thing to do, but in her growing confusion she needed to talk with him. It didn’t help that Greg had a late work-related meeting that day. She asked him to call her when his meeting was done, and then waited. She felt like a ship at sea during a storm, waiting for a safe passage into harbour.
Greg held the door open for her when she arrived. She turned and gave him a hug, and then tightened her embrace when he gave her shoulders a squeeze, and held onto him for several seconds, her head turned cheek resting against his shoulder.
“What’s up?” he asked, his tone a mix of curiosity and cautious concern.
Alison smiled nervously, thrown off balance by how easily he picked up on even a slight deviation from their routine greeting. “Just glad to be here,” she sighed. She went into the living room and sat on the couch, waited for the tea that Greg offered to make. When he joined her she took a few sips then placed the cup onto the table. She then turned to him, crossed her legs over his, an arm around his waist, and rested her head against his shoulder. He cradled her with an arm around her shoulders, occasionally stroked her hair.
Alison didn’t want to talk. Not quite yet. She needed to feel safe, to feel together before mentioning the topic that festered in her mind. Finally, sensing that she was pushing his patience, she took a deep breath, and began. “Tom phoned me earlier this week.”
Greg still needed to prompt her to continue. “What about?”
“About the threesome, how I .. we .. experienced it. He wanted to talk about it, so I met him yesterday.”
More heavy silence. Alison sighed. “I spent the night at his place.”
“That’s quite a talk.”
Alison winced, tightened her arms around Greg. In spite of herself her body responded to the memory of how that night had been spent, her insides tingling with a hint of arousal. She couldn’t avoid it. The whole issue of her motivations had to do with the ambiguous feelings that had plagued her since the threesome. She had been trying all day to find a way to work through all of it, to put every stray thought and feeling in its proper place, with the same degree of clarity that she had achieved just the night before.
“Aren’t you going to ask me anything?”
“I thought I’d wait for you to start. But, if you need some help ..”
Alison’s mind spun with too many ways to start, too many thoughts and feelings to express. Was there something especially important, some observation particularly insightful? She didn’t know. “I missed you,” she finally said, her eyes closed, cheek against his chest.
“The staying overnight .. was that something that ‘just happened’, as the saying goes?”
“Yes .. sort of. I mean, when we met it really was to talk, but I knew where it might lead, considering what we were talking about.”
“And the talking part?”
“He said he noticed my panic attack, and how I withdrew. He was wondering what that was all about. So was I. It was something we agreed on. It felt like something unfinished.”
“So .. you finished it.”
Alison held onto Greg. “Yes.”
“And in all this you missed me?”
“Yes, it was afterwards. I felt so empty. I wanted to be with you.”
“It sounds like your threesome reaction all over again.”
Alison thought about that for a while. “It was clearer this time, two separate things. It felt like I could move from one to the other. And when the physical part felt like a dead-end, I wanted the other part.”
“I don’t get it. The physical part a dead end?”
“It left me feeling empty.”
Greg pondered a moment. “It might be because of your usual approach to relationships. There’s a logic to it.”
Alison looked up at him. “Does the university philosophy department offer a course on the Logic of Sex?”
Greg smiled. “I’ve never heard of one. Think of it as how people think in categories. They learn to assemble their categories in different ways. With you, an emotional bond comes first. The physical involvement is a way of expressing that emotional bond. The physical part implies the prior existence of the emotional part.”
“OK, I guess that’s me,” she replied cautiously. “I kadıköy escort mean .. I can see how it can work that way.”
“The pleasure of the physical act is only part of the larger package you’ve put together for yourself. The physical act filled in some of the pieces of your own complete picture but you were left with parts that weren’t filled. That’s the emptiness you felt afterwards.”
“I don’t know. I did enjoy the physical part of the threesome. And .. the physical part last night was very intense. But, I don’t know. It bothers me. It .. the intensity .. seemed artificial in a way. The intensity was there only because so much was left out.”
“Everything else. Like what happens in extra-marital affairs. It’s easy to experience them with starry-eyed bliss when you don’t have to worry about the kids and god knows what else.”
“You sound angry.”
Alison frowned. “Maybe I am. It just sounds like a fantasy that leaves out most of what’s happening in the real world. The intensity of it is only there because it’s so narrow, so shallow. Intensity compared to nothing. There’s nothing else there, except the physical sex itself.”
“Alison, I think you are the one who is confusing things.”
“No I’m not,” she mumbled. She hugged him again then sat up. “Can we just go to bed?”
Greg stood. “Is that an offer?”
Alison grimaced. “Stop teasing me!” she retorted in mock exasperation, then smiled, shoulders sagged. “I’m just worn out.” She headed to the bathroom to work through her pre-bed ritual while Greg cleaned up the kitchen. She undressed, pulled on one of her floppy t-shirts and curled up in bed. When Greg finally joined her she lay on her side next to him, a leg over his.
“Enough discussion for tonight?” Greg asked.
“No. I want you to finish what you said. That I was confusing things.”
“I think you are .. or you are not admitting something to yourself. Just because some people can confuse sex and emotions doesn’t mean it has to be that way. It’s just as possible to take physical sex simply for what it is, nothing more or less, and without the hyperbole or the emotional misinterpretations.”
“That’s what you mean by the logic of it?”
“More or less .. how people assemble everything in their minds. There doesn’t have to be a necessary connection between the emotional and the physical. You could have physical sex on its own, or love on its own, or have both sex and love at the same time. Or sex and different kinds of emotional involvement, even with a more casual friendship.”
“No wonder people have problems.”
“They have problems if they’re looking for something in the wrong place.”
“You mean, they feel an emotional emptiness and keep looking for it in just the physical intimacy?”
“That’s one way it can happen.”
Alison sighed. “My first-hand experience … don’t laugh!” she hissed when she felt Greg’s body shake with a silent chuckle, then smiled herself. “I don’t mean from my vast worldly perspective, I just mean what happened to me during the threesome. It’s not easy to make sense of what’s happening, with so much coming at you from different directions. But I still think the physical sex is overrated. I mean, if I get very clinical about it, I didn’t experience anything special, even after I admit the intensity of it.”
“I find that hard to believe. It still sounds like you’re evading something.”
Alison pouted defensively. “There was nothing special about it.”
“Ok, then. Different. People are different. They have different styles, they express different moods. That’s all part of it. I can’t believe that Tom would be exactly the same as me.”
“No. He isn’t,” Alison murmured. She struggled to think about it. She was still too close to the experience, and the memories made her stomach flutter. She took another deep breath. “It was his .. he’s more aggressive or forceful in some way.”
“Mmm, sounds good. Where did I put those handcuffs?”
“That’s not what I mean!” She hugged Greg, forced him to hug her in return, then continued. “I mean .. it made me feel self-conscious, aware of how I was causing it.”
“Haven’t you noticed what you do to me?”
Alison looked up, suddenly afraid of offending him. “Greg, I didn’t mean ..”
He gave her another comforting squeeze. “Don’t worry. But that’s my point. The sexual arousal has blended into the emotional feeling you always start with. Experiencing the sexual part on its own, stripped of the emotional bonding, I can imagine it’s overwhelming.”
“Not just that. I can’t believe how cold I felt, even when I was .. as turned on as I was. There were moments when I felt some kind of power, to be able to make someone react that way. And ..,” Alison paused, thinking.
“And?” Greg prompted after a minute. Alison responded by turning to him and kissing his cheek, then his mouth, then pulled his body closer to her the embrace evolved into a long and deeper and more passionate entwining of limbs and bodies and probing tongues.
Alison pulled back, shuddered uneasily.
“You’re not going to start crying on me, are you?” üsküdar escort Greg murmured.
“I can’t help it,” she replied, nuzzling his neck. Greg rolled towards her, on his side with Alison on her back, head pillowed on his left arm. He gently moved his hand over her t-shirt in long slow caresses from hip to shoulder.
“And? You were saying?” Greg prompted again.
“I don’t know why it’s hard to admit this .. but you’re right. It was different. It did have something to do with liking the difference.”
“See what you’re doing? You started off by saying the physical part was a dead-end, a minor detail that you are quick to dismiss as irrelevant. And then you turn around and criticize it for lacking emotional or personal depth. And now you get to enjoying the pleasure in the difference.”
Alison shook her head with a sense of discouragement. “There were moments, even last night, when it was crystal clear in my mind. But I can’t express it. It scares me.”
“So, on the one hand you feel an emotional distance which is a sort of cold power and that is part of the physical, sexual intensity. That’s where you feel an attraction.”
“To the experience,” she replied defensively. “An attraction to the situation. It’s a bubble I entered and left. Inside, it was fine. Outside of it and I felt lost in a maze of feelings. I felt alone and isolated. I felt schizophrenic the whole time.”
“We’re back to that again. I think you’re a victim of thinking in extremes. Either it is sex as an expression of feeling or it is an emotionless physical act which leaves you empty once it’s done. You’ve never been in a casual sex relationship, have you? No long string of one-night stands?”
“No. So you’re saying I’m creating my own schizophrenic reaction?”
“You don’t know how you can enjoy the physical sex as an end in itself. You don’t have to. You’re not obliged to, there’s no legal requirement for people to have sex without any emotional connection. But there is a third alternative. You even said it when we were looking at the photos.”
Alison shivered nervously. “What did I say?” She knew what it was.
“You said you struggled to find something .. personal .. remember how you couldn’t find the right word for it?” Alison didn’t reply. “That’s the other alternative, a middle ground between your two extremes. There can be something, a kind of sharing, but not a deeper emotional bond.”
“I know,” she finally admitted. “It scares me.”
* * * * *
Following that conversation Alison let the matter drop, and spent a week settling into the routine of her daily life. She thought that she had to stabilize her home base, outside the maze and far from that alternate reality hidden inside. She thought she could feel secure in that maze of conflicting feelings as long as she was confident she could get back out into her own reality.
A second week started. In spare moments Alison’s thoughts touched on some of what she had discussed with Greg. A simple recollection of that night made her feel uneasy, unbalanced, thinking about ‘it’, about what happened. She tried to create a map for herself, to get through the labyrinth of confused feelings to that other place, and immerse herself in it, let herself feel the attraction. Do that, and somehow get back out through a turbulence of conflicting emotions, back to the calm and stability of her daily life. The exercise, rehearsed and repeated, soothed her.
By the end of the second week she was convinced that there was nothing more to understand. Every piece was comfortably in its proper place.
And then, one evening, while reading alone in her apartment, one small marauding thought crept out of the darker corners of her subconscious mind and ambushed her tranquillity.
She glanced up from the page she was reading and her eyes fell on her mobile phone. It triggered a moment of curiosity whether Tom would call. It wasn’t even a question seeking an answer. She smiled to herself and returned to her reading.
A while later the thought returned. Alison held the book, closed on her lap, and paused to consider it. She quickly realized that her curiosity was not in whether he would call. She was wondering whether he wanted to call, whether he was even now sitting somewhere – on the couch in his apartment – struggling with his own memories of what they’d done together. She held the thought, her brow furrowed in puzzlement.
She tried to distract herself with the book she was reading. A few minutes passed. The thought stubbornly demanded attention. Alison again put down the book and stared at the opposite wall. In her mind she stepped hesitantly back into the labyrinth of feelings that enclosed that other place. She sensed something hidden behind the thought whether he wanted to contact her. She probed deeper into the maze and found an image of why he would want to contact her. His eyes, the expression in his eyes, the intensity. And the tension in his touch, his hands on her, the response to her body, his hunger for her. Her lips parted as she let that image fill her, and a flush of heat rushed through her that made tuzla escort her catch her breath. Was he now struggling with that same desire? Whether he would phone or not reshaped itself into a new question: whether he was struggling with the desire to be with her.
The strain of it grew in Alison. Her insides fluttered. It began in her stomach, then her abdomen began to coil restlessly. The more she held the image, the more liquid her insides became, until they seemed to collapse and leave a hollow ache between her thighs. Her head spun, her chest tightened. She sat frozen, overwhelmed by the intensity of the feeling.
Before she could recognize what was happening, what had begun as a casual thought whether Tom would phone her had transformed into the reality of her own sexual arousal. The reality struck her like a physical blow. She cupped her mound with the palm of a hand and squeezed gently, to placate the insistent ache. She stood, paced the room, sat down, stood again. She had said she’d call him. She had forgotten. The connection was still in place. That was the problem.
She decided, but struggled to act on the decision. Every time she looked at her phone the implications of what she wanted to do flooded into her. It wasn’t fear. It was anticipation. She was so charged with sexual anticipation that picking up the phone became an act of foreplay, the first move towards stripping off her clothes .. holding the phone in one hand, tapping in the call number … and pressing herself against his naked body, to feel him thrust into her.
She dropped the phone. Alison shook her head with impatience, then held her temples in her hands. Calm down, she repeated. She picked up the phone and tried again.
“Hello? Alison? How are you? I’ve been thinking about you, wondering if you were going to call.”
“I said I would.”
“Sure, but doing is something else. You left me with another cliff-hanger experience.”
“Oh .. is that our new way of discussing lack of closure?”
“Maybe .. a different way of putting it. But seriously, how are you? You said you wanted to get things in order.”
“More or less, I suppose. How about you?”
“Fine, easier maybe, except for the waiting. I didn’t need to get anything in order.” He paused a moment. Silence .. as prelude. “Nice memories, though.”
“Yes .. it was that,” Alison replied quietly. The understated nice memories forced their way to the front of her mind. She felt her hand shaking. More silence crackled and buzzed along the invisible lines of connection between them.
Alison wondered how to say what she wanted to say next. She dismissed side-tracks about having another chat. She dismissed asking him if he wanted her to visit. She dismissed asking him if she could visit. Keep it simple, she told herself. Just say what you want, she told herself. OK, not everything, not I want you to ravage me again.
“I’d like to come over,” she said. Alison sat, alone in her apartment, eyes closed, heart pounding, telephone held to her ear, and listened to Tom’s voice. Let him decide for himself, not that there is any doubt, she thought.
“Sure, of course,” Tom replied. Endless seconds dragged past. “I was hoping you would say that.”
Alison felt as though she was eavesdropping on a conversation at the far end of a long hallway. “Um .. OK then .. some time this week? I could come over around 7 or so.”
“How about tomorrow?”
“Yes,” she heard herself say, and sighed with relief. No more waiting. “Yes. Tomorrow evening is fine. I .. I’ll be having supper somewhere else first.”
“Good, I’ll take that into account. See you tomorrow then?”
Phones disconnected. Alison sat, arms folded around herself. She had to stand. She had to go into the bathroom and study her face in the mirror. Someone was looking back at her, a puzzled look on her face, wondering what the person she was looking at was thinking.
* * * * *
Once the admission was made to Greg and, more importantly, to herself, her decision had felt both calculated and yet unpremeditated in an effortless sort of way. There was something about how she had responded to the experience that made a repetition inevitable, like watching a favourite film for the second or third time. To understand it. To get things right.
While walking down the street towards Tom’s apartment, Alison thought she knew what she wanted to repeat. She tried to reduce everything to one thought, one key observation. She was turned on by something in him, by his own desire for her. A connection, a circle closed. She wanted to release herself into it. But, how do you let yourself go physically?
She was less sure about what was going on in Tom’s mind. She sensed that he was holding something back. She had thought of more than one explanation for his sexual motives. Her own physical charms notwithstanding – and she smiled to herself when this crossed her mind – she wondered whether he was being turned on by her already in a relationship, that he was intruding on forbidden territory. If that’s what it takes, she thought, then I’ll have to tell him that Greg doesn’t know I’m doing this. Alison stopped in the street, her hands folded, thumbs pressed to her lips. I won’t bring it up if he doesn’t, she thought. OK, Greg .. sort of .. doesn’t know I’m here .. at this exact moment, so it’s not really manipulation, just .. let Tom have his own fantasies if that’s what’s required.
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