“I have found that the most difficult and most rewarding challenge of my work is how to be both a mapmaker and a traveler.”
I Teach Him to Dirty Talk
“You like that, don’t you?” he says.
It is all I can do not to whip out a clapboard Hollywood style and yell,”Cut, cut, scene!”
Stop asking me questions, I think. What is this? Sex or a true/false exam?
But he touches me just right, and I moan and forget. His hands dirty talk better than he does.
Later, we’re cuddling, and he asks, “How was it? How did I do? Did you like the dirty talking?”
I smile. “You’re getting better at it,” I say. “But maybe next time don’t ask questions.”
“Really?” he says. “Then how will I know how I’m doing?”
“Assume it’s going well unless I tell you otherwise.”
He looks puzzled. “Still not sure what I should say.”
“Well, try this,” I say. “Instead of asking me if I like it, tell me that I do.”
“So instead of ‘do you like it…'”
“Say ‘ohhh, you like it.’ Or tell me what to do. Comment on how wonderfully dirty I am. Or how good it feels for you. Anything but questions. Questions require thinking, and thinking snaps me out of my feral sex space. Declarative statements and commands, please and thank you. It’s like backwards Jeopardy.”
“But the kinds of things I said were good?” he asks.
“Very good. Just fewer questions.”
“Fewer questions,” he says. “Got it.”
And bit by bit, he ups his dirty talk game.
Aspirational Sweetness, Pretending to Be Fine
Several months later, we open our relationship back up after a long hiatus from dating.
“I keep reminding myself that there will always be a place for me in your life, no matter what happens,” I say. “That I’m someone who gives more to you than I take away. No guarantees, but I hope it’s true.”
“Of course it’s true,” he says. “Actually, I wanted to thank you.”
“All the dirty talk stuff you’ve been teaching me. It’s coming in handy on dates,” he says. Cheerfully, upbeat.
He’s happy. So why then does my stomach sink? “That’s great,” I force out. Because I want it to be great. Not because it is.
He’s had a hard time finding dates. And now that he’s making out with this new girl on a semi-regular basis, it’s good to know it is going well…? Nope, always a question mark at the end of my positive thoughts. I want them to be positive, but at the last second, they turn on me. Something not quite squared away.
And a few seconds later it hits me. It’s like you trained him to find your replacement, I think, the sickness in my stomach spreading to my face.
“You’re the sweetest, Page, I really appreciate it,” he replies.
I try to be, I think, a razor-thin distance from being a total fraud. I want to be sweet. I’m aspirationally sweet.
Outwardly, I smile. “Of course,” I say. It’s like I’m throwing my voice, my true feelings hidden.
I put it out of my mind.
It’s only months later when he and I are in bed together with another girl that I think of it again.
As we flirt and tease. Dirty talking 2-on-1. We mesmerize and overwhelm her with our ventriloquist act. Only I don’t know quite who is puppet and who is pulling the strings. If anything, we’re continually trading places. Or maybe we’re both in control, and she’s at our mercy.
“Hey there, dirty girl.”
“Oh, look at that. She likes it.”
She shivers and gasps, shudders and moans, caught in the triangulation of our words. Where they cross. Where they potentiate. The energy intensifies. She is drinking in all that attention.
His smile is as sexy as her naked body.
It is in that moment that I can step outside of myself and my petty insecurities and see what I’ve done for him. For his confidence.
And for me.
No matter what happens between us, I’m glad to have taught him. To have paid that pleasure forward. I’ve lost nothing. And others have gained. Even if I don’t always directly benefit from it.
It’s easy to think of my skills as something that belong to me. But… I, too, learned them somewhere. What am I but a collection of things that have happened to me and the people I have known? Why shouldn’t I share them?
I don’t own them.
And I don’t own him.
After all, he’s taught me plenty that I take everywhere I go. Even if it’s not with him.
I was wrong. I’m not a ventriloquist or a dummy. And neither is he.
We are just two people who love each other and love others. Learning what we can. Where we can.
And teaching when we can.
Maybe I won’t throw my voice next time — feign sweetness when I’m struggling. We’ll have to see.