I peeked around the corner and saw him staring into the microwave, tapping his index finger on the counter as the seconds counted down. I heard that was bad for you, but with that pretty face, he should be fine with a few micro-radiated brain cells. I ran through my lines in my head, Hi I’m Sarah from advertising, I couldn’t help but notice you around the office. Chad, is it? I love your tie.
I smoothed my skirt, ran my fingers through my hair and stepped into the break room. He looked up at the sound of my heels clacking against the tile and gave me a nod of acknowledgment.
“Hey Chad, I like plaid,” I said, pointing at him. “I mean, your tie…bold choice.” I mentally slapped myself on the forehead and tried hard to keep the cringe I felt coming hidden from my face.
“Uh, thanks,” he said, turning back to the microwave. Good God, he’d rather watch Cup O’ Noodles boil than talk to me. I couldn’t let it end like that.
“Great work on the Charleston account,” I said leaning against the counter smiling, “I’d love if you could share some pointers with me sometime.” He glanced up at me again with a polite smile and nodded noncommittally.
“Sure,” he said, “anytime.”
“How about tonight at Grumpy’s? Seven o’clock?” I asked, squeezing my breasts together. Damn it, I rushed it. He looked taken aback for a minute, but then smiled. Please don’t laugh, please don’t laugh.
“I actually have plans with my buddies,” he said, his eyes straying south of mine, “but I bet I could talk them into Grumpy’s” he turned away from the microwave and I smiled nervously. Was he serious? He took a step closer to me and my stomach flipped. “Sarah, right?”
“Yep, I’m Sarah Feldstein” I pointed at my chest like an idiot.
“Chad Johansen” he said, extending his hand for a formal shake.
“I know,” I said, “I mean, pleasure” I added, feeling a blush creep into my cheeks.
“Pleasure’s all mine” he said with a wink. Do people really wink? I couldn’t help but picture a Dr. Seuss character, or a dastardly cartoon villain about to impose some type of dramatic irony. I forced a girlish giggle and withdrew my hand.
“See you tonight Chad,” I turned, letting my skirt swish behind me. For a moment I had the paranoid fear that it might have been tucked into my underwear after I’d peed on break, that Chad would be looking at my floral-printed panties with a horrified expression pasted on his beautiful face, but when I looked over my shoulder he was gingerly removing the steaming Cup O’ Noodles from the microwave, humming what sounded like Bohemian Rhapsody, quietly to himself.
As soon as I got back to my desk I picked up the phone and dialed Hannah.
“Hello?” it sounded like I’d woken her.
“Jesus, Hannah, it’s ten o’clock,” I said, checking my computer screen, “I’ve already been at work for three hours. What are you doing?”
“I just…I feel…”
“Get up and meet me at Dunkin.”
“But Sarah, I’m so…”
“Now!” I barked, “…I talked to Chad,” I added in an undertone.
“Holy shit, I’ll be there in 5.” The line went dead.
Hannah and I sat at a patio table under the obnoxious orange and pink umbrellas of Boston’s favorite coffee stop, Dunkin’ Donuts. I blew into the tiny hole in my lid, trying to lower the scalding coffee to a drinkable temperature. I recounted the break room encounter as Hannah stared at me over the top of her cup.
“Oh my God, Sarah. You have a date with Chad.” she said when I’d finished, clearly in disbelief.
“I know,” I said hesitantly, “but there’s something I didn’t tell you.”
“He’s a winker…” She stared at me for a good ten seconds.
“Like he physically winked at you? Who does that?”
“ I know, it was pretty surreal”
“Oh well, he was a shaygetz anyway”
“ He doesn’t have to be Jewish, Hannah, he’s gorgeous.”
“You cannot date a winker Sarah. He winks, suddenly everything takes on another meaning…”
“Enjoy your donut,” I said, adding an exaggerated wink.
“Ugh, see? Now my donut looks like a penis to me. Might as well throw in a couple Munchkins to complete the picture.” She said tossing her eclair back into the box.
“One wink sexualized your food?” I asked with a laugh, my mouth full of chocolate glazed.
“Winks sexualize everything! Could you imagine, you’re going out to eat, he lets you out at the door and says ‘I’ll park the car’, but he winks. What does that mean? Is he just parking the car? Does he want you to meet him at the car for sex? Is he not actually parking the car, but is trying to be sneaky about it? What does it mean?” She slammed her Styrofoam cup onto the table. “It’s just not possible, Sarah. It’s over before it even began.”
“I already told him we’d be at Grumpy’s. This is happening…tonight.”
I dropped my bag inside the front door and kicked off my shoes, groaning in relief as they clattered across the tile. I unzipped my skirt and let it slip over my hips puddling in a wrinkled heap on the floor, then tugged my top over my head. In the silence of my apartment I finally let my posture slump, reveling in the solitude. I peeled my Spanx down and rolled them off my legs, rubbing the deep red grooves where the seams had left imprints along my thighs. I made my way to the fridge.
“When did you get a tattoo?”
I spun around, grabbing the hand-towel hanging from the oven handle and held it against me, not covering nearly enough.
“Mother! That key is for emergency purposes only!” I cried, sidling toward the hallway and my bedroom.
“Just because it’s the star of David does not mean it’s not a desecration” my mother said, standing up from the couch. She walked over to me and pressed her finger to the skin of my ribs, on which there was the freshly inked quarter-sized star. She wrinkled her nose. My mouth opened and closed like a fish, searching for some sort rationalization.
“It’s seriously tiny,” I said, slapping her hand away. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to invite you to dinner tonight. The Schwartzmans are back from Toledo and I thought it would be nice to have them over.” By invite, she meant insist. My mother never suggested, she coerced. I backed down the hall toward my room and she paced slowly after me, talking all the way. “Daniel is coming,” she added, throwing me a meaningful look that was only missing a wink to complete the implication.
Ever since my aunt caught me going to second base with Brandon Erikson in a movie theater when I was 15, the family was intent on a form of dating intervention in which any family from the Synagogue with a son around my age was invited over on a monthly basis. My mother was overly encouraged when her friend Marilyn’s son Daniel and I had become friends after one such match-making session.
“A: There’s this little thing called a phone mother, you can call, and B: I’ve already got plans—”
“You’re young, plans are flexible,” she interrupted. We crossed the threshold to my bedroom and I backed all the way to my bed and sat down hard, still holding the threadbare towel in front of me like a shield.
“Hannah’s going” I said, throwing out my go-to defense.
“Awe, how is Hannah?” My mother said softening, sitting down beside me. She pouted out her bottom lip, “I haven’t seen her forever. How is her mother? She hasn’t been to temple since August” I was sure she had the precise date logged in her memory, including the exact outfit she’d been wearing that day in temple, but all I wanted at this moment was for her to go.
“I’ll have to give you a raincheck mom,” I said reaching blindly behind me for my robe. “Maybe Hannah and I can both come over on Wednesday.”
“Well,” she huffed, standing up suddenly, “she’s more than welcome to come tonight.”
“I’ll call you?” I offered with an apologetic wince. She just nodded and left the room. Calling from the front door,
“It’s time for new underwear Sarah. There are so many holes in those I can almost see your hoo-ha” Then the door slammed shut.
Hannah and I sat shoulder to shoulder at the bar, yelling at each other over the terrible cover band that played on the cramped stage of the dive bar. Every time the door opened my head popped up like a meerkat, scanning the incoming patrons. No Chad.
“Aren’t you supposed to act nonchalant?” Hannah asked.
“I’m totally nonchalant,” I answered, adjusting my bra and boosting up the ladies. The pony-tailed singer on the stage belted,
“Shot to the heart and you’re too vain, baby you give love a bad name”, he gyrated his hips while demolishing Bon Jovi’s lyrics. The door swung open again, spilling light onto a triangle of the scuffed wood floor, and in walked the man I’d been waiting for. I nudged Hannah repeatedly with the back of my hand, barely containing a squeal. I offered a coy wave from across the room, like I hadn’t been anxiously awaiting his arrival. He bellied up to the bar and eyed my drink skeptically,
“I would have pegged you for a piña colada girl myself” he said with a charming smile, raising a hand to signal the bartender. I tried not to look visibly appalled. That drink was 640 calories for an eight ounce glass! What kind of girl did he think I was?
“Rum and diet for me” I smiled, clinking the ice in my glass.
“I’m Hannah” Hannah said, reaching across me to introducing herself and shake Chad’s hand.
“Hi Hanna, I’m Chad. And this is Steve” he said, pointing to the friend who’d been hovering over his shoulder. Steve operated like a good wingman and quickly took his place beside Hannah, drawing her attention away, leaving the two of us to get properly acquainted.
I stared at Chad’s floppy blonde hair and swooned internally as a lock fell over one of his hazel eyes, barely registering what he was saying. All growing up I’d been surrounded by Jews. My family was Jewish, I went to Yeshiva with other Jewish girls, and most social activities were centered around the Jewish community. Rabbi Gershman taught me to drive.
By the time I reached high school, I was thoroughly intimidated, but endlessly fascinated by the “regular kids” with their liberties. The few times I’d brought girls from class home to study or watch movies, my mother’s constant tutting and muttering about children that looked like hookers tended to alienate them pretty quickly. It didn’t take long to realize it may be beneficial to my popularity to keep my social sphere separate from home. I never talked about boys around my parents, leaving them free to assume that it was my life’s passion to marry any one of the eligible bachelors they met through their comprehensive Jewish network throughout the greater Boston area. Compared to the boys that sat obligatorily, staring at their hands and picking at hangnails as my mother gave her pitch of what a wonderful woman I was, this beautiful gentile was so different, talk about the forbidden fruit.
Chad got a Guinness and led me to a newly-vacated booth, pulling me in next to him. I was afraid he would feel the goosebumps that ran up the back of my arms. After all those weeks I’d been fantasizing about this moment, I never anticipated he’d be so forward, so open. His unreserved attitude was incredibly infectious.
I watched his tongue lick buttery crumbs of our mozzarella sticks from his lips between sentences, barely registering the trajectory of the conversation. Somehow the subject had gone from the movie Big to the current trends of Christianity. I think it might have had something to do with Tom Hanks and his role in the Da Vinci Code.
“…don’t you think?” Chad looked at me expectantly. I peeled my eyes away from his mouth,
“Mmhmm” I grinned, hoping he hadn’t realize I had not caught a word he’d said in the last five minutes.
“Thank God! It is so refreshing to meet a girl that values the Bible as much as I do.” I almost snorted melted mozzarella out of my nose and coughed as I responded,
“Oh…absolutely…especially the Old Testament…really speaks to me” I nodded, hoping he attributed my new wave of red to the alcohol and not to my lying my ass off. I knocked back the last of my most recent drink and fanned myself with the menu.
One a.m. came quickly and before I knew it Hannah was dragging me into the narrow, dimly-lit hallway leading to the bathrooms. She pulled up the bra strap that had slipped off of my shoulder and tucked it under the cuff of my silky top.
“Look at me,” she said slapping me playfully on the cheeks, “eye contact Sarah. This looks like it. Sex is imminent. I need you to look me in the eye and tell me you are sober enough to make a judicious decision about sleeping with the incredibly attractive man in that booth.”
“I have no inhibitions.” I said.
“That’s not an answer…”
“I’m good. I’m ready. Let’s do this thing.” I turned around and sauntered, as steady as drunkenly possible, back to the booth and whispered “Let’s get out of here,” into Chad’s ear, even adding a wink.
Settling into his living room, he made a fire to stave off the chill that had crept upon the New England evening. While I laid on my back, staring at the ceiling, he flopped down beside me with a package of hotdogs and a couple of metal skewers.
“Let’s pretend it’s a campfire” he said, piercing a dog and crawling toward the open flames.
“Yeah, I can’t though…”
“Why? Oh my God, you’re not a vegetarian are you?”
“No, no, I love the meat. It’s just…those aren’t kosher” My grandfather, complete with wiry white hair sprouting from his ears and nostrils, popped into my head spouting, “lips and assholes, all lips and assholes.” I grimaced at the idea of what was stuffed into the casings of non-kosher hotdogs.
“Oh…” the hot dog seemed to go flaccid at the end of his skewer.
“I’ve never…are you, like, orthodox?”
“No, I was raised in a pretty conservative house though. Pork is just considered really unclean in our faith.” An unexpected sultry look passed over his face.
“I’ve never slept with a Jewish girl”
“Well, shiksas are for practice.” I said, sliding toward him. My eyes flickered to the bulge in his stonewashed jeans and I contemplated what laid within. I was suddenly equal parts excited and terrified by the prospect that he may not be circumcised, it wasn’t until that moment the possibility had dawned on me.
I kept telling myself I was ready for anything, but my mind kept flashing to the graphic photos that Hannah and I had poured over upon our discovery that not all penises looked the same. I felt my eyes grow round as I imagined his penis, bedecked in a turtle neck—how appropriate for the weather. I tried to channel my inner seductress to distract myself, pouting out my lower lip and unbuttoning my blouse slowly, but my sweaty fingers kept fumbling over the pearl buttons. He slipped his belt out of the buckle and unfastened his trousers in turn; I caught myself holding my breath. His pants and boxer briefs were off and lobbed into the corner of the room in one fluid movement.
“Thank God” I exhaled.
“You just said ‘thank God’”
“I…thought you’d never take those pants off…” I said, barely concealing the relief I felt for his perfect pink penis. I contemplated ripping my buttons from their holes, sending pearl rockets ricocheting off of the red brick fireplace, but my top cost 80 bucks and I wasn’t sure it was worth it. I compromised and tugged it over my head, only getting one button momentarily tangled in my hair, then tossed it into the corner with Chad’s undies.
The dry wood crackled and popped as we wrapped around each on the floor in front of the fire. I lay prone beneath him as he nipped, kissed and licked his way down my neck and between my breasts. I tilted my head back in ecstasy and caught sight of a crucifix hanging on the wall behind us. As he made his way down my body, across my stomach and between my legs, I twisted my head just enough to confirm what I’d seen. Sure enough, there was Jesus, wasted away and nailed to the cross, except Calvary had a much more interesting view now than it must have had in the bible. I turned back to Chad and ran my fingers through his hair, twisting a strand around my index finger. This night was unreal. I felt like I was in a scene from The Notebook. If I squinted my eyes just right, Chad even looked a little like Ryan Gossling in the firelight.
As he surfaced, I pulled him to me by the collar of his shirt, his tanned pecs even more pronounced beneath his newly unbuttoned shirt. I slid it over his shoulders, marveling at the deltoids, biceps, and triceps that were revealed. He must work out. He shook the shirt to the floor and I ran my hands up his arm, noticing a design on his left arm. I pulled my face back and the full tattoo came into view, a half sleeve of his lord and savior; the lamb of God, complete with crown of thorns.
“Wow, that’s a big Jesus” I whispered, still in my husky, sexy voice.
“Yeah, it was like 1200 bucks” he said, flexing his tricep.
“It’s…beautiful artwork” I said, at a complete loss of what else to say, “lucky the artist had such an amazing canvas”
“Lucky I’m blessed with such a subject” he kissed his upper arm, then lowered himself back down on top of me, “I’m blessed to have you here tonight too.” His lips touched mine, his warm tongue flicking in and out of my mouth, and I tried hard not to think about the fact that he’d just kissed Jesus with that mouth.
With each thrust, the tattoo moved in and out of the firelight, bathed in warmth, then cast in shadow. As waves of pleasure washed over me, I was torn between orgasm and tension, watching Jesus’s eyes in line with my nipples. I eventually closed my eyes, losing myself in this moment I’d been waiting for.
We eventually rolled apart, panting, the sweat evaporating slowly from our bodies. That was what sex was supposed to be like. I couldn’t stop my mind from flashing back to sophomore year of high school, Daniel Shwartzman whimpering behind the stage, inconsolably embarrassed by his premature ejaculation. What a way to lose your virginity. He cried right after. I had awkwardly pulled my underwear back up, buttoned my jeans, patted him on the back and went home to shower.
The daylight streaming through the window made me wince, and I buried my face into a fold of the blanket. I rubbed my eyes and opened them a slit, cringing at the streaks of black from the mix of overnight eyeliner and mascara that was smudged across the back of my hand. My nakedness in the harsh light of morning was less than flattering, and I started to search for my newly purchased lace panties. I ran my hands between the creases of the couch and under the cushions. My head hurt and I felt a tiny bit nauseated, but I wasn’t sure if that was from the booze or the poorly thought out consequences of casual sex. The idea of casual sex was nice; the conquest of a sexy man from the office was very progressive, but here in the light of day, I wasn’t sure it was for me.
At least with Daniel I’d been able to play out the idea of dinners with my family, holiday events and walking hand in hand to the synagogue. This man lying next to me would only warrant gawking stares from the head of the table and loud whispers about my generation upholding tradition. I knew it was stupid, but I couldn’t help but imagine Chad lighting a menorah with me and watching me braid the challah.
I rolled over to wrap my arm around his waist and was affronted by the melancholy stare from the pair of eyes on his bicep. The alleged son of God wept blood as he watched me wriggle uncomfortably from a foot away. I rolled onto my back and sighed hearing my mother’s voice in my head, “There’s nothing better than a nice Jewish boy.” I pulled a pillow over my face, squeezed my eyes shut and moaned.
I let the pillow fall from my face and noticed something black and lacy dangling from the window sill, I’d found my undergarments. I pulled my panties on and fastened the matching bra behind my back, but my shirt and skirt had somehow gone amiss. I turned on the spot, trying to recall which direction I’d seen them fly, but was suddenly affronted by the crucifix less than two feet from me. I grinned sheepishly at it,
“Nothing personal” I whispered with a shrug, “I’m sure you were a really great guy. You’re just…not my type.” I plucked my black trench coat from the back of the couch and slipped it over my bare body, pulling the belt tight around my waist. I tiptoed past Chad, snoring gently, still sprawled in front of the open fireplace. I gingerly picked up my heels from beside the front door, blew him a kiss and eased myself out the door. I leaned against the other side and released the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding,
*Chelsea Vitone is a Senior at the University of Washington Tacoma, double majoring in Writing Studies and Communication with a minor in Environmental Studies. She is an avid environmentalist who loves writing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. With two sons, 7 and 4, she is endlessly inspired.