Unlocking the Doorbythezinger©
When Brad and Traci first started dating, all of their friends predicted it would never last. Traci's friends pointed out the difference in their ages (Traci was 23 while Brad was 31), the difference in their backgrounds (she was from a stable, well-to-do family, he from a struggling, single-parent household), their education (she was a college grad, he a college dropout) and the fact that Traci's boyfriends never seemed to stick around for very long.
Brad's friends pointed to their different personalities (he was bold, and confident, she quiet and shy), their different ambitions (he managed a bicycle shop, she was a waitress--with a BA in business management!), and the fact that Brad's girlfriends never seemed to stick around for very long.
So far, both groups had been wrong. In fact, from Brad's viewpoint, all those things that their friends had pointed out as negatives were in fact positives. Over the last few years his girlfriends had all been dynamic, energetic, even wild personalities. It was fun for a while, but the relationships always seemed to burn out in a white heat. He was ready for something a little more low key and he was willing to be patient and let things develop at their own pace.
Traci was a different matter. She so wanted a stable and comfortable (and passionate!) relationship with a man. But she harbored one dark secret that made it impossible for her to be truly comfortable in an intimate relationship. Well, it had been a dark secret for many years, but a night of a few too many margaritas with her girlfriends had finally loosened the bonds that held that secret in its dark place. Sitting in a circle on her friend Emily's living room floor and trading first-time stories, they finally pried it out of her. Traci's friends had long sensed her reticence about sexual matters. Emily, who had known Traci since high school, also knew that something had changed after her first year of college. In high school she had been popular, not in a slutty way, but outgoing and vivacious. Boys liked her and she dated a lot. Emily didn't think Traci had actually slept with any of her boyfriends, but it was clear that she had fun with them. After that first year of college, though, she seemed to become more withdrawn and somber. Emily knew something had happened, but she didn't know what and she knew better than to push Traci. She knew she would eventually open up to her. Except, after all these years, she still hadn't.
Sitting across from Traci and Emily in the circle of giggling young women and half-empty salt-rimmed glasses, Sandy was finishing a tale of one of her exploits, wherein she described waking up, rather hung over, in the bed of the roommate of her date's friend, who had kindly supplied the needed trysting spot when both Sandy and her date's dwellings lacked the needed privacy. Her date had to take off fairly early the next morning, leaving Sandy with a kiss and instructions to pull the door firmly shut behind her when she left. After drifting off to sleep for a while longer, Sandy described waking again to find an unfamiliar boy standing in the doorway of the room looking at her. "Hello, strange person in my bed who I've never seen before," he greeted her. Sandy was so horrified, tired, and muddled, all she could think to say was, "Sorry, didn't mean to freak you out!" and pulled the covers over her head to go back to sleep.
As Sandy finished her story, about her fifth one of the night (her "first-time" story had been several margaritas ago), the circle erupted in laughter and refills were distributed all around.
"What about you Traci? You're the last one left," Sandy urged.
"Oh, you don't want to hear about my boring sex life," Traci said.
Sandy pressed, as was her style. "Oh no, you don't get off that easy! Your first time is the exit toll. You don't leave here without that story! Here, maybe some liquid courage will loosen your tongue," she added, refilling Traci's glass yet again.
"No really, it's just not worth hearing about. You'll all just fall asleep," Traci said trying to deflect the effort to make her talk.
"Didn't you go to a lot frat parties when you were a freshman at school?" prodded Terri, who had met Traci their first year in college.
"Well, yeah," replied Traci hesitantly.
"A lot of cute boys at those parties," Terri persisted. "Maybe at one of those?"
Traci's defenses, weakened by tequila, triple sec, and too many years of subterfuge, began to weaken.
"Well, yes, actually, but it wasn't very nice."
The lively spirit in the room immediately dampened.
"What happened sweetie?" asked Sandy, who, for all her bravado and exploits, truly cared for her friends, and especially this quiet girl with sad eyes who she had been trying to bring out of her shell for years now.
"Well," Traci continued in a shaky voice, "it was one of the spring frat parties and my date kept telling me he wanted to do it with me, but I wasn't sure I wanted him to be the first. I don't remember how I got there, but I remember waking up in one of the bedrooms upstairs. I was in bed and didn't have any clothes on. My date was sitting on the side of the bed pulling on his shirt. 'Time to hit the road, blondie,' was all he said, tossing my clothes at me. As I sat up, I realized I was wet down there and I could see some blood stains on the sheets. I don't even remember it. I never saw the guy again."
Traci broke into sobs.
"That bastard!" from all around.
The girls all gathered around Traci and hugged her and said soothing things as Traci cried it out.
After that evening, Traci became the group's "project". Objective A: be there for her no matter what. Objective B: try to help her build back her confidence. Objective C: find the right guy.
"A" was easy. "B" was a bit less quantifiable, but each girl took extra care to be affirmative with Traci and counter any negativity with positive support.
"C" was the hard part and for many months went unfulfilled. It was Sandy, who was two years older than the rest of the group, who provided the connection with Brad. Sandy had actually dated Brad a couple of years before. It was great while it lasted, but neither of them seemed to have the desire to make it permanent and after a few months they broke things off, relatively painlessly, as it turned out. Sandy still wistfully recalled their lovemaking, however, which had been passionate and tender at the same time. She had admired Brad's energy, but also a certain calmness about him. It wasn't that he seemed so certain about the path of his life, but he seemed certain that wherever it led, he would be OK with it.
So when Sandy ran into Brad a few months after Traci's confession, she was reminded of the things she liked about him and thought maybe, just maybe, this was the guy who could lead Traci out of her dark place.
Sandy told Emily and Terri of her plan. They somewhat hesitantly agreed to arrange a meeting, but it was decided that it should be a group date, to minimize the pressure and keep expectations low.
Afterwards, everyone pretty much agreed it had been a disaster. They had met at a downtown club. Sandy and Terri brought their boyfriends. Emily, who wasn't dating anyone at the time, came alone and Brad brought a friend. Terri's boyfriend Jim didn't like Brad. Emily didn't like Brad's friend. It was hard to tell what Traci thought about Brad, or vice versa, but no one saw any sparks fly. On the whole, the evening felt awkward, no one had a particularly good time, everyone drank too much to try to disguise their discomfort and the evening ended early.
Meeting for lunch the next day, the three co-conspirators debriefed each other.
"If I ever have another evening like that, it will be too soon," sighed Emily.
"I was afraid Jim was going to punch out Brad," Terri complained. "What was with that, anyway? Did Brad say something I missed?"
"Honey, I just think Jim's got issues," Sandy replied. "I think you need to find yourself another man."
"Well, that's easy for you to say. You never seem to have any trouble finding men. Me, on the other hand. . ."
"Girls, girls," scolded Emily. "Remember, this isn't about us, it's about Traci. And I don't think last night got us any closer to our goal."
"What was I thinking?" Sandy chastised herself. "He's too old for her, their personalities aren't matched. I was just dreaming."
"Oh, don't be so hard on yourself," Emily reassured her. "You tried. Last night may have been a failure, but we can't give up. Traci deserves better."
Everyone glumly agreed and resolved to keep looking for Mr. Right.
Given what had transpired, Emily was stunned when Traci casually mentioned to her a few weeks later that she and Brad were dating!
"Traci, that's great!" Emily exclaimed with forced enthusiasm. "I didn't realize that you two had hit it off. Things seemed pretty tame the night we all went out."
"Well, I thought he seemed nice, even if I could hardly hear a word he said from all the noise in the club. I gave him my phone number before we left and he called."
Traci hesitated. "I think it's getting, kind of, serious."
Emily sat on her couch with a plop. They were in Emily's apartment and had been planning to go see a movie together.
"Do you think we could have a glass of wine before we go?" Traci asked.
Emily practically leapt off the couch.
Emily trotted into the kitchen and returned with two glasses of white wine. To her astonishment, Traci practically downed her glass in one long draught and held out her empty glass to Emily.
"Do you have some more?"
Emily retrieved the bottle this time and set it on the coffee table after refilling Traci's glass.
Traci sipped at her wine a little more discretely this time around. Emily had the sense that Traci had something she needed to unload, but she was, as usual, holding back.
Emily tried to help her along.
"So, have the two of you seen each other very much?"
"Well, we're starting to, especially the last couple of weeks. You know, he's really cute and, well, hot, but he's also really laid back and, well, patient. I mean, he's really dynamic and everything. I mean, he's got that bicycle shop he manages and he races and he's athletic and all, but he's also really peaceful in a certain way. And he's never pushy, he just lets things happen or not happen between us, which is, you know, important for me."
Emily just nodded and refilled Traci's glass.
"So I kind of feel comfortable around him like I never have with a real man before."
"Trace, that's great. So you want to keep on seeing him?"
Traci nodded and looked thoughtfully at her glass for a few seconds.
"Em, have you, um, well, when you're with a guy, can you, uh, do you, like. . ."
Traci took a big swig from her glass and Emily immediately refilled it.
Traci took another swallow while Emily silently observed her.
Traci went on, "Can you, you know, get off when you're with a guy?"
Traci hurriedly took another swallow and looked anxiously across the rim of her glass at her friend.
"Well, it kind of depends, but, if it's the right guy, yeah, usually. Not always when we're having intercourse, but sometimes. But there's always oral sex or just fondling each other. It just kind of depends."
Traci looked thoughtful for a while.
"I really think I want to do it with Brad, but I don't want to disappoint him."
"Oh, Trace, you won't disappoint him. If he's as nice as you say he is, that won't happen."
"That's not quite what I mean. I think I know Brad well enough now to know that he doesn't just want to get off. He'll want me to get off. I think he'll really want that. And I don't know if I can."
"Why do think that, Trace? If you really like him. . ."
"Well, you know, ever since the . . . the thing that happened at school I've had trouble having an . . . trouble getting off. You know, before then. . ."
Traci gulped down some more wine and Emily refilled her glass again.
"Before then I never had trouble, you know, enjoying myself. I kind of enjoyed it . . . a lot."
Emily was dumbfounded by this confession. Traci had never come close to divulging this much intimate information about herself before. It occurred to her that ever since Traci had revealed her secret, she was truly trying to get past it, to live a life she had had to keep hidden from herself to avoid the pain and humiliation of that night. It was also becoming apparent that Traci was a far more sensual and sexual person than she had imagined. A person who was just now trying to come to grips with her own passions.
"Well, nothing wrong with that," Emily reassured her. "I like that, too. Matter of fact, right now my best friend friend is a nice long purple guy in my night stand drawer--um, second-best friend," she added, with a wink.
Traci smiled at that, then went on.
"Before the, incident, I could get off lots of ways--my fingers, a stream of water, a dildo, whatever. I always dreamed of having a guy do those things to me. But afterwards, I couldn't at all for a long time. Now, I need a really strong vibrator, that's all that will work. I don't want to have to use that with Brad. I don't want that between us, at least not at first. I just want him and me. And if it's just him and me, I don't think I can do it, you know, come."
"Trace, I'm really, really glad to hear about how you feel about Brad. I'm thrilled. It seems like you really have a connection. I think that you just have to trust that if he has been this patient, he'll continue to be patient for you. There's no rush. Just let it happen. I know that's easier said than done, but you just have to trust that it can happen with time and love."
"Well, I don't know. I just want the first time, the real first time, to be special," Traci said.
After a pause, she jumped abruptly from her seat, "Well, let's go see that movie. You're driving!"
A few days later Emily convened a meeting of the Traci support group. She was doubtful at first about revealing such intimate information given to her in confidence, but she felt she needed the input of the others to be able to help Traci.
After she had summarized what Traci had told her, Terri and Sandy were speechless for many seconds. Finally, Sandy piped up.
"Wow, who would have guessed?" she exclaimed. "That girl has something going on inside, and we've got to help her get it out. I think you gave her good advice, Em, but I also think it's important that her first time be as special as it can be. And I do think Brad's the guy that can make it happen, but he'll need some direction. He's pretty tuned in to people's feelings, his hunky exterior notwithstanding, but I think even he will need a little nudging to make this a success. Do you both trust me to handle Brad?"
"Good. Em, here's what I need from you. I need to you keep Traci talking. Try to find out if she still wants this to happen. And you when it you think Traci's ready to make it happen, you need to let me know. If they're going on a date and you think Traci wants that to be the night, I need to know. Then I'll work with Brad. Deal?"
"OK," Emily assented. "Deal!" ------------ On the way to Brad's, Traci wondered why he had asked her to drive to his place. In the past, Brad had always picked up Traci when they went out on a date. And for tonight he had promised that she would dine "in the most exclusive restaurant in town." So if tonight was so special, why was she driving? She was puzzled just to the point of being slightly irked.
And speaking of irked, what on earth was up with Em? Ever since Traci's little confession about seeing Brad, Em just wouldn't let it rest. OK, OK, maybe she was just trying to be a good friend and make sure she didn't get hurt, but one of Em's great virtues, at least in Traci's eyes, was her discretion, her willingness to let sleeping dogs lie. It was one reason she had remained so close to her over all these years. She knew that Em wouldn't try to dig up what was best left buried.
Well, now that cat was out of the bag, too, so maybe Em felt she had a right to know everything. She had even wheedled out of her that tonight might be the night that things went all the way with Brad.
The last thought distracted Traci from her irritation with Emily and started her stomach churning. Deep down she knew she just couldn't go through with it. Maybe she should just break it off with Brad now and get it over with. He was a nice guy, but she'd never be the free and lighthearted lover that he deserved. She'd always have a cloud following her and no reason he should get rained on, too.
Traci pulled into the driveway of Brad's modest little rent house. She could hear the dogs barking from just inside as she walked up the path to the front door. Brad opened the door just as she put up her fist to rap and Boomer and Mo came rushing out to meet her. Boomer greeted her by sticking his nose into her crotch while Mo ambushed her from behind in a flanking maneuver.
"OK, OK! Good boys, good boys," she cooed squatting down and vigorously petting the two dogs.
Satisfied that no threat lurked there, the two dogs trotted back into the house.
"If the queen of England ever visits here, you are in such big trouble," Traci quipped as she stood and leaned forward to give Brad a quick peck on the lips.
"Believe me, I lose sleep over that every night," he retorted as he led her back into the house.
"So where is this magnificent restaurant I get to experience tonight?" Traci asked as she stepped across the threshold.
But she wasn't two steps into the living room before she knew the answer. The house was redolent with exquisite aromas.
"Wow, that smells great!" she exclaimed. "What is it?"
"Well, to start with we have some aged manchego," he said, offering her a plate of sliced cheese and crackers as they entered the kitchen.
"The main course is wild salmon poached in a tarragon cream sauce with a side of buttered polenta. The above accompanied by a field green salad. For desert, homemade lemon sorbet."
"Holy shit! Where did you learn to do this? I thought you were a biker, for gawd's sake!"
"Ah, my dear, so much you have to learn about me. I was once a chef at a fine restaurant."
"A chef?" Traci asked incredulously.
"Well, not technically a chef, precisely. What is the term of art? Uh, oh yes, it's dish washer! I was a dish washer at a fancy-ass French restaurant. But it's amazing what you can learn if you keep your eyes open. A glass of Chateauneuf du Pape?" he concluded, extending a glass of deep red liquid. "I know that white wine traditionally accompanies fish, but I've been ever the iconoclast."
Traci sniffed her wine glass and took a tentative sip.
"Man! This is incredible! If this is wine then I've been drinking soda pop my whole life."
"True words," Brad nodded in assent. "I apologize in advance for the damage your newly acquired tastes will do to your pocket book."
Traci sipped her wine as she watched Brad finish the preparations for dinner and followed him into the small dining room adjacent the kitchen as he served the meal. The cheap Formica-top table was set with two candles, white linen, and heavy crockware. It was an almost comical juxtaposition.
The two ate a quiet dinner, accompanied by an indie-rock station playing on the radio in the background. The surprise of the home-cooked meal and the absolutely delicious food had temporarily distracted Traci from her disquiet, but as Brad brought out dessert, Traci began to think about what would come after. She could feel her stomach clench and a metallic taste develop in her mouth, so she couldn't really enjoy the sorbet.
She helped Brad clear the table after the meal but he refused her offer of help to wash the dishes, leaving them stacked in the sink.