"You know, Nate, after all this time, I've forgotten to ask you about your romantic life. So?"
I had looked forward to this moment and, at the same time, dreaded it for so long. Crimson shades run up my neck and I have no way of keeping them from going further. This always happens. And it only makes my embarrassment worse.
"Nothing," I whisper.
"Okay, well, anything in the past I should know about?"
"So nothing at all?"
"All right, how about interests. Romantic interests?"
How about you, Nell? But I can never tell you that.
Nell's skirt is rather short today and it's riding up her crossed legs. It's hard for me to keep my eyes from running over the length of each one. But that's not why I love her.
Doctor Nell Calkins, for the last six months, I've poured my soul out in this room, your office. I've divulged every secret, no matter how deep it was buried. I've revealed every foible, no matter how shameful. You know more about me than anyone else in this world. How could I not love you?
But Nell is a psychiatrist, a very professional one at that. If I tell her the truth, I don't know what would happen. I've never told a woman the truth before anyway.
Her eyebrows arched. Was she getting impatient?
"Um, well, there's one girl I really like."
"Bijou. She's in one of my classes."
"What do you like about her?"
I think of her long billowing sweaters and skirts that hang from her delicate frame. How her hand brushes against mine when she wants me to look at her work. The way her voice is so soft I can barely hear her accent. And how I am absolutely in love with the pale skin of her face. How can I put this into words for Nell?
"I don't know."
"There must be something that makes her different if you like her." A long silence. "What about other girls? Do you think any like you?"
"Yeah, there were a few that liked me. But I never liked them. They just kind of latched on to me. I don't even know why they liked me."
"Well, what happened?"
"Nothing," I lie. It's the first time I've lied to Nell. I could talk to her about anything but that. I had talked to her about everything but that. But I should be honest. She has to know if she's going to help. "Except one time."
"What time?" She touches the eraser of her pencil to her lips. She would have to dredge it out of me. But when Nell asks prying questions, I don't feel intruded upon, because I do want to tell her everything.
"This one girl, I thought she was okay, I guess. She hit on me sometimes, and she asked if she could kiss me." I could feel myself turning red. "And I was curious about it, so I let her."
"Now that's the kind of thing I wanted to know when I asked you about romantic interests, Nate. So tell me what happened."
"I did tell you what happened." I wriggle in my seat.
"You seem awfully uncomfortable about it. I think there is something else that happened." She waggles her clipboard, drawing her skirt up her legs a tiny bit more.
I'm not just lying to her, I'm lying to myself. I didn't throw out that first hint because I wanted to help her in the "therapeutic process." I did it because I wanted to get closer to her. I wanted her to accept the part of me that I was most ashamed of.
"She tried to take my shirt off, so I told her to stop, and I ran away."
"Why did you do that?"
I have no choice but to be brutal about it now. "Because I didn't want her to see me naked!"
"Huh, gymnophobia? You're afraid of nudity?"
"Well, I mean, I can be naked. It depends. I feel less embarrassed around people that make me feel safer. But even then, it's weird. I don't even like to take my shirt off in public. And I feel kind of weird being naked even when I'm alone."
"Hmm, maybe it's not just a plain old phobia if that's true. Maybe it's related to your anxiety issues. Have you had any other experiences? Any other times you were afraid of being exposed?"
"Well..." She's hit on a second incident that I don't want to relive. "Back in high school, I was at the beach with some friends. I was wearing these loose baggy trunks and standing in the ocean. A big wave hit me and pulled my shorts off. By the time I saw where they were, they were too far out to get back. I had to run back to the beach, and it was the most embarrassing moment in my life."
"I see. I want to go back to the girl you were talking about earlier. Would you have gone further if it weren't for that?"
"I couldn't say. It happened so fast, I just didn't know if I liked her enough to go further. And then the whole nudity thing, I couldn't handle it."
"Maybe it's erotophobia, then, sex in general. Though, I'm reluctant to say it's a phobia, really, given your issues with anxiety. I think maybe it's just that you're especially anxious because it's the most personal form of contact between two people."
As usual, Nell explains me better than I can. I let out a sigh, my eyes wandering back to her legs while she scribbles. If Nell asked if she could kiss me, I would let her. She's the only woman I would let see me naked, the only woman I would let make love to me. Bijou, perhaps, but she is only nineteen. Still a girl, not a woman.
And here I am talking about sex to the one woman I can't have. And I'm watching her scratch her leg, watching her skirt ride up even more so that I can almost see all of her thighs. When she uncrosses her legs, I catch a glimpse of her white panties.
A swelling sensation begins. Being reminded about my one "sexual" encounter also reminded me of all the sensations that came with it. And on top of that I was telling it out loud, to Nell. This is another problem – I am sensitive, easily aroused. I have to cut the tags out of my shirts, I can smell foul cologne from a mile away, and I sneeze when the sun gets too bright. And, of course, I'm easily aroused down there.
When sex is mentioned, it lingers in the air like some kind of inscrutable odor. That odor all too often reminds me of my solitary kiss. The smell of raspberry from her hair, her belly undulating from her rapid breathing, her tongue exploring my mouth. I had sprouted an erection the second our lips met. And I always think, if kissing felt like that....
My arousal only made things worse. I didn't want her to see me naked, much less see that I was hard as stone. It was just so irrational, though. She was unbuttoning my shirt – what else would she be expecting? But my mind always shoots back to that incident on the beach. I neglected to tell Nell that being exposed had given me a raging hard-on, and the thought of the girl undressing me had done the same.
Whenever I relive the moment, I can't help but think of how foolish I am. What if someone had seen that? What if someone sat in on my sessions with Nell? My mind immediately conjures a guy with a popped collar and backwards cap, saying "Christ, dude, just get laid already! You're making way too big a deal out of this, you goddamned pussy!"
"...you need some pussy," Nell says, breaking the silence. I jump in my seat.
"I said, 'I don't mean to be pushy.'"
I exhale, relieved, but almost a tiny bit disappointed. My thoughts had flown so far while she sat writing. Now I snap back to the present and feel my member crawling down my thigh. I crossed my legs just in case.
"But, can you tell me more about Bijou? Would you have gone through with it if she had been the one kissing you?"
"I don't know. Yes, I guess. I mean, I would be nervous but I think I could do it."
"Yes, I know Bijou. She's a nice girl."
"I'm in an evening class with her. I can tell she's a nice girl. But I know why you like her. She makes you feel safe, doesn't she? She's a lot like you."
For the first time, I feel Nell knows almost too much about me. But I can't deny that she's entirely correct. "Yes," I whisper.
The corner of her lip turns up. "Even the fear of nudity." She leans over, pulls a canvas from behind her desk, and turns it around so I can see. I jump in my seat just like before. It's a portrait of Bijou clutching a sheet of cloth to her nude body so only her shoulders on up and a hint of leg can be seen. I can see the brush strokes. They make a painterly image of Bijou, but in a bad way. Like a failed attempt at Impressionism. The crudeness of it doesn't do her justice at all.
"Do you like it? I know I'm not an artiste, probably not even half what you are, but I think I'm coming along."
"Oh, yeah, it's very nice." That was the second time I had lied to Nell.
"Thank you. The model that week didn't show up and I managed to convince her to pose for us. She wouldn't go fully nude, though." She puts the painting aside. "Anyway, that's besides the point. Now what I'm thinking is that we need to try something new. You've been coming here for months. I think we have made some progress here in this room, but that's where it seems to stay. And you've told me that the medication is having less of an effect than it used to. I don't mean to be critical, but I think maybe it's time you're pushed headfirst into the water rather than dipping your ankles in and trying to acclimate to it forever."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that we need to solve this problem. I hadn't realized sexuality was such an issue with you, but I guess I had just assumed the problem and never looked into it. I have to apologize for that oversight. But what I'm getting at is that I think if you could become comfortable with your own body, especially in intimate settings, it would help you in every area of your life. If you can break that boundary you fear most, everything else will be a breeze."
"Well, we have a few minutes left. Why don't we try something to get you started? I just want to help you get used to revealing yourself, so to speak. I know this might sound unprofessional, but I did do a little bit of sex therapy back in my younger days. I want you to undress."
"What?! Right here?" My heart raced even though I'm sure I just misheard her like I had earlier.
"First step, we'll make it easy," she says and holds her clipboard over her eyes. "I won't look. It's a win-win situation. You can start off easy, just being naked in an unfamiliar setting in someone else's presence. And I can maintain my professional decorum because I won't see a thing."
"Are you serious?"
She keeps the clipboard over her face. "I expect to hear a zipping sound soon, Nate."
I force a lump down my throat. It's okay, she can't even see me. It's nothing. Besides, how long have I fantasized about something sexual happening with Nell? I flick open the two buttons on my polo collar. It's nothing, it's nothing. It's just the same as taking a shower.
I pull off the polo and drop it to the floor. I unbuckle my belt and finger the button on my jeans. It's nothing. I pop the button open, unzip, and drop everything. The second my pants hit the floor, my penis pulls itself into the air, hard as can be. That vicious cycle of embarrassment and arousal has started. Damn, why couldn't I be normal like the guys who couldn't get it up when they were nervous?
"That's it. See, wasn't so hard now was it? Why don't you get comfortable, walk around a little?"
All I can think is, "I'm nude in Nell's office." My inhibitions are making me queasy, my sense of normality is scratching its head, and my libido is shouting with joy. But it all comes back to that simple statement. I kick off my shoes so I can pull my pants all the way off and walk circles around the chair. My erection bobs in time with my steps. You know, this doesn't feel half bad.
"Oh, I've got an even better idea. I want you to get more comfortable. I want you to imagine Bijou seeing you like this." She pulls the canvas back up and sits it on her lap, dispensing with the clipboard.
Despite her amateurish appearance in the portrait, she seems to be stepping right out of it. "'Allo, Nate," she says, then glimpses my nudity and gasps, covering her mouth with one hand. I give her a sheepish smile and cover a certain part of my body as well.
"I am sorry, I didn't realize." She emphasizes the last syllable of each word, as always. Her hand travels down to mine. "You know, it's nothing to be ashamed of. I am naked underneath this sheet too."
She lets go of the cloth. My eyes shoot all over her exposed figure while she moves my hand away. I stare at the erect nipples on her tiny breasts. Her hand wraps around me, so gentle yet so stimulating.
"How is it?" Nell asks, jolting me out of my fantasy. I become aware, all at once, of my hand making gradual strokes along my member and Nell's self-exposure. She's holding the canvas to her torso, which had pulled her skirt up so that the length of her thighs and her panties were quite visible. I remove my hand, not wanting to leave a mess on her floor.
"It's okay." I couldn't believe I had lost myself like that right in front of her, even if she couldn't see anything. The portrait of Bijou still stares at me, though.
"All right, our time is nearly up. Tell me when you're dressed." I throw my clothes on and tell her I'm ready, crossing my legs again to make my problem less apparent. She drops the portrait. "That's good, Nate. Very good. Actually, this has given me a great idea. I want you to pose for my class."
As before, I don't trust my ears. She goes on, "It'll be good for you. And I'll tell you what. I won't be there so we can maintain a professional relationship. Everyone will see you once and that's it, you'll be done."
"I can't do that."
"I want you to try. No, I want you to do it. I'm going to tell the professor that you're coming in next week. I'll make sure she makes you feel comfortable with the whole procedure. I can just ask one of the students the week after if you kept your word."
Somehow I find myself sitting on a bench in a locker room wearing only a robe. The art professor, Doctor MacConnelly, has one hand on my hips and another on my head, demonstrating the poses I need to hold.
This is all Nell's fault. I couldn't say no to her, especially because I let myself believe she would let this whole thing go further. Whenever I leave her office, I wonder if she thinks about me. I always hope she does – that she thinks of me with some fondness. I know I'm probably just another sad sack of neuroses to her, though, most likely one of her milder cases. She no doubt deals with raging maniacs; cases that require great effort to solve and far more attention than mine. I know that she's just trying, as she put it, to kick me straight into the water. She's not even going to be in the class tonight.
Professor MacConnelly leads me out the door toward the classroom. I calm myself – these people aren't going to see you again anyway. And they've been painting nudes or near-nudes the entire semester. It's nothing.
As the professor shepherds me through the door, though, everything changes. All eyes are on me. Even though it's a small class, it might as well be a sold-out crowd at a baseball stadium. I see Bijou. She covers her mouth to stifle a laugh, then waves to me. Of course, if Nell had painted her, she would be in this class. I don't know how I hadn't realized that. But then my eyes fall upon Nell herself. The liar!
I nearly jump out of my skin. I can't believe she's here. When I talk to her this week and every week after, I'll feel just as naked in front of her as I will today. But, at the same time, it gives me a feeling of ease, as if I have a cheerleader in the crowd for me. Someone who will be able to fix things if they go wrong.
The professor sits me down on the stool in front of the class. "Go on," she says. I untie my robe, only able to do so because I feel as if I've entered a dream, as if this can't possibly be real. As the robe parts, the professor grabs the opening and pulls it from my shoulders. "Here, I'll hang this up for you."
That's it, I'm nude. I didn't even get a final word in the matter. I have to sit with my head pointed to the left and my back to the class. This isn't so bad, I guess. All they can see is my back. But I can see two girls out of the corner of my eye, a blonde and a brunette. They're sitting almost to my side and I know they can see nearly everything.
They start whispering to each other while I shake in nervousness on the stool. My hands grip the sides of the stool for balance. The professor comes over and moves my hands behind my back where they're supposed to be, saying "Be still, now. Hold your pose."
My eyes dart all the way to the left so I can see the two girls. One of them smiles at me. I can't tell if they can see all of me. Deliberating about what they can see, though, is fueling that vicious cycle. I look back to my lap, trying to ignore the girls. My penis wriggles against my bare leg. Watching my sprouting erection is only making it worse, so I move my eyes back to the left.
The blonde pops a button on her shirt and runs her fingers down her open collar. The brunette is playing with the end of her brush, touching it to her lips. Her tongue slips out and licks the brush handle. Then she puckers and slips the handle into her mouth, fellating it. I swallow nervously. She winks, noticing me give off a slight tremor.
I had never taken a class that used nude models, but I had heard stories from some of my friends. They said that there were always a few girls who tried to get the male models riled up. That they would tease and giggle and flash while the guy was captive in front of them while he attempted to keep himself from getting too excited.
That's all it is, they're just fooling around with me. Don't play their game and you'll be fine. But now that I know the two girls are trying to get into my head, it's only making the situation worse. They've got to be imagining more than just painting my body. Their impure motives are pushing lewd thoughts into my head.
I look away again only to find my member inching down my leg. The friction from my skin isn't helping the situation. A feeling of warmth washes over my entire body. I had taken a triple dose of my meds before I came to the class just in case, which apparently just caught up with me. I feel half-drunk.
I stop my little shifting motions as the medication calms me. I wonder what the girls are up to. Though I know I shouldn't look over, I do anyway. The blonde has another button undone, showing a hint of cleavage and the top of her bra. Her legs are spread apart enough to allow a peek up her skirt. The brunette is sucking her brush even harder, the handle making a bulge in her cheek.
I've lost the battle. My dick climbs into the air until it points straight up. The blonde taps the brunette and the two giggle. A blush crosses my face. There's no doubt that they can see it now. Professor MacConnelly distracts them for a moment by checking up on their progress, but they are back to tricks before long.
"Second pose!" calls out the professor. I seize. I'm supposed to be facing the class for the second pose. The professor says again, "Second pose, dear."
I'm still frozen. Professor MacConnelly's hand grips my shoulder as she leans toward me from behind. "Is that," she points with her free hand to my erection, "the reason you don't want to do the second pose?"
More giggle from the two girls. I panic. The girls can see me and the professor is pointing her finger right at my hard-on. I can't turn around – visions of the beach incident are already creeping back into my mind.
I slap my hands over my crotch and leap off the stool. The tiles beneath my feet are sand. The students are bikini-clad girls, laughing at my nudity. My member is stiff from my exposure. I'm running to my bag to get a towel I can use to cover myself. The students are my first paramour, reaching for the buttons on my shirt. Pushing her hand away, covering myself with the towel. Both things brought me great relief, but I secretly wish that the gaggle of beach babes had run off with my towel, that I had let my kissing partner strip me.