As soon as the words “with mouth” left my lips, her head began its slow descent towards my lap like a discordant apple falling from the branch of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We had created our own vocabulary. Our own language: part verbal, part body. She was in a long-distance relationship with a man who lived across the world, in Singapore, her home. Close enough for sexting and dirty show-and-tell via Skype, but far enough for her to seek supplementary companionship. She craved the warmth of physical contact. While we lay in each other’s arms after having made love, she used to tell me that her boyfriend refused to have sex with her. Vaginal. I asked why. She didn’t know. I brought up the slight possibility that he may be gay and using her as a beard. No, that wasn’t it, she assured me, as if I was the one who needed assurance. He liked doing it in every way, fill all her holes, except for the one that mattered most to her. He was a devout Christian and would not lose his virginity before marriage. Having been raised in that sexually stunting, hormonally frustrating climate— with balls as blue as the Virgin’s cloak— I totally understood his apprehension and guilt.
I was raised to fear the villainous and venereal woman’s vagina as if it were Satan’s filthy mouth itself. To plunge my virginity into it would swing open the gates of Hell and drag me in, kicking and screaming, digging my bloodied finger nails into the landsliding abyss. However, she was a friend in need and aside from having learnt the lesson of divine chastity, I had also learnt that of divine compassion. Now, this compassionate heart of mine had given me the task of filling not only her woman-sized hole, but the one the size of the Atlantic. One that needed an ocean of love to fill. So there we were, fucking under God’s watchful, wrathful and vengeful eyes. We didn’t hide our naked bodies in shame. Instead, she opened her mouth and took a mouthful out of my apple.
* * * *
Music was our drug of choice. It always seemed to get us in the mood, playing with our emotions. We liked the same bands, and the ones whose affinity we didn’t share we accepted because we trusted each other’s taste. We were sitting in my car listening to Foxygen, and the song “San Francisco” came on. My eyes began to gather tears as my throat closed up. She noticed that I had suddenly gotten quiet. She touched my clenched hand on the steering wheel, and I relaxed it.
“Are you OK?” she asked.
“It’s just that this song reminds me of my ex-wife,” I replied. She looked confused. “It reminds me of her because that was the last place that we went to as a couple.” It was our last resort to make things work. It was also the place where we hit rock bottom and broke up for good.
“We can just skip this song if you like.”
“No, it’s fine.” I looked over at her. In the blurriness of tears I could see a concerned look in her eyes. “Just keep your hand on mine and sit here with me.” I wanted to listen to the song and mourn in silence. So we did.
* * * *
We were lying on a blanket on the floor. I was lying on my side, propping my head up with one arm and placing the other on my thigh. She was sitting on her calves— inside the curvature made by my legs and torso— perked up looking down at me. The lights were off, and the only light was emanating from an old Bed Bath and Beyond pine-scented candle I dug out from under the bathroom sink. The candle’s dimmed brilliance reflected the tears welling up in her eyes, as if there was a feeling she was trying to disguise. I smiled and asked her what was wrong. She nodded away my question with a soft hum. I could tell that she didn’t want to make eye contact with me. I placed my free hand on her thighs, and she looked down on it. She bit down on her bottom lip. I felt a single, sultry tear sprinkle on my knuckles like the first raindrops of summer.
“What’s wrong?” I asked again. She let out a flustered sigh and wiped the tears from her face and the secretion from her nose.
“It’s hard to explain,” she answered. It was difficult because her English was pretty good, but not good enough to express a complex emotion. An emotion that even a native English speaker would have a hard time explaining. I dragged my body closer to her knees and outstretched my hand to meet hers.
“You can tell me anything.”
“I know,” she sniffled. But it wasn’t so much a matter of intimacy as it was a matter of fluency.
“Just say it in Malay,” I said. I didn’t care if I couldn’t understand it. All I understood was that she needed to vent. She had been building up so much pressure in her heart for so long, that it seemed impossible to release it. At first, she began to speak softly to me. Slowly. Then her speech became louder and faster. Violent. She was looking at me in a way she hadn’t before. Flailing her arms, clicking her wrists, gripping her palms. I felt conflicted. Sad because of the eruptive catharsis I was beholding and aroused because of the level of intimacy we were reaching. That look in her eyes. Those dark, soulful eyes.
I propped myself up into a seated position and buried her in my arms. Her body was shaking. She felt warm and cold. Stiff and frail. I held her close and tight, suffocating any doubt in her mind. She continued to speak in a language I couldn’t begin to decipher, let alone understand. However, I understood everything she was feeling, everything her heart was expressing. Every single word.
* * * *
It was a steady, slow-building orgasm. It had been welling up inside of me like tears held back from a repressed emotion. The care and passion with which she was tugging at my penis had the charm of wanting to do a good job that comes from inexperience. It was naïve, coy and playful. She was pushing buttons without knowing the type of reactions they would trigger in my body. It reminded me of the first time we had been intimate, when we used to meet in her apartment to listen to The Beatles and drink Japanese wheat tea. At the time, I didn’t know if it was the sweetness in her eyes, the bitterness of John Lennon’s singing or the savoriness of the tea, but I felt the need to invade her lips with mine. To occupy her mouth with my tongue. At first, she pulled away— half appalled, half pleasantly surprised.
“Why did you kiss me?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I saw it in your eyes.”
“Well, in case you didn’t know, I have a boyfriend.” She said it more so to remind herself of the fact than to get me to stop. She was still within firing range, and her eyes were still conveying the same message as before.
“OK, can I just have one more kiss?” This time, I was the one who had to pull away. We decided to forget the whole incident and go back to listening to music, each of us sitting at the couch’s extremes. She kept looking over, smiling nervously. I knew what she wanted, I could see it in the way her slightly crooked teeth were digging into her bottom lip. In her quivering silence I could hear her screaming for another kiss. For what she had so strongly opposed and at the same time couldn’t get enough of.
Her lips were starved for love, the kind of love that only I could give her.
“Do you want to kiss me?” I asked. She nodded her head affirmatively. I slid over to her end of the couch and placed my arm around her. I wanted to take her to a secluded place, a place beyond shame, beyond judgement, beyond inhibition. A place beyond love. What we felt wasn’t just love. It was lust. We kissed each other like it was going to be the last time. I placed her hand on my thigh, and she started to slide it up towards my crotch, which by this point seemed like it was going to burst out of its seams. I heard the sound of my zipper becoming undone slowly. I felt her digging inside, removing the layers of cloth between her hand and my stiffened flesh.
She took its content in her hands without questioning. All of the questions, the doubts that she had from when we first kissed had dissipated by now. Her willingness to humor my hormonal urge compelled me to help with the unzipping and simply pull it out and place it in her hands. By this point my heart was throbbing with desire, and I didn’t care whether things were moving too fast. We were ready. She welcomed me in her hands. Part of me felt that she was jerking me around, using me as a surrogate lover. Her touch felt cold. Almost robotic, as though she was simply going through the motions. We both wanted the same things, but each for very different reasons.
We looked at each other and realized the murkiness of the situation. I placed her face in my hands and gave her a kiss. I felt her grip get tighter and the rhythm of it getting faster and warmer. It told me that she finally understood what this was about. She treated my body as if she herself was a man, stroking with the skill of a chronic masturbator. As if my penis was her own and she was going to be the one who would climax through it. I felt strong in her hand. In its clasp, that hardened tissue had a purpose, and its purpose was to be the best it had ever been. Not for me, but for her. For all of the hard work she was investing in my happiness and pleasure. There was something lodged inside of me that I needed her to help me get out. I was full of love for her and filling up more and more with every one of her kisses. I was about to reach a breaking point. A point of rapturous rupture. I felt a feral, starved beast trying to claw its way out of my urethra. It was my turn to release the pent-up pressure.
It came as a surprise, as it always does. I didn’t know how to feel, so I just felt. I simply was. It was an out-of-body, ethereal experience, losing myself in the moment, letting go of conscious thought and welcoming chaos.
As I came back to coherence, I realized that she was still toiling away. Throughout my life, I have always been told, if it feels good, then go with it. So, I did. It was electric. A religious experience and a celestial dialogue with the divine. This was her way of thanking me for being there for her. For treating her like a woman and not just like some stupid Singaporean girl with no say in her sexuality. That night, I returned her generosity and helped her release her tension and turned my hands into instruments of torturous pleasure. The sight of her face writhing in the exquisite pain of sex told me more than her words— in English or Malay, from human or demonic tongue— ever could.
* * * *
In the months that we spent together, we created a little world for ourselves. A four-walled Eden in a one-bedroom-one-bath apartment. We fought, made love and learned many things about ourselves that we wouldn’t have had our paths not crossed. She taught me how to be intimate with a woman and how to tend to her emotional needs. I taught her how a man likes to be touched and that it’s perfectly normal to have sexual thoughts and feelings. The only lesson we forgot to teach one another was how to live life without the other.
Bilicko, C. (2017). Bridging the Gap [Painting]. Acrylic on wood, Long Beach, CA.