There is Someone in the Next Room Who Does Not Want to Sleep with You


One of my sister’s friends, a girl with tattoos and absolutely no intention of ever graduating high school, ended up living with us after her mother went crazy and tried to blind herself with bleach. My parents, who must have been rendered completely stupid by their own unhappiness, allowed this wild, bored thing into our house. She slept in the guest room, a few feet away from my own. Thirteen years old, I spent hours each night waiting, on the off chance that she might want to have sex with me, for the sound of her footsteps in the hallway. I imagined her in the next room, twisting the bed sheets into knots with her desire, finding me to be the only available option. I waited, barely breathing, until sleep overtook me, and I would wake the next morning with an erection so painful that I could barely get out of bed.

The closest I had come to kissing a girl was kissing a boy and I was hoping that they were not at all similar. One afternoon, school thirty minutes over and my mother forgetting to pick me up, I sat on the curb next to another boy, also unloved and unremembered. He was a year older than me, slightly heavy and his nose whistling when he breathed. He asked me if I’d ever had sex with a girl and, shocked by the question, I shook my head, afraid to look at him. “Have you ever put your hand inside a girl?” he asked and I again admitted that I had not. “Well, goddamn, have you even kissed a girl yet?” he said, genuinely baffled, and I almost started to cry. “Come here,” he said. “This is just too depressing.”

He pulled me towards the courtyard, where a janitor smoked a cigarette on one of the picnic tables, completely unconcerned by our presence. The boy shoved me in between two soda machines, the space so negligible I thought I would pass out. “Come here,” he said, once he had wedged himself beside me, and he forced my mouth against his own. His tongue was in my mouth; the smell of his sweat, salty and nauseating, was so pervasive that it felt like a disease that could be transferred. After we were done, he said, “Okay, get out of here,” but his body was in the way. I pushed and tried to force myself past him, but he resisted, smiling. “Go on,” he said, rubbing against me, “get lost.” When I finally got out, I saw my mother’s van pulling out of the parking lot and I ran after her, waving my arms, forgetting my books on the curb. Once she stopped and let me in the van, she said, “I was going to leave without you.” “That’s okay,” I said, trying to catch my breath, my lips stinging as I spoke. “That would have been fine.”

Days passed without my having masturbated, terrified of this girl’s presence, turning the air into some kind of electricity that would not allow me to touch myself. I considered burning down the house in order to relieve the tension.

I had spoken to her only once, after dinner one night, when she asked me where my parents kept the alcohol. “There some kind of hidden compartment in this house?” she said. When I told her that my parents didn’t drink, she seemed to vibrate with disappointment. “They’re pretty lame,” I offered. She frowned and walked away without saying another word.

Later that night, after fighting sleep for hours, I dreamed that she asked me to write my name on her ass with a magic marker. When I woke up in the morning, I could not stop crying and my parents were so perturbed that they let me skip school.

I finally devised a plan that, in the grip of perversion and obsession, seemed elegant in its simplicity. I would walk into her room after she had fallen asleep, take off my clothes, crawl into bed beside her, and then wake her up. I thought that, in her confusion, she might think that we had been having sex and she would continue as if this was the case. From my limited understanding of how people convinced other people to fuck them, this seemed to be a not unreasonable option.

That night, assured that the entire house was dumb to my machinations, I pushed open the door to my room and slid my feet across the wood floors of the hallway, the house ticking and resettling in the humid air. When I stepped into her room, pitch black and dead silent, I allowed my eyes to adjust to the darkness, the scent of lip balm and stale cigarettes hovering around her bed like an aura. “What are you doing?” she said, her voice so lucid and clear that it seemed as if she had been expecting this since she had moved into our house. A sound like a tiny animal dying came out of my mouth. “I’m asleep,” I whispered. “I’m sleepwalking.”

“Well, wake up already,” she said.

“Okay,” I said. My hands were shaking and I wanted to put all of my fingers into my mouth at once.

She flipped on the lamp by her bed and rubbed her eyes. “What do you want?” she said.

“I don’t know,” I answered.

She screwed up her mouth in disgust and then she said, “Well, I’m about one hundred percent certain that I know what you want. And you’re not going to get it.”

“Okay,” I answered. “You’ve got a hard-on under your pajamas,” she said.

“I’ll just leave,” I said, but I found it impossible to move, unsure of the proper way to extricate one’s self from a failed attempt at sexual assault.

“Your parents should have just given me the thousand dollars I asked for so I could rent my own apartment,” she said.

“I guess,” I responded.

“Adults think they can make things better by complicating the situation.”

“I guess,” I said again. I felt like I had just been given the most unpronounceable word at a spelling bee and was stalling for time.

“What did you think was going to happen when you came in here?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “If I knew, then I think I wouldn’t have done it.”

“Sex is one of the stupidest things there is,” she said. “If you can avoid it for as long as possible, you’ll be better off.”

I nodded, though this seemed like terrible advice.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m totally awake now. Do you think you could go make me a sandwich and get me a soda?”

I ran out of the room, grateful for escape, and went downstairs to the kitchen where I assembled a sandwich so large that it looked obscene. My mother walked into the kitchen and asked what I was doing. “I’m sleepwalking,” I said. “I’m asleep.” She poured herself a glass of water from the tap. “Do what you want,” she answered, loose with sleeping pills, “but you’ll just make yourself sick.”

The girl was impressed with the sandwich. “This is so ridiculous,” she said, lettuce spilling out of the sides as she bit into it, “that it’s almost perfect.” I smiled and she turned down the covers to the bed with a flick of her wrist. “Hop in for a second,” she said, and I climbed into bed beside her, holding her soda for her between sips. “If your parents would give me that even grand,” she said, “you could be my butler.” She put the sandwich down and took my face in her hands and kissed me as softly and gently as was possible for her. I could taste mayonnaise and vinegar and it was so wonderful that I came immediately.

“Okay,” she said, taking the can of soda out of my hands, seemingly unaware of what had just happened, “you better get out of here.”

Back in my room, I stripped out of my clothes and folded them as neatly as if they were for sale. Then I placed them inside a pillowcase and shoved it as far back in the closet as it would go. Totally naked under the sheets of my bed, I felt completely calm. For the first time in weeks, the inevitability of sleep did not seem like a curse. In replaying the events of the evening, it seemed that I had learned something important. If I stayed so close to someone that my presence eventually became useful, I might be able to convince them, as an afterthought, to press themselves against my body and make me happy.

That night, and for hundred of nights that followed, I slept without incident, untroubled by my own strange desires.


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