It's about 3000 words. I planned for there to be a couple more sections, but decided to leave it as it was. It's quite silly.
"How much of this experience do you remember?"
"Oh, all of it! I couldn't forget it if I tried. I did try, a little. But even though a lot of the party seems murky to me, what I did afterwards is too crystal clear."
"And this makes you uncomfortable?"
"I'm a little confused by that. Yes, I'm very uncomfortable. I feel guilty, but…"
"I think I feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough." Taylor raised her eyes, making full eye contact for the first time since the session began. "It was a mistake. I can't let it happen again."
"But you think maybe you want it to, perhaps?"
Taylor nodded, looking down again.
“And you did decide on this plan of action before you got to the party? Do you feel as though you took advantage of him?”
Up to this point, Taylor had appreciated the even, detached manner of her therapist Lisa’s speech. She now detected a note of something more. It wasn’t judgmental, precisely, but it sounded different, with a slight edge, maybe. She replied with care.
“No, I don’t believe I took advantage of him. I mean, I’m new at this. But I’m not a teenager; I was considering his feelings, that is, if he had expressed any deeper ones, or...” Taylor stopped herself. “I knew he was interested in me, but he isn’t interested in serious relationships. He jokes about his brother being tied down. And that’s why I chose him, yes, before the party. Before I had three vodka tonics, before I flirted with him and then brought him home to my apartment. And after I decided it was time to stop, after all these years, being a virgin for someone I’ll never even meet.”
Lisa nodded. “Good. Because you have to own the decision as much as you have to own the consequences of following through on it. Taylor, once you realize you’re ready for mature adult relationships, you get to stop thinking of yourself as a symbol of purity for someone else to take, and start thinking of yourself as a person with sexual desires, with the ability to enjoy a healthful union with a partner who wants to meet your needs just as you’ll want to meet his.”
Taylor sat quietly for a long minute. Then she spoke. “I’m not a symbol anymore, at least.”
“What did it mean to you? Do you believe you’ve given something up? What did you gain?” Lisa’s voice held less tension now, her expression remained placid and receptive as ever.
“It’s been ten years, almost to the day, when I committed myself to this idea. Maybe I shouldn’t feel guilty for breaking my vow to myself, and I know it was silly, but it stood for something important to me. Something I could honor in myself, and be true to.” Taylor stopped, reflecting.
“Why don’t you tell me how it all began?”
“I grew up in an old house in a little town about 30 miles outside the city. I rode the bus to the next bigger town to school, and so the kids I saw at school lived too far away for me to spend much time with them in the afternoons, weekends, and summers. For a few years, I spent most of my play time either by myself or with a girl down the street who was two years younger than me. But when I was 12, a new girl moved in a couple blocks away, and I started doing things with her, as well. She was just a year behind me in school. She lived across the street from a boy I’d known since kindergarten, and had a fierce crush on him. I think he was embarrassed by that and was less friendly to me than he’d always been. Kaitlyn was a little heavy, and wore glasses, and was just sort of a plain girl boys wouldn’t notice at that age. And she was so boy crazy. My other friend was more into sports and had a lot more friends so I saw her less often at that point. The two of them didn’t like each other much, anyway.
“Kaitlyn and I had lots of fun together, walking or riding our bikes to the store, making cookies, listening to music, and even reading teen romance books, which I’d never been interested in before. We watched a lot of movies, and she always had a crush on the young actors, and knew all the gossip about them. Yet at school, boys took no notice of her. I mean, they didn’t really take notice of me, either, but she seemed to have this real need for a boyfriend or for attention that I just assumed would come around later when I was older. We weren’t in the same classes, so I didn’t see her at school, and then I started high school a year before she did, and it was all very different for me. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but I don’t really know how school was for Kaitlyn, whether she had a lot of friends or did well in her classes, even though we spent a lot of time together otherwise.
“When I was 15, I had a sort of boyfriend I’d met at another school, that I didn’t really see much of; we talked on the phone, mostly, and he sent me notes. He wasn’t allowed to chat with me online or anything like that; his parents were very strict and old-fashioned. I think Kaitlyn felt a little separated from me because of him, though they did like each other when they met, and he didn’t really take any of my time from her.
“But a few months after that, my parents were divorced, and Mom and I moved to the edge of the city. I went to a different school, and didn’t see Kaitlyn much anymore. We talked sometimes, and I knew she was now hanging out with another girl from our neighborhood, a girl I always thought was a little wild, but I knew my friend was a good girl like me and wouldn’t get into trouble.”
Here, Taylor paused and laughed, and Lisa smiled. “We see in others what we wish to see, don’t we?”
Taylor said, “Kind of like a mirror, I guess. But I think Kaitlyn just really liked being liked, and I just always assumed people either would or wouldn’t; I didn’t work at it very much.”
“I guess, I’m starting to realize I was really deeply inside my head all this time, not thinking about what was going on inside anyone else’s.”
Lisa said, “Tell me how it was for you at your new school. Did you make friends there?”
“Yes, in a way. For one thing, the previous school was one of those places where all the kids seemed to just ooze money and privilege, and at the new place it was more varied, I guess, different things seemed important. I felt more like I could just be me. And it was just more friendly, kids got along with each other, so I felt connected to it all, even though I was still sort of a loner.
“I can’t even tell you why I didn’t make friends easily. Looking back, I can see people liked me. They do now. But like I said, I think maybe I was just inside my head too much, only I don’t know how to explain that very well. Anyway. This whole story has to do with the last time I saw Kaitlyn, and I keep wandering off track.”
Lisa smiled again, “Tell me what happened.”
“My mom was going away for a business retreat, and didn’t want me to stay alone for that long. I was nearly 18, and wasn’t afraid or unable to take care of myself, but it worried her, so she called Kaitlyn’s mother and they planned a reunion for us. Kaitlyn had a little car her parents had bought her and came to pick me up. That was a revelation for me, and also slightly humiliating because I hadn’t gotten my license yet. But she was friendly and happy to see me, and before we went to her house, we stopped at Sonic for shakes and onion rings. The Sonic was near my old high school where she still attended, and was one of those teen hangouts I’d always wondered about, imagining it like the teen romance books we’d read in junior high. Except it wasn’t the shiny bright place I remembered. The area around it looked somewhat depressed, and I saw a couple people off in the corner of the parking lot obviously making a drug deal.
“Kaitlyn said, all casually, ‘I know the guy in that car. His name is Jim. We were at a party together last week.’
“I was a little surprised, but played it cool, and just asked her how the party was, if she liked Jim. She told me she’d gone there with her friend Brooklyn, you know, her best friend after I moved, and that they’d all started drinking and then Jim shared some X tabs with them."
“That shocked me. I’d always thought of drugs as something sort of alien. A few other people did them, but not really anyone I knew. Kaitlyn told me everyone did, but even then I understood that is the kind of thing people say based on who they hang around with. We’d just been hanging around very different groups. So I tried not to seem judgmental, but I was worried a little, because she told me she couldn’t remember everything that happened that night, as she’d had more to drink than she should have.
"Kaitlyn described the party like it was a fantastic dream, with great music and lights, and people were dancing instead of just sitting around with cups of beer. She’d never felt so happy and felt like she was surrounded by a great group of friends who all loved her. But then she’d gotten a little sick and fallen asleep. She’d woken up at Brooklyn’s house at lunchtime, and Brooklyn told her about having sex with Jim on the back porch of wherever the party was. I asked her if Brooklyn was happy about that, and she said it made her feel really sore and achy the next day, but she was glad she’d done it. And then Kaitlyn said she was kind of mad about having slept through it all, because Jim had started out interested in her, first.
“Kaitlyn asked me if I was still a virgin, and I told her I was, and she said she was, too, but she was ready to change that. I really didn’t know what to say except that I thought maybe she shouldn’t be drunk or high when it happened. At first she acted mad that I’d say that and we didn’t talk anymore while she drove, but by the time we got to her house, she told me she was really happy I cared about her, and that she’d be careful when she did it. What else could I say except I hoped she found the right guy? Inside my head I was thinking, ‘and that he doesn’t think he needs to give you drugs to make it happen.’ Slightly ironic, I know.”
“It’s been awhile since I thought all this through, I mean, nearly ten years, but I remember that whole weekend very well. As it turned out, it was the last time Kaitlyn and I spent any real time together. It was clear we were taking different paths. We did have a fun time, though, and what made it especially nice was seeing how well she now got along with her younger sister, who was about thirteen then. When we were younger, Kaitlyn tended to pick on her or ignore her, but Hannah had matured quite a lot, and was very smart. We included her most of the time we were at the house.
“The second night I was there, we were playing music and dancing around, pretending to be on one of those TV contests, and we were in Hannah’s room, because it was larger. We stood on the bed for a stage, and the other three; a friend of Hannah’s was there, were the judges. Hannah had posters on three walls of Justin Bieber, which was funny to me, because the other wall had a periodic table of elements and a whiteboard with math equations written on it. Hannah’s friend, Kylie, jumped up and down on the bed while she sang and sometimes she’d stop and make kissy faces at Justin. I remember her saying something funny like, ‘Hannah practices making out by kissing her posters.’”
“And I said, ‘Oh, Kaitlyn used to do that with her Puzzle Place puppet!’ I remember thinking she’d be mad at me for revealing that, but she just laughed and said that it came in handy for when she experienced the real thing. Kylie and Hannah talked about a boy they knew at school who would be a perfect kisser, and I reminded Kaitlyn about how much she wanted to kiss the boy who lived across the street. She said, ‘But you just always wanted impossible dates with movie stars, never anyone we’d actually know for real.’” Taylor paused and looked up at Lisa when she said that.
Lisa tilted her head and spoke after a few seconds. “It’s normal to want a fantasy boyfriend at that age, I mean, around thirteen or so. It’s a safe way to explore your desires until you’re ready for the real thing. And yes, to answer your question, some women do continue to fantasize about a celebrity even after they’ve grown up and experienced actual relationships. It can be a healthy outlet as long as it doesn’t supplant reality.”
Taylor replied, “I guess I can understand that. Back then, I just told Kaitlyn I wanted to save myself for someone special. Truthfully, I was scared of sex, I mean, it had this great power, I thought, that could take you over and change you. But the other girls, even Hannah and Kylie, all said they knew how they wanted their first time to be, and Kylie said she hoped she wasn’t still a virgin when she was as old as Kaitlyn and me.”
“I rarely even went out with boys, even in groups. I was convinced the only reason they could be interested in me was for sex, not for who I was or for fun and friendship. So that night, when the other girls asked me who I’d like to be with for my first time, I told them it had to be someone so amazing and special, no one else could compare. Kaitlyn said, ‘You really do want to save yourself for a movie star, don’t you?’ And Kylie yelled, ‘Or a singer! Like Justin Bieber! I’d let him be my first!’”
“So just to get them to stop hounding me about it, I said yes. I was going to save my virginity for Justin Bieber. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. He was just a little older than me. Of course I was going to move to the city after I graduated, and I’d have a great career, we’d run into each other at a party. Maybe I’d be just a little older than the typical virgin, but obviously I’d been putting my studies and plans for the future ahead of that, and he, a high-powered star, would completely understand. I decided I’d be trying to catch a cab in the pouring rain, and he’d offer me a ride in his limousine. We’d talk and find out we had so many things in common. And it would all happen from there.
"I made up my mind to it almost immediately, and then spent the next couple of years adding details and refinement to this plan. And then I kind of put it at the back of my mind, because I really was focused on my studies and plans for the future. And now here we are.” Taylor shrugged her shoulders. “That’s that.”
Lisa said, “I think you left out a great deal of middle, but we will have to take that up again on Thursday. Until then, I recommend you call George, or,” Lisa shook her head a little, “at least text him if that’s how your crowd communicates. But a phone call is better. Write down what you are going to say, if you need to.”
“But what on earth do I say to him? Thank you?” Taylor winced a little, waiting for the answer.
“I think the safest thing to do is apologize if he felt taken advantage of. And then you can go from there, based on his reply. You have a few more issues to sort out, though, so it would be wise to avoid a heavy vodka tonic session for awhile.” Lisa looked a bit stern and motherly as she spoke, but then she smiled, saying, “Once you figure out just what it is you really want from this, you’ll be ready to make the next sober move.”
Taylor sighed. “Thanks, Lisa. I’ll...think about calling him. Or I’ll text. And I’ll call Megan and tell her how much I enjoyed her engagement party...” she trailed off.
“Good. Emily Post would be proud. I’ll see you on Thursday.” Lisa waved Taylor off and sat down to type out her notes, laughing despite her attempt at professional objectivity. “Justin Bieber?”