Can you pick up a bottle of wine? Sure.
Until a week ago—when I’d finally unwrapped the iPhone Niels had given me for Christmas—I still used a flip phone Jensen teased was the first cell phone ever made. Who had time to type a hundred messages when I could call and get it over with in less than a minute? It definitely didn’t seem very efficient.
But with Will it was fun, and I had to admit, the new phone made it easier. He would text me random thoughts throughout the day, send me pictures of his face when I made a particularly bad joke or a photo of his lunch when the chicken breast he’d been served was shaped like a penis. So, after my . . . relaxing shower, when my phone buzzed in the other room, I wasn’t surprised to see it was Will.
What I was surprised by however, was the question: What are you wearing?
I felt my brows pull together in confusion. It was random but by far not the weirdest thing he’d ever asked me. We were meeting for breakfast in a half hour and maybe he was worried I would show up looking, as he liked to say, like a graduate student hobo.
I looked down at the towel around my otherwise na**d chest and typed, Black jeans, yellow top, blue sweater.
No, Ziggy. I mean *insert innuendo* WHAT ARE YOU WEARING.
Now I really was confused. I don’t get it, I typed.
I paused, looked down at the phone for a few more seconds before responding with What?
He typed so much faster than I did, and his response appeared almost immediately. It’s not nearly as hot when I have to explain it. New rule: you need to be at least borderline competent in the art of sexting.
Understanding went off like a lightbulb in my head. Oh! And ha! “Sexting.” Clever, Will.
While I appreciate your enthusiasm and the fact that you think I’m witty enough to have come up with that, he replied, I didn’t invent the term. It’s been around in popular culture for quite some time, you know. Now, answer the question.
I paced the room, thinking. Okay. An assignment, I could do this. I tried to think of all the sexy innuendo I’d ever heard in movies and of course, in the moment, could not think of a single thing. I thought back on every pickup line I’d heard my brother Eric use . . . and then shuddered, reconsidering.
Well, actually I’m not dressed yet, I typed. I was standing here trying to decide if it’s against the rules to go without underpants because I think my skirt shows all the lines but I hate wearing thongs.
I stared at the phone as the little dots indicated he was replying. Shit that was pretty good kid. But don’t say underpants. Or blouse. Never sexy.
Don’t make fun of me. I don’t know what to say. I feel like an idiot standing here na**d texting you.
A few moments passed before my phone lit up again. OK. So you’ve obviously gotten the hang of it. Now say something dirty.
Oh God. Did I have time to google something? No. I searched my mind and typed the first semi-dirty thing I could think of: Sometimes, when we’re running and you’re controlling your breathing and lost in the rhythm of it, I wonder what noises you make during sex.
So maybe that was a bit more than semi-dirty, and for what felt like an eternity, he didn’t reply. Oh God. I put my phone down, convinced that Will was going to walk away and not reply ever again. He probably wanted something playful and not so . . . honest.
I walked into the bathroom, pulled a brush through my wet hair, and then piled it into a knot on top of my head. In the other room, I heard my phone buzz on the desk.
WHOA, was the first message.
The second message: Way to just . . . dive on in there. OK I’m gonna need a minute. Or five.
OMGIMSOSOEEY I typed, with stupid fumbling fingers and completely ready to climb into a hole and die. I MEAN SORRY I CANTBELIEVEISAIDTHAT
You’re kidding me, he replied. That was like Christmas. Clearly I need to up my game. Hold on, I might need to stretch first.
That’s all you got? I typed. Honestly, he’d said more perverted things to my face. To my boobs. Did he really think he was schooling me in being sexy right now?
Can I SEE your tits next time?
Well. I felt a little warmth in my cheeks but there was no way I was admitting that.
Yawn. I smiled like an idiot at my phone.
The little text bubble appeared in the window to show that he’d started typing. I waited. And waited. Finally, Can I touch them? Taste them?
I hitched my towel up higher over my br**sts and swallowed, shaking. My face wasn’t the only thing that was warm now. I replied, That was a little better.
Can I lick them and then f**k them?
I dropped my phone, and scrambled to pick it up. Pretty good, I typed with shaking hands. I closed my eyes, struggling to push away the image of Will’s h*ps moving over my chest, his c**k sliding over the skin between my breasts.
I could almost feel his determination through the phone when he said, Let me know when you need a minute of ALONE time. Are you ready?
No. Absolutely not. Yes.
You were wearing this shirt the other day, the pink one. Your tits looked f**king phenomenal. Full and soft. I could see your ni**les when the wind picked up. All I could think about was what you’d feel like in my hands, your ni**les against my tongue. What my c**k would look like against your skin and how it would feel to come all over your neck.
Holy shiiiit. Will? Can I just call you?
Because it’s hard to type with one hand.
He didn’t reply for a minute and I let myself imagine he’d dropped his phone this time. But then he replied: YES! Are you touching yourself??
I laughed, typing, Gotcha, and then threw my phone to the side and closed my eyes.
Because yes, I absolutely was.Since at the end of our run I’d agreed to meet Will for breakfast at Sarabeth’s, after I finished “thinking” about his texts, I hurried to dress and ran out the door. Despite the temperature and the snow starting to fall, I felt the heat of my blush all the way to Ninety-third, and wondered if it was possible to sit across from him and not have him figure out I’d just masturbated to his texts. Things felt like they were veering off course, and I tried to remember when it had happened. Was it the run earlier this morning when he’d hovered over my body, looking as if he were climbing on top of me? Or was it a couple of weeks back, at the bar when we’d started talking about p**n and sex? Maybe it was even before that, the first day we went running together and he’d slipped a hat on my head, giving me a smile that made me feel like I’d just been f**ked against a wall?
This was not going well. Friends, I reminded myself. Secret agent assignment. Learn the ways of the Ninja, and escape unharmed.
I kept my head down as I crunched through the thin layer of snow, cursing the March weather, as snowflakes tangled in my loose hair. A young couple was just leaving the restaurant, and I managed to slip in through the open door as they passed.
“Zig,” I heard, and looked up to see Will smiling down at me from the loft seating area. I waved before I walked to the stairs, taking off my hat and scarf as I went.
“Fancy seeing you again,” he said, standing as I neared the table.
I found myself becoming irrationally annoyed by his good manners, even more so by his still-damp hair and the way his sweater clung to his unending torso. He had a white shirt underneath and, with the sleeves pushed up his forearms, the lines of his tattoos peeked out from beneath the folded cuffs. Gorgeous asshole.
“A little grumpy? Maybe a little tense?”
He laughed as we each took a seat. “I ordered your food.”
“Your breakfast? The lemon pancakes with berries, right? And that flower juice thing?”
“Yeah,” I answered, eyeing him from across the table. I picked up my napkin and unfolded it, laying it across my lap.
He bent to meet my eyes, looking a little anxious. “Did you want something else? I can get the waitress.”
“No . . .” I took a deep breath, opened my mouth, and closed it again. It was such a small thing—the food I always ordered, the type of juice I liked, the fact that he’d known exactly how to stretch me this morning—but it felt big, important somehow. It made me feel a little bad that he’d been so sweet and I couldn’t seem to keep my head out of his pants. “I just can’t believe you remembered that.”
I forced away the unreasonably bitchy attitude that flared up at that. “Well, it was just really nice. You surprise me sometimes.”
He looked somewhat taken aback. “How so?”
I sighed, deflating somewhat into my chair. “I just assumed you’d treat me more like a kid.” As soon as I said this, it was clear he didn’t like it. He sat back in his chair and let out a slow breath, so I continued on, rambling, “I know you’re giving up your peace and quiet to let me run with you. I know you’ve canceled plans with your nongirlfriends and had to rearrange things to make time for me, and I just . . . I want you to know that I appreciate it. You’re a really great friend, Will.”
His brows drew together and he stared down at his ice water instead of looking at me. “Thanks. Just, you know, helping out Jensen’s . . . baby sister.”
“Right,” I said, feeling my irritation flare up again. I wanted to take his water and dunk it over my own head. What was with the hot temper?
“Right,” he repeated, blinking up to me and wearing a playful little smile that immediately defused my crazy and made my girl parts perk right back up. “At least that’s the story we’ll tell everyone.”
Something had changed, some switch had flipped in the past few days, and there was a leaden weight between us now. It had started a few mornings ago, on our run when she was quiet and distracted and had fallen to her side when her leg cramped up. Afterwards at breakfast, she’d clearly been irritated, but that was easy to read: she was fighting something. She was annoyed in the same way I was, as if we should be able to wrestle against this magnet that seemed intent on pulling us to a different place.
My phone buzzed on the coffee table and I jerked upright when Hanna’s picture lit up the screen. I tried to ignore the warm hum of levity I felt simply because she was calling.
“Come to a party with me tonight,” she said simply, completely bypassing any traditional greeting. The classic sign of a nervous Hanna. She paused, and then added more quietly, “Unless . . . shit, it’s Saturday. Unless you have an otherwise-platonic regularly-scheduled-sex-partner over.”
I ignored the elaborate implied second question and considered only the first, imagining a party in a conference room at the Columbia biology department, with two-liter bottles of soda, chips, and grocery store salsa.
She paused on the other end of the line. “A housewarming party.”
I smiled at the phone, growing suspicious. “What kind of house?”
On the other end of the line, she let out a groan of surrender. “Okay, fine. It’s a grad student party. A guy in my department and his friends just moved into a new apartment. I’m sure it’s a shithole. I want to go, but I want you to come with me.”
Laughing, I asked, “So it’s going to be a grad school rager? Will they have kegs and Fritos?”
“I’m not being a snob,” I said. “I’m being a man in his early thirties who finished grad school years ago and considers it a wild night when he goads Max into spending over a thousand dollars on a bottle of scotch.”
“Just come with me. I promise you’ll have an awesome time.”
I sighed, staring at a half-empty bottle of beer on my coffee table. “Will I be the oldest person there?”
“Probably,” she admitted. “But I know for a fact you’ll also be the hottest.”
I laughed at this, and then considered my night without this option. I’d canceled on Kristy, and I still wasn’t really sure why.
That was a lie. I knew exactly why. I felt weird, like maybe I was being unfair to Hanna by being with other women when she seemed to be giving so much of herself to me. When I told Kristy I needed a rain check, I knew she heard something else in my voice. She didn’t question why or try to reschedule, the way Kitty would have. I suspected I wouldn’t be sleeping with that particular blonde again.
Sighing, I stood and walked over to where I’d left my shoes near the front door. “Okay, fine, I’ll come. But wear a shirt that shows off your tits so I have something to entertain me if I get bored.”
She let out a small, breathy laugh, managing to sound both girlish and seductive. “You have yourself a deal.”
It was exactly what I’d expected: a serial renter to poverty-level graduate students, and an entirely familiar scene.
I was hit with a small wave of nostalgia as we stepped inside the cramped apartment.
The two couches were droopy futons, with stained, drab covers. The television was propped on a board balanced between two milk crates. The coffee table looked like it had seen better days, before having some very bad days, and then had been given to these guys to trash further. In the kitchen, a horde of bearded, hipster grad students huddled around a keg of Yuengling and there were assorted half-full bottles of cheap booze and mixers on the counter.