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                                               by Jerelle Kraus


  I confess that in momentary fury at a man, I've wished I were a lesbian. But heterosexuality seems to be my lot; it's the contrast between the genders that excites me, the most masculine traits the ones I relish: a hairy chest, a nice cock with its wondrous ability to shift shape, and tight testicles full of spunk.

     My twenty-year-old friend, Brooke, travels easily between her male and female lovers, and there are many others her age like herself.  I came of sexual age in California's Bay Area of the seventies, where carnal experience was AIDS-free and plentiful. If you were hip, you were supposed to enjoy recreational intimacy. Though that felt shallow to me, I did befriend people in the sexual vanguard. The gender of my partners, however, was more orthodox than Brooke's; when females approached me, my gusto and gutsiness vanished.    

  Jane was a soft-spoken acting student whose green eyes gave off sparks. When she suggested that the two of us see a porn film together, I was confused. Didn't she have a strapping boyfriend, Mickey, who I'd always hoped would notice me?  Jane's invitation caused my blood to throb and then freeze in terror.  "No thank you," I said, trying to sound cool. 

     Karen was a Nordic free spirit with a shapely body and a handsome husband.  We spent a week together bicycling around Kauai and sleeping in open fields.  Hedonistically hell-bent on getting maximum pleasure from sun, air, and exercise, Karen wanted more. She put her hands on my hips and drew me toward her. "It'll be fun," she lobbied. "We'll still be friends and have men."  "I just can't," I said, loosening her grip. Lying later under the lavish Hawaiian sky, I felt a flush of shame at my paralyzing inhibitions.  

    Christa, an ethereal Bavarian blonde whose intelligent voice spoke from pouty lips was an editor in her boyfriend's publishing house and my closest friend during my Fulbright year in Munich. In September we drove to the south of Spain in her noisy little Deux Chevaux for a two-month vacation,. 

  Christa surprised me during a rest stop by lightly, seductively, touching my breast. I was simultaneously aroused, tempted, shocked, and frightened. In awe of her beauty and sophistication, I felt cowardly and callow that I couldn't embrace her desire. After that Christa pouted oftener and much of our trip was silence. In Alicante we rented a milk-white beach house and acquired a pair of muscular, macho monolinguists. Our vacation was idyllic, but I wonder how my life might have changed had I dared the unknown with Christa instead of more of the same with Umberto.

  So what came over me on that sticky-warm July night? Was it the setting? A lone wooden house nearly hidden in the creamy sand of Bolinas beach, like a single raisin in a big bowl of porridge.  Inside, spread on its floors were the  layouts of Suck Magazine. The magazine's staff, which counted Germaine Greer among its editors, had already created five issues of this lavish erotic broadsheet, each in a different European capitol. Now the first U.S.edition would be published in California. I was visiting for the weekend with Willem, its Dutch art director, who'd become my boyfriend.

  Though Willem would remain in California, the chief editor, Bill, returned to Amsterdam upon finishing the issue. Bill's last day in Bolinas was a sad one for Virginie, a winsome French gamine who'd been his California love.

  When Willem, Virginie, and I returned from driving Bill to the airport, the sky had blackened and Virginie's big brown clown eyes were fountains.  Feeling sympathetic, Willem and I invited her to sleep that trying night in our big bed. She eagerly accepted. Slight of build, Virginie had Audrey Hepburn hair, grapefruit breasts, a hand-span waist, and a butterfly spirit. Her English was shaky, so communicating in her native tongue boosted our friendship.

  I put on my sheer black gown and got into the middle of our roomy bed. Willem came to bed in his underpants,and dear, heartbroken Virginie in a plain pink nightie. I realized that she probably felt that in losing Bill, she'd lost her entire life, and the vulnerability of her elfin persona roused my protective impulse. My whole being was moved by her pain, and my strongest desire was to comfort her, to stop her tears. 

  At this moment, between two people for whom I felt such love, my mind shut off, and I reached out to Virginie in a way that felt utterly natural容ven destined. Yet it stunned me then as much as it stuns me now. Putting my arm around Virginie's small, trembling form, I drew her to me to massage her back and kiss her cheek. Then, suddenly, as if I were a homing pigeon following an ancient, preprogrammed route, I swung myself around to put my face where her legs began. There I found shiny pink flesh waiting,exposed. 

  Now my mind switched back on: Here I was smack up against a mirror of my own sexuality, and yet it was strange, unfamiliar, challenging. I wasn't at all sure what was what. These have got to be her inner labia, I realized, but the trick is to find her clitoris. Oh, God, What on earth am I doing here?  Well, since I am here, I'd better go through with it. Overcome with empathy for my own diligent male suitors, I licked and searched until yes, this must be it: a little protruding nub hard against my tongue. Salty and slippery, slippery and sweet, I flicked and rubbed the funny little lump from side to side, around and around. 

  I'd only meant to give comfort, but now look what I've gotten myself into: the underside of the female orgasm conundrum.  The tiny thing felt firm, but the head and heart of its possessor were so far away!  How do I know if I'm doing it right?  How will I tell if she climaxes, which, I began to realize, had become覧like it or not覧my mission.  Maybe I should have caressed her neck and breasts first.  Well there's no going back now.

  Virginie was mostly silent, but she did whimper and sigh. As her breathing grew louder, I felt her muscles tense, tighten, squeeze, and relax. Then she kissed me, and we both smiled.  Later she asked me to walk with her to the ocean.  

  Digging my toes into the wet sand, I wondered why I'd broken my own terrifying taboo. My sole conscious motive was empathy. But was I also proving to Willem, the European libertine, that I too had a progressive spirit?  Writing this piece made me wonder what Willem was feeling at the time, so yesterday I called him in Amsterdam.  This is what he e-mailed back:

   "I was very moved when your body took over completely.  I'd never seen you like that.  You'd always been careful, unsure, and full of thoughts, but that night you were flowing.  I was careful not to interfere.  I tried not to move. It was heaven."

  Virginie and I continued our friendship耀he even lived with me for a time覧but never again did we share anything more than cheek-kisses. I returned to the familiar terrain of heterosexuality as if nothing had happened. But something had: I'd plucked forbidden fruit. I'd become blazingly intimate with bisexuality覧the wild desire of Jane and Karen and Christa謡ithout any of them to initiate me; I was an autodidact in female eroticism. And覧most breathtaking of all覧I hadn't been the passive love object, but the aggressor.

  That July night enabled me to see that human eroticism is not so simple, and it did much to enlarge my sense of what identity can be. Yet I've had no female lovers since. Probably I'm afraid. But something tells me that the future belongs to Jane and Karen and Christa and Brooke.


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