guessed

Fingering
by Emma Horwitz

The bathrooms were occupied by girls getting fingered. Occasionally, hand jobs. More occasionally, some other jobs. Long-term relationships were first to the bathroom. By the end of the night, guessing who’d gone was a game to play, and I played it like a professional sport.

Mostly, I wanted to be someone other people guessed about.

 

My best friend had the parties where I prowled, albeit in a corner.

These were get-togethers held in a penthouse apartment far uptown, left vacant after her parents separated in the middle of high school. The living room used to be lovely but they’d taken most of the furnishings with them to their new apartments in new neighborhoods. My best friend never knew where that beaded pillow I’d always loved ended up, why there were so many lamps left without bulbs, why the freezer was still packed full of uncooked beef.

Her parents never visited. They forgot their keys they said, in their coats hanging in other homes. My best friend kept asking them when they would be divorced, and they said couldn’t say for sure, but she’d be one of the first to know, they promised.

My best friend made us, her best friends, promise that us if she died alone in the apartment we would prevent her dad’s short-coated Persian cat from eating her dead body—gave us keys, in case she didn’t call us back when we called her, but never specified whether we should be rescuing her from her own death, or simply from decomposition.

She said what she really didn’t want was for the neighbors to smell her rotting, or to have to see the cat’s jowls dripping with blood, her blood.

That just feels like too much, she said, for anyone to handle.

I agreed: the smell of your dead body is the most intimate smell, and therefore the most embarrassing, so I put her keys on mine, and worried like the mother she didn’t have when she arrived to school later than first period.

The cat came to all our parties because it lived in the living room, under the worn-out couch my best friend’s parents bought online, second-hand, fringed bottom, cornflower blue decorative pillows sewn onto the sidearm, intended for company but used as a piling station for heaps of her laundry.

I just don’t want to go like that, she reminded me over video chat one evening after basketball practice, about the cat she hadn’t seen in days, licking its food during inhuman hours.

Honestly the last thing I need right now is to get eaten, she said, scooping melted cheese off a dinner plate with a corn chip while I massaged my body with a pimpled foam roller.

We were very close friends, my best friend and I, and I regularly patted her back when she cried at these parties, hidden away in her bedroom. She sobbed and sobbed on pillows she never washed, while all I wanted to do was to go to a bathroom in that apartment with a boy of my choosing. But I patted her back until she cooled down, ran my fingers through her hair and blew on her neck until she decided to head back out there, to her own party, where everyone had come just for her, and all the rooms she possessed, and that porch with the lawn chairs, too, right?

Right, she said, they come for the chairs, and the view from the porch.

 

It was harder than you’d think to find a boy. These were parties, but here, party boy was the only varietal.

The party before last, I listened in on a bathroom affair for research, an official couple spooning in the apartment’s master bath, the one that had the toilet shoved in a corner, and a tub with ten jets. I didn’t learn much. None of the moans shivered.

It’s not hard to get fingered in the way that sitting through math class is hard, enduring, I mean. It’s hard in that getting a boy to finger you takes bullish powers of persuasion, something you’re not expected to do as a student, which we all were, professionally speaking.

As a teenaged girl, everyone is telling you to calm down and get more exercise. To stop slouching, to stop shrieking, to take everything less seriously. Most ailments are due to lack of exercise, so seems to be the conviction of my doctor and my parents and the nurse at our school, who insists on her accreditation by wearing a stethoscope around her neck at all hours of the day, during lunch, when she’s nowhere near an infirmary.

Teenaged girls are more confident than anyone gives us credit for being—we are not afraid of each other, I mean, like everyone else seems to be of us. We call each other to see how we are all doing, when there is no reason to think otherwise. We listen to long stories where we know none of the characters with great intensity. We throw parties for each other so something special can occur, randomly, without plan.

We make sure we don’t get eaten by our dad’s leftover cats.

We love each other even when we don’t love ourselves.

 

The boy I finally found, the boy I asked at that last party, seemed unsure if he wanted to go to the bathroom with me or not. Just bring your friend to pee, he said when I asked him to come to the bathroom, gesturing with a seductive arm, don’t you girls bring your friends?

We do, I told him, but this time I wanna bring you.

The boy listed all the reasons why he didn’t want to see me pee, and didn’t let me interrupt him by interrupting my interruptions, going on and on about the toilet, and privacy, and real human decency. It took him ten minutes to figure I wasn’t trying to ask him to watch me urinate. Do you wanna go or not, I asked him again, and it was clear he was mulling over all the reasons why he wouldn’t wanna go, you could see it on his face, I mean, mulling over his future in this bathroom like it really mattered. I made direct eye contact so he couldn’t glance at his friends for advice, party boys on the other side of the living room who spent most of their time at my best friends’ trying to break into an antique cabinet they were hoping held whiskey.

It did, expensive scotch, and they never got inside.

Why wouldn’t you wanna go, I asked him, to the bathroom with me?

 

Everywhere around us were people our age sitting on furniture, or sculptures. In this apartment, with its wrap around roof, its unplugged televisions mounted on titanium, creamy walls, its French molding, in this apartment, everything could have been art.

A painting worth a million more dollars than you’d guess it would be worth hung over the kitchen table. When my friend’s parents got into the fight that would lead to their divorce, her father took a knife and made slits in the canvas. That evening, when my best friend’s mother was on a date with the man with whom she’d been having the fair that prompted the fight, which prompted the divorce, my best friend’s father poked heads of plastic trolls through these slits—stolen from his daughter’s childhood collection—and wrote HELL in thought bubbles on the painting in permanent marker, right above their cotton candy troll hairstyles.

HELL the trolls said, while we had our parties. HELL they screamed, stuck in the slits.

When I was a littler girl, when I didn’t think about getting fingered by this boy, I used to suck on troll heads and brush the wetted tips against my arm.

The boy and I, when our turn was up, felt very large in the bathroom. Or at least I did. He sat on the toilet, and I leaned on the sink, until I asked him to switch.

We made small talk. I told him this story about the trolls.

Their hair is scary foreign plastic, he told me. You have probably been poisoned.

I held my beer cup all the way to the bathroom, and I finally got to put it on the floor. I wasn’t drinking it anyway, as alcohol inhibits libidinal function, or so my health teacher said.

I asked the boy if he had anything to drink and he told me he was in season.

For what, I asked, and he said for tennis.

I decided not to ask him any more questions, and waited for him to ask me one.

I played youth tennis. I have a lot to say about tennis that I did not say.

When I turned around to wash my hands, the boy was standing behind me. I could feel where his pants grew taut at the zipper. He could not feel that I was hard in my pants, because he had no idea where I got hard, how I get hard.

Are you wet, he asked me, and I told him I was, holding up my damp hands.

I mean are you wet, he asked me, and I told him I understood, he didn’t have to shout. I am wet, and I am wet, I said.

I wondered if there was a girl like me behind the bathroom door, a curious monster wanting information by way of shivering moans. I made sure to be loud enough for her.

I couldn’t really tell if I was—loud enough, or enjoying myself. All of the thinking about whether I was wet or not made it impossible for me to be wetter than I was when he asked me the question the first time.

The tile of the bathroom was moldy from all the kissing, hot breath, wet mouths, un-brushed crusty bodies, teeth clacking. Bits of food, the shit and the piss, of course. I’m sure when the architects of this apartment were caulking tiles, which had been renovated close to the separation of my best friend’s parents, there was no way they were thinking that teenagers would be engaging in ornate foreplay while balancing themselves on the sink bowl. There was no way they prepared for the kind of heat we contain.

I asked the party boy to take his pants off when our conversation came to a lulling stop.

Rule one of getting fingered: you have to touch some penis. Not the whole thing, but you have to gesture toward it, and its demonstrable importance.

So I did, touch some penis, and he came. Everywhere, a big load of cum. A load like I saw in a movie I watched with a background girl at this party—a former friend with whom I spoke about nothing besides the era of time during which we were friends. I was positive the ending of our friendship has something to do with the fact that we used to watch porn together, when we were much younger, before puberty. She showed me how to use an internet search engine in the way she claimed it was supposed to be used, and through this searching we found the clowns. Porn of clowns, maybe for clowns, or clown enthusiasts. The clowns’ thing was shooting large loads of semen against blue and red targets. The reason we watched the clowns was only because the videos were free. They’d have competitions, each of the clowns, each with their own personality, gags. There was very little sexual about these videos, other than that there were erections, and bucket fills of semen.

All the other websites made you promise to pay them incrementally over long periods of times, and provide a credit card to do so. Not many kids I knew had a credit card in their name, and those I knew who did, also had trust funds.

I dreamed, while this boy in the bathroom was moaning loudly and biting my earlobe with the sharp of his canine, that I had a gigantic trust fund with which I could retire from imagination, and satiate my most inexplicable desires through incremental payments.

After he shook and groaned and lost control of his eyeballs, the boy asked me for tissues. I said there’s only toilet paper, and he said that would do, wiped the tip of his penis with tenderness, and everywhere else where he came with a small swatch of toilet paper I’d given to him, folded. He missed many spots, which I would clean later after he left.

As he thanked me. I could hear my best friend start to change her mood somewhere in the apartment, or I could feel it, and in that moment decided that this was my only opportunity, for the rest of my existence, to be fingered.

I unbuttoned my jeans, and the boy asked me what I was doing.

It’s my turn, I told him, but he didn’t seem to know what I was speaking about.

How’s your serve, I asked, as I unzipped my fly. He told me about his opponents, and defeating them, as my pants dropped to my feet.

Then, he told me he had to go because his friends were waiting for him outside.

I told them not to wait for you, I joked. He did not laugh, and left.

Later, the boy I made explode got into an argument with another party boy, gripped onto that other party boy’s polo shirt, dragged him from the kitchen to the roof, to the side of that deck, holding on with the grip of a nationally ranked youth tennis player, and threatened to throw him onto the concrete nineteen below.

The other party guests stayed inside crying while my best friend used a knife from her father’s grilling set, and tongs her mother used to sauté green peppers for stew with as a means of fending them off one another.

She punctured some skin. Drew some blood. The cat was nowhere to be found.

Go home, she told everyone, and slowly they gathered their things and left.

While all the party people waited for the elevator, my best friend walked out into the hall with toe socks on, holding a plate encrusted with hardened cheese someone had been trying to melt in her microwave, and a bag of hers someone had thrown up in.

Are you happy now, she asked, and no one said a word.

I hope you are, she said, while they packed themselves into the elevator car, I hope you are truly happier than I am right now.

My best friend told me all about this, later, while we cuddled on the couch and watched a re-run of a show she liked, whose main character reminded herself of her.

I didn’t hear the violence on the wrap-around porch.

I’d been in the bathroom coming.

 

Emma Horwitz lives and works in New York City. Previous work has appeared in Joyland Magazine, Two Serious Ladies, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. Contact on twitter: @e_horwitz.

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