THERE ARE A number of things that happen when you haven’t had sex in a while: You inadvertently emit a sound during the kissing scenes in romantic movies—a noise that falls somewhere between a snort and an audible eye roll and which almost always elicits a pillow being lobbed at you from the other end of the couch. You can name at least three online adult toy stores from memory, accurately quoting their shipping rates, reliability, and speed. At least two of these stores auto-fill after only a single letter is typed into the URL bar, and you are always the roommate expected to replace the batteries on the remote control, hand vacuum, and flashlights.
Which is ridiculous when you think about it because everyone knows the best sex toys are corded or rechargeable. Amateurs.
You become good at masturbating, too. Like, really good, Olympic sport good. And by that point, having sex with yourself is the only option because how can any man possibly hope to compete with your own hand or a vibrator with 120 volts and seventeen variable speed settings?
The side effects of a less-than-social vagina are particularly noticeable when you’re constantly surrounded by three of the most disgustingly happy couples around. My roommate, Lola, and her two best friends, Harlow and Mia, met their significant others in a totally insane, it-never-happens-in-real-life weekend of debauchery in Las Vegas. Mia and Ansel are married and barely come up for air. Harlow and Finn seem to have mastered sex via eye contact. And Lola and her boyfriend, Oliver, are at that stage in a new relationship where touching is constant and sex seems to happen almost spontaneously. Cooking turns into sex. Watching The Walking Dead? Obviously arousing. Time for sex. Sometimes they’ll just walk in the door, chatting casually, and then stop, look at each other, and here we go again.
TMI alert? Oliver is loud, and I had no idea the c-word was used quite so readily in Australia. It’s a good thing I love them both so much.
And Lord, I do. I met Lola in the art program at UCSD, and although we didn’t really start hanging out regularly until she moved in as my roommate last summer, I feel like I’ve known her my entire life.
Hearing her feet dragging down the hall, I smile. She emerges, hair a mess and face still flushed.
“Oliver just left,” I tell her around a spoonful of Raisin Bran. He’d stumbled out less than ten minutes ago, sporting a dazed grin and a similar level of dishevelment. “I gave him a high five and a bottle of Gatorade for the road because he has to be dehydrated after all that. Seriously, Lola, I’m impressed.”
I wouldn’t have thought it possible for Lola’s cheeks to get any pinker. I would have lost that bet.
“Sorry,” she says, offering me a sheepish smile from behind the cupboard door. “You’ve got to be sick to death of us, but I’m about to leave for L.A. and—”
“You are not apologizing because you’ve got a gorgeous, sweet Australian guy banging you senseless,” I tell her, and stand to rinse out my bowl. “I’d give you more shit if you weren’t hitting that daily.”
“Sometimes it feels like driving all the way to his place takes forever.” Lola closes the cupboard door and stares off, contemplating. “That is insane. We are insane.”
“I tried to convince him to stay,” I tell her. “I’m leaving for the day and have work tonight. You two could have had the place to yourselves.”
“You’re working again tonight?” Lola fills her glass and props a hip against the counter. “You’ve closed every night this week.”
I shrug. “Fred needed someone and the extra hours don’t hurt.” I dry my bowl and reach to put it away. “Don’t you have panels to finish, anyway?”
“I do, but I’d love to hang out . . . You’re always at the beach or working a—”
“And you’ve got a fuckhot boyfriend and a blazing career,” I say. Lola is probably the busiest person I know. When she isn’t editing her new graphic novel, Junebug, or visiting the set for the film adaptation of her first book, Razor Fish, she’s jetting off to L.A. or New York or wherever the studio and her publisher want her. “I knew you were working today and would probably spend the night with Oliver.” Squeezing her shoulder, I add, “Besides, what else is there to do on a beautiful day like this but surf?”
She grins at me over the rim of her cup. “I don’t know . . . maybe go out on a date?”
I snort as I shut the cupboard door. “You’re cute.”
“London,” she says, pinning me with a serious expression.
“Lola,” I volley back.
“Oliver mentioned he has a friend coming in from home, maybe we could all get together.” She looks down, feigning fascination with something on her fingernail. “See a movie or something?”
“No setups,” I say. “My darling of darlings, we’ve had this conversation at least ten times.”
Lola smiles sheepishly again and I laugh, turning to walk out of the kitchen. But she’s there, hot on my heels.
“You can’t fault me for worrying about you a little,” she says. “You’re alone all the time and—”
I wave a flippant hand. “Alone is not the same as lonely.” Because as appealing as the idea of sex with an actual person is, the drama that inevitably comes along with it is not. I’ve got enough on my social plate trying to keep up with Lola and her tight-knit and ever-expanding group of friends and their significant others. I’m barely past the Learning Their Last Names stage. “Stop channeling Harlow.”
Lola frowns as I lean forward to kiss her cheek.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” I tell her, then check the time. “Gotta go, mid-tide in twenty.”
* * *
AFTER A LONG day on the water, I step behind the counter of Fred’s—the place nearly everyone lovingly calls “the Regal Beagle” due to the name of its owner, Fred Furley—and tie an apron around my waist.
The tip jar is just over half-full, which means it’s been pretty steady, but not so crazy that Fred will have to call in an extra hand. There’s a couple talking quietly at one end of the bar, half-empty wineglasses in front of them. They’re deep in conversation and barely look up when I step into view; they won’t need much. Four older women sit at the other end. Nice clothes, I notice, even nicer handbags. They’re laughing and possibly here to celebrate something, which means they’ll probably be entertaining and great tippers. I make a mental note to check on them in a few minutes.
Raucous laughter and the sound of cheering draw my attention toward the back, and I spot Fred delivering beers to a group of guys circled around the pool table. Satisfied he’s got them covered, I begin checking inventory.
I’ve only been at Fred’s about a month, but it’s a bar like any other and the routine has been easy enough to pick up. It has stained glass lights, warm wood, and round leather booths, and is a lot less seedy than the dance club where I worked my last two years of college. Still, it has its share of creeps, an inevitable drawback to this kind of job. It’s not that I’m particularly attractive, or even the best-looking woman in the place, but there’s something about seeing a female on this side of the counter that sometimes leads even the most well-intentioned men to forget their manners. With no barback here, I have to do a lot of the running and prep myself, but Fred is a great boss and fun to joke around with. He’s also better at spotting the creeps than I am.