By Matthew Brunell
I stepped out of her room with a smile plastered on my face. I said goodbye, and said that yes, of course I would call her tomorrow. Her own smile looked ecstatic on her slightly round face. The door closed behind me and I started my walk out of the college dorms. I felt like skipping through the halls for a moment, that idiot grin still on my face. But then the smile started to crack and decay. It slowly withered into a pained grimace. The full effect of what I had done hit me.
I had just lost my virginity.
With a girl I really couldn’t bring myself to like.
I opened the exit door a little too forcefully and it slammed against the wall of the suites. I got a few looks at that, and usually I can’t stand being noticed, but I couldn’t care less at the moment. I stomped to my car, feeling sick to my stomach.
I slumped down into my car and let my conscience bludgeon me with guilt. My mind rattled off the facts. She was my girlfriend of three weeks. She liked me and enjoyed my company, which was strange to me after being single for the past nineteen years. I didn’t like her the way she liked me. I didn’t enjoy spending time with her. I basically went out with her because she’d asked. No standards, thy name is Matt.
I did try to convince myself that I liked her as I sat in my car, freezing since my heater was a piece of junk. We both enjoyed reading, but while I was quiet, she was loud and a bit bossy. It should have been a good romantic comedy: Quiet and shy guy meets loud and overbearing woman. Doesn’t work as well in reality.
I don’t quite know what made me not like her. It could be the bossy attitude, which left no room for compromises. Or it may be that I wasn’t attracted to her physically. She’s not unattractive, but I can’t say she’s my type. I think I’ve been spoiled by images in magazines and on the Internet. Maybe I just want somebody with a more toned body, even though that sounds shallow. Somebody more athletic, someone I can run with and enjoy that with. She isn’t a runner, or any kind of exerciser, and our interests weren’t exactly parallel. I enjoy literature and she reads “Twilight.”
Then again, I’m not a catch myself. I looked into the rearview mirror; I’m too lanky and pale to be healthy, and I’ve got a perpetually unshaven and frowning face, and hair that has never met a comb.
Maybe I just couldn’t be in a relationship, not having been in one since early high school. I might just be used to being alone, and constant contact annoys me. This is most likely the reason, the fact that I’ve been building up the persona of a lonely guy for most of my life that it really stuck to me. I had convinced myself that I was content about my constant single status for a long time. I think I actually started to believe that I was happy. I might truly be alright with being single. Whatever the reason, I still felt guilty as hell.
“You goddamn idiot.” I muttered to myself, nervously tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, “Now you’re going to beat yourself up over someone you don’t even care about?”
I like talking to myself. It focuses my thoughts. The only downside is that people think you’re crazy if they see you talking to yourself in a beat up Chrysler.
I sighed and put my car into drive, my stomach really starting to feel ill. It was a revolting, rolling sensation, like my stomach was trying to leap up my throat. Or maybe it was just full, full of guilt. I’m not the most romantic person, but I do believe that you should at least like the people you have sex with. Well, that’s what I believed before my hormones rebelled against my common sense.
I couldn’t even keep my thoughts aligned at this point. My ego seemed to speak to me and say, Way to go! We finally got laid. She even looked like she liked it. Come, on, hi five man! Meanwhile, my conscience was in opposition, She likes, and even trusts you, and you take advantage of her like that. You don’t like being with her. You’re sick. And shut up ego, I’m not giving you a hi-five.
My conscience was still hell-bent on wrecking the insides of my head with the hammer marked “shame,” which had started to hurt. A migraine started to thunder in the back of my head as my stomach continued to bubble like an overflowing pot.
I pounded the steering wheel with my palm. I should stop this guilt. I was the last of my friends to have the stigma of virginity hanging around me. Now that it was finally gone, I should be happy. Hell, I should be congratulated. Who cares if I don’t like her? I still got what I wanted, right?
I stopped by Wendy’s to treat myself. My mother, a health-conscious nurse, never allowed me much access to fast food. So even now, I reserved fast food as a treat. I got a milk shake in a new flavor, caramel. I got out of the drive-thru and headed for the interstate. I picked up the milkshake to take a sip. As I brought it closer to my mouth, I caught a whiff of the cloying sweetness. Then I took a sip.
The thick drink hit my tongue and the smell doubled in power. I almost threw up in my car. I wanted nothing more than to spit out the disgusting drink, but I didn’t want to just spit it back in the cup and ruin the drink. The longer the drink stayed in my mouth, the worse the flavor got. It seemed to ferment, and all I could smell was that sickly sweet aroma. My stomach ached even worse and I knew that if I swallowed, I would definitely need to buy some dashboard cleaner.
Finally I got off the interstate at the nearest exit and slowed to a stop. Screw it, the drink was too awful to save. I spit the mouthful back into the cup, cleared out my mouth, and spit again. The taste still lingered in the back of my mouth. It was too much.
I punched the middle compartment of my car. The pain distracted my senses and focused my mind, clearing up the strange ice cream headache. I should have called her and told her how I really felt. I should have been honest and I should have stopped the caring boyfriend act. What would happen if I called her, not even an hour after I had last seen her, and told her all of this? What would that make her think? That I had just been using her? Well, I suppose that wouldn’t have been far from the truth. I thought of her as a means to an end, just a person to rid me of my virginity. Shame convinced me not to call her. It would be better if she still thought of me as a nice guy. If I could keep pretending to like her, maybe my guilt would go away.
I drove the rest of the way home, dumping the milkshake into the sink when I got there.
I really wish I could tell you that I had called her the next day, that I had found a way to explain my doubts without hurting her feelings and making things worse, that we had resolved our differences and parted amicably. But no, that didn’t happen. We went out for another two months. Two months of me trying to ignore the twisting knife in my gut I felt every time I saw her. And every time we did have sex, the nausea came back, just as bad as the first time. I stuck with all of this because I was a coward. I had never broken up with someone before. Hell, I always expected the girl would get tired of me first.
I finally did work up the courage, though. I told her that I couldn’t handle being in a relationship and that I had felt that way for some time. It turned out a lot like you’d think.
“That’s how you really feel?” she asked.
“It is. It has been for a while.”
I couldn’t look at her. I could hear her voice starting to break as she spoke to me.
“Why did you even go out with me then?”
“You asked me out in front of my friends and I was put on the spot. Besides, I haven’t been in a real relationship before. I just, I wanted to see if I could and-“
“You’re an asshole,” she spat.
Yeah, I know I am.
I looked up at her then. Her long drape of red hair matched the blotchy redness of her face. In fact, everything about her face was red, from her lips to her eyes. That mask of crimson anger was blocked when she slammed the door in my face.
I walked away from her dorm room, a strange parody of two months prior. But I didn’t feel sick this time. I felt strangely relieved as I got to my car. It was over. I didn’t have to worry about the sickness anymore, even if some guilt remained. I never pictured it happening this way; I’d always thought I’d be too weak to work up the courage.
I drove home, not even glancing at Wendy’s as I sped past.
Matt Brunell is a recent graduate from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in English Writing. He’s currently using that degree to sling pizza dough at his family’s restaurant. This is his first published work.