Curio(4)

By: Cara McKenna



A smile that melted my muscles. “We never met,” he said simply.

“Right. Well. This is embarrassing…”

He let me trail off, no prompting, merely sipping his drink while I gathered my thoughts.

“I’m not very experienced with men.”

Didier nodded, as though he were fluent in evasive English. “You’re looking to change that?”

“Maybe. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m looking for.”

He leaned back against the couch cushions and crossed his legs. “Not to put too fine a point on it, but it is a flat rate.” I pictured the check in my purse, ready to be dropped discreetly in his mailbox upon my departure. “You get me for the evening, and what we do is entirely your choice. Nothing is off-limits with me.” He gestured with his free hand, presenting his body as a package.

“Right.”

“But that goes the other way as well. It’s your time, and if all you want to do is talk and drink, then that’s what we do.”

I considered that. I wondered how often that was what women wanted from him—a date with no pressure, no fear of rejection. That’s what I wanted, after all. I’ve even heard that plenty of men who patronize female prostitutes want simply that, companionship.

“That would be good, to start.”

He nodded, stern face striking and sage. “Do you mind my asking, how inexperienced are you? Or what would you like to learn from me?”

“I’ve kissed men, but that’s really all.”

Let me pause here and explain how it felt to admit that. I’m sure plenty of girls lie about how many guys they’ve messed around with when they’re younger, not wanting to seem too easy. Well, there’s another stigma that comes later, as you edge closer to true adulthood, especially if you run with a liberal, artsy crowd. I always pray my friends assume I’m a real freak behind closed doors, just stingy with the details. I think you can get away with being a virgin until you’re, say, twenty-three or so, and still pass it off as choosiness or cautiousness or plain old willfulness. But twenty-nine? That’s when people start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Including yourself.

Didier is the first person I’ve actually admitted the extent of my inexperience to, ever. I even lead my gynecologist on. When she asks, “Are you sexually active?” I always reply, “Not at the moment.” If the truth is embarrassingly apparent, she’s kind enough not to tell me so.

And it was in that moment in Didier’s living room that I realized, maybe not tonight, but some day not too far off, I could leave this place with that weight lifted from me. I could walk down his street and be like everyone else. I could have a lover. This is Paris, after all. Having a lover is like having a pancreas. I was suddenly very ready to quit being a medical anomaly.

All Didier said to my pronouncement was, “That is very interesting.” He paused and squinted in such a way that it seemed he were taking a drag off a psychic cigarette. I worried he was about to tell me he had a policy against deflowering his clients, but instead he went on. “It’s very flattering that you’ve come to me.”

“Oh. Good.”

“Yes. I would be very honored to corrupt you in whatever ways you like.”

I laughed at that, relaxing further. The wine instantly tasted extraordinary, and it dawned that I was actually turned-on. I’d worried that wouldn’t happen and I’d officially get stamped DEFECTIVE and sent back to the factory.

I cleared my throat. “I have no idea what ways I’m looking to be corrupted. I’m usually pretty nervous around men.”

“That’s very normal, for the first date.”

Ooh, date. I liked that. I’d happily pretend I’d scored a date with this perfect man.

“There’s no rush, by the way,” he said. “I rarely get to bed before five a.m., so if you want to just sit here and drink and talk all night, you’re not wasting my time or keeping me up in the least.”

“Okay, great.” And necessary. I’m a slow thaw.

“Here.” Didier stood and crossed the room to switch on a radio. I love listening to French talk radio. Even after two years, I struggle to follow the pace of the language but I adore the sound of it. He kept the volume low, and I felt he’d read my mind, meeting some need I hadn’t even realized I had. He filled the silence without making it feel like a pointed seduction or an awkward distraction, and my brain quieted.

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