Erotic Notion #39 My Lost Loves: Notable Nonseductions
By Hapax Legomenon

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No thanks. I can't drink coffee late at night, it keeps me up.
        George Constanza

With one or two exceptions, stories in this collection have no basis in fact. Recently, I have started thinking about the missed erotic possibilities of my past.

Everyone has at least one missed opportunity for seduction. Because men usually initiate, they need to read a situation with women accurately. Woe to the man who misses or misreads her signals! When two people are inching towards seduction, misunderstandings and miscommunications abound. Will she? Won't she? Will I? Should I?

Many things lead to seduction. Physical chemistry. Emotional compatibility. Restless hormones. A favorable setting. Boredom. For me, it's not necessary for everything to be perfect (that is rare), only that a seduction be meaningful and interesting and enjoyable. Even by this standard, many seductions that could have taken place in my life did not. Why? Were my initial instincts right or wrong?

For this erotic notion, I shall describe (in chronological order) moments in real life which almost led to seduction. I changed the names obviously. These are minor episodes in my love life; I lost touch with these people long ago, and my best friends probably have no idea who these people are. Yet memories of these nonseductions stay with me; I still feel the allure of these women (and also ambivalence and regret).

The serious loves of a person inspire ecstasy and devotion. The lost loves punctuate his life like tiny tantalizing question marks.

Unnamed Girl

In sophomore year at college, I had a crazy roommate who was never home, so I lived alone in a dorm full of frat boys and generally noisy people. A person (whose name I did not know) decided to harass me for no reason. This guy was short and obnoxious. I didn't feel threatened by him, but he knew how to bug the living hell out of me. One day he knocked over my books in the hall; another day he ran past, giving a punch intended more to surprise than to hurt.

But mostly this guy just yelled. One night I forgot to lock the door to my dorm, and he ran hollering through my room in the middle of the night. Another day he wrote obscene messages on my door. Another time he sprayed shaving cream over my clothes in the laundry room. Another time he threw water balloons at my balcony or through the door (if I forgot to lock it). Most of the time, he just pounded on the door at random hours and yelled something ("You suck!", "Fuck You!" "You're a Fag!" or something like that).

This is not about him but his girlfriend. Unlike the crazy guy, she was pretty and acted normal. I lusted after her (as I did for most of the females at the university), but never had a reason for talking to her. I knew nothing about her except her romantic involvement with this idiot. What could she ever see in him? Objectively, I could see how woman might find this guy somewhat cute, but he wasn't athletic or charming, just a medium-sized punk who liked to yell. They probably shared a drug or alchohol habit ; she had to be crazy if she hung around him. But I really didn't think much more about her (except to curse the logic of a world where this punk guy was getting laid and I wasn't).

One night, I heard a soft knock at my door. It was Saturday at about midnight, and I was wearing shorts. It was the girlfriend of the guy who had been harassing me.

"Yes?" I said warily.

"Hi," she said, "Mark my boyfriend told me I'm supposed to ask you if you want to have sex with me."


"My boyfriend sent me here to have sex with you."

I had to laugh; it was some other stupid practical joke, and I would have none of it, so I told her to go away and tell her boyfriend to stop bothering me. The girl said ok, and left quietly; I waited for the boyfriend to show up pounding at my door, but for the rest of the night nothing happened, so I returned to sleep.

I always wondered about that night. What had prompted that girl to knock (and that guy to put her up to it)? Maybe they got off on it; maybe he just liked watching her act like a slut. The girl was pretty enough, and I did desire her (despite her association with Mark). This guy seemed to like humiliating people; how do you respond?

Eventually I filed a complaint about Mark's harassment. Several students had already complained, and the Resident Assistant arranged for Mark to be tried before Student Court. But Mark left school before the case was tried; perhaps he was expelled.

But the girlfriend stayed at the university, and in fact we crossed paths regularly although we never exchanged hellos. I didn't really keep up with this girl (I had other friends). But she hung around people who seemed normal enough (maybe a little wild). Had I misjudged her? She even seemed to be serious about her studies. This girl had probably hung around Mark for a few months before realizing what a jerk he was. Probably drugs had something to do with it, who knows.

I returned to memories of that night when she knocked on my door, that helpless embarrassment on her face when she said, "My boyfriend sent me here to have sex with you." Ironically, we were both victims of Mark's weird sense of humor. I had lived a sheltered life, but that didn't mean I didn't have fantasies about the wild and promiscuous sex people had at college. Maybe this girl had been one of those promiscuous people. I don't know if we could have ever slept together (doubtful), but probably it would not have been objectionable to either of us. After that knock on the door, I rejected the suggestion immediately because I assumed she was making fun of me. But what did I know about her motives? Maybe she had expressed concern or sympathy to her boyfriend about me at one time. Her boyfriend put her up to it, but maybe a part of her went along to assuage some guilt she felt – or maybe she just was curious. Ludicrous as it sounds, maybe to her I was a kind of mystery.

My musings may be self-delusion. Who knows what caused her to knock at my door? I should have invited her in for herbal tea and a 15 minute conversation. The conversation might have been awkward but civil. When the girl knocked, a part of her must have wanted to be naughty. Most likely she went along with this truth-or-dare game to demonstrate compliance to her boyfriend. The slut in her must have liked feeling helpless. I just rejected her, but keeping her in my room for a while might have infuriated her boyfriend and let her enjoy the idea of making him jealous. No seduction was going to happen; she would know it, and I would too, but behind closed doors, the boyfriend would never know for sure.


That same year I made the acquaintance of a chatty girl named Daniela. She was tall and thin and had a weird ethnic face. She didn't strike me as beautiful or brainy, but she was nice to look at and easy to talk to. She was uncomplicated. I got the impression that Daniela would befriend almost anyone as long as you weren't too weird. That was good; I had attended a boys' high school, and my discomfort around females was obvious. The girl wasn't my type, and I didn't feel in love with her, but I enjoyed the attention she gave me. I kept talking to her outside the library and then we talked on the way to the cafeteria. Later I offered to drive her home (even though her apartment was 15 minutes away). She invited me in for something (I can't remember), and we found ourselves sprawled on her bed. We were having a light-hearted conversation, and I noticed her as a woman; she lived alone, and I sensed that she had much more sexual experience than I did. This was how college students had one night stands, I thought. She was lovely. Or was she? I was noticing the flaws in her beauty: the slight acne, the uninteresting face (her smile was nice though), the lack of wit. But she sat next to me and seemed to like the closeness. Should I kiss her? Kissing her at that moment seemed so natural, so uncomplicated, so possible.

She made a silly reference to undressing, and I could see that we were as close as two people could be without being romantic or sexual. But it felt wrong. I had been seeing a girl for three years, and we just had a friendly breakup months ago. Finding a new girlfriend didn't seem like an urgent priority, but sex remained my primary obsession. I was torn. I wanted the chance to experience the passion I often dreamt about. But I wanted more than a random encounter that I later would be embarrassed about. I already had a secret crush on one girl and was infatuated with a dozen others. Daniela was not one of those infatuations. Daniela was kind of cute, kind of interesting and definitely available. I might enjoy the experience, but would it be fulfilling? We talked for about 30 more minutes. I was on her bed, and she was chatting away pleasantly. I desired her despite the ambivalence. She made some excuse to take off her belt – don't get the wrong idea – she said teasingly. I felt both desire and distaste. More than desire I felt the burning need to avoid disappointment. It was getting late, and I had already missed the initial chance to make my move. But when would be the best moment? Eventually, my nervousness must have been obvious, and Daniela made some gesture for me to leave. I agreed, wondering if I had missed out on a night of pleasures.

I went home excited and disappointed. This was my first encounter with an adult woman. I wanted her without feeling any deep kind of love. For the first time, sex was a realistic possibility; this wasn't high school anymore, and sex was no longer a fairy tale (yet I was still a virgin). Now the choices were more complicated; what did I want? Whom did I love? How did I want to love a person? Was this truly love? Was sex without total love really that awful? Or was it a pleasure you sought without being able to admit to? At home I did not know what I wanted; I wanted to see Daniela again obviously. Maybe we could proceed where we left off. That night I fantasized about how things might have turned out. I replayed every minor gesture, the way she slid her belt off her blue jeans, the relaxed way she sat on the bed, the way we leaned into one another. The shy recognition that we were alone together. I dreamt about how we might have made love. I imagined her orgasms and my own; I imagined the sweetness of love. In a way I was glad I hadn't jumped the gun, so I could feel sure of what I wanted.

Did I want her? Yes. Did I love her? I didn't know. Did I want to see her again? Obviously. Would I try to seduce her next time? Probably. Overnight my assessment of the evening had changed. I had been too reluctant; as the man my job was to initiate passion. Maybe this love wouldn't be as absolute as what I shared with my high school girlfriend; maybe it wouldn't be as beautiful or as fulfilling, but this was college; I couldn't automatically assume that the rules for romance in college were the same as high school. We no longer had parents to interfere with our natural inclinations. For once we had total freedom to share our passions. This would be a practice fuck. But practice fucks were important too.

The next day or two I ran into Daniela again. She was waiting in line for class registration. She was pleasant, talkative, but acted as though last night had never taken place. Had she changed her mind about me? Had I misinterpreted her interest? I asked her out for lunch. No, she had a class. I made some reference to a film I wanted to see at the local theatre, hoping she would chime in interest. But she didn't take the bait. We talked some more, but I couldn't seem to engage her. Should I have tried harder to ask her out? Later she left with nothing resolved. I didn't even have her phone number.

Had she changed her mind about me or was she playing hard to get? Two nights ago, having sex with this girl seemed unavoidable. But today, in broad daylight, a fling seemed impossible. I wasn't even sure I could call her a friend.


I went to boys' high school, so I had little opportunity to meet girls my age except at a supermarket where I worked. Perhaps I should have tried to ask them out, but I was too shy and had little in common with the girls who worked there. A few of the girls were intellectual types (and I glommed onto them if I could), but mostly they ignored me.

Yet occasionally there was time for idle conversation. One afternoon I worked at the checkout line next to the one where a cute girl named Sandra worked. Whenever customers weren't around, I would jot notes to myself while Sandra flirted with sackers. Once, I looked up and saw Sandra waiting for customers. She looked bored.

"What would you rather be doing right now?" I asked.

She left her reverie and said, "Maybe go to a concert – or the symphony or a ballet."

"There's a free symphony performance at the outdoor theatre next weekend. If you want, we could go together."

My invitation took Sandra aback. She had not expected to be asked out on a date (and I didn't either; I just asked the question to pass the time). I waited for a reply, but Sandra said nothing as the next batch of customers arrived. I had not seriously expected her to say yes; Sandra was two years younger and had lots of friends; I was a bookworm from a different school who ate lunch alone. My type and her type rarely hung out. Still, it wasn't inconceivable that we could have gone out of a date (I mean, it was only a concert). For the first time, I realized that circumstances and common interests sometimes can throw people together.

This nonseduction is not about Sandra but a Hispanic cashier named Lily. Lily was talkative and flirtatious and never seemed to pay attention to her job. She was definitely not my type and not as cute as Sandra, but she had a wild and sexy look (even though she was 17 or 18). She wasn't intellectual in the least, and seemed to love anything exciting and fun. I liked talking to her, but noticed she was indiscriminate about talking to other guys; in particular she hung around one tall guy I found obnoxious.

Once Lily asked me out of the blue if I wanted to go out to a baseball game. A baseball game! I couldn't care less about baseball, but Lily was pretty and fun; I quickly suggested a movie date instead, and she agreed.

My high school girlfriend had just moved away and we had broken up, so there was no problem about dating other people (finally). I loved my high school girlfriend to death, but I had eventually grown weary of her arguments and intellectualism. Lily was nothing like that; she was easy to entertain (even though I felt the differences in our upbringing and education).

For some reason after the movie I took her to an abandoned parking lot to make out. Looking back, that seemed awfully bold of me. I had been dating my high school girlfriend for months before we did any serious parking – and only after I had declared my undying love. Even with that, my high school friend and I did nothing more than passionate embraces (although I longed for more). But when Lily and I were together in the car, I kissed her without hesitation. We barely even talked. Lily laughed nervously while my hands crawled down her dress and over her breasts. She resisted, but not strongly, and ultimately, my hands stayed in the region which had been strictly off limits with my high school girlfriend. I was in heaven; no more religious nonsense interfering with sexual passion.

Lily and I started talking a bit, but I just wanted to keep exploring her teenage body. My mistake was trying to advance too quickly down to her pussy. Lily didn't pull away (as my other girlfriend certainly would have done). Instead, after letting my hand rest there for a few moments, she quietly brought it back to my lap. Inside the car, she was a different person. Not talkative, but quiet and nervous.

"I'm sorry," she said nervously. "I'm sorry I am such a cocktease."

Cocktease; what a word! I had never heard it before, and my high school girlfriend would have never used such a word. Lily began to tell me about her ex- boyfriend – who turned out to be Chuck, the tall guy from work (who I thought was so dumb). She said they had been dating off and on for a year, and she had made the foolish mistake of sleeping with him (that means she was no longer a virgin!) Later, Chuck had stopped seeing her and went out with other girls. She was 16 at the time and felt she had been too immature to have sex. Now she wanted to slow things down. She wanted to start over with romance.

As horny as I was, I had to show restraint and sympathy for this nonvirgin. I did not need to seduce Lily tonight; there would be other nights. Besides, she liked me precisely because I was not Chuck. I knew Chuck had been a mistake, so I did not hold it against her. Chuck may have been athletic, but he was dull and untalkative. How could she ever have liked him? Lily certainly could have done better.

At the same time, I recognized that my attitude was a little hypocritical. I was condemning Chuck's bad behavior but plotting the same things. But wait – I was more clever! I was more sensitive about people's feelings! I was more romantic – even though on that night all I wanted was to get into her pants.

This attraction to Lily did not seem like love, yet Lily seemed so open-minded and exciting and nice. She was apologizing to ME for not going all the way. (None of those lectures about morality from my high school girlfriend). Lily seemed vulnerable and easy. I did not know exactly why, but I knew men would find her easy to seduce. She did not seem to have the same defenses that other girls did. She was too willing to accommodate; perhaps she was more in touch with her sexuality or had psychological problems. Was it love? Probably not, but I found Lily exciting as hell. I certainly would treat her better than Chuck did. Even if we ended up sleeping together.

A week later, we went to a museum on a weekday (it was summer). I had intended this date to be innocent and fun, but as soon as we got into the car, I couldn't stop thinking about the way she had let me touch her, the feel of her nipples under her bra. That barrier had already been crossed. The museum was practically deserted except for seated guards at every third or fourth gallery. We strolled around, contemplating paintings in silence. Lily had never visited a museum before and didn't know how long she was supposed to spend at each painting. But even though I liked museums, I had no desire to appreciate paintings; I just wanted to kiss Lily. At first, we carried on a running conversation of sarcasm and jokes, but in one gallery I pulled her closer and kissed her, stroking her breasts while we studied a painting of flowers. Occasionally she pushed my arm away with a shake of the head, but she wasn't rejecting, only abiding by the rules of public decorum. When others were around, we talked softly and solemnly, but as soon as the people left and we were alone in the gallery, the caresses continued. Every time we encountered a new dazzling work of art, I touched her breast again, reminding her of my sexual needs. All the art from olden times seemed staid and academic; Lily was the only beauty that mattered.

Later, we took a tour of a small chapel near the museum. It was one of the city's hidden treasures, and we sat at a pew admiring the architecture and art on the walls. Tourists walked in and lingered, but for the most part we were alone in the darkness, my arms around her, reminding her of my longings. For me, this was not a place for spirituality; it was a place to reveal every kind of inappropriate and inexpressible desire. I wanted her, but it was not only her I wanted; I longed for an intimacy that was both spiritual and sensual. I would have fucked her on the spot if I had the chance, but the truth is that we were just flirting with desire; I did not know how to proceed any further with a girl who had already travelled fully down the path of sex.

There is nothing more to this nonseduction. When I took her home in rush hour traffic, I gave her some blatant caresses from the driver's seat. Who cared if people in adjacent cars saw us! I remember placing my hand on her lap, feeling the insides of her thighs. From my position in the driver's seat, it was awkward to try anything more, but at least I had gotten this far. My high school girlfriend had never permitted this boundary to be crossed (even though I had loved her with an earnestness that now seems almost embarrassing). Lily on the other hand was already comfortable with male desire. She probably knew what orgasms were and had probably given a blowjob several times. Sex for her was no longer an abstract question of morality.

Lily was nice but overly chatty. We didn't have much in common, and although she was fun to be around, she also liked parties and socializing...things that mattered little to me. She didn't particularly care about school or intellectual things (that seemed like a terrible fault to me at the time). She was friendly to random strangers at work (it made me jealous and even angry; did she genuinely want a boyfriend or just the social validation of having one?) I always felt as though I needed to explain myself to Lily; maybe it had to do with the fact I was in college, and she was in high school. Lily wasn't super-popular, but I could tell she badly wanted to be. I never understood this. As much as I lusted after Lily and enjoyed her company, I had the sense that we would grow bored with one another.

As it happens, she went back to dating other people. I was jealous and frustrated but not particularly angry. Obviously I wanted more time with her, but Lily was unpredictable and inconsistent. Later I learned she returned to Chuck. In my mind Chuck was a rotten boyfriend, but Lily seemed to find something redeeming about him. It made no sense, but at least I knew that I wasn't important to her (and if I were honest with myself, she was not important to me either). Lily helped me to understand how lust changes everything, how it drives you to people you have no real future with. I was only a minor episode in Lily's love life, but she was my first taste of unapologetic passion; I doubt she would have made me happy in the long run, but I remain grateful for that day at the museum, the day of caresses, the day where getting a feel of Lily's breast mattered more to me than a roomful of 18th century landscapes.


At college I had silent crushes on lots of girls. I followed them around with my eyes and looked for opportunities to meet them. Some girls ended up in the same class or dorm, so I got to know them pretty well (well enough to know I didn't have a shot with them!) With other girls, I never had the chance to talk to them; we were in different circles or had different college majors. Maybe it was possible for an English major and a French major to run into one another. But some of the prettiest girls on campus were majoring in chemistry or engineering or education or business. In college I had more than enough friends, but I remained aware of the numerous women I'd never meet.

Sometimes I would create artificial situations for talking to them (which rarely brought success). At other times, I just gave eye contact when we passed in the hallway. For those too old to remember, walking down the hallway or a university sidewalk to class was enough to give any man a sexy thrill. Every female student was inclined to smile at a male passerby regardless of age. Most of them would say hi in an act of unconscious flirting. Perhaps it wasn't possible to get to know these women, but at least it was possible to have your presence acknowledged briefly by a beautiful female stranger.

Now that I am 43, I still long for those days of lonely sidewalks and friendly smiles.

Out of the many girls I passed on campus, I took particular pleasure at smiling at one. She was pretty in a way I had never encountered. She was slightly overweight and had a full bosom and long black hair. I found her striking but – judging from the fact I rarely saw her with other people – no one else felt the same way. When she walked, she had a forlorn expression, as though she were out of place at this university (which only endeared me to her more). I couldn't tell what she was majoring in; maybe business or some practical subject; obviously we were in different worlds (academically speaking). But I desired her very much, and every time we passed one another, her face brightened into a smile. She seemed to have two different faces: the sullen look on a shy solitary girl and the warm outgoing smile of a girl who enjoyed any form of male attention.

I didn't have the chance to talk to her for months. But one day an opportunity for talking arose. I made some casual remark, and she replied, and before we knew it, we were having a full-fledged conversation. Her name was Melanie, and she was majoring in business management. Oddly, she seemed to have no memory of passing me in the hallway (even though we did so almost every day). But Melanie was delighted to find a friendly male companion. She talked slowly; at first I thought she wasn't terribly bright, but no, that was just her way of talking. We didn't have much in common; but I realized it didn't matter; we enjoyed each other's attention. Once we knew each other, her face glowed with warmth whenever we passed in a hallway; I was for her a recognizable and sympathetic face in a crowd of strangers.

Melanie had transferred from another school and came from a small town 100 miles away. During that first encounter where we had lunch at the cafeteria, Melanie made sure to mention her boyfriend back home. She talked about him a little, but did not dwell on him. The mention disappointed me; I still found her very attractive, and yet I knew I could hardly try to woo her away from her boyfriend.

For young men reading this, here is a suggestion. Frequently you will find yourself attracted to a girl with a boyfriend. Generally you should respect this bond and avoid falling for her. Women seek male friendships for a variety of reasons: boredom, a common interest, a desire to widen her circle of friends, a desire to make her boyfriend jealous. She may not realize the dangers of having extra male friends. But if the amount of time she spends with you stays the same, you should face the possibility that she wants a change – but is unwilling or unsure about how to proceed. How do you communicate your interest appropriately?

Here is a speech to give to her. Memorize it word-for-word, and practice it so you can say it naturally. I never gave this speech, but looking back, if I had known this speech 20 years ago, my life would be different.

I am very attracted to you, and I'd like to know you a lot better. At the same time, I know you have a boyfriend, and I'm guessing that you feel loyalty towards him. What do you think I should do?

The speech lets her know your interest and shows that you appreciate her social relations. It gives her something to ponder. Maybe she won't change her mind today or tomorrow (or ever), but at least she won't forget. She will either explain her situation to you ("Tom and I are deeply in love with one another") or take steps to change her situation. Making this speech is not easy. It is "unmanly." It puts your heart in the woman's lap. The main value in this speech lies in how it gives women the ability to control the direction of the friendship, making it easier for her to choose passion.

Don't overuse this speech; use it only when you think there is a good possibility of mutual interest. This speech will definitely disrupt things. The woman might become flustered or treat you differently (or even avoid you). But if you are respectful (and I think that the speech is respectful), she will treat you with respect also.

This speech would have saved me a lot of heartbreak in college. For the rest of my time with Melanie, I struggled with the rightness or wrongness of trying to make a pass on her when she had a boyfriend. At first, I was happy just to remain friends with this sweet girl. Until first contact, she seemed oblivious to me, but now she made it a point to be friendly to me. One day, when I brought her to a cafeteria with my friends, I was nervous. The crowd I hung out with liked to toss out cynical and off-color remarks, something Melanie seemed unused to. I almost felt protective; I didn't want them making fun of her. She smiled and followed the conversation, but did not say much. Was she slow? Uninteresting? She seemed like a small town girl out of place at this affluent college.

Melanie and I quickly became friends, though my attraction to her may have been the main cause of it. Anyway, it seemed futile to hang out with a girl who already had a boyfriend. These platonic friendships can be meaningful and even tender, but after a while it is hard (and even foolish) to maintain the pretense that you don't want anything more.

At first she mentioned her boyfriend fairly often, and she even told me she had slept with him. Once she admitted that he had come to visit her and that they had spent the entire weekend in a hotel room near campus. She meant it as a kind of complaint, and it did seem vulgar and appalling to hear her say it. On the other hand, it suggested a degree of erotic playfulness I had never suspected her of having. Having sex was already second nature to her; she had already gotten past the subject and now was concerned mainly with relationship maintenance.

After that, she did not talk about her boyfriend much; did they have a quarrel? I guessed that now she was now open for something more. I was confused. She was attractive and yes voluptuous, but she wasn't the woman I thought she was. Before we met, I had imagined her to be the moody romantic type; she had a little of that, but she was conventional and uninterested in self-expression. She intended to major in something practical, an attitude which was completely foreign to me at the time. I had small doubts ..nothing too serious to get in the way. I just needed to know her better and more importantly, to know that the boyfriend was out of the picture. Was he out of the picture? But I never asked; I was afraid to.

One night, she knocked on my door when my roommate was out of town. She had just taken a shower, and her hair was still wet. I was sitting in an oversized pappasan chair reading a magazine, and as a joke, she sat next to me on it. But once she sat down, we both realized that the closeness was very nice. We were pretending to keep our distance, but in fact, neither of us moved away. But she had a boyfriend! No, I had to think about my own emotions for a change! But Melanie must have wanted me to make a move; by now she expected it. I embraced her lightly, leading her on but afraid to cross that line into moral damnation.

That was when I should have given the speech; oh, the wisdom that comes with looking backwards more than two decades is obvious. Instead, I made some excuse to move over to the bed next to the chair, and she gladly moved there as well. At first, we just sat down, our arms around each other, eyes closed, feeling the comforting pressure of our young bodies. It was calming, and yet I could not deny the sexual excitement. We were quiet and perfectly still. Then I gradually leaned back so that my head rested against the pillow and brought her beside me on the bed. We had still not actually kissed, but I was busy contemplating her beauty, busy dreaming about what sex was and would be. Her hair was still wet and tangled. We were so close; her eyes were shut; for the first time I saw her not as some dream, but a real physical presence in my bed. There was total silence between us. All my previous doubts crept into my mind. I imagined Melanie having to go back home and explain to her boyfriend what had happened at college. I could not violate that trust she had established with her unseen boyfriend. I wanted her, I really wanted her. I wanted to kiss her. So I kissed her neck once or twice and felt her body relax. She was so open to sin. I knew I could touch her breasts or anywhere; I knew she was ready to give in. Finally! Physically I was so ready, and yet my enjoyment of the moment was being spoiled by guilt. I was taking advantage of her; I wanted her; but I wanted to want her without the shame; I wanted my love/sex life to stay in the realm of the ethical and the boring. It felt wrong. I no longer even could feel pleasure from the closeness. My ethical tendencies left me feeling wretched.

That was my second opportunity to give the speech. All I had to do was utter a few sentences. I was a good communicator. Why didn't I do it?

Instead I drew back and whispered, "I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable doing this."

"Ok," she replied softly, not looking at me.

"I know you have a boyfriend. I would feel terrible breaking that up."

"I understand," she said, finally opening her eyes and looking up at me. We were still so close. I could still give her neck another kiss.

"I'm sorry," I repeated, letting go of her. She sat up, straightened her clothes and got up from my bed, never to lie there again.

I think we talked a bit about her boyfriend. I don't remember. But our ability to communicate thoughts and feelings were limited by our immaturity. At the time I thought I understood her and that she understood me. I had not intended this as a permanent rejection and in fact, my brain still buzzed with desire; I certainly had nothing against premarital sex and thought I had left open the possibility of lots of wild passionate sex. I just could never cross that line of making her cheat on her boyfriend. Quite apart from the ethical considerations, I didn't think I could enjoy it. Even though I was still a virgin, I anxiously awaited the time when that would no longer be true.

But looking back, I think she might have interpreted my remarks differently. Maybe she thought I wasn't into her, or that I was making an excuse or that I was secretly condemning her. After that night, we remained friends and ate lunch together. But the magic was gone. I had effectively neutered myself.

All she had to do was break things off with her boyfriend. From my 22 year old perspective, it seemed so easy. But I was being unreasonable. It's hard for a woman to publicly admit to a desire – especially if it means having to destroy an existing relationship. Some might call this weakness or lack of responsibility. I think women find it hard to declare a relationship completely over. Also, she was young; we were both young. Maybe she was afraid that if she broke up with him, my desire would not be there (and maybe she was right). Maybe it was better to stay in an imperfect relationship and make it work than to embark on something new. Remember: she and her boyfriend had already fucked their brains out for a weekend at a hotel.

There is a kind of happy ending. Melanie's boyfriend from home came to the city to visit her again. I even got a chance to meet him. He was what I expected. A little older and rougher, but basically a good person. I remember that he had a truck. When I looked at him, I tried to figure out which of us was better suited for Melanie. Sadly, I had to conclude that the old boyfriend was more compatible.

Over time I've come to change my mind about that fateful night. She had offered herself completely to me. I did not realize that. Women don't do that unless they are very serious (or lonely). We were both lonely and serious people. And we could have made one another happy. The problem is that I never asked what she wanted. Clearly her boyfriend wasn't perfect, and clearly it would have been convenient for her to have a boyfriend at college. I already knew about the logistical problems of leaving a high school sweetheart back home. Sometimes we just outgrow a relationship, and it's hard to accept that fact. But my unwillingness to overcome some arbitrary ethical standard made me unable to open up to her – instead offering platitudes about morality. I'm not saying I should have gone ahead and seduced her. But I should have tried to share the desire in my heart; at least there would be no misunderstanding. If I had pleaded with her, I think she would have done something; as I said, she had a good heart.

But from her perspective, I had just completely disengaged. Maybe she thought I had been judging her.

She ended up leaving the school (I think it had to do with the high tuition). We exchanged a few letters after that, but eventually we forgot each other. I truly hoped she found true love with her boyfriend. I hope she is happy. And I hope she now understands my confusion, my awkwardness and my passion for her, despite my inaction.


Indecisiveness is not a desirable quality in a man. In college I sought the company of many females -- even though I never was really sure who was my type... College was a numbers game; the more people you knew, the more likely you were to find the right girl.

On one level I was just searching for a fuck, but I knew that "just a fuck" implied being ready to turn it into a long term relationship. I wasn't opposed to that – just confused. It meant I had to consider not only physical attraction but emotional (and intellectual) compatibility. I liked lots of girls on campus, but so much of it went unreciprocated and unnoticed. Ideally, I'd like to date a girl with the same enthusiasm in the arts, but how important was that really? Wouldn't that mean excluding a lot of wonderful girls?

Tammy was a young poet who hung around older woman poets in my department. I burned with sexual desire for half the girls on campus, but Tammy never struck me as anything more than a short scrawny kid with dirty blond hair. She showed up at most of the literary events I attended; on first impression, she seemed nice and interesting, but worried too much about impressing her other poet friends. Around them she was like a feminist groupie, raving about the same woman poets and making the same sarcastic comments about the male-dominated English department.

Only two years separated me from Tammy, and yet I viewed her as a kid sister not worth taking seriously. That was my first impression . Tammy worked as a cashier at a small grocery store near campus where students shopped. Because she was a recognizable face, I made it a point to stop at her line (remember: I had worked as a cashier in my hometown). We had lots of things to talk about – not just supermarkets. I had a class with a professor she used to have. She asked about my writing classes.

I liked Tammy. She was sweet. At the same time, I felt she was nothing special – especially compared to the other women in the department. I liked her. But I didn't ache for her.

One evening I walked along with her on the sidewalk to her apartment. She invited me in for tea. Intellectually I knew that inviting a man to your apartment or dorm had special significance, but on that night I thought nothing of it. This was our first real conversation, and we had a lot to talk about. We spent 40 minutes on her sofa talking about random things. She was Jewish and came from a big family (like me). Jewish...what did that mean? Were they more promiscuous than Catholics? She had two personas. The naïve schoolgirl with simple emotions and the cynical student who couldn't find anything 100% to her satisfaction. It was almost annoying. By some odd luck, the presidential debates were on TV. We watched it for five minutes and grew bored, so Tammy turned the sound off and brought out some of her poems. This was a well-established routine when making the acquaintance of a literary-minded female. I was expected to read through the poems and find them remarkable and moving, and I lived up to the part. Actually, her poetry wasn't bad (certainly no worse than the others). They seem well-crafted and sophisticated but not particularly inventive. Perhaps her poems didn't wow me because dozens of other gifted woman in my department were also writing poetry; I was drowning in poetry that year. Still, Tammy's poetry had ambition and discipline; she was not just a dabbler.

Tammy was nice but didn't excite me. She was too reserved, too complex, too worried about her friend's opinions. She didn't laugh enough; she had schoolgirl tits. I liked her, and at the time I did not feel I was rejecting her. I was just rejecting hasty action. This was after all the first time we'd ever been together. But a nondecision was essentially a negative decision (though I didn't realize it at the time). As I said goodbye, a curious thing happened. I mentioned a book at my apartment, and she ended up following me to my apartment to borrow it – on a Sunday evening at 9:30! At the time it seemed strange – or did she just want to go out for a walk? Despite her small size and quiet demeanor, Tammy was very assertive. At the time I didn't recognize that she was ready for a night of passion. Or maybe I did realize it, but I didn't feel the time was right. But when would the time be right?

It was dark when I led her to my apartment and unlocked the door. Once inside the apartment, I expected Tammy to hang around, but after I found the book and gave it to her, she just turned around and headed home. Wait. What had happened? Did I miss something? Had I misinterpreted her reasons for coming up? Had she really just come up to get a book?

Should I have tried to kiss her or at least indicate strong interest? I don't know. 20 years later, I can say I should have done something, but if I didn't feel the urgency of the moment, perhaps I never would. Nostalgia causes us to look more fondly at people and events than we did at the time. The future self longs for the kiss which the younger self disparages. True, a man in his forties finds any 20 year old female to be beautiful. That is not the point. The key question is not what should happen today, but what should have happened yesterday.

I ran into Tammy several more times during that year, but she had already located a boyfriend. I was kind of jealous, but I hadn't made a serious effort to win her. I was happy for her, but also regretful; looking back, I wish the night we visited each other's apartments could have been filled with less literary talk and more passion.


During the time I taught overseas, I met many remarkable women, and cultural differences only increased my curiosity and desire. I taught at the university and met all kinds of fascinating people. Curiously, because students usually lived with their parents, my apartment became a kind of hangout for students. Suddenly I found that every weekend I was hosting some kind of party. For some reason having parties at the teacher's house seemed "cool" to them (even if it was on the top floor of a five story high rise).

One Saturday afternoon a high school girl visited my apartment for help with a scholarship application. Readers, watch your dirty minds! I was just helping her fill out forms (she was cute though). In the middle of all this, I received a phone call. It was Sveta, one of my 4th year university students, calling to say she was in the neighborhood and would be bringing over ice cream. I laughed and said I looked forward to it. I thought it was some kind of joke.

Ten minutes later Sveta arrived at my door. She was out of breath from climbing steps, smiling excitedly and holding a chocolate ice cream treat.

Out of my female students, Sveta was one of the few I did not lust after. She was only an average student (although she tried very hard in class). She was the type you hardly noticed at first, but whom you came to appreciate and even depend upon. We didn't talk much – she was very shy, but I always enjoyed talking with her; she was not sarcastic or cynical or gossipy; she just wanted people to like her. I accepted the ice cream and invited her in. But Sveta was nervous and flustered by the other girl in the apartment. She had clearly not expected someone else to be there. I started to explain that my other student would be leaving very soon. But Sveta left before allowing me to say anything more.

I was confused. Why had she bought me that ice cream? Why had she been so eager to leave after going to so much trouble? At first, I thought she was merely trying to improve her grade, but her grades were already high. Maybe it was a goodwill gesture (the kind that foreign teachers received on occasion). But no; she wanted my undivided attention (which I could not give because of the high school student at my flat). Bringing an ice cream was for her an extremely bold gesture. Sometimes I noticed that female students desperately sought my approval ...even though I was always generous about giving it. Perhaps it was a crush; I could not say; sometimes students liked the idea of dangerous flirting...even though they didn't actually want me to reciprocate. College-age girls rarely understood how powerful their attention could be; it could drive a grown man speechless.

Sometimes a person's desire catches you off guard; you may need more than one encounter to know what you are feeling. Caution and impulsiveness are opposing evils; caution prevents you from taking action; impulsiveness prevents you from understanding what your feelings mean. Sveta had admirable qualities; my instinct tells me she brought ice cream to demonstrate romantic interest. Was I wrong? Perhaps. But it's more likely that she felt desire for me that day...and on the next day...this desire disappeared.

As it happens, I later fell in love with another student, something which brought a long stream of disappointments.

But let's return to that day of Sveta and the ice cream. What if that high school student had not been in my apartment? Here is what I imagine happening:

Sveta surprises me with that ice cream, and I invite her in and turn on some music. I ask Sveta about her day and chuckle at her cute grammatical mistakes – while resisting the impulse to correct her.

She watches me eat the ice cream, and we laugh awkwardly. I talk about American ice cream, and she tells a funny (and incomprehensible) story about her childhood.

She says she has to leave, but I say, "You have come all the way here already – why don't you stay a bit?"

She laughs nervously and says, she has to go, but I insist on it, boiling water for tea.

It is cold, so Sveta removes her coat and sits on the divan. Have I mentioned that the divan is where I sleep? When I bring tea to the living room, I notice that underneath Sveta's white sweater were the undeniable curves of a woman. In an instant it hits me: Sveta is a young and single woman; we are alone together in my apartment, she is sitting on my divan, relaxed but nervous. We talk about America and my family and my minor complaints about her country; bit by bit we discuss more personal subjects: why I haven't married, my opinion about the girls in this country, her goals in life and a student group she wants to start. I am listening to her talk, glancing at her sweater and imagining how soft it would be to touch. We are teacher and student talking together. No boundaries are being crossed ... not yet at least. But she is sitting on my divan. We are relaxed and talking. And I want her. And I think she wants me.

Throughout the hypothetical encounter, two conversations would be taking place. First, the spoken conversation, which was warm and gentle yet formal. Second, the conversation of the eyes; the eyes can mask thoughts and intentions even as they offer all kinds of secret affection. In my imaginings, I don't actually seduce Sveta on that first visit with the ice cream. I was far too careful about crossing a line too quickly. But the ice cream visit would lay the groundwork; a single afternoon is often sufficient for two people to decide to sleep together (even if they don't actually do it until later). And if we had the whole afternoon together, we would have become comfortable with one another. I would have looked into her eyes, and she would have seen a man slowly trying to seduce her.

Written May 2009

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Walking down the hallway or a university sidewalk to class was enough to give any man a sexy thrill. Every female student was inclined to smile at a male passerby regardless of age.
Federico Madrazo Two People Sitting (Title Unknown)
Charles-Amable Lenoir (1860 - 1926) Meditation, 1899
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