The Potomac — Poetry and Politics - Philip Stohminger
Winter 2009 - THE POTOMAC

Stars and Firecrackers
   Philip Stohminger

"What's the matter? Didn't you come? Can't you come?"

Jared Sammarco tried to affect a tone of disinterested curiosity tempered by concern, maturity modulated by tenderness. But Alexandra, fingering her sopping cunt on the bed beside him, in the languor of unspent sexuality, could hear the ego, the anxiety, the fear of inadequacy in her young lover's voice. "It's okay," she said, letting him down gently. "I don't usually. I will when we've done it together more. Establish a rhythm."

"My girlfriend in West Palm Beach," Jared began, as if sharing a quaint, amusing fact he had suddenly recalled.

"Stars and firecrackers, no doubt," Alexandra said, not exactly scornfully but reminding Jared of the essential terms of their relationship. She was the dominant partner. She'd taken him originally, after a festive summertime celebration in Dupont Circle, as if she were deflowering a virgin. She’d seduced Jared in a friend’s apartment near the Russian embassy, coming on to him there as if it were the most natural thing in the world, a great public secret he had not yet been permitted to share. Casual sex. Fucking.

Jared, defeated already in the knowledge that Alexandra called the shots but struggling valiantly to maintain his point of view, tried to boast about his experience in a way that would establish him as her equal at least, but Alexandra never took him seriously enough for him to achieve parity, as if the very fact that he felt he had to proclaim his adulthood, like a pup barking at the bigger dogs, were proof of his innocence.

True, he had led a fairly wild life as a teenager – drugs, cars, girls – but always at the end of the leash of parental authority. The fact that he was spending the summer with his uncle’s family in Baltimore was further proof, as was the fact that they had to go to Alexandra’s Bolton Hill apartment to fuck.

"Well, it sounded like it," he said. "Screamed like a kid on a ride at Disney World."

"Alexandra let out a single syllable of laughter -- hnk -- and continued to masturbate. Watching her, Jared felt his penis stirring again, awakening from the brief, post-coital coma of orgasm. Another sign: He had not asked her if she took any precaution, and he did not offer to wear a rubber. Was that responsible behavior? Mature? Adult? Taking responsibility? Jared felt a slight twinge of guilt. He assumed Alexandra was on the pill, but if she were, it meant she had been since before she knew him, which implied other lovers. So he did not ask. How could he? He did not think he could control the urgency in his voice, the need to know, that speaking about it would cause him to lose control. Unavoidably, he would move into territory that was none of his business if he broached the topic of birth control. Alexandra’s countless phantom lovers crowded his brain, along with the lucidly shimmering notions of fidelity and promiscuity.

"Oh," Alexandra murmured, as if talking to herself, and the single soft moan was like a wall caving in, earth giving way in a landslide, resistance collapsing. Her finger stopped moving, and she lay still.


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