I PRACTICED DOING kegels in the back seat as Mark drove our mother and me to the crematorium to identify our older brother’s body. I’d still never had an orgasm. At twenty-two it was embarrassing to tell people, and a week earlier, in a Vegas hotel room, one of my coworkers had said it came down to kegels. I took my clothes off quickly as he explained that kegels made his girlfriend come easier and maybe I’d just never fucked a man who knew how to use what he’d been given. He took it as a point of pride that he could make any girl come—except me—and it was all I could think about.
LAUREN HAD BIG tits, swollen and weighted down with bologna-sized areolas, like she’d been waiting a very long time for someone to milk her. Maybe it was her tits, maybe it was the pink ribbon tied in a bow around her neck, but the sight of her made me want to moo. She stood in the mirror’s reflection with her arms raised to make her body look slim and add some perk to those bags. In one photo she bit her bottom lip and I could see the hint of a double chin. She was framed by a Hollywood mirror atop her purple vanity, and set behind her were purple walls, purple sheets pulling off her bed, a Saw 2 movie poster, a magenta bra on the floor. Her room was just askew enough to look natural, as though she hadn’t cleaned for the pictures. On her stomach, she’d written backward so it could be read in the mirror: Property of Zack Simmons.
I showed the photos to Brett under flickering fluorescents in an NYU dorm. It was the weekend after finals, and except for us, the common room was empty. At a round wooden table, I stretched my head out on my arm and stared into his face as he looked at the photos.
“Is this what girls do?” Brett asked.
“And what does that bitch have around her neck?” he said. “At least dudes have the decency to leave their faces out of dick pics.”
He pushed my computer back to me and I left my head on the table, concentrating on Lauren’s face, searching for acne. Brett opened Grindr on his phone and started showing me pictures of dicks, showed me how guys used their hands to make themselves look bigger.
Brett spent many of his nights on Grindr, seeking anonymous hookups, submerging himself in the BDSM world for a sense of order. Sex felt safer when he didn’t recognize the face above him. A few months earlier, in the summer before we left for college, Brett’s best friend William died in a car crash. From the way he talked about him, I often wondered if they had been more than friends. I thought about what I would do if I lost a lover like that.
“She didn’t even spell his name right. Zach hates when people spell his name with a ‘k’.” I wasn’t done with Lauren.
“How’d you get these pictures?”
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