Although it took her some tie to admit it, Merav began to sense that her body was only a receptacle for his desire, while her own desire floated elsewhere, in another dimension, invisible even to herself. They half-jokingly referred to these times as Letting Him Have His Way With Her, as if she were consenting to the use of her body, lending it out…

…He took his pleasure; in the end, she could see it so clearly. Did he think this was a kind of giving? Maybe. But what was she giving him? Permission to be taken? Finally, she stopped asking why it was enough for him and began asking why it was enough for her.

So many people in San Francisco came from somewhere else, suitcases filled with their own complex histories and desires.

Girl: But are you a man or a boy?

Jonathan Ames: Well….what’s the difference?

Girl: With a man, you feel like you’re being taken and you like it. And with a boy, you feel like they’re stealing something from you, and you don’t like it.

But this love business – so far, it had been not very satisfying.  He had been involved with girls he liked; he had been involved with girls he didn’t like. In neither case had he ever really felt…whatever it was that he imagined he was supposed to feel.  He was shy, so that even though he showed determination at work, and playing hockey he positively enjoyed giving an opponent a hard check, he shrank before a girl who attracted him, and this made the search for someone who would make him feel whatever it was he was supposed to feel particularly difficult.  Moreover, he wasn’t cold-blooded, so he couldn’t pursue and abandon girls with the same relish as some of his friends, his best friend in particular, rather, he had a sympathetic streak that, in the matter of making conquests, seemed much more like a weakness than a strength.

“But – and again, who am I to judge? – I don’t think that is the only way. I think you can also escape suffering through … love. When you really love someone and they really love you, you have desire, but not in the sense of wanting things that you can’t get or shouldn’t want in the first place. It’s not even that your desire has been satisfied. It’s not satiety. You lie in that person’s arms and you aren’t thinking about what’s next or what’s wrong or what you want.  You aren’t trying to get someplace. Rather than doing or proving or striving for something, you just sort of are, as a lyric poem or work of art is supposed to be, or like a big boulder that’s really just there. And again, it’s not that you’ve gotten what you desire and so are satisfied; it’s that there is no doingness or provingness or strivingness. To my mind, this sounds a little like nirvana and I’d say you are emptied of your self. The difference, maybe, is that in my scheme you aren’t just emptied, you are also filled – but filled with one big thing that replaces all the ten million nettlesome, egotistical things that are inside you as a rule. And with that on thing comes a feeling of joy – not no feeling. You’re like a big boulder that somehow has levitated six feet off the ground. Then there is one more thing, which is wanting to make the person you love happy, to give yourself to him or her, but this wanting is not a feeling external to love or the result of any incompleteness; it is one component of that big single thing. And serving the person you love isn’t something you ‘do.’ It is entirely natural. It’s guided by the same part of your brain, whatever it is, that controls your heartbeat and your – oh – kidney function or whatever.”

Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.

For if a man desires what has not been forbidden, he may be afraid of prohibition; but if he may with impunity do what has been prohibited, neither fear nor shame can restrain him longer.

We both were smiling; every reference one of us made the other would get, every remark was a joke or compliment, and I suddenly though, Flirting.

Then – I couldn’t help it – I said, “Why did you go steady with Dena?”

“Because I was eleven years old.” He still was smiling. “I didn’t know better.”

“But you kept going steady with her. For four years!”

“Were you jealous?”

“I thought it was” – I paused – “odd.”

“When Dena was my girlfriend,” he said, “it meant I got to spend time around with you.”

Was he teasing? “If that’s true, it’s not very nice to Dena,” I said.

“Alice!” He seemed both amused and genuinely concerned that he’d displeased me.

I looked at the ground. What was I trying to express, anyway? The important thing I’d been planning all week to say when Andrew and I were alone – it was eluding me.

“What about this?” he said. “What if I try to be nicer from now on?”

Looking up, I said, “I’ll try to be nicer, too.”

He laughed. “You’ve always been nice.” There was a pause, and then he asked, “Is that a heart?” He reached forward and lifted the silver pendant on my necklace, holding it lightly, the tips of his fingers grazing the hollow of my clavicle.

“My grandmother gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday,” I said.

“It’s pretty.” He set the pendant back against my neck. “I should probably go to practice so I don’t get yelled at. If I don’t see you tomorrow after the game, you’ll be at Fred’s on Saturday, right?”

I nodded. “Will it be more a party where people come on time or later?”

“I’ll leave my house about seven-thirty. You should come then, too.” Andrew was unusually direct, especially for a boy in high school; I think it came from an understated confidence. When I got to college, the guys and girls seemed to play such games, the girl waiting a certain number of days to return a phone call, or the guy calling only after the girl didn’t talk to him at a party or he saw her out with someone else. But maybe, unlike those boys and girls in college, Andrew genuinely liked me. Then I think no, maybe he didn’t. Maybe, because of what occurred later, I invented for us a great love; I have been granted the terrible privilege of deciding what would have happened with no one left to contradict me. And maybe I am absolutely wrong.

After we said goodbye, I turned around, watching for a second as he walked toward the bleachers beyond which were the track and the football field: his light brown hair, his moderately broad shoulders further broadened by shoulder pads, his tan golden-haired calves emerging from those pants that stopped well before his ankles. When you are a high school girl, there is nothing more miraculous than a high school boy.

And despite my concern that I am manipulating the past, whenever I doubt that Andrew had feelings for me and that those feelings would have grown over time, that we had finally reached an age when something real could unfold between us, I think back to him examining my necklace, holding the pendant and asking what it was. That was obviously just an excuse to touch me. After all, everyone knows what a heart is.

“Can you explain away love too?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” he said.  “The desire to possess in some, like avarice; in others the desire to surrender, to lose the sense of responsibility, the wish to be admired.  Sometimes just the wish to be able to talk, to unburden yourself to someone who won’t be bored.  The desire to find again a father or a mother.  And of course under it all the biological motive.”

I thought, it’s all true, but isn’t there something over?  I’ve dug up all that in myself, in Maurice too, but still the spade hasn’t touched rock.