Or,
The brief period of time, in this my 28th year of life, that I spent in the intimate and mostly enjoyable company of a beautiful young woman, who was quite forgiving and unafraid of being near me, though only after a considerable amount of money had been exchanged.

So … huh?

That's the basics of it. It happened, and now I'm writing about it.

Right. Well, tell me the story.

I paid her to have sex with me, and in a technical sense she did.

Yeah, come on, tell me properly.

Alright, how should I begin?

Well, how did you find her?

The same way anyone finds anything these days — on the internet. She looked good in her photos, and the little description she gave of herself seemed genuine (yes, go ahead and laugh), so I sent her an email. We arranged a time and she told me where to meet her. It was a suburban block of flats, and when I got to the front door I texted her, so she could buzz me in.

Go on.

I went up to the room, and when she opened the door we shook hands. Then we sat on the couch and talked a little. Then she kissed me and I kissed her back, and when I put my hand on her chest and on her thighs she didn't stop me. She made sounds like she was enjoying it, and I chose to believe that she was. Then she stopped me, and she asked me to take a shower — I had read that this was a standard practice for the more expensive women. I put the money on the table and went to the bathroom. I cleaned myself and when I came out wrapped in a towel she was lying on the bed, beckoning me. I went over and we kissed some more and very shortly she took her dress off and we were having sex.

Just like that?

Just like that.

Sounds awfully simple.

Yes.

Did you use protection?

Of course!

Did the two of you have an orgasm?

She pretended to. I tried, but I couldn't.

OK. Well, tell me more about that later. But … you say this was your first time?

Sadly, yes.

And you're 28?

Almost. 27. Turning 28 later this month.

So, why now?

When I was 17, very soon to be 18, my mother told me she didn't want me to die a virgin and she offered to hire me a prostitute as a birthday gift. At the time I was offended — that she would think I couldn't find a girl who would fuck me for free! But ever since then, time and time again, it has been proven that she knows me better than I know myself, and the subject of sex is no exception. The years that have passed since then have seen me stumble and trip over myself with one girl after another, forever wanting but never finding that intimacy and validation that comes from being naked with another person. So at some point I decided that I would give myself a decade — ten years to figure this problem out. In that time I've had a lot of firsts. I got my first degree (and then two more), got my first proper job, rented my first flat, bought my first car, drank my first beer. But with my 28th birthday rapidly approaching and my virginity still loathfully intact, I decided that I had better just get it over with, and pay a girl to allow me into her bed.

You know what, calling her a 'girl' is a bit creepy, don't you think? Should it be 'girl' or 'woman'?

They both sound a bit weird, don't they.

Yes, they do. Let's just forget it, use whatever word you like.

Sure.

So you were talking about your virginity. That horrible thing. You'd really never been with a girl before? Had you come close? Had you even been kissed before?

I did kiss a girl once, though really it was her kissing me.

Tell me more about that.

She was a classmate of mine in university. We were at a party, we had a few drinks, and we gravitated towards each other. We shouted in each other's ears over the music for what seemed like a long time. We had met a few times before, and I liked her, but I thought she was just being nice and making conversation. It was all very tame, I didn't make any moves that could be taken the wrong way. And when it got late and I'd had enough of the party, I said I was heading home. She looked up into my eyes and said, 'Do you want me to come with you?' And, knowing that she lived in the same block of university-owned units as me, I assumed she needed a lift home.

You can't be serious.

I suppose that after a long time of getting my feelings hurt, I had decided not to get my hopes up so easily.

Hmmm, that's one way of putting it, I guess. But anyway, you took her home and jumped on her?

No, not at all. We quietly listened to some music as I drove her back. I pulled into the garage and got ready to say goodbye, but then she followed me inside. So I reckoned she might like a cup of tea. We sat and had some tea, and she was rather drunk so we had a sort of free-associating conversation about Judaism and war and medicine and her aspirations in life. It was nice — I enjoyed just sitting on the dirty couch together and talking, with nobody else around. Then at some point she asked me what my bedroom was like, and I remember thinking to myself that she must have been curious about whether my unit had a different layout to hers.

Oh come on.

She leapt onto my bed and I opened my laptop to put some music on, thinking that we might sit and talk some more. She asked me to come lie next to her, which looked like a comfortable place to be — I didn't have any other furniture apart from an old office chair. I thought she was being considerate. Then, lying there and talking and staring at the ceiling, I suddenly felt her rolling over on top of me. Her nose pressed up against mine and we looked into each other's eyes, then she kissed me deeply.

And I suppose you thought to yourself, 'Oh, what an odd thing for her to do! She must want a taste of my toothpaste.'

Oh fuck off.

I'm sorry. Please go on.

We rolled about for a while, kissing and petting each other. And it seemed like she was very passionate about it, like she really wanted me. I wasn't sure how I felt about her, but she was pretty and interesting and willing. So I kept going. I was aware of how drunk she was, and though I'd had a drink or two, I had never felt so wide-eyed sober in my life. I worried about where this was going. Then, when we took a moment to breathe and just hold each other, her phone buzzed. It was a text message from a friend of hers, who was laughing at the fact that she had seen us leaving together. She showed it to me, and together we laughed about it too, though I wasn't quite sure what it was supposed to mean. She told me that her friend had egged her on to get close to me at the party, as a kind of dare. I wasn't really sure what that meant either.

Oh. That sounds kind of awful.

I don't know. She was nice. And I enjoyed kissing her. She was soft and gentle, she smelled good, she had nice lips, and we seemed to have the same rhythms. We put our tongues in each other's mouths and she bit my lip a little. She said she liked the way I kissed. But then she asked me to take off my clothes. I told her she was too drunk to have sex, that it would be better if we waited until another night when she was sober. On the one hand I felt I was just doing the right thing, but on the other hand I was glad to have the excuse — I was terrified of being naked with her, of her seeing me and feeling me, of failing and being humiliated, of the inexplicably flaccid penis in my trousers. She seemed frustrated and disappointed by what I'd said, but she didn't push the issue. In fact, she said it was nice to be with someone who didn't just want to fuck her. So we laid together for a while longer. I basked in her warmth and her scent, running my hand over the skin of her shoulder. And after a while she said she had to go home, she was late in taking her tablets. She disentangled herself from me. We kissed at the doorway, I said we would see each other soon, and she walked off into the night. That's the closest I ever got.

And what happened with her? You didn't see her again?

No. I went back to bed and couldn't sleep. I could smell her on my sheets and my pillow and I was exhilarated by the all possibilities I couldn't help imagining. My heart was racing and I was as wide awake as I've ever been, staring at the ceiling for hours on end, wishing I could go to sleep. But after four or five painful hours went by and my body refused to obey me (just like it had when I was pressed up against her), the dim sunlight started glowing in the window and I got up to face the day. I went to class, pretending that I was fine and nothing had happened, thinking of what I might say when I saw her. But I didn't see her that day, or the next, or any other day for the next three months, and then I graduated. She deferred her studies, apparently because of some harassment issue she was facing from a lecturer.

Do you know where she is now?

She's married, with a child. So I've heard.

Well I'm sorry about all that, but really it seems like you just want to feel sorry for yourself. Your whole sad story is actually normal, except most people go through that when they're 17.

Yes, probably.

And no matter how freakishly weird or hideous you are, there's someone out there who would be into that.

Of course. And there have been a couple of women who genuinely liked me. I can think of three who seemed to like me as a person — you know, a proper intellectual and emotional connection, where we could really talk. And maybe there were two or three others who would have slept with me, though that was mostly when they were drunk. It's just that those two things have never seemed to overlap — I've never met someone who seemed to like my brain and my body at the same time. And what's more, I've never met someone with whom those feelings were mutual.

You mean you don't like girls? That's fine! There's nothing wrong with that.

No, I really do like girls! I can't stop looking at them, can't stop thinking about them. But somehow it doesn't seem like I can find one who I like, and who also likes me, and our feelings match up in such a way that we want to be together.

Hmm, OK. But you are a freak, right? There must be something glaringly off-putting about you.

Not really. I'm just a normal person, I think. I know I wasn't always — I used to be horribly awkward and overly opinionated and very badly dressed, but I've grown up a lot in ten years and now I'm basically indistinguishable from any other average person. I'm standard height (when I don't slouch), I dress neatly but indistinctly, I have a decent job, I live in a decent place and drive a decent car, I keep my opinions to myself and try to give compliments when they're genuine, I don't work out but I keep a slim figure, I get my hair cut and keep my beard trimmed short. I look painfully alright. If there's one thing it's my voice, which is rather nasal and annoying, so I try not to talk too much.

Well if you're so normal, why don't you just date a girl?

I've tried, but somehow it just hasn't worked out.

Have you really tried though?

Maybe not. Maybe I haven't tried hard enough. I went on two dates with a colleague before we agreed that we didn't feel any connection with each other. I downloaded some dating apps and spent many evenings staring at my phone, swiping left and right on people as they did the same to me. When we both happened to swipe right and got a match, there would be a moment of panic as I realised that I now had to make conversation with this good-looking stranger. And out of the handful of matches, I met three of them in person — all of them friendly, talkative, and interesting in their own ways, but none of them excited me. I couldn't see myself becoming infatuated with any of them, not in the way I had been infatuated with so many other young women from the past decade of my life, whom I had met and often known for years but never confessed my horrible feelings to. I just felt nothing at all but the desire to get away from them, and very quickly I began to fear that I was doomed to always feel this way. I would start each date with a sense of inevitability. I kept a pre-written text message in a note on my phone, which I would send to them when the time seemed right. I can copy-paste it for you now. Here it is:

I've been thinking quite a lot since I saw you the other night, and I keep coming back to the feeling that I just want to be alone. I've been single for a long time, and for the past few months I've been making an effort to meet new people, but the same thing keeps happening — I meet people who have a lot of great qualities and are fun to hang out with, but in the end I don't feel compelled to keep seeing them. Instead I just want to go home and be alone again. I think that maybe I've been trying to recapture a feeling that I used to get from someone who is now long gone from my life, and nobody else is quite the same.

Anyway, I suppose what I want to say is that I'm sorry, and I had a nice time meeting you, but I don't want to keep wasting your time by going out again. I hope there aren't any hard feelings. Thanks for giving me a shot.

'It's not you, it's me.' Nice. Very original.

Yeah yeah, I know. You don't have to tell me how awful I am.

Don't pretend. You won't get me to feel sorry for you. You think you're special, and your great quest for love is tragic and brave, but this is the same thing everyone has to do. We all go through weird, awkward, unpleasant dates with people we don't like, and we're all afraid of intimacy. The difference is that other people have the guts to give a relationship a real go.

Probably so. Probably so.

But anyway, you were saying about this girl you hired. Remember her? Tell me, what did she look like?

She was very good-looking. Slim, athletic, red hair, wonderful skin. And her face was … not pretty, not quite beautiful, but definitely sexy. She had the kind of smooth, alto voice that I've always liked. And she had a smile that seemed genuine, or at least a very good imitation. Before she opened the door I was worried, because she wouldn't show her face in any of the photos I'd seen.

What a surprise, you're shallow.

Only as shallow as anyone else is. And I was paying her! If you order a meal in a restaurant, it helps if you get to see it first.

That's disgusting.

Fine.

So how much did you pay her?

600 Australian dollars, in cash.

For how long?

An hour.

And was it worth it?

I guess so, I have a hard time gauging the dollar value of things. I didn't feel cheated, if that's what you mean. But I did find that the hour went by rather quickly — much more quickly than I would have liked. On my way to meet her I started worrying that I wouldn't know what to do with a whole hour. That it all might be over in ten minutes, and I would be left awkwardly trying to fill in the deadening silence (the very same thing worries me every time I'm going on a date). But in reality, I felt that I was only getting into the swing of things when suddenly her phone started beeping to say that there were just ten minutes left. And then, with that deadline looming over me, I tried and tried to make the most of it but there was no way I could reach a climax.

Yeah, so tell me about that. You said this girl was sexy, you've obviously wanted it for a very long time, and you're a healthy young-ish guy who should be a horny fiend. What went wrong?

I don't know! I liked it, and I wanted to make the most of it, and she had a great body and she clearly knew what she was doing, but somehow none of it worked for me. I tried different positions, I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the sensation, I opened my eyes and tried to focus on her breasts. But in the end, I felt almost nothing. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the condom. Maybe a decade of pornography and marathon masturbation have fried all my nerve endings.

I think the first time is disappointing for most people.

Yes, I've heard that before.

And how do you feel now? Do you feel different? Are you relieved?

Yes and no. I guess that, in a way, I am relieved. It's something I can tick off my to-do list. But on the other hand, I don't feel like I've accomplished what I hoped to. I hoped to have some exciting, fulfilling sex at least once, and in the end there was no fulfillment. Plenty of trepidation, but no excitement. It was pleasant in a way, and I think it was worth doing, but where I thought it would give me some kind of answer, instead it's raised more doubts and questions than ever before.

Such as?

Such as: Did I do a bad job of it? Should I be embarrassed? What did this girl think of me, if anything? Will it get better, will I get better? What should I have done differently? Will I ever be rid of this frustration? Will I ever meet someone who I can be with, night after night, and will we both enjoy it? Will it be different with someone I love? Will I find someone to love? If I do, can I ever tell her about this? Am I capable of being a good lover, or any kind of lover?

Oh, God, please stop overthinking it. Can't you see this is your problem?

But no, really, it's been very thought-provoking! A learning experience! I've realised something which I had suspected all along — that the movies, the books, the way we talk about sex, they all give it a mystique that it doesn't deserve. Sex is treated as something hidden, something that happens off-stage, somewhere else, not to be discussed in detail. People meet, they dance, they kiss, and then at some stage it becomes clear that they've had sex, but the sex is compartmentalised, treated as separate and unknowable and qualitatively different from everything else. It's like the nipple: it is continuous with the flesh that surrounds it, but somehow it is also special and meant to remain unknown. Which gives the impression that when we have sex (or look at a nipple, God forbid), we should be experiencing something completely different to the rest of human life, and that things are different once it is over. Like an illness. But what I experienced with this girl was that my eyes, my fingertips, my mouth, and my sense of time were all the same as usual, and the moment of penetration was just another moment. That the sex was part of a continuum that stretches from my childhood into my future, and that every moment is just like any other moment, really. Touching her breasts was enjoyable, and kissing her lips was very nice as well, and having her body spread across mine was lovely indeed, but in the end it wasn't radically different from holding a baby or eating a peach or lying in the sunshine. Sex is not as special as I thought it was supposed to be. And if so, then maybe nothing is.

Yeah, or maybe it just wasn't very good sex.

Maybe not. But what I'm trying to say is … have you ever had a friend tell you that you just have to try the ice cream from their favourite place, how it'll blow your mind and you'll never want any other kind of ice cream?

Yeah, sure. Something similar.

And for ages and ages you look forward to going there, because nobody will stop talking about this ice cream? And you imagine what a revelation it will be, like some part of you will open up when you finally taste this ice cream, and it will be an experience like no other?

… Right.

And now what if there were songs on the radio about how great this ice cream is, and in movies there were whole stories that revolved around two people who eat this ice cream together, or about how someone stole the ice cream and it was the most heinous crime imaginable, because of how important and sacred this ice cream is?

OK yes I get it.

But when you actually go there and try the ice cream, it's just ice cream. It's really good ice cream, and you'd love to get some more of it, but in the end it has a flavour that you recognise, and the smoothness of it is impressive but it's not a quantum leap from the smoothness of the other desserts you've had before.

Yes, yes, I understand, thanks.

I guess all I'm saying is that this is what all of life turns out to be like. We all imagine that there will be these special moments that mean a lot to us and that we will feel things we could never otherwise feel. But when those moments arrive, they're just moments. There is no holy light, no rush of endorphins. Time and space and all the jumbled bits within them just continue on. When we said goodbye, this girl looked and sounded and acted just the same as she had when we said hello, and I felt no differently towards her as I had an hour earlier, and I didn't feel that anything within myself had changed at all.

I think either your expectations are way too high, or you're basically dead inside. I can't decide which one it is.

I don't know either. Maybe both.

Well, there's something for you to ponder, eh?

Indeed.

So what now, are you going to see this girl again? Get some more practice in?

I would, but it's not possible. She said she'd like to see me again, but she's moving interstate next week.

Come on, you believe that?

I don't know! But I can hardly push the issue, can I? Why not just believe it, why question absolutely everything? That's what got me here in the first place.

Yes, OK, fine.

Fine.

So. This has all been very interesting, thank you.

And to you.

In the end, would you call it a positive experience? Are you glad you did it?

Well, it was a mixed bag. I suppose that's why I wanted to write about it.

OK, let's put it another way. Would you do it again?

Yes, I rather think I will.

Nasty boy.