In Which Erica Experiences Some Firsts
By 8pm Erica and Lee had been talking together in the bar for two hours. This was the longest Erica had spoken to anyone besides her mother for years. Talking was impractical and, although she often spent time socialising with friends and family, it was generally considered unwise to spend too long doing something so unproductive as to sit and talk for hours. Time with friends was, it was felt, better spent swimming lengths or practicing musical instruments together. As positive as The Team attempted to be about the collaboration process, there was no escaping the fact that it left one with a third of the time to pursue personal projects.
But Erica was enjoying sitting and talking without purpose. More importantly, Erica was what you and I might call shit faced. Erica had never been more than slightly tipsy before and was not yet aware of the warm, fuzzy feeling that red wine can give to a person. She attributed her new found sense that everything was alright entirely to Lee. Erica was shit faced and feeling romantically inclined. It was a night of firsts.
“This is a night of firsts.” Erica declared. “This is the first time that I have drunk more than 6 units of red wine. This is the first time I have talked to a man for 2 hours. I would like to ingest more alcohol please and to discuss novel and engaging ideas. We shall be like Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast At Tiffanys, in our dogged and irreverent pursuit of novel experiences.” Her mind was reaching for complex vocabulary to compensate for her compromised clarity of thought. The result was, she believed, most satisfactory. Lee smiled, seemingly endeared to her. He is probably seduced by my complex vocabulary, deduced Erica.
“A fine idea madam. However, as a regular consumer of double digit units of alcohol i must inform you that our purchases will be noted and may ring alarms bells if reviewed. Would you like to make this your first bar crawl, young Erica?” Lee rose from the cosyness of the alcove and led Erica by the hand towards the front door. As he did so she noticed a small, plain white box tucked in his jacket pocket. The box was more distinctive from anti-smoking propaganda than real life but she recognised it nonetheless. As they stepped outside into the cool night Lee caught the line of her gaze. “I spun a good lie to my doctor. Physical addiction and the avoidance of anxiety attacks”, he explained. “Have you ever tried a cigarette Erica?”
The pair glanced around furtively before stepping into a quiet, cobbled side street. Lee shielded a cigarette from the fine mist of rain which had begun to fall and inhaled deeply. He passed it to Erica and she pressed the butt to her lips with affected confidence, the first flush of mischief she had felt since, at nine, she and a school friend had sampled the liqueurs in her parents drinks cabinet. Predictably, Erica coughed and spluttered. If anybody had been able to watch over two time periods at once, they might have noticed uncanny similarities between this action of Erica’s and the exact same action of Erica’s mother 35 years ago. Both had spluttered; both giggled as they returned the unwanted cigarette; both hoped to be kissed by the person who had supplied it.
“Perhaps it is my turn to suggest some firsts sir. Do you like to run?” Erica asked the question but didn’t wait for an answer. She tore past Lee and out of the alley, pelting at full speed along the pavement. The Thames streamed past a few metres below her as her inebriated mind elatedly converted the rythmic drumming of her heels on the cobbles into the hooves of galloping horses. She was a jousting knight plunging toward his opponent; she was Ghengis Khan storming into battle with the Turks; she was Erica the athlete and for once she was not, not, not Pretty Jenny.
By the time Lee had caught up with her she was leaning against a wall outside the bar for which she had been headed; her hair was wild from the wind as she ran but her breath had returned to a steady rate. Lee’s had not.
“No, I do not like to run.” He panted. And then he kissed her. It was exactly what she had hoped would happen.
Erica let herself savour the moment for as long as a member of the frantic generation reasonably could. It was nearly nine o’clock after all, and little more than three hours until her evening would be over. She reviewed the line she’d been planning and spoke it, before doubt could creep in and intercept.
“Lee, this has been a night of firsts and I feel that this may be what is known as a hero’s call to adventure for me.”
“That may be the wine.”
“Possibly. But seeing as I have never been drunk or experienced a call to adventure before, how can I know?”
“A valid point madam.”
“In light of this I would like to propose that the adventure that I have been called to is sex with a human man, and that you may be that man.”
“Have you had sex with something or someone other than a human or a man?”
“No, I was just nervous and thought it would be funny to say human man. It is perhaps this social awkwardness that is at the root of my current virginal status. This would be my first experience of sex, full stop.”
Lee’s gaze remained fixed and suggested a combination of excitement and hesitance. Despite her lack of experience in the field, Erica felt confident that this was a sub-optimal reaction to the suggestion. She had been pleased with her assertive directness thus far: it was exactly the approach that she encouraged in her readers. So she decided to continue with it.
“I have gauged that your hesitant reaction is sub-optimal, comrade.”
“Erica… This is an excellent suggestion. I appreciate your directness and I can think of no better way to spend my Friday evening than by assisting you in your hero’s call to adventure. But it wouldn’t be right if, in light of your directness, I didn’t treat you with directness in return. I would also like to apologise for my overuse of the word ‘direct’ in this uncharacteristically long dialogue. I rarely put myself in situations where synonyms are required.”
Erica could not think of anything funny to say so she said nothing. Instead she compiled a quick mental list of all the awful things that may be wrong with her that may lead a plain, drunk man to reject her for sex on a Friday night.
“We… If… If we do… If I do come home with you… It won’t be the first time for me.” Lee was spouting various syntactically inaccurate sentences from which it was difficult to ascertain meaning. The experience was clearly uncomfortable for him.
“What I mean is… I mean it won’t be the first time for me with you. I… We… have had sex before. Only last time… When we last… Last time your name was Jennifer.”