“I was thinking about sex last night.” It was Saturday morning and they were sharing coffee and weed, sitting on the floor with their laptops in front of the couch he’d slept on. Her bed was in a loft overhead.
“Dude, it seems to me you’re pretty much always thinking about sex. Or at least you think about it quite a bit.” She touched his left foot with her right, gave it a little nudge.
“That’s not fair. I’d forgotten all about sex for a couple of minutes when we were talking about water the other day, until I suddenly realized it’s all the same thing.” He tone was very serious, and he was focused on the laptop, stayed there for a few beats before shutting it down.
“What do you mean it’s all the same thing?” She shut hers down as well. The world hadn’t ended yet based on her morning email and Facebook check-ins, and she spent as little time as possible in cyber space. She liked the real world a whole lot more.
“Water and sex. Polarity and gender. Atoms coming together to make molecules and people coming together to make babies.” He paused. “Gender questions have always been huge in my world, and biology and women’s studies definitely have some language issues going on when it comes to gender and sex.”
“So do you think all things are gendered and all relationships sexual?” She was grinning at him, apparently liked this line of discussion. “When Oxygen pulls those two Hydrogens in to make water, is it like your dad with his twin blondes?” She nudged his foot again with that one.
“When a mass of tiny electrons are orbiting a bunch of big old positive protons, do those opposite charges correspond to gender? And then what’s the role of the neutrons?” Zach’s night had been completely dream filled, chemical, biological, sexual, primally human dances with sperm and egg on a dance floor filled with swirling stars and classical music, re-arranged with a funky backbeat.
“Biology would say that gender, and that’s the term used to describe the chromosomal status of sexually reproducing organisms, is not a characteristic that we can attribute to things like atoms or planets or other heavenly bodies. Gaia is not a female.” Em was pretty comfortable with that stance.
“But the sun is kind of a gendered entity, it provides the energy so the earth can bring forth life using air and water and soil. Earth as mother, it bears the life, sun as…….” he hesitated.
“The patriarch?” She gave him that look. “Oh, no, I don’t think so, no.”
“But the sun is the real power to the whole show………” he really screwed himself there.
The stare got pretty intense.
“But of course nothing could happen in terms of life without the earth and her….um, its nurturing womb and…….” he was fumbling. With fucking words, he was fumbling. He was a master of words.
“And would the poor little female earth just hurl herself into the fire of the sun because of the magnificence of his gravitational attraction?” She turned to face him full on.
“What, you think Sol is the girl?” He was tempted to grab his phone and start Googling the crap out of anthropological sites he knew. It suddenly occurred to him that he’d just implied that he wanted to hurl himself into her magnificence, he was going to have to be careful.
“Prokaryotic organisms aren’t gendered. That passing on of genetic information to the next generation does not require a partner, not even passing along of unique genetic information. Even plants can do that. Hell, it’s getting pretty apparent that even our genes change during our lifetimes, Lamarck was a whole lot more correct than the textbook gives him credit for.” Gender and sex were so integral to evolution, that Em had indeed studied both, at least a little, from the perspective of biology.
“How do you know all this? And surely you haven’t read the whole textbook yet!” He was not accustomed to not being on top of the material in his study groups. He liked being on top.
“Like I said, I’m unschooled. And lots of academicians passed through over the years. And last year’s copy of the three hundred dollar textbook can be had for two bucks at the thrift store, or online, or for free if you know people.” College was, indeed, turning out to be less than she’d expected in lots of ways, more than she’d expected in others. She loved the diversity of people she’d met, especially among the professors. The system itself, not so much. The classes were kind of a joke, at least a lot of them were.
“But even bacteria hook-up, right? Conjugation tubes? I seem to remember thinking about conjugation tubes and transfer of DNA and Sarah Sandusky’s butt crack while we were watching a video during lab one day when our teacher was hung over and couldn’t do class.” The faculty at Zach’s exclusive prep school had been a brilliant yet mostly broken lot.
“Horizontal gene transfer. Hell, bacteria pick up DNA from dead stuff lying around. Transformational Learning at its finest. They seem to know what they’re looking for. And they don’t seem to care a whole lot about anything to do with gender when they share what they know.” She gave him the eyebrows.
“Wow. Just like memes. In the noosphere, gender doesn’t matter at all. We can ramp up evolution without worrying about such silly shit.” He was, once again, beside himself as he sat there beside little Emily. That was it. He’d gotten so caught up in their intellectual interaction and exchange of ideas and information, that for a little while, he’d forgotten about her gender. “You know, I almost forgot how much I wanted to juice my lemon all over your legs, which was was the talk about pH had gotten me thinking about when you started talking about polarity and water and my mind kind of wandered back to that boring old textbook and the ideas I’d had while reading it. Definitely a different perspective.” He nudged her back with his left foot. WTF, the call and response thing had been good the previous night.
“Thing is, Z, you and I are gendered. You’re totally masculine in most ways, but I can tell that you spent most of your life around women. While I’m definitely female and definitely heterosexual, I’m not very feminine at all. I’ve always like playing with the boys.” She nudged him back, a little more aggressively.
He totally shocked her with a move of his own, a quick shift and straddle. He was facing her, supporting himself on his lower legs so that she was trapped, but comfortably.
“You do like playing with the boys, don’t you?” She could tell that his mind had definitely made it’s way back to lemon juice and oily legs by the weight and warmth of the mass on her belly. He was wearing a pair of her sweatpants.
“Only when they play fair.” She gave him yet another new look, another mystery to ponder.
He took a deep breath and stood up, giving her a perspective not unlike she’d given him the night before, before moving away to take their coffee cups to the kitchenette. She sighed, having just had the same response he’d had the night before, thinking about nakedness, both mental and physical.
“Remember what you said about water being sacred?” She called out to him as he rinsed their dishes, finding this easier while he was farther away and occupied.
“Yeah. Why, should I turn it off?” He quickly did, having had more than his share of wounds from well meaning eco-warriors. That made her laugh, and foiled her plans for making this less intimate than it was probably going to be. She had her intimacy issues, it was part of being an orphan of sorts.
“No. But I feel that way about sex. I mean real, get down, get naked, and do that thing that makes babies.” She found herself back in the trapped position and he came back and sat right in front of her. She’d shifted to half lotus and was no longer pinned down.
“Oh. Okay. Are you a virgin?” He’d asked that question way more than once.
“No. That’s probably why I do take it so seriously. Sex changes everything, or at least it always has. Boys are funny that way.” She really was just a kid, and her sexual experiences were few. That didn’t make her ignorant, she’d grown up in a commune. She’d seen what sexual relationships could do to love.
“Guess what? Girls can be pretty funny that way, too.” Zach had fathered one abortion, and it bothered him. A lot. Mostly because he knew that his mother would have done the same with him had his father not been so insistent. She’d lied to him, told him she was on the pill when she wasn’t. When he told her he’d support the child but not marry her, she aborted it.
“Of course we can, sex is serious. So are love and commitment. Hearts get broken. STD’s can have really nasty consequences. I’d almost think it’s better to have sex with a stranger if all you want is release, or masturbate. Making love is something different. And the two get all mixed up sometimes.” She wasn’t coming across with her usual self assurance. That’s because she was feeling totally confused about the whole thing.
“There are condoms.” Of course there were, he had a six-pack in his back pocket. He’d even considered a vasectomy; the world was kind of a messy place to bring kids into these days and he wasn’t the least bit fond of latex and the other distractions of birth control. But he knew that STD’s were a reality, so like a good boy scout, he came prepared.
“I’m not the least bit fond of latex. But it’s more than that. I’m quite fond of you. I was quite fond of the other boys I had sex with, too, I wouldn’t have had sex with them if I hadn’t been. But afterwards, our relationships changed. We’d been friends before. We’d all been friends. Now none of us are. Nathan even left the commune as soon as he got old enough, and lots of the older generation have had problems because of sex.” She sighed. “But you do turn me on, too. I’m confused. I probably shouldn’t juice your lemon that way.”
“But you said it was fun.” His lemon was getting its protons up.
“It was fun.” She could see it.
“And you said you liked the foot rub.” It did a little twitch in the sweatpants.
“I loved the foot rub.” She was blushing.
“I like when you juice my lemon.” He gave her that smile.
“Can you trim my hair?” Her sudden change of topic threw him for a minute.
“Huh? Well, yeah, probably, it looks like it’s basically a straight line. I passed scissors and crayons years ago.” He train of non-thought was kind of derailing again.
“You’ll need to wash it first.” She did the eyebrows.
“A shower would be good, we did get pretty sweaty dancing last night, didn’t we.” He did his, too. The lemon was growing into a lemon tree, very pretty. He was pretty sure the lemon flower would be sweet, hoped like hell the fruit would not be impossible to eat. Time for some homework.
Studying with Emily had just reached a new level of educational.
Linda Brooke Stabler, Ph.D.