Transient Underbellies or Learning to Let Go

text by Sarah Louise

For years I was too self-conscious to let a man go down on me.  Perhaps it was about control. In between my legs he was gone. I couldn’t kiss, touch or guide any part of him. I couldn’t see or smell what was happening. I knew I was supposed to lay back and close my eyes but instead I imagined swirling, gym-class odors repulsing him. Perhaps it was that I was sleeping with 20 year-olds with directionless tongues. It wasn’t until I was sweaty in a strange bed that I learned to let go.

Two summers ago I went to Havana semi-legally, before Obama and Castro learned to share their toys. In Cuba romanticism and pragmatism collide in a quaint but sad way. There are more grey Toyotas from the 90’s than baby-blue T-birds now. The food is bland, mealtimes become like listening to a James Taylor CD on loop. There are lazy fans and tropical fruits and cigar smoke, that’s the communism in the air.  But the elevators and hospital equipment pre-date the embargo and you question the pervasive happiness. Still it was sticky and romantic in a mosquito-bitten way.

I stayed at the nicest hotel in Havana. I forget the name. As a teenager I watched the ill-advised remake of Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. This implanted a certain sultry and tropical image of Cuba. Since then I imagined a trip to Cuba meant beachside rendezvous with a Diego Luna type and soft groping in warm seawater. Maybe we’d go salsa dancing at night.

Towards the end of my trip I was by the pool when a tall, curly-haired man approached. His suit was wrinkled and his glasses smudged. He’d noticed my Clyde’s Chemists bag, a shop in New York City where they give you a bag if you buy over $50 worth of cosmetics. He was a discombobulated, 30-something, Jewish filmmaker from New York there on assignment. After a candle-lit dinner the second night we knew, though we took our time getting there. We smoked cigarette after cigarette and drank scotch mixed with a cloyingly sweet local soda. We walked to the beach and he kissed me. I wasn’t even attracted to him until then but suddenly I didn’t want anything else.

Ever since 8th grade when Sam Cash fingered me backstage and everyone called me a slut I feign modesty. I told him I didn’t want to have sex that night. His answer, like our beach, was perfect. He asked if I’d roll around and kiss him underneath the mosquito net in his room. If ever a man knew what to say it was that. I said yes.

He kissed my neck and breasts. I’ve always been enamored with large, wooden fans and the one overhead was perfect, splashing us with nipple-hardening wisps from time to time. He kissed the depression between my stomach and hips. He asked if he could go down on me. I told him I didn’t like that that it made me self-conscious. He persisted. Maybe it was the Scotch or the fan or his touch but I said yes.

It was slow at first, circular, like a rabbit chasing a fox on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs. I watched the fan. He told me I tasted amazing. I liked that. My fears dissolved, so did his tongue. It felt warm, the way the metal underbelly of a truck heats up on a highway in Nevada. He kissed my thighs and slipped a finger inside me. I reached for his shoulders not because I wanted him inside me, not yet. This was sensuality with no endpoint. I needed to kiss him. His lips were glazed and slippery. I’d never tasted myself. It was sweet and I let go. Malcolm Gladwell calls vibrant focus ‘flow.’ I propose those moments of focused, free lovemaking be called ‘overflow’. At 4am we fell asleep in a tangle of satisfaction. He left the next day and I went to Santiago.

We met up back in New York City. He bought me dinner in Harlem and went down on me in Brooklyn. We went away one weekend while it was still warm. I came looking up at a fan in a wood-paneled room on Block Island. But it wasn’t Cuba. It wasn’t the foam waves leave behind after crashing it was just an imprint in the sand. Slowly the tide filled it in. I stopped calling or perhaps he did. 

Now, when a man asks if he can go down on me I say yes. I invite it. It’s not always good or arousing but I know what it can be, and that’s enough. It took being somewhere else with someone who knew nothing about me to let go. Or perhaps it was just the Mojitos and bug-spray. Either way I’m free now, able to surrender to the feeling of butter melting between your legs.