FICTION
A Hand’s Off Love Story

By Cody Dare

Ian is sitting in the foyer, holding his shoes and socks. His feet are quiet and white. I feel a spot of tenderness for this man, who during our group session said he wanted more affection and attention in his life. He also said he wondered what it would be like to masturbate in front of other people. I looked carefully at him while he talked -- he spoke sedately like he had said, "I wonder what it would be like to read a book in front of other people." I realized he was probably a lot like me, a seething sexual persona tucked into a conservative looking self. My lovers are usually surprised at what a sexy woman I turn out to be.

It is day two of a weekend retreat exploring how we view and accept our sexuality. Imagine sitting around with strangers and talking about sex. Imagine doing interactive exercises that help you get more comfortable with yourself as a sexual creature. It is an unusual experience for me: quite a test and quite a luxury.

"Would you like me to help you put on your shoes?" I ask him.

He brightens. "That would be nice," he says. Some mother, aunt, grandmother, headmaster, or nun should be proud: he is very polite.

I treat each foot like it belongs to a new child and he watches carefully as I put on his socks and tie his shoes.

"Thank you, that was lovely," he says. He lowers his head. "I have to go to the bathroom before dinner," he says. "I can meet you over there, at the dining hall."

"Would you like me to help you pee?" I ask. The remarks jut blurts out of me, a product of the masturbation imagery.

"All right," he says and smiles. It’s a secret smile that he hides almost instantly.

I am giggling as we go into the empty men’s room. I position Ian in front of the urinal. My hands are sweaty from performance anxiety. My children are daughters; I have little experience with the actual mechanics of male urination. I undo his belt and fiddle around trying to figure out a proper way to extract the penis from his white underwear.

"Just take it out," he advises.

I do, then try to calculate the correct distance between the cock head and the porcelain bowl.

"Pull back the foreskin," he instructs. I, the granddaughter of an almost Rabbi, also have little knowledge of the workings of a foreskin. I pull it back and like a monument unveiled, the head of his cock emerges. I hold my fingers around the base of the head, with a steady aim. We are quiet as we wait for the comforting sound of the trickle, then the stream, of urine. But there is only silence. I watch in fascination as the cock continues to emerge, like a shining grail rising up from a murky pond.

"I can’t pee," Ian says, as his cock reaches its full flower.

"I’ll wait," I say, not yet willing to be away from this man, the thrilling emergence of his cock, and the forbidden ambiance of the men’s room. Finally, hunger overtakes us. I gently press the erect penis back into the soft white briefs, carefully zip the stiff black jeans and we to go dinner.

What do you talk about after you have just held a man’s penis over the urinal? I am surprised by how connected I now feel with Ian. I feel like a foundling dog, suddenly fed. As we carry our trays to a table, Ian’s shirt sleeve brushes against mine and I am lit by desire. I want to lean my shoulder into him and let my hand graze his as he reaches for the salt. Yet he sits across from me, rather than beside me.

"Tell about you and masturbation," I say, as though I am an interviewer for a progressive magazine and not a woman yearning. "Have you ever masturbated in front of anyone?"

He takes a bite of chicken before he answers.

"Not since I was ten," he says. "After all, it is a rather vulnerable thing to do, touching yourself in front of another person."

"It is," I agree. "What happened when you were ten?"

"It was rather an accident," he tells me. He describes being outdoors in a small forest near his home.

"The air was velvety and I had an impulse to take off my clothes, so I could be closer to nature. I can’t tell you the feeling of intense freedom, running naked, the leaves of trees caressing me, crunching twigs, feeling moss cushioning my feet. For the first time, I felt like I owned myself." I watch the sparkle in Ian’s eyes. He lowers his head, then continues. "Here it gets a little embarrassing. As I ran, I noticed my penis, which I seldom paid any attention to, had stiffened. It had a painful hardness to it. When I put my hand on it, to see what was going on, it seemed to grow like Pinocchio’s nose. I stopped running and put my other hand on the penis. Suddenly, my hands were moving up and down, quickly. Something was wrong with me. I knew I had to keep my hands moving of my penis would keep on growing."

Ian takes another bite. His voice is fast and breathless as he describes hearing a crackling in the woods, steps on dry leaves, but he assumed it was the big crows he had seen earlier. He stood like Goliath and his hands moved like wind. Something was seizing him and carrying him up out of his mind, filling him with such molten desire that he could barely breathe. As his hands moved franticly to find his pleasure, he saw a woman, standing just on the other side of the trees. Could she see him? Could she see his hands? He wasn’t sure, but the very sight of her dark windswept hair and reddened cheeks drew him into his climax, his mouth shouting, his sperm shooting all over the deep green moss. She smiled, then moved away.

I feel the story settling inside me, rubbing against me, tempting me. I feel my own desire, dampening my panties.

"I bet she could see you," I say, leaning toward him. "I bet she liked what she saw."

Ian blushes." Two months later I saw her at the grocery store. She looked me right in the eyes, licked her lips and smiled. To this day, I have a preference for masturbating standing up."

"May we join you?" Another couple sits beside us. We flow into the topic of relationships. They have come to the workshop to improve their marriage by working on their sexual issues.

"What about you?" they ask me.

"I have two out-of-town lovers, which in some ways is like having everything and in other ways like having nothing," I tell them. "I am trying to understand my own sexual energies and appreciate them, even when a lover is not around."

"And you?" the woman turns to Ian. She has dark windswept hair and reddened cheeks.

"I’ve been married for 18 years," Ian says.

I am surprised to hear Ian is married. I had pictured him ready to fall into love with me. Now I have to wonder what his wife would think about him letting a strange woman hold his penis.

"Is your wife here?" the woman asks, leaning forward. The question gives me a startle. Of course, his wife might be here. Right at the next table.

"Actually, she opted to go to a weaving workshop instead." Ian mushes his spoon in his potatoes. "She’s not as keen on sexual expression as I am."

"What does that mean, not as keen on sexual expression?" I ask Ian, when the couple leaves.

"It means Nancy likes only a little sex and only when she’s the initiator. I like a lot of sex and don’t care who initiates. A lot of the time, I worry it’s me, you know, she doesn’t seem to like me that much sexually. I worry there’s something wrong with me, you know. I thought this workshop could help us sort things through. But Nancy felt like coming here was giving in to pressure, so I’m here alone."

I watch Ian as he talks. He is reporting, not trying to elicit sympathy. I like that about him.

"What would Nancy think of you letting me hold your penis?" I ask, pressing my hands together.

"I told her I might be touching with other women and she said that was OK," he answers.

I smile and feel a sense of relief: he isn’t going behind his wife’s back. Still, my intuition tells me, he is not a person I should yearn over or fall in love with. Yet I somehow want Ian to lay with me, cuddle, touch me. My other lovers won’t mind -- we are complete in the time we spent together. We have no rules or taboos, other than those of safe sex.

"Would you like to come to my room and cuddle a little?" I say as he carries his napkin to the trash. I force myself not to look at him.

"Thank you, but I need some alone time. I’m going for a walk," he says.

"Sure," I answer. I feel my throat tightening, my stomach knotting. I feel like the ugly girl who almost had a date.

The penis is a curious creature and it’s not often that I meet one, outside of the context of sex, so early in a relationship. Now that I have met Ian’s penis, I wonder what it is doing. What position has it taken up in his underpants? Is it cramped or crooked? Is it small or titillated? Does it want to see me again? Will he take it out and air it on his nature walk?

And the whole foreskin factor adds an extra fascination. I have only been with one lover with a foreskin and he seemed quite shy about having it. Yet my California love has spent hours mourning the lost of this pleasure-flesh. He sat around during long evenings, listening to Leonard Cohen songs and stretching his cock, sighing and wishing for his rightful tissues returned. (Fortunately these hours were not when I was in town.)

But it’s more than that, surely, it’s the intimacy of standing in a bathroom together that makes me feel I know Ian and he knows me.

There is a costume ball that evening at the workshop. "Dress in a way that mirrors your true sexual self," the instructions read. I enter the room, which is already throbbing with music and see a woman with translucent white wings and a fluttery short white dress, a hooded man covered with black, moving like a robot, another man wearing a heavy bicycle type chain around his waist, a woman in flowing Grecian robes. I am wearing long black gloves, a black corseted top and short shorts that remind me of sin and sensuality. This outfit reflects a part of myself I rarely show, my arrogance, my confidence, my unashamed desire. I quickly scan the room for Ian, and then I begin to dance. The dancing is deep and primal and wild and I am soon lost. Men and women, I dance with whoever is near me, I pour my energy over them and receive their energy. A man wearing a mask and black satin cape appears opposite me and we dance. Then he opens the cape and I see a pair of skimpy red briefs and peeking out of those brief’s is Ian’s penis, throbbing and curious. I would like to reach down my hand and liberate the creature but I keep dancing and staring into Ian’s eyes.

When the dance is over, Ian bows, and walks away, toward a table on the sidelines.

Without thinking, I grab his cape.

He turns, takes off his mask and looks at me. "Yes?" he says, all politeness.

"I’d like to watch you masturbate?" I say.

"Really? Why?" He takes a step backward.

"I think it would be erotic," I say. It is the openness of the weekend that allows me to speak so boldly, to ask so freely for such an intimate pleasure. Perhaps more intimate than love making, asking to be both witness and voyeur.

"Where?" Ian asks. I hear the tension in his voice and know he is not ready to be alone with me.

"Here," I say. "Or wherever you feel comfortable."

The music rises and a man brushes by, his body inviting me to dance. I focus on Ian.

"Very well," Ian says.

"Will you do it standing up?" I ask him.

"All right."

He stands in the corner, a vision in his black cloak and red briefs. I stand opposite him, as though I am shielding him from the rest of the room. I look him right in the eyes. I sense his hand reaching into his pants and freeing his cock. I feel the power of that moment and I mirror his posture, my legs parted, my eyes strong, my mouth closed. When he smiles at the pleasure of his touch, I smile too.

I look down and see his hand moving slowly along his cock. The movement is filled with ownership. I smooth the black gloves up my arms and watch his cock grow into his hand, harden with his touch. I want to press my hands against my own crotch, to ignite the fire that is blooming inside me. But I am still. The music builds and calls. Someone bumps into me and I strengthen my stance. I am a warrior, protecting my child. Ian masturbates with his foreskin as a sleeve, sliding it sleekly up and down the cock. At first, he looks shy and quiet. As his stroking quickens, his face lights up, then twists out of its usual control. I look into his eyes and feel the courageousness of what he is doing, the depth of what he is giving me. I breathe in the honor of being both witness and guardian for this holy act.

"I love watching you," I say. "I love your power."

He moves his hand more quickly and catches his breath. He moans and I move closer.

I spread my legs wider, ground myself more thoroughly. My voice is low yet I know he can hear me. "I love seeing your sexuality."

Ian takes a breath. His excitement is palpable and I breathe it in. His hand is lightning, fire, blizzard, storm. His face is moon, rose petal, and river.

"Ian, I want you see you cum right now," I say, stepping closer.

He never wavers, never crumples, never stops looking at me. The milky spill of his desire spurts onto the rug.

He pulls the foreskin over his relaxing penis and smiles.

"Well you’ve seen me," he says.

"Yes, I have seen you," I say. We look at each other for a few moments. "Shall I sit with you for a while?" I ask.

"No," he says. "I want to be alone."

I nod and go back into the music and into the dance. I am dancing between a woman wearing gossamer harem pants and a strand of pearls around her neck and a man wearing only a feathered mask when Ian taps my shoulder. I stop moving when I see his face.

"Are you all right?" I ask.

"I feel vulnerable," he says. "Can you sit with me?"

"Of course," I say.

I follow Ian to his room and sit on the bed, taking off only my gloves. He curls into me, a child who’s given too much, and I hold him.

What does it mean to let another person see you in your pleasure?

It means that you acknowledge and declare your own sexuality. It means you take a step into the open, out of hiding. It means that you admit desire and you admit you want more, more sex, more love, more attention, more people watching and admiring you.

It means you are brave and therefore, you might feel scared.

I see all this as I hold Ian. I stay awake, his head in my lap, my hand on his shoulder. I keep watch through the night, his guardian, his witness.

"How was the workshop?" my NY lover asks, the next night, when we talk on the phone.

"Good, it was good. I learned a lot about myself," I tell him.

"Did you meet anyone?" he asks. I know he is not jealous, just curious.

"I met a man I really liked," I say and tell him the whole story of Ian.

"I don’t get it -- how come the guy didn’t want more?"

He is asking the question I had asked many times that weekend, perhaps the types of question that Ian asks of Nancy -- Doesn’t Ian like me? What is wrong with me? Doesn’t he desire me? Doesn’t he think I’m cute or sexy? And why do I want to be around someone who rejects me?

"I don’t know," I tell him.

I can’t yet explain that what I experienced with Ian was "more." More intimate, more revealing, than necking, touching, or having sex together. I can’t yet articulate the permission and power of watching Ian lavish himself with pleasure.

I hang up the phone, take off my clothes and stand in front of the mirror. I place my hand on my clit and take a breath. I feel a surge of energy and emotion. This time, I look into my own eyes and feel the depths of my own power as my hand moves.