SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Claire Polders (Read author interview) March 21, 2016

Art by Marion Speake

That summer after Jan-Willem left me, I was after Jasper, a twenty-one-year-old surf instructor in Scheveningen who was always in the company of a tittering girl who claimed to be his girlfriend but wasn’t. Not spiritually at least, or so I told myself. She was just somebody with tight skin who happened to be dulling his solitude until a yet unnamed future would claim him.

After days of watching his Herculean body ride the North Sea waves, I decided Jasper was my boy. I hired him as my private teacher and humiliated myself into a tight rubber suit. The feel of the cold, wet material against my skin was disgusting. But if Jan-Willem could do it, so could I.

Jan-Willem would have died laughing if he’d seen me, climbing on that waxed board, again and again, my throat raw from salt, my breasts flat as pancakes. How fantastic I was at falling.

“Make gravity work for you,” Jasper said. “Gravity is what keeps us balanced.”

On shore, his hangout was the surf enclave where SAVE WATER, SHOWER WITH A FRIEND was stenciled on the communal bathroom door. I dreaded the enclave. Tanned, athletic bodies everywhere, a cornucopia of youth. And Jasper’s fake girlfriend, of course, watching him as though he were a diamond ring.

I can’t say the sea didn’t bite. Or the waves didn’t beat me up. Still, I was determined to make my lessons erotically satisfying. If Jan-Willem could do it, so could I.

After a week, I saw progress. A hand left longer than usual on my back, a remark about me being fit for my age, etcetera. Not that Jasper was coming on to me, his arrogance wouldn’t allow it, but his rapport suggested bigger rewards awaited me if I kept money flowing his way.

One evening, I followed him into the enclave’s bar and ordered martinis. His fake girlfriend said he didn’t like cocktails and only drank beer. She was wrong. When I massaged his shoulders, she didn’t say anything.

I made a move the next day near the showers. “Come over and I’ll cook up some mussels,” I told my Herculean boy and gave him directions to my villa, leaving out that it belonged to Jan-Willem.

Jasper zipped open his wetsuit and rolled it down to his hips, exposing his six-pack bounty. “Sorry, got plans.”

“We don’t have to eat mussels,” I said.

It was pretty obvious what I was implying—I’d never felt so free, so light—yet he looked at me suspiciously, seeking confirmation. So I gave it to him, surprising us both: I reached forward and cupped his balls inside the wet rubber. Jasper would have pulled back if he hadn’t been leaning against the wall. The confusion on his face was priceless. Anxiety, pride, and embarrassment, but above all, excitement: he got hard. Was it really that easy?

Into my car he went. I drove us up to my realm in Wassenaar, where the large house waited as quiet as a mountain cave. As soon as we closed the door to the world, we had sex, wild and unformed like fire. If Jan-Willem could do it, so could I.

After that night, the surf lessons stopped. Instead, Jasper came up to the villa whenever he felt like it, which was almost every day at first, then less and less, until I barely saw him more than once a week. It was September and he’d gone back to school, had homework.

I didn’t protest. Complaining about the frequency of his visits would only put a stop to our modus vivendi immediately, and truth was, I couldn’t bear that. I’d taken a liking to the boy who made my orgasms his business as though they made him profit.

So I bought him a new surfboard, new flippers, and this did the trick for a while until he coughed up the real problem: his fake girlfriend had moved in with him and our arrangement weighed on his conscience—it had to stop.

But you don’t care about her, I wanted to say. You never have.

Negotiating, I asked him for one last fuck, for summer’s sake, and he generously agreed. That night, I was careful to leave the curtains open, and the moment I had him nude in my living room, on my nubuck leather couch, his fake girlfriend showed up on the front lawn (what timing!) and spied us through the bay window.

I nudged Jasper, and when he looked up, she ran off. Believe me, I knew how she felt. But this time, I was the victor. With Jasper in my arms, I was prepared to feel triumphant. So why this wrenching in my gut? I felt miserable and mortified, like the biggest bitch in the universe. Jasper must have sensed it, too, because he pulled out of me as though I suddenly repulsed him. He rushed to the open window and yelled after her, saying who knows what. Well, I know, but I don’t want to tell you because he had nothing good to say about me.

What followed was also unscripted. Jasper and I were supposed to collectively laugh at the fake girlfriend and start loving each other for real. He was supposed to invite me to his estate in Sicily to escape the emotional mess. The fake girlfriend, on her cold side of the world, was supposed to reclaim herself in the meantime and become truculent. She was supposed to fight her ex’s lawyer, stay in her ex’s house, and seduce some other woman’s man. To staunch her bleeding heart. Prove her sexual power. Feel what it was like to be on the other side.

If I could do it, so could she.

How was I supposed to know she would drown herself instead?

Gravity isn’t what keeps us balanced, Jasper, it’s what keeps us from flying off the earth.

About the Author

Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels. Her short prose in English has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House (Flash Fidelity), The Offing, Hobart, Word Riot, Superstition Review, Folio, matchbook, Fiction Southeast, Atticus Review, Literary Orphans, Minor Literature[s], and elsewhere. Recently, she completed her first novel in English. You may find her on Twitter at @clairepolders.

About the Artist

Marion Speake is a Artist from the beautiful beaches of Cocoa Beach FL. She is currently in school working on her BFA in painting through multiple intuitions. She specializes in vivid and vibrant pop color paintings and bringing recycling to the art world. Almost every canvas she paints on is recycled. Her work is for sale through her Etsy shop  and her website Livefreeartstudio.com. She is an emerging artist trying to establish herself in the wide world of art.

This story appeared in Issue Fifty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-One

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