Climbers and Wall Plants

Transcribed from Sharpie marker on the back of a toilet stall door. 

“The first time I fucked my wife, I was scouring a library for the VHS section. The night before my friend Pete had told me a wonderful tale of his finding a porno tape in the public library’s main branch. We were both high at the time, but the story stuck with me, so the next day I skipped out of going to work, which didn’t seem like such a big deal to me back in that day, and walked downtown to the library.

“I’d never spent much time in the library before that day. I certainly didn’t care about reading before then. I didn’t care much about it afterwards, to be honest. I looked all around for the VHS section, but I couldn’t find it for the life of me. I remember not wanting to ask the librarian where it was because I felt certain that she would know right away I wanted to find the porno. Eventually I decided that the first floor was nothing but a wasteland, so I wandered up a flight of stairs. 

“Some part of me really feared that everyone in the library, which wasn’t anymore than the librarians and a few bums, knew that I wanted to find pornography. Kids are so self-conscious. Why do you think that is? Nowadays, I could proudly walk into a video store and buy porn. Well, that’s if there were any video stores left, anyway. Where was I? Right, the second floor.

“What’s interesting about the second floor is that it actually had all of the VHS tapes. I didn’t get to them that day, though. You see, between the top of the stairs and the VHS section was a long row of shelves stocked with nonfiction books. Somewhere in that mess, I got all turned around and flustered. At that point I just wanted to get the hell out of the library, but then I ran into her. Literally, I think I nearly knocked Frankie right off her feet. I’ll never forget what happened next. Never.

“She puffed herself up, like some kind of small, angry animal, and said, ‘Excuse me.’ ‘I’m so sorry,’ I told her, ‘I didn’t see you there.’ She made a point of looking back and forth down the aisle before saying, ‘But I’m the only one here.’ ‘I know, I’m sorry, I just wasn’t paying attention,’ I told her. ‘It’s fine,’ she said.

“She shrugged her shoulders, and her red hair kind of tumbled around them. I thought that I was staring at some kind of angel. No, really, I thought that. She was just about as tall as me, but most of her height came from her legs, which I remember were all covered up in these tight jeans that got all baggy at the bottom. People wore them like that back then, it was really just the strangest thing. Her shirt fit her loosely, and her long arms were spotted all over with freckles. No, she wasn’t particularly thin, I don’t think she ever has been, but if I made note of the swell of her belly, or the plumpness of her cheek, I did so only in a positive way. I really became infatuated with her right at that moment, which makes all the rest of this story much more and less sensical when you boil it down.

“‘What are you staring at?’ she asked me. Or something like that, anyway. ‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘You’re looking at me, aren’t you?’ She laughed then, and I nearly fainted. ‘Well, a little,’ I said, but in a good way, I promise. She grinned, and I was reminded of my dead grandmother’s description of devil grins that naughty children used to give her when she ran a daycare. I had a feeling then, a premonition, that this girl would take me many places.

“‘What does staring in a good way mean?’ ‘It means that I think you’re pretty,’ I told her. ‘Why is that good?’ she said. Now as I’m sure you can imagine, that one stopped me dead in my tracks. I opened my mouth but closed it right back up. Her devil grin grew with each passing second. Then she laughed so honestly that it made me want to cry. Once she’d gotten control of herself she said, ‘I’m only joking.’ I didn’t think that it was a very funny joke. I swear back then I had no sense of humor, she must have given that to me, along with everything else. 

“Suddenly, her features seemed to align themselves in a way conducive to serious speech. That look felt at once foreign and utterly familiar. I could feel a certain tingle ripple through my body, letting me know that something truly unique was about to occur, the sort of once-in-a-lifetime event that shapes generations and generations of human existence. I felt that Frankie, though I didn’t even know her name at that point, was about to reveal to me the secrets of the universe. Then she leaned in and said to me, in a voice that I recognized as her very first whisper, in spite of our surroundings, ‘Hey, do you want to fuck?’ 

“Of course I was surprised. Wouldn’t you be? I’m not even sure that surprised is the right word. No, disappointed isn’t it either. Her question didn’t disrupt my intuition about the answers to the universe’s great mysteries coming to fruition. In a way I felt that she had summarized everything perfectly with that question. Yes, I certainly was naive, but I still am, if I’m going to be honest with you. 

“I don’t remember what thought process I went through. I probably wondered why this stranger wanted to have sex with me. I might have guessed at her name. I made a brief consideration of our immediate surroundings. I think what came out of my mouth was something along the lines of, ‘Here?’ She only nodded and grabbed my hand in response. I could feel my body start to respond to her offer, her touch. I tried my best to contain myself, surely. The logical parts of my brain must have tried to communicate with me that I should say no. But in the end, I agreed, and her delight became apparent. 

“I followed her with my senses still dimmed. I don’t remember passing a single librarian along our entire walk across to the other side of the second floor. I do, however, remember seeing the video section and wondering whether or not I had simply become the porno Pete had described to me. Hadn’t the actors fucked in a public place? Did its title contain a play-on-words about libraries? Or was it just about books? 

“Frankie and I came to the back of the reference section. She laid on the ground and looked up into my eyes. There I could see a hint of something, a flash, maybe, daring me, taunting, saying, You won’t do this. I’d like to tell you that I made some form of protest, or at least that I asked for us to go into a bathroom stall, but instead I unzipped my pants and moved down next to her. I guess that in the end it worked out, huh? I mean, look at us now. All things considered, I’d say we’re doing pretty well. 

“I know you aren’t going to ask. I wouldn’t either, if I were you being told this story. And, really, it isn’t all that important anyway, is it? We did what we did, and a while later we sat with our backs to the wall panting slightly. No, it wasn’t my first time. And it wasn’t hers, either, though I didn’t know that at the time. I could have guessed, though, if I’d spent any time considering it. 

“I was staring at the way the light made the sweat on her face shine when she said, ‘Your dick is still out.’ I made a rush, suddenly all embarrassed, to get myself zipped up again. As she chuckled, I could feel my cheeks getting all hot, but then I noticed her underwear on the floor. I probably got this smug little grin on my face then, you know? Because I thought I was about to get one over on Frankie. Because I didn’t know yet that doing so was impossible. I said to her, ‘What about your panties right there?’ ‘What?’ she said. ‘Oh, those, yeah. I can’t decide whether to leave them with the dictionaries or the encyclopedias.’ 

“I don’t remember what I did then. I might have sighed, or maybe I said something, my idea of a joke possibly, or I could have just slid further down the wall and smiled. At some point Frankie made her decision and left the panties wedged between a tome of town history and an anthology of 19th century American poetry. Then she smoothed her shirt, looked down at me, and said, ‘Well, it’s been fun, but I should probably be leaving.’

“My brain didn’t have time to develop a response to that before she started to walk off towards the stairs. I got to my feet and tried my best to chase after her. I remember the first few steps being difficult, as it always is when you try to walk right after fucking. I stumbled around and got a strange look from the librarian on the second floor help desk, but when I finally reached the stairs, I could see the girl already halfway out the door. 

“You know, I asked myself that very same question right then and there. I thought, What am I going to do? I knew that I wouldn’t make it down the stairs in time to get to her before she left the building, and I wasn’t sure if she had a car or a ride of some sort, or if I’d be able to find her anyway once she’d left. I considered just letting her walk away. At the end of the day, that wouldn’t have been such a crazy decision. Usually you don’t stay connected to the people you hook up with on a whim. Instead of doing that, though, I screamed, ‘Hey, wait,’ at the top of my lungs. 

“The entire library turned in my direction. I went red straight to my toes, let me tell you. But, she stopped alright. So I ran down the rest of the stairs and stood with her in that little room that’s half inside and half outside. What do they call that? Anyway, I stood there with her, me not knowing what to say and her looking a little bit baffled. Frankie was the first one to talk, naturally.

“‘Did you have something you wanted to say to me?’ She looked at me, and there was a certain glow in her eyes — an honest glow, if that’s a way that you can describe someone’s eyes. I would have trusted her with my life right there that very second. I told her, ‘Actually, I was wondering if you had a phone number or something so I could maybe call you.’ 

“What did she do? She smiled. It was the shy, almost secretive smile that I didn’t recognize then, but that I would. That smile really changed my life, time and time again. No, she didn’t give me her phone number. That would have been crazy in that moment. She didn’t even know my name. I was just some stranger who she’d fucked in the library for reasons that were her very own. She just let me walk her home. And, you know, that was enough.”