I witness Brandon Walsh have an affair with his professor on 90210 in 1993, and this becomes my main motivation for going to college. I enter classes my first year, seeking the handsome older gentleman, the daddy who is intelligent and well-versed in French cinema, the man who has a wife and kids but also a sunk-in leather couch, who I will fuck and who will make me forget about all the small-time college boys I see at parties, but alas, he is nowhere to be found.
I take Natural Disasters 101 as my science credit because I failed chemistry in high school, and my creepy professor says “modernity” 12 times in a one hour lecture. I meet a skinny smoker from Connecticut who is a virgin, and I make him my boyfriend. He is smart and sweet, but he doesn’t really ‘get’ French films.
I have all but given up on my Brandon Walsh affair fantasy, when I get to my third year Literary Criticism class. The Professor is there when I walk in, and he greets me. He’s tall and lanky, with dark hair and dark, wide set eyes. He is young-ish and he is handsome. I sit as far away from him as possible, in the top row of the stadium-like seating. I text my friends, “I am going to fuck my literary criticism professor.”
Weeks go by and I have not made any progress on my goal. My friends tell me to bring him a shiny red apple, but I’m 21 and frequently depressed, so instead I sleep through his class most days and am awarded a B+ for the course. I find this enraging, but when I lightly take it up with him (I was awarded A’s on most of my papers) he kindly points to the attendance policy on the syllabus.
The next semester I am doing a full-time internship in New York City. I am told by the credits counselor that I have a 2.5 credit deficit that will need to be fulfilled in order for me to graduate. She suggests I take an independent study course with a professor I like.
Even though I have spoken hardly 20 words to the professor, I decide that this independent study will spark our affair. I write him an email stating simply that I enjoyed all the books he chose for the lit criticism class, and that I’d like to take an independent study course with him. I surprise myself by ending it, “Let’s meet for drinks to discuss.” He agrees.
A couple weeks later, I visit Boston. I get ready for the evening, choosing an outfit I feel is very mature. But I drink too much with my friends before the date, to calm my nerves. In the middle of my second round of drinks with the professor, I excuse myself to go to the bathroom and throw up.
I don’t remember the conversation that night, but I do remember taking him back to my friend’s place. I helped myself to my friend’s roommate’s bedroom (he was traveling) and seduced the professor.
There was no independent study course. There were foolish, lovestruck texts, and extended drunken adventures, fueled by the feeling we were doing something borderline wrong. I didn’t find my cultured daddy to lead me through a tumultuous affair, I found a wildly smart but awkward lit teacher who loved the outdoors.
After our first, forgettable encounter, the professor came to the city to visit a friend and invited me to join. I brought a friend of mine and we all met at a bar in the village. I was wearing a flapper dress, still in my New York weird phase, and he wore a t-shirt and a baseball cap, his uniform. There were no blazers, no leather elbow patches. But I could tell that my weirdness thrilled him and that was enough for me.
We drank champagne for hours, coupling up; my friend and his friend were sitting close, too. After midnight, we acquired a room at the Gem Hotel on Houston. Two beds, four drunken lovers.
It was sweaty midsummer, and our inhibitions were low. My dress slipped off, we slipped into the shower. Soapy hands in nooks, washing, suggesting, and then towel-wrapped bodies made their way to the roof. Restricted access. It was sprawling, and for the hours slowly turning into dawn—I love a New York City night that lasts through sunrise—it was all ours. Each couple retreated to claim a corner of the roof. My friend, I’m pretty sure, ended up losing her virginity on the roof that night. But me and the professor, we were discovering each other not for the first time, but in a timeless morning. The city was sleeping and we were careless. Our friends hooking up in the corner gave us permission we didn’t know we needed.
I leaned against the perimeter and tossed my head back. He traced from my jaw, down my neck, my collar bone, my breast. He untucked my towel and timidly exposed me to the sky. His awe of my body injected me with confidence. My back arched, breasts jutting out, my hips pushing into him. He responded, pushing back into me, and we kissed, tongues circling and biting lips. The coming sun was a drug, the air was wet, and we were frenzied, fueled by the novelty of it all.
He reached down to play with my clit and found me wet. Our foreplay had lasted the length of a night into morning, and now I was ready for it. I felt him pushing against me and gasped the moment he was inside. Then we were both totally naked, fucking on the roof. We laughed at ourselves some moments, other moments our eyes were scrunched closed in pleasure. He held me with trepidation, like I was breakable, or I might vanish. Our union felt elusive, explosive. It was over too soon.
Over the next year, our affair continued. It had moments of beauty—a late night at a jazz club all shiny brass and slick ice cubes. Another night, we make a drunken parade through the sprinklers on the university football field, humid end of summer, hair soaked, mascara dripping. He writes me a poem for my birthday that I boastfully read to friends over too many drinks. I see him sometimes on campus, we exchange smiles. I go through the motions, preparing to graduate, always knowing he is around somewhere, in his classroom, in his office, and he is mine.
But I was never his, and he never attempted to claim me. I only wanted to inspire him, to awaken something in him. He never told me how he felt; there was always a gap in our communication, expansive, many times the size of our age gap. One night I text him “Are you in love with me?” And he responds, “I loves you, Porgy.” I don’t know what he means exactly, and our affair trickles off, too many things never said.
Nearly ten years later, he sends me a message, telling me he is teaching a poetry class, that he wrote another poem about me: “I’m still not much of a poet, I’m afraid, but I don’t know if I was ever attracted to anyone in quite the strong, magnetic way in which I was attracted to you, which is why I think you always hover there persistently whenever I set myself to write any kind of ‘love poem.’”
I read the poem and my not so distant youth floods me with silly emotion. It’s an early summer day and it’s hot in my room. I’m sitting at my desk in my underwear, standard work from home attire, and I draw a line from my knee to my hip with my finger. I look at myself in the mirror, thinking of how he looked at me. I’m starting to get wet thinking of him. I place my warm hand over my cunt, cupping her, then slowly stroke the center, up and down, eventually settling for gentle circles over my clit. With my other hand I massage my breast, squeeze my nipple, tease the hardened tip. I run my hand down the length of my stomach and grip my inner thigh while I continue to work my clit in slow, soft circles. I feel my orgasm rising slowly, and I have to grab onto my desk, bracing for the pleasure that is about to pulse through me. My legs flex and stiffen, my eyes close, my mouth opens. Through each wave of my orgasm, I imagine him on top of me. I melt into the chair.
I write back to him, tell him after reading the poem, I touched myself.
He asks for my address, to send me his chapbook of poems to me, saying, finally:
“You whom I loved much more than I then knew how to express.”