Laura-Blaise McDowell

4am Virgins

As soon as it turns night time, out comes the darker side of life, you know what I mean? There’s this thing that happens and it doesn’t seem to know me. I certainly don’t know it. We’re down by the grave yard. I know. Teens lurking with the dead, October folly, all those scary movies and newspaper headlines rolled up right into one big flaming pumpkin, our silhouettes carved in its flesh. And yet here we are. There are six of us, an even number, don’t you know.

I’m wishing I wasn’t wearing this fucking scarf. Cara’s looking gorgeous with her slender neck angled away from the moon and I’m thinking that maybe I’d look gorgeous if I too revealed my neck and maybe if someone thought I was gorgeous, then I would feel something back. Because at night time when this dark side comes out in everyone it doesn’t happen for me. When Viv looks at Cara and you can see the feast in his eyes, when Cherry looks at Chris and you can just see her swelling. Those feelings that I see spilling out of them, it just doesn’t happen for me. There isn’t even a trickle. I can see that Cara’s beautiful, that Cherry has the nicest auburn hair anyone’s ever seen, I can tell that Viv has great arms and it wouldn’t feel bad to have them wrapped around you, that Chris has these happy eyes that could make a statue smile, and Dean is just about the coolest looking human being there is. But when I realised that my thoughts should maybe go a little further, and I tried, nothing. I wasn’t interested, and I’m not interested and that’s just the way of it. And usually, you know, I don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with it, with me. You forget something isn’t there when you don’t miss it, right? Especially when it’s not something you’ve ever had. I’ve never had an X­box, for example. I’ve never wanted an X­box, and therefore when I’m chilling out at home, the lack of X­box doesn’t even enter my head and if I see a picture of an X­box online, it doesn’t make me feel anything, I just scroll on by.

But on nights like these, when we’re hanging around, getting drunk, and everyone starts to look thirsty for each other, I’m still just thirsty for whatever we’re drinking. And when Dean tries to put his hand on my waist, it just feels like when my cat sits on my back when I’m doing homework, except less comforting. When Fidget sits on me I know it’s ’cause he likes the heat and he’s my buddy. When Dean touches me it’s a different heat and we don’t feel like friends anymore. Cara told me that when Viv touches her she feels little sparks, like you do when you hold a sparkler and sign the night air, but the sparks are everywhere, all over her, even all up inside her. I didn’t know what to tell her then, ’cause I don’t feel that way, ever. When I kiss people, it’s just tongues and teeth and loud music. There’s no real feeling, and I’ve no inkling to do it again, you know?

Whenever anyone’s tried to get me to go further I bail, because I can fake caring about kissing, I can deal with hands and mouths but I don’t care to try and fake anything more than that. When I tried to explain to Cherry once she used the end of her makeup brush to deposit me to the left of the mirror, and said in my God, the worst tone possible, ‘Babe, you just haven’t found the right guy yet.’ She looked herself, not me, in the eye as she said it and raised one eyebrow, taking my confession as evidence that she was just so much more mature than I was. Just because she fucks Chris behind the chapel every night and ‘loooves it.’ And that’s her prerogative you know? I’m not getting shitty because she enjoys sex. I’m getting shitty because she thinks I just don’t know ‘how’ to yet. There are no characters in any of the books I’ve read, any shows I’ve seen, who point blank don’t enjoy sex. Who don’t have romantic feelings, period. So I don’t know if maybe Cherry’s right, and the right person will just set me alight one day but I’m kind of hoping they don’t, just so she can be wrong in that fucking bathroom mirror with gum in the cracks.

But for now, we’re all down by the grave yard, drinking, and Dean’s hand is on my waist. Again. And he wants to kiss me. Again. And so we do. Again. Because how weird would it be if I were to hold off this time, when I’ve let him so many times before and as far as anyone else is concerned, we are fast becoming a ‘thing.’ Dean told Viv who went straight to Cara, that he’d stopped kissing other girls, that he was focussing on me. And I don’t know what to tell him. ‘Sorry man, I feel so sexual attraction to you. Your tongue feels like a small fish flopping on the shore of my disinterested mouth.’ Probably wouldn’t go down too well. We’re sitting in the old part of the yard, where none of us will know any of the people buried there, ’cause there’s this kid from our school, Barney, buried in the newer bit and we don’t want to disturb him, you know? A statue of the Virgin looms over us, illuminated by the streetlight over the wall. Chris and Cherry disappear for a while and when they come back, all her lipstick is gone. We’re all laughing at them and with each other and for a while I forget about Dean’s hand on me, till he leans in and whispers, ‘Now it’s our turn, babe.’ I move away from him a little and lean back against the gravestone. I shake my head and shrug apologetically, although I know I’ve nothing to apologize for. His stupid brow creases a little and he looks around to see if the others saw, but they’re not looking. ‘What?’ he mouths. I shrug again. He moves closer and whispers ‘What’s wrong, babe? It’s been weeks?’ He means since he started ‘focussing’ on me, and now it’s time for me to give in, right? Like a good little girl. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a fuck what my friends do, that’s their business and I’ll remind anyone who doubts their character because of it. But it’s just not what I want to do. I don’t feel it. I don’t need it. It’s not me. There are plenty of other things that I enjoy and that get me excited. Other bodies just isn’t one of them. But he doesn’t get it and I’ve finished my vodka and I’m feeling stupid so I move closer to him again and I say in my head that I’ll try it, that maybe then I’ll feel it and I’ll feel like the others and it will be okay. So I relax myself and I lean in and kiss his neck underneath his long hair and I can feel his face smiling as he goes to get up and take my hand.

And when eventually I get down, down deep on the ground with him he calls my name into my hair and I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything or that I’ve changed, I feel like it hasn’t happened, and it hasn’t, as far as I’m concerned and this doesn’t feel like anything, God, I’m almost angry with myself, looking up at the sky. And when we get up, he looks pleased as he breathes heavily through his open mouth and looks at me like he loves me and I feel sick. I didn’t expect to do this tonight, I mean, I’d thought about it and decided never. Not till I felt it, you know? Not till we were more than ghosts cut out in a grave yard with Mary praying for our dirty little souls all strewn on the gravel. Not till we were more than virgins at four AM, playing with what we thought was the truth and the meaning behind God. Sex. Love. Could this be it? It isn’t though, I know it. He’s the coolest, but I don’t feel a thing and I’m sober now.

‘Do you wanna, um, go out, for real?’ he says, shrugging his leather jacket on and wiping my hair from my cheeks. ‘I could take you out, y’know? I’ll take you some place nicer than this anyway…’ And how can I say no, when he’s standing there, looking like a motorcycle sunset and I’ll be the envy of all the girls in school and if I did say no I’d have to give the reason, right? So I smile, but only with my mouth. I feel sticky like a squashed insect and take his hand, back to the others.


Laura-Blaise McDowell a 23 years old human from Rathgar, Dublin. Having completed her undergraduate degree in English and Sociology in UCD, she has returned to its hallowed halls this year to pursue a Masters degree in Creative Writing. She was in a music video as an infant and is unlikely to reach such lofty heights again.