Larry is gawking at my television set as Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are unloading their pistols at the screen. Needless to say, we’re not eating burgers. To be honest, Larry looks pretty green.

“This is so violent,” he says. “It’s horrible.”

Damn. I told Jason it was too violent.

“And they keep swearing,” Larry adds. “Like every other word.”

Oh my god, who is this guy? My mother?

“You really like this movie, Tasha?” Larry says in amazement.

“Um, kind of,” I say.

He didn’t like Fargo much either. Again, too violent. He had to leave the room during the woodchipper scene, presumably to vomit or something.

We’ve got plenty of movies that aren’t violent, but I kind of feel like there’s not point in trying anymore. Larry isn’t going to like anything I show him. This is just painful.

My cell phone chirps and I look at the text message, which is from Jason: “Having fun?”

I text back: “PF too violent.”

Jason writes back: “Bullshit.”

I giggle and Larry looks at me in surprise. I quickly put my phone down next to me on the couch.

I really want to make this work with Larry, but I feel like I’m at a loss. We don’t seem to connect even on any of the most basic things. I guess this is why such a decent guy is still single in his mid thirties. Obviously other women had the same issue as I did.

I guess this means I need to break up with Larry.

“Would you mind if I shut this movie off?” Larry asks me, a pained expression on his face.

“Um, sure,” I said. Except once the TV is off, there’s going to be nothing left to do but break up with him.

I turn the television off with the remote control. Larry turns to face me and wipes his palms on his slacks. “Tasha,” he says, and for a second I’m sure he’s going to tell me he wants to break up with me, which would have been a huge relief, but then he kind of does the opposite when he leans forward and kisses me. I’m shocked. Someone getting his face blown off in the back of a car doesn’t seem like a good segue into kissing.

A few minutes later, we’re doing slightly more than kissing—we’re actually making out on my couch. And I have to admit, this is not entirely unpleasant. Larry is not a bad kisser. He’s not amazing or anything, but he’s okay at it.

And I like that he’s respectful. He doesn’t push me to do anything I don’t feel comfortable with. I know I’m not going to have sex with him today, although I suspect that would also be a not unpleasant experience.


Every woman has a secret number: the number of men she’s had sex with.

Very few people know my secret number. Actually, the only person who aside from myself who knows it is Jason. I first revealed it to him a few years after we reconnected in New York and we were out drinking at a bar one night and had The Sex Talk. Not that Jason and I never talked about sex before, but this was probably the most explicit conversation we’d ever had.

I had just broken up with another guy—a musician with a pierced ear and too many tattoos. As I had my fourth whiskey shot of the evening, I moaned to Jason, “I can’t believe I slept with that asshole. I feel like I’ve slept with half the guys in Manhattan.”

Jason laughed. “Half? Are you sure it’s not more like three quarters?”

“Shut-up,” I slurred. “It’s not that bad.”

“Is that so?” he retorted. “Well, how many have there been?”

“Hey, that’s personal!” I cried. Then I lowered my voice. “Okay, I’ll tell you if you tell me.”

“That seems fair.”

I took a deep breath. “Eighteen.”

Jason let out a low whistle.

“Oh, stop it,” I said, slugging him in the arm. “Okay, now you tell me.”

That’s when Jason’s face colored slightly and something terrible occurred to me. “Oh my god,” I said. “You can have sex, right?”

“Tasha!” He colored even deeper. “Of course I can.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I just… you know, since you’re paralyzed and all… I mean, I wasn’t sure if you could even feel your… you know…” Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to say “penis” even though I was drunk and he was at least a little drunk.

“Well, I can’t,” he said.

I gasped, “You can’t?”

“It’s not a big deal,” Jason said quickly. “I mean, it’s always been that way for me, at least as long as I can remember. Like you said, I’m paralyzed so… you know, I can’t feel anything from the mid-chest down.” He took a drink of his beer. “To be honest, when I was twelve years old, my pediatrician told my mom I wouldn’t be able to have sex. Ever. You know much that sucked? Twelve year olds are totally obsessed with sex. I spent most of my teenage years thinking I was some kind of freak who’d never be able to have sex. I didn’t even want to think about dating because it felt like there was no point.”

“But you said you can, right?” I wanted reassurance.

He nodded. “I went to a urologist when I turned eighteen and he introduced me to… you know…”



“Oh.” I always thought of Viagra as something that old men took. It was weird to think of someone young like Jason needing it. “So you’re avoiding the question. How many girls have you boinked?”


“You know what I mean. Fucked. Banged. Shtupped. Shagged. Whatever.”

“Shagged? Are you Austin Powers?”

“Stop stalling. Spill it, Fox.”

He hesitated. “Okay, two.”

Two?” I had slept with nine times as many people as Jason had? That made me feel like the whore of Babylon.

“Well,” he said. “It’s different for me. I mean, you’re a hot girl and I’m…. definitely not a hot girl. It’s a little harder for me to find women to have sex with.”

The idea of not being able to find someone to have sex with seemed so foreign to me. But I guessed he was right.

“Anyway,” he added. “Considering I don’t feel much, sex isn’t that incredibly important to me.” Then he grinned: “Actually, what I really like is eating girls out.”

I never admitted to Jason how much that last admission intrigued me. Especially since with all the guys I had slept with, I had never been on the receiving end of really great oral sex.

I’d like to say that after that night, I made an effort to sleep with fewer guys. But that didn’t happen. Things only started to taper off after I turned thirty. I think Jason has been keeping track though, so like I said, he knows my secret number. He’s a little bit more close-lipped, so I’m not entirely sure about his anymore. I can ballpark it though.

I’m fairly sure I’m going to end up sleeping with Larry. I can see it happening and I know he’ll call me the next day, and he probably isn’t ravaged by STDs or anything. Considering most of my relationships were a crazy emotional rollercoaster, it’s kind of a relief to be with Boring Larry.


Over the next several months, Larry and I continue dating. Sometimes he’s kind of maddening, but there are other times when he’s incredibly sweet. Just when I’d feel like I couldn’t stand it another second, he’d do something to redeem himself and make me think I was lucky to have him.

After we’ve been dating for a month, Larry and I are making out on his couch (he has an incredible apartment by Central Park, which is another plus for him). It’s that chaste, sweet making out, where neither of us are getting hot or sweaty. He pulls away from me and says, “Tasha, will you…?”

I’m sure he’s going to say that he wants me to have sex with him, but then he says, “Will you be my girlfriend?”

Wow. This is so… high school. I can’t remember the last time anyone explicitly asked me to be his girlfriend. Generally you just kind of dated more and more often until it gradually became exclusive, and you had to decide if it would be too forward to change your Facebook status. But I have to admit, there’s something sweet about the way he asked.

“Okay,” I say and his face lights up.

“Is there anything I can do?” he asks. “To be a good boyfriend?”

Again, I’m not sure if I want to kiss him or shake him. Instead, I say, “Well, maybe you could be a little more romantic.”

“Okay,” he says. “Um, what do you mean?”

“Like, you could buy me flowers.”

“Flowers, right,” Larry says, as if making a note of it in his head. Actually, I’m almost expecting him to whip out his laptop and start taking notes. “Flowers for Tasha.”

All of a sudden, I’m scared he’s going to go totally overboard with flowers, so I quickly say, “But not too often.”

“Oh, okay.”

“The important thing is to be spontaneous,” I say. “Like you know the movie Say Anything?” Of course he doesn’t. “Well, anyway, there’s a scene in the movie where John Cusack stands outside his girlfriend’s window, holding up a boom box, playing a Peter Gabriel song. It’s really romantic.”

Larry gives me that blank look again. “Peter Gabriel?”

Guh! It gets really frustrating sometimes that Larry doesn’t know absolutely anything about pop culture. It’s like talking to either a small child or a really old person. Although I’m pretty sure that a small child would know more than Larry. I was at the bank yesterday and I heard a toddler singing Lady Gaga.

“Peter Gabriel is a singer,” I say.

Larry thinks for a minute. “But you’re on the tenth floor. I don’t think you’d even be able to hear a boom box from the street.”

“You’re missing the point,” I say through my teeth. “The point is that it was spontaneous, sweet, and romantic.”

“Oh, okay,” Larry says. Then he kisses me again, “I just want to make you happy, Tasha.”


And for the record, we do end up having sex after that, because how could I not? And it’s totally satisfactory and not bad at all.


I confess that Jason’s text messages to me throughout the day are what keeps me sane sometimes. Sometimes they’re funny, but often they’re a reminder that he’s even more miserable at his job than I am. He hates being an investment banker. I sort of like being a teacher, but as far as I can tell, there’s absolutely nothing he likes about his job.

He text messages me often on Monday evenings. I think those are the worst days for him, because he works a lot during the weekend, so he returns to work on Monday feeling entirely unrefreshed and depressed. Somehow Monday is even more painful after working all weekend.

He texts me tonight at close to 10PM: “U free?”

I text him back: “Sure. Drinks?”

He replies: “ASAP.”

We meet at our usual late night place, a bar near my apartment that has one step to enter, but Jason in his wheelchair can get over one step without a problem. I sometimes get the feeling that everyone in the bar thinks we’re a couple because we come here so much together. Somehow this doesn’t bother me at all.

When Jason arrives, he looks very rumpled and tired. His hair is kind of sticking up and his navy blue shirt looks like he slept in it last night. He’s slouched a bit in his wheelchair, and it seems like the effort of wheeling himself across the room is practically killing him. When he gets to our table, I slide over the Corona I ordered for him.

“Thanks, Tasha,” he says, throwing the lime on the table and taking a long swig. His green eyes seem glazed and are lined by purple circles underneath. “I swear to god, I don’t think I can stand another minute.” He loosens his tie then buries his face in his hands, taking deep breaths.

“What happened?” I ask gently.

“My new boss is a slavedriver,” he replies. “And what’s worse, he’s so fucking patronizing. You know what he said to me today? He said that he knows I can’t work as hard because of my disability, but he can’t allow me to compromise our clients’ accounts.” He takes another swig of beer. “Can you fucking believe that horseshit? I worked all fucking weekend and he was out on a boat trip with his family.”

I’m quiet as he shakes his head. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I’ve been doing this for ten years and I feel like I’m fucking fifty years old.”

“So quit,” I say. “You’ve already made a bundle of money.”

“I probably should,” he says. “Melissa says it’s worth it to hang on till we’re forty, while we still have the energy to keep up this pace.”

I feel irked by his use of the word “we” to refer to him and Melissa, as if they’ve already planned out their lives together. “That’s ridiculous,” I say. “You’re miserable. I mean, what if you died tomorrow? You should do something you really love.”

Jason is nodding, but he seems unsure of himself.

“What would you do?” I ask him. “If you weren’t doing banking anymore?”

“I’d get a PhD in computer science,” he says without even hesitating.

I smile. “You’ve thought about this, I see.”

He blushes. “A little. I was a computer major in college and I did my senior thesis on artificial intelligence. I’d really love to do more research on that. That was probably the happiest time in my life, at least intellectually. But I can’t even imagine going back to a shit grad school salary.”

“Well, it’s not like you have huge expenses,” I point out.

“Not right now,” he says. “But in the future… I mean, weddings are expensive.”

My stomach sinks. I’ve never heard him mention the idea of a wedding before. “Are you and Melissa…?”

“Not right now,” he says quickly. “But maybe in the future… I mean, she’s got this idea about having a hundred thousand dollar wedding and inviting everyone on the planet.”

“That doesn’t sound like something you’d want.”

He shrugs. “Well, no. But I don’t want her to be deprived of something she’s always dreamed about.”

“In that case,” I say, “it looks like you’re stuck.”

Jason stares down at his drink, looking miserable. Jason always loved school so much, it’s kind of crazy that he should be so unhappy in a job and have his talents wasted making more money for rich people. I think something he worries about but doesn’t want to say is that he worries at some point his body will give out on him, and he won’t be able to hold a job, so he wants to make money while he still can.


I’m almost as interested in Jason and Melissa’s relationship as I am in my own. Jason flies out to Melissa’s house for Thanksgiving this year and then the two of them go down to Florida to see his parents for Christmas. In my book, that’s a major commitment evolving. By my count, they’ve been dating well over a year and I know Melissa is in her mid-thirties, so I doubt she wants to mess around.

In other words, I think Melissa might be the one. I think Jason’s going to marry her.

When I think about Jason and Melissa getting married, a cold sweat breaks out in the back of my neck. Jason and I still hang out a lot, but I don’t think that will continue when they get married. If his wife doesn’t even like me, I can’t see us spending a lot of time together. I mean, what woman would let her husband spend tons of time with a cute single girl? He’s going to get married and I’m going to get left behind.

The only thing I can hope is that if things work out between me and Larry, maybe we’ll get married too. Then we’ll just be two married couples and we could hang out, and our kids could play together or something cutesy like that.

Yet, no matter what context I put it in, the thought of Jason getting married just makes me feel incredibly sad.

Several months after Larry and I have started dating, I’m shopping at Macy’s and I happen to see Melissa standing in front of the jewelry counter. She’s wearing her skirt suit from work without so much as a stray hair out of place in her perfectly shiny chignon. It occurs to me that there have been very few times that I’ve seen Melissa when she wasn’t wearing a suit. Well, she does look pretty good in it.

I get a little closer to Melissa and I realize, to my horror, that she’s looking at rings. Engagement rings. She’s completely absorbed in the display case, her brown eyes appraising each ring with that cool, calculated look that I’ve come to associate with Melissa. At one point, she holds out her left hand and examines it critically.

That could only mean one thing. She’s expecting that Jason will pop the question in the near future. And if that’s the case, I’ve got to make nice to Melissa in order to keep my best friend. I’ve got to swallow my pride and do whatever it takes.

“Hi, Melissa!” I say brightly, alerting her to my presence.

Melissa jumps slightly and jerks away from the jewelry display, looking slightly guilty. “Oh, uh, hi Tasha.”

“It’s so great to see you,” I say with forced enthusiasm. “We hardly ever see each other, just the two of us.”

Melissa’s smile is just as forced as mine. “Yes.” She glances at the rings again. “I was just, you know, browsing.”

“Of course,” I say. As if I didn’t realize exactly what she was doing. I’m a woman, after all.

Melissa pats her shiny brown hair. “Well, Tasha, I should probably get going…”

“Why don’t we go up to the food court and get some coffee?” I suggest cheerfully, despite the fact that I’d rather slit my wrists than hang out with Melissa. I’m doing this for Jason. “Or maybe some smoothies?”

Melissa’s nose crinkles up, as if she just smelled something distasteful. “I, uh, I don’t think I can.”

Okay, so she isn’t even going to make an effort.

“Listen, Melissa,” I say, taking a different approach. “I know we both care about Jason a lot, and I think it’s in his best interest for us to… to try to be friends.”

Melissa looks at me, her eyes flashing. “You really want to act in Jason’s best interests, Tasha?”

Oh god, what the hell did I unleash here? I wish I had just left Melissa to her fake ring shopping. “Um, yeah. I do.”

“If you want to do what’s best for Jason,” she says, “you can get the hell out of his life. Permanently.”

I stare at her, gobsmacked. “What? How is that in his best interest?”

She folds her arms across her chest. “Why do you think he’s 32 and not married yet? You’ve single-handedly wrecked every relationship he’s ever been in.”

My stomach sinks. “That is so not true.”

“It’s one hundred percent true,” Melissa says. “What woman wants to get involved with a guy who’s clearly deeply in love with another woman?”

“That’s not…” I clear my throat. “Jason isn’t in love with me. He’s like my brother.”

“Yeah, well, he doesn’t think of you like a sister, believe me,” Melissa says. “I mean, if you want to date him, fine. But don’t string him along, torturing him, for twenty years. That’s just selfish.”

“I would never do anything to hurt Jason,” I insist.

Melissa shakes her head. “I can’t tell if you’re lying or just oblivious. Honestly, Tasha. You realize how much time he spends talking about you, texting you, and calling you? You think I want to be with a guy who would ditch me at a moment’s notice if you asked him to come over?”

“He wouldn’t…” Except I know he would. He has.

“I’ll be civil to you for his sake,” Melissa says. “But don’t ever act like the two of us can be friends.” She tugs her coat closed. “Goodbye, Tasha.”

With those words, Melissa spins on her heels and leaves me standing awkwardly at the jewelry counter.

Between you and me, I know Melissa’s out of her mind. She’s jealous and that’s making her see things that aren’t there. I absolutely know Jason isn’t in love with me. That’s totally crazy. We’re just really good friends.

But something about her words resonate with me. I don’t want to be responsible for ruining Jason’s relationship. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I do need to back off a bit.

To be continued....