| Catapult Alumni
Fiction Excerpt from ‘Old Enough’
This novel excerpt was written by Haley Jakobson in Lynn Steger Strong’s 12-Month Novel Generator.
When Nova fucked me for the first time, I saw stars. She had those little glow in the dark stars taped to her ceiling, which felt particularly uncool for someone who was, well, incredibly cool. When she got on top of me and slipped one, two, and then three fingers inside of me I grabbed the back of her head and pressed her face down into my neck. I stared at those little green stars until her fingers felt so good I had to squeeze my eyes shut. When I came, the first time, she got close to my pussy and said “good girl,” her voice low and hoarse from singing all night.
“Again?” She asked, although she knew the question was rhetorical. I came again within seconds, this time with her tongue pressing against my clit and my hips bucking into her mouth.
I still hadn’t opened her DM. It gave me heart palpitations every time I checked my messages. Izzie sent me memes on a near-constant basis, and lately she had been flooding my inbox with inspo for floral arrangements, and every time I swiped to my messages Nova’s handle stared me in the face. If I tapped it, she would know I had seen it. Which would sort of be a power move, to read it and not respond, but I had a feeling if I opened it, I would respond. And after talking to Candace, I really couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to respond, or at least my brain didn’t. My body was saying otherwise.
Having sex with Nova had been exhausting, though. In part because there really was no definitive end point to having sex, so it usually lasted all night, but mostly because every time we fucked I was reminded of how every moment of my life, since puberty, had been spent making myself desirable for a man. When I finally stopped thinking, for one fucking second, about men, my body basically gave out. With Nova, my body was no longer the mannequin I had made myself for men. And because of that, I sort of didn’t know what to do with it. I felt like an amorphous blob floating in an ether of a non-man filled existence, unsure of how to even be a sexual person if a man wasn’t on the receiving end of my orgasm. Could I flirt the way I did with guys? Could I make the same sounds in bed, say the same dirty things? Were those even my fucking sounds, or were they sounds I learned in porn? And if I did make those sounds, say those things, would Nova just think I was the ultimate anti-feminist?
It turned out that Nova liked all of those things, and didn’t seem to be very invested in unpacking if the moans I made when I came were actually my own or a remarkable Pornhub imitation.
I asked her once, nervously, if she ever objectified me. She laughed hysterically.
“Of course I do,” she said. “I zoom in on every photo you send me just to look at your tits.”
I was relieved, and then I felt guilty for being relieved. If I wasn’t dating cis-men, if I was actively not fucking the patriarchy, then why couldn’t I undo my desire to be totally fetishized? Shouldn’t I invoke some sort of gay body neutrality?
“Sav, I don’t know what to tell you.” Nova shrugged when I asked her this question. “We like what we like. It’s hard enough being gay as is, try not to judge yourself for liking it when I call you a dirty slut.”
Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s brainwash!
Aside from the exhaustion, being with Nova was incredible. I never had to worry about her thinking I was clingy, she texted me non-stop, her apartment was clean and with no two-in-one shampoo in sight, and there were so many things that we just didn’t have to talk about because we had a shared experience. Our relationship was filled with long summer mornings fucking in bed, surprise picnics at an overlook near campus, talking for hours on the phone at night when she had a gig out of town, and really really really good sex. I was so happy.
A month after we started sleeping together, she announced she was going on a tour across Europe and she didn’t know when she’d be back. I asked her if I could come with her until school started again and she said no, Nat was coming, and she wouldn’t be comfortable with that. I asked her if she wanted to do long distance and she looked at me for a long time, squeezed my hand, and told me I had a beautiful soul. It took me another three days to realize that was her way of breaking up with me.
I spent the rest of the summer in a soul-crushed daze. At first, I convinced myself that I actually wasn’t gay and just had completed the prerequisite experimenting that women were supposed to do in college. But then I thought a lot about Jacqueline Toboni and changed my mind. If I wanted to have sex with Jacqueline Toboni, I probably wasn’t straight. And then I contemplated being a lesbian for a while, but I Love You Man popped up on Netflix and I thought a lot about Paul Rudd too, so I decided that wasn’t right. After consulting a Healthline article, of all things, I decided that queer felt okay. And bisexual was okay too. When Nova ended things, I called my mom scream-crying. Something like:
“ThegirlIamDATING” / SOB /“justBROKEUPwithme” / SOB-SNOT /“andIfeellikei’mDYING” / HEAVE SOB / alsoi’mBISEXUAL / SOB SNOT HEAVE SOB.
“Oh, sweetie.” She responded. “I’m so sorry.”
After that, my mom started recommending movies I should watch, but I passed on her suggestions after watching Kissing Jessica Stein , where a straight woman basically leads on a lesbian for the entirety of the film, only to renounce her queerness and leave her for a man. Whatever that genre of gay was, I wasn’t.
And then I met Candace. After that first party she invited me to in her dorm room, I was completely overwhelmed. I went back to my room and Googled all the phrases I hadn’t understood. I was directed to a plethora of queer digital mags, and subreddits, and one site dedicated to The Golden Age Of Lesbian Tumblr, which apparently had gone downhill after Tumblr had changed its nudity policies. I followed as many radical queer Instagrams as I could find, and added a bunch of books that were considered “queer cannon” to my Christmas list. I knew my mother would love nothing more than to buy them for me, and subsequently read them with me, as she had told me very earnestly over the summer that she wanted to be a part of “my community” and not-so-subtly added a tiny gay flag to the pencil cup on her desk. My dad was quieter about his support; coming out to him was entirely anti-climactic, and ended in one of his classic speeches where he said something like, “I don’t care who you date, as long as the person respects you, has a job, and is forward thinking.”
I didn’t admit to my mom that I had no idea how to be a part of my community, because there seemed to be a whole second step after coming out, and that was finding your people. I mean, I had cis gay male friends, I did community theater growing up, but they didn’t really feel like my community. And Nova certainly hadn’t invited me into her community, and even if she had, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be a part of it. But that night at Candace’s felt like I had inched closer to the thing that I wanted, or at least I was given the chance to be able to look at it. I felt like I was standing around the perimeter of the group, watching them joke and laugh and flirt and reference inside jokes that they had had the whole year prior to come up with. And they were just. So. Gay. Effortlessly so. Each with their own iconic style and vibe and fluent in a language that made my head spin. But unlike Nova’s elitist group of self-proclaimed Celesbians, I felt welcome here. Wanted. It was thrilling, and terrifying. It had been four months since that queer hang, and I finally looked forward to having weekend plans. Candace invited me everywhere, like Gay Bowling Tuesdays at the alley in town, and queer book club, and she binged all of Atypical with me in two nights. But even though we were close, there was still something that made me feel distant from everyone else. Like if I got too close, something terrible would happen.