A few months into isolation, I swiped right on a software engineer who drew me in with an array of eclectic pictures.
First, a group photo with friends in a home setting which conveyed he had his own network and support systems.
Next was a meditation pose; he had secured at least one coping mechanism.
Finally, the clincher: he had a shot of him in a cooking class. It was the aphrodisiac of a man willing to learn something, often tacitly assigned to women in relationships, that prompted me to ask, “You seem like someone who is very grounded during what is a difficult time. What is your secret to balance?”
Instead of a treatise on somatic practice, I was charmed with just how down to earth he appeared to be, “An overused Netflix account and a two-month supply of guacamole.”
I was the sole inhabitant of a two-bedroom apartment in a US COVID-19 hotspot city looking for connection. My skin tone was Lupita brown and God did me favors in the chest and backside area. I returned to his profile photo to explore what I might ask about next. He was the color of 2 parts coffee, 1 part oatmilk. His skin looked smooth like he had an evening facial routine. He kept a close cut Caesar and a goatee and bonus: he only lived 2 miles away.
I was in trouble.
Building momentum, I asked: “What’s your jam on TV right now?”
He gushed about LaKeith Stanfield’s “Darius” in Atlanta. And I shared my infatuation with Stanfield’s real life partner Xosha Roquemore’s portrayal of “Gently James” in Cherish the Day.
“In a genre that includes Love Jones or Moonlight, it is one of the best I have ever seen,” I messaged.
Over the next few days we’d cover so much ground: best friends? We both found strong kinship in a younger sibling. Our travels in the southern United States? We both favored New Orleans over other gulf coast cities. The election? Warren over everything.
And then I nerved up to ask about the crux of it all, “So your profile says you are looking for something casual. Can you share more about what you mean by that?”
“I am approaching the one-year anniversary of a broken off engagement. I just started dating again and I am not ready for a long term commitment yet. It just wouldn’t be fair to me or the other person.”
“Breakups are hard,” I empathize. In truth, I was looking for more than just “dating.”
I was among the 80-90 percent of Black women who developed Fibroids before age 50. I was in my mid 30s and after a year into battling 6 tangerine-sized fibroids. I had gotten them removed a month before our first chat. I was one month into isolation on account of surgical recovery adjusting to the new norm of what my therapist and I called my “smiley face,” the horizontal 5 inch scar a few centimeters beneath my waistline. My stomach was still numb, but further south of my tummy I never had so much feeling. My clitoris just hummed with excitement at the thought of this man. My need for sex awakened, asking me to prepare for the end of this brutal hiatus.
I just regained my ability to walk at the pace of a New Yorker again but hadn’t been cleared for nocturnal activities yet. The last time I had sex was two weeks before my surgery. It was one of those glorious doggystyle sessions, late on a Saturday night. My partner was a 6’2 Nigerian man who could’ve gone undetected as a stunt double for John Boyega.
He was confident, heavy in real estate and technology, and just my speed. His girth game was on point and he had activated me one night after a party. I slipped off my black, sheer, polka dot hosiery for him and revealed no panties and moisture that leaks past lips and streaks down half a thigh. After hours of calling for the ancestors, he and I climaxed together in a cacophony of grunts and Oh-Gods.
You know when the dick is so righteous that you just remain in the pose that brought you to climax for minutes on end after it’s over? There I was, downward facing dog, bent knees in bliss — with only one smiley face.
It was a remarkable last time. But after a nuclear disagreement on gender roles in relationships, I cancelled him and proceeded to recover as a single woman with the support of family and friends.
Despite being encased in disposable, postpartum underwear, my pussy beckoned. She said, “It’s time to get out there.”
Ergo, the engineer.
The cognitive parts of me knew I needed more than just a fling. Along with the standard sexual consent negotiations, I had to think through how I would respond to a question about my scars, something every man who performed cunnilingus for me from now on would see.
And then there was the wrinkle of the global pandemic. With a lower white blood cell count than average, I, like many of the world’s inhabitants, feared the Coronavirus. I had read New York’s infamous Coronavirus and Disease 2019 sexual health guidance which decreed: “You should avoid close contact — including sex — with anyone outside your household.” I bemoaned the tough choice imposed on romantically single people. It was either sexual solitude and safety on one hand or casual sex and catching coronavirus on the other.
“Casual” wasn’t what I was looking for, but the connection was strong enough that it merited further conversation to see what could be possible. So we exchanged numbers and started dating.
We settled on a grocery store for our first date. Six feet away from one another we played bumper-carts at a Whole Foods before picking our favorite produce. It was during the pre-mask era. We exchanged grins as we picked the same items: copious spinach, honeycrisp apples, and shrimp.
A natural progression to the first was our second date: a virtual cooking session over Zoom. I wore a green, polka dot dress that had a plunging v-neck. He went super casual and peered into the Zoom in a classic white undershirt and some jeans. On his lightly melanated bicep, I could see the bold and proud adinkra symbol of Interdependence. I studied the two arrows pointing toward one another and recited it in twi, “Boa me na me mmoa wo.”
He replied, “help me and let me help you.”
I was thankful that my bra had enough padding that it concealed the excitement of my nipples’ erection.
We agreed on a shrimp pasta dish and secured the same ingredients. To impress him I suggested borrowing from a software engineering technique to cook with one another: pair programming. In pair programming, there is a “driver” that writes code while the other observes, and reviews each line. The goal is to take turns. In this dating session, we would take turns “driving” by doing meal prep, and cooking the pasta and shrimp, while the other observed.
We were both Jill Scott fans. And as she crooned, Until Then, (I Imagine), we took turns watching garlic brown in frying pans and pasta, first breakable, bend with ease in hot water. As we arrived at a delicious finish, I wondered about my deal breakers in the age of this new norm and the things I was willing to bend on.
As beautiful as the connection was, I wasn’t willing to risk sacrificing my well being—my literal ability to be—for sexual intercourse with him. But there had to be another way to satisfy my needs for sex and connection in isolation.
“This is spiritual,” he said. “To feel like we are cooking through one another.”
I took another spoonful and smiled at him wondering what other joy could be found together.
It was day 38 in self-isolation when I reached a bit of a breaking point. It followed after what many Black women might describe as the slap heard around the world.
It was right around 1 minute and 35 seconds into the Insecure “LowKey Distant” episode of Season 4. Molly, played by Naijaland’s Yvonne Orji, is taking some strong backshots from her Asian Bae after an exceptional dinner date. As she thrusts forward and throws it back she is greeted to the melodious thunder clap of a spank. As the sound careened across my living room, I felt at once like my engineer Bae was highkey distant.
Something — or rather, someone — had to give.
“Hey, would you be open to a phone sex date tonight?” I texted him.
He replied, “I would absolutely prefer the real thing — how would it work?”
As my phone vibrated and lit up in my dark bedroom with his call, I fastened my negotiation hat, “Here are my terms,” I said as if I was representing myself in trial proceedings.
“One – just because we have phone sex, doesn’t mean I am consenting to vaginal sex. Two – just because I am initiating phone sex, it doesn’t mean I want to forefeit my ability to just call each other and connect aside from sex. I don’t want to go from your daily texts of “Happy Tuesday” or “How are you doing?” to dick pics in the afternoon. How does that sound?”
“Cool, I’m in.” He beamed back.
Relief flowed through me. I had found a way to get to release safely. It wouldn’t be the same as our first preference, but it allowed me to sexually engage with someone I was connected with and spared me the complexities of my current medical issues discussing uterine fibroids and white blood cell counts.
“So how does this work?,” He said.
“It’s your turn to drive.” I said. “Tell me what to do.”
“OK,” he paused for a moment. “What are you wearing?”
“I am in a purple lace bra, no panties.” I said, as I unwrapped my two yards of purple and green textile cloth from across my waist and felt the fan’s breeze on my pubic hair and waited for the sound of his voice.
“Hmmmm, I wish I was with you,” he said.
“You are with me.” I said softly, now closing my eyes.
“Can I take your bra off?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said, “you smell so good.”
“I want you to touch your breasts for me then,” He said, “start by cupping the right one gently. They are so soft and so beautiful, True.” I followed his direction and let out a moan. “Now, with your right hand I want you to squeeze your right nipple with your pointer and thumb. Squeeze softly. Again. And Again. And Again. Now…”
“Yes,” I whispered. “Now what?”
“Now harder,” he said, bringing his voice down an octave while slowly introducing me to his carnal alter ego. “Put your nipples in my mouth,” he demanded.
“Yes baby,” I motioned to engage in the delicate art of pushing my Double D’s together and used my finger tips to bring my nipples one inch from one another so that one mouth could encircle them. I heard the sounds of his tongue in his mouth in a sucking motion over and over again.
He knew what he was doing.
For what seemed like minutes he repeated these sounds, interspersed with moans, as I held my bosom together until he gave his next instruction.
“I think I am ready for the main course True; are you ready?” I purred on the phone in glee to his request to taste me. “Can you promise me something, though?” He quizzed.
“What’s up?” I ask.
“Will you come in my mouth?”
“No question about it,” I said, moving my hands down past my waist. I was being leveled up with each question and his eagerness to bring me pleasure.
“Come sit on my face, baby?” He begged. “I want you to sit on my face because it makes me happy to make you happy. I want to feel your breasts while I make you come.”
After what felt like less than 10 vertical motions from the base to the tip of my clitoris, I was on the cusp of exploding inside and then out.
“IIII … ammmmm … gonna cuuuuuuummmmmmm!” I warned, now well above a whisper.
“Do it True, come in my mouth. I am ready for you.” He said. It was the verbal equivalent of that moment when your man increases the intensity of his stroke.
“Everything you are holding right now,” He said, “Let it go. Let it go in my mouth.”
What startled me was the sound of my soul moaning. It was a moan that carried with it the mourning of 38 days of no physical touch. What followed the sound was a splash that ricocheted against my sheets and then against my waist. This wetness baptized my scars and I felt no pain.
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I continued to wail from the first, then the second orgasm. When the immediacy of the pleasure passed, for minutes and minutes on end we held the phone as I languished in the purgatory between orgasmic bliss and the reality of the pandemic. From the speaker, I could hear his breathing and my breath: smooth, steady and strong.