I am almost running to my place when I get off the train, hoping my housemates are home to help me unpack the dilemma I am in. I am not naïve enough to think Prof had merely extended a platonic, friendly invitation. And now the ball was in my court. I knew I wanted to go, but if I did, what would that mean?
In between glasses of wine, my housemates rescue me from the depths of my overthinking, and we conclude that if I want to go, I can go. I can always decide what happens next when I am there. I feel safe enough with him to exercise that option.
I shower. I get ready. I try to look simple and casual, but I end up wearing matching underwear. I pick out my skinny jeans on purpose to buy me time to change my mind if, for whatever reason, they start coming off tonight. I am throwing myself off with my indecisiveness considering how clear I usually am about what I want.
What the fuck??? I keep saying to myself, noticing the combination of nerves, excitement and apprehension that have manifested themselves into shaky hands as I do my make up.
When I am on the train back into town, I sink back into my overthinking. What the hell am I doing? This is a man, firstly. How do I tell my partner I am now considering jumping the bones of the man I said could be my mentor and confidant?? What about all the little girl feelings his fatherly demeanour evokes in me? What about my values? What about the many times I’ve spoken out on men who pursue relationships with particularly younger women? Here I am literally presenting an opportunity for something like that to happen.
I am nervous as I make my way through the university estate. For some reason, I feel like everyone knows why I am there and who I am going to see even though no one has a clue who I am. I already feel ashamed at the idea of anyone knowing I am visiting their professor or esteemed colleague. I walk into the lobby of his building, and he is standing there, waiting for me like the gentleman he is. The look on his face is no longer of the linguistics professor who cares deeply about this fellow African young girl in a foreign country. He looks like a little boy who sees that his Christmas present is wrapped up and resembles the shape of the toy figure he was told his parents can’t afford to get. It excites me too. He pulls me in his arms and hugs me.
“I’m so glad you came.”
I would respond but I can barely compose myself.
Upstairs, Prof. has cooked dinner and the apartment smells like incense even my experienced nose has never come across. He is playing soft African instrumentals in the background. His place is full of books on linguistics and African languages, of course. I see beautiful pictures of him and his children. He doesn’t drink, so I am pleasantly surprised and relieved when he offers me a glass of wine. He can tell and says “I’ve been meaning for an excuse to open this for a special guest. I hope you like it.”
I sit on the couch and listen to him ramble as he gets the dinner table ready. I am a little bit annoyed at how easily he is able to ignore the tension in the air, or was I the only one feeling it? I am conflicted by my emotions and values and what I initially wanted from this connection; part of it makes me want to run out that door, and the other side is making me soak my panties in anticipation of what could happen next.
I can barely eat dinner. I am not as conversational as I usually am. I hardly make eye contact and I manage to smile when I’ve paid enough attention to the few words he is saying, but my mind and body are agonised and excited by the feelings of tension within me. After dinner, Prof. lights some candles and turns the lights down and sits next to me. My palms are sweating and I am overwhelmed by the attraction I feel towards this man. As I hear him about to start talking about another one of his discoveries while studying the Creole language or whatever, I find my voice and try to speak, but I must clear my throat first and try again.
“Prof… if you don’t kiss me right now, I might just explode.” I tell him.
He doesn’t look surprised at my exclamation. I look at him for what feels like forever before he leans in and gently touches my face, and he kisses me. Just a light peck on the lips.
“I… ” He whispers, millimetres away from my face. “I’m struggling. This dynamic and age difference between us… it’s nothing like I’ve done before. I keep thinking, if this was my child… and… I’m conflicted.”
I feel relief.
“So am I.” I respond.
I kiss him again anyway and all the tension and conflict in my body flows up my arms, through my neck, down my chest and into the pit of my stomach. For a moment it lumps up and sits like a ball of erotic energy right in the depths of my womb, setting my whole body on fire. He puts his tongue in my mouth and that ball of energy melts away into my body and I am wet and flowing wildly. I want to feel his hands on me but Prof is gentle and pensive. I want to be patient with him and empathise with his reluctance, but my skin is itching with greed for his touch.
“Prof… please.” I gasp.
I didn’t need to say anything else. My body is going wild at this new feeling of being this intimately close with a man and wanting him so much. I hear the wrapper of a condom somewhere and he kisses my neck while he readies himself. He fills me to the brim in one thrust and I am almost completely awakened from my erotic trans by the feeling, so much, that my sober, overthinking starts flooding back. The feeling of his gentle hands that make the little girl feel safe in me collide with the lust his penetration and kisses ignite. I toggle between thoughts of him as this respectable, awesome father and this lust-driven animal devouring me. Is this the sexy part of the Oedipus complex?? In that moment I surrender, and I know there are no amount of words between all the vocabulary he has studied, and all the poems and stories I have written to encompass everything our bodies were saying in that moment. He takes his time with me, painfully edging me on with deep, slow strokes.
“Prof. please….” I find myself begging again. Instinctively, he understands what my whimpering means. He puts his hands under me and grabs my buttocks and thrusts deep and hard. I hold him tight and muffle my moans into his shoulder, allowing myself to surrender into the ecstasy of mine and his orgasm.
I hear the morning birds outside. I enjoy the feeling of lying in his protective arms and I am startled awake suddenly. I am immediately overcome by the feelings of shame and regret when I realise where I am and what has happened. I make up an excuse about having to be somewhere. I am barely a minute in the shower. I get dressed and insist he doesn’t have to walk me out.
I feel disappointed in myself and him and then…a new feeling. Judgement. I judge him. He is supposed to be one of the good guys. A good father who doesn’t sleep with kids as young as his students or children.
I ignore Prof.’s calls and messages as my work week begins, feeling guilty about all these thoughts, yet not knowing how to dispose of them. I know deep down that Prof. hadn’t done anything I didn’t want him to do, and that I was judging him mostly to deflect the judgement I felt for myself. I wanted so badly to make this platonic, mentorship and father figure-like relationship work for the little girl in me who so craved that experience, and I felt like I had let her down and messed it all up. I wondered again, if I’ll ever know what that feeling is. Will I have another opportunity to satiate this desire for the little girl in me? I spend my lunch break crying in a bathroom cubicle at the recurring reminder that I may never know what that feels like.
I decide to be brave, and I send Prof. a message describing my feelings as best as I can. I agree to meet him at the park to talk about it and in almost an instant of seeing my troubled face, his demeanour is back to being that of a nurturer, a protector. Someone gentle and safe. I talk to him, and I lay it all out. He doesn’t pathologize my feelings or interject with a defence when I tell him how much I judged him for a moment. He pulls me in his arms. I ramble and rant and I cry, and he just holds me and he wipes my tears. Without saying anything he makes it feel ok. How does he do that?
His nurturing and careful approach with me doesn’t help my attraction to him either. I continue to spend time with him. Most times we do a good job at sticking to my original intentions with this relationship, and sometimes, usually because of me, we wake up on the floor, couch or bed with our naked bodies intertwined.
I visit him at his campus office one day, and he tells me about the open door policy he has (literally, he never closes his door) to avoid the slightest discomfort a student could feel when consulting him. I am feeling better about our situation, but I take a jab at him and say “Yeah, we definitely don’t want your colleagues suspecting you’re sleeping with girls as young as your daughter.”
I can tell he is hurt by the comment when he drops his head. I feel guilty but I say nothing. He looks at me again and says, “You’re absolutely right.”
We spend the next few weeks struggling back and forth between the natural would-be platonic relationship we have, and occasionally giving in to the sexual chemistry between us. One evening, we’re in the apartment he is house sitting for his colleague, overlooking one of the most beautiful skylines in the city. We’re in bed, naked, silent and watching the lights. Sometimes I allow myself to fall asleep pretending I am being cuddled by my dad. Then I’d feel his hands caressing my bare skin lovingly, and I start crying out of a sadness and sense of loss I still cannot put into words properly.
“I wish I could say something to make you feel better,” he says to me. “It’s pointless to beat yourself about this. I can’t make the conflicting feelings go away but I promise I will always make you feel safe to just be when you’re with me. I’ll still care for you like I care for my own, I’ll be a friend, and when you want to, I am also here to just hold you like this.”
His words make me cry even harder. I want to speak, but my tears are choking me. Instinctively, he holds me tight and lets me cry, kissing my bare back, making me pull his hand closer to all my erogenous zones. And as we make love for the umpteenth time that night, I think about how his strokes feel like they reach into deep parts of me that all the talking could never fix. I’ve believed in therapy since I was a teenager and yet, what this man was doing to me in that moment felt like when someone helps you scratch an itch you cannot locate or reach. Being with him and sharing in those intimate moments soothed so much of my sadness in a way I could not have imagined.
Prof. and I continue with our affair for a few more months. Eventually, we would exercise our self-control and maintain a good, healthy platonic relationship for years to come, but before that, we create our own little bubble where our dynamic was ok and acceptable for us. He would show up as the father I never had when I needed him to. He stimulated me with his amazing mind when we’d stay up talking for hours, just enjoying each other’s company. And when my daddy issues would come up, when I am sad, he would hold me and kiss me and pacify his baby girl’s cries with his love.