The Future of Sex
“Close your eyes.”
Andrew was startled. He’d been listening to music when Chloe entered, and hadn’t heard her approach. His door was unlatched, without a digital lock. He hadn’t been kidding about being poor. His connection was isolated to the terminal playing the music. He lived like a bohemian, and his apartment was little more than masonry and glass. She felt guilty about using her Beam connection to ferret out Andrew’s address, but once her hands were on his hips, her chest pressing into his back, Chloe no longer cared.
“You surprised me.”
She reached toward the terminal — a simple, no-frills model — and touched his screen to change the music, choosing something soft and lyrical to replace it. Something sappy and lovelorn that her mother would mock.
“Close your eyes,” she repeated.
He hesitated. She couldn’t see his eyes because she was behind him, but Andrew’s body language betrayed a man at attention. His moment of reluctance gave her pause until she realized his doubt was about himself rather than her.
“Just do it.”
She sensed his eyes closing. Then she rested her hands on his chest, palm flat. The movement was sensual, but not sexual. Her default would have been to go below the belt, so she kept her hands high.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I wish I worked out more.”
“Not feeling you. I meant that I’m attempting to feel. To emote.”
“How is it going?”
“I don’t know.”
And she didn’t. Chloe was feeling just fine, but it was like an ingrained response to Andrew’s presence. If he were feeling doubtful or down, her chameleon nature would want her to adapt, to touch him in just the right ways and say just the right things. She wasn’t sure if her genuine reaction — if she’d ever felt such a thing — was the same.
“You don’t know?”
“What do you want me to say, Andrew?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“What do you want from me? How would you have me feel?”
Andrew hesitated. “Is this a test?”
He sounded concerned, or even more doubtful than before — the opposite of his usual carefree, playful self. Something had been wrong at the park, and it had occupied Chloe’s mind, heavy like an anchor, ever since. That same thing was still wrong, but had matured into something else.
“No,” she said. “It’s not a test.”
“I don’t want you to feel anything. You feel what you feel.”
It was such a simple thing to say, yet Chloe didn’t know if her body and mind understood.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“Nervous.” It was the truth, but she wasn’t sure if it was her base or something more meta. Was she nervous for her own reasons, or because she wasn’t sure how she truly felt?
“Me too,” he said.
With her flat palms, Chloe could feel his heart. “I can tell.”
“I don’t know what to make of you, Chloe.” His words were rushed as if he’d been dying to say them.
“Nobody seems to.”
“I don’t know if I like you for you, or if I like the person you’re becoming so that I will like you.”
Chloe turned Andrew around. She didn’t have to tell him to open his eyes. He did so automatically, those usually-playful orbs suddenly so serious.
“So,” she said, “you can tell.”
“I don’t know what I can tell.”
“You’re conflicted. There’s something wrong.”
“Conflicted,” he echoed. “But nothing’s wrong.” Then: “At least, I hope not.”
“But you don’t know.”
“Honestly? I don’t.”
“My whole life is about feeling, but it’s always as a response.” Chloe swallowed, hesitant to voice what was coming. “But I know how I feel about that — about your hesitation.”
“I think I love you, Chloe.”
“But you don’t know.”
He shook his head.
A tear tickled the corner of her eye.
“And I know how I feel about that, too.” He moved to kiss her.
“I want to.”
“Because I want you to?” Chloe asked. “And I want you to because you want to?”
Andrew tipped his head a little; he didn’t have to say that Chloe’s double-talk was confusing them both. He pressed his lips to hers, felt her lack of response, then pulled back. “Does it matter?”