Lisa felt anxious, worried, confused. Then there was a momentary awareness that she was not awake, and she felt relieved. But then her dream continued. She was hunched over a board, boys around her talking with intensity. There were cards, sheets of papers with tables and text too, and funny dice with lots of sides -- dice resembling pyramids and soccer balls. She felt fear, then panic, then a rush of embarrassment -- feelings that were hers and not hers at the same time. That kicked her out of her dream, and while there was instant relief in knowing again it had just been a dream, those feelings remained, lessening only slowly. In the aftermath she dimly recalled other dreams she'd had. Other dreams with boys in them. In these dreams she was a boy too somehow. They seemed totally different from the kind of dreams she usually had -- such as having to take a Spanish test when she'd never studied Spanish, or finding out that the reason the girls were laughing was that she was actually naked.
"What funny dice," she murmured out loud.
Something sizzled in her mind right after she said that. A sleepy sort of confusion, and a voice saying, "What?" The voice was male, and it was close, very close, as if she was saying it herself.
She froze and paid attention, but gradually the drowsiness took over -- not her drowsiness, somehow. When it had quieted, she gave a big sigh. And instantly there was a bigger sizzle in her mind. "What's going on?" said the male voice, accompanied by a feeling of rising panic and then -- nothing. It was just her lying in her own bed, gray through the window showing it wasn't too long before dawn.
The mind does funny things, she told herself. She tried to relax, confident she would fall asleep soon. But she didn't. She would get very close, then the shadow of that dread would arise ever so quietly, and the memory of the strange male voice that was almost like hearing herself. It was enough to keep her awake. Sleep didn't feel so safe any more.
She sat in history the next day, head in hand, looking down so she could close her eyes without offending Mr. Cohen. It was the drowsy time after lunch anyway, and with her poor night's sleep it was harder than usual to stay focused. Her mind went blank. Then a strange image came to her. She was seated in some other classroom, where the desks were arranged in a U shape. Her attention was focused on a girl seated across the way, whose legs were open enough to provide a view of most of an inner thigh. This was exciting for some reason, and it was followed by imagining reaching up under that skirt to the girl's underpants, to touching her right at that private spot. The yearning was surprisingly powerful, and it made Lisa uncomfortable. She abruptly sat up and cleared her throat. In that moment there was a sizzle in her brain, just like the ones in the night. She felt from this other place a deep fear tempered with the same sort of thought she had had -- the mind does funny things.
Lisa came to in the middle of the night, thankful to be relieved of another dream of being naked in school -- a dream that was upsetting as usual, but also comforting because it was familiar. She turned over, rapidly drifting back to sleep when she heard the same male voice. "Why is this happening?" it murmured. Lisa was suddenly wide awake. But there was nothing more. She lay back. The mind does funny things, but hearing voices -- that was something else. Something more serious. It sounded different, too, somehow. A little farther away, rather than inside her head.
She lay quietly and concentrated, trying to sleep again but also trying to figure out what was going on. She concentrated on trying to relax, then on attending to her thoughts. A memory of the naked-in-school dream drifted through her mind. Cindy was pointing and laughing as she walked towards the cafeteria ... And Lisa felt again the dread when she looked down and saw no clothes...
There was a male moan, then, "Ugggh, why am I thinking about a dream I never had?"
Lisa tried to calm her unease. "Keep talking," she murmured. "If I'm going to hear voices, I might as well get to know them."
She tried formulating thoughts in her head in the form of sentences. (This isn't real. It's just my brain acting up.)
"Sure, I'll keep talking," said the male voice. "Yes, I'm real. Of course I'm real. You're the one who is imaginary. Oh God, the girl in my brain thinks she's real. You're not. I'm real."
(If you're so real, tell me who you are.)
"I'm Mark. Mark Sanchez. I live in Berkeley, California. I'm a junior in high school. I have a big brother who's in his first year at Berkeley."
(What kind of person are you?)
"I read a lot. I'm into math and science. I'm kind of an egghead. I do stuff like Dungeons and Dragons."
"Oh, guys sit around and pretend they're knights and elves and stuff, and fight monsters. With spells and armor and weapons. And rolling dice to resolve battles."
The mention of dice brings to mind her dream, and images of the funny dice.
"Yeah, the dice are funny shapes. So you've seen them?"
She spoke. "No, I just dreamed them. Before hearing your voice in my head."
"This is so weird."
Wave of panic. (I'm hallucinating.) Mental hospitals...
"Oh, great. My hallucinations are worried they are hallucinating. Projection, maybe. I think that's the word."
Lisa's mind was blank for a moment. She wasn't sure she wanted to tell him who she was, but the thoughts formed in her mind anyway. (So, who am I? Lisa Monroe, Weston, a town near Boston. Distant father, a witch for a mother. Only child, one good friend Jen. I love to read.) But then the image from her daydream came to mind -- the U-shaped chair arrangement, a girl across the way, her legs open a little, the fantasy of sliding a hand between them.
A brief groan. "More projection, I guess. But yeah, girls are sexy. So I'll confide to the imaginary girl in my head: I'd love to have a girlfriend. Or just to, you know, do it with a girl."
A little thrill, then seeing herself on her bed, naked, legs spread wide, and an equally naked boy -- Josh -- on top of her, penis dangling down, lowering himself, something pressing against her vagina. Bigger thrill, fear... (This is embarrassing.)
"Oh, God," moaned the voice. "The girl in my head is horny. But why is the cock tiny? It would be big and stiff. Everyone knows that."
(Well, maybe I don't. How would I know what a penis really looks like?) She realized she was feeling very defensive. (I'm crazy. I'm hearing voices. I need to get back to reality.)
"For a hallucination, you make a lot of sense. So really, dear hallucination, I'm just a guy. Harmless. Friendly."
"Yeah, horny. But harmless." There was a pause. "You can't tell what I'm thinking, right? Only hear what I say. You didn't know I was thinking about skiing just then."
"You were thinking about skiing?" (But I could certainly tell what you were thinking in class with that girl. I should be calm about the girl. Yeah, guys are horny, it's natural. Of course girls would seem sexy, and their panties too, and what's inside. It makes sense.
"Thanks ... What if you were really real? Then that would be really embarrassing."
(Of course I'm real. You're the one who's imaginary.)
"What can I say? Guess we'll just have to disagree about that. Or, could we test it? ... Hey, I've got an idea! You write me a letter and I'll write you one. See if our imaginary friends can write. When no letter arrives, I'll know you're just in my head."
They exchanged addresses.
Lisa felt a bit better. The imaginary friend in her head was basically a decent fellow. Yet it was serious, hearing voices like that.
She was sorting through the mail as usual, ignoring all the stuff addressed to her parents in hope of the occasional "Lisa Monroe" on the envelope. And there was a hand-addressed envelope, return address Berkeley, California. She slid it out of the pile and chuckled to herself as she started scanning the rest of the mail. But then the importance of the letter hit her. She hurried to her room and shut the door and tore open the envelope. "Hi Lisa, from your mysterious secret admirer. Sincerely, Mark Sanchez." Postmark from Berkeley too.
It is impossible, she thought. It is not real. Yet there was the letter. She tried to think of how a hallucination in her head could create a letter postmarked in Berkeley. It WAS real. This was impossible, according to science. Unless she was hallucinating the letter too. But the paper crinkled in her hands. Her room was as real as could be. When she pinched herself it hurt. Everything else in her life made perfect sense, the way it always had.
She considered telling her parents, but then thought better of it. They'd never believe her. They'd laugh at her, unless they took her to the loony bin instead. She couldn't even tell Jen.
And besides ... this was kind of special. There was potential here.
So she closed her eyes and thought. (Earth to Mark. Come in Mark ... This is Houston, Mark -- or make that Weston -- do you read me?) Then she figured she'd say it instead, just in case. "Hey Mark, this is Lisa. Can you hear me?"
Nothing. There was a time zone problem. She hadn't thought of it before. Were they synchronized that way? It was 4pm in Boston, which meant -- which way did it go? -- 1pm in California. Who knew what he was doing?
The image came to Lisa of a bedroom, where she was sitting at a desk, reading a math book. She formulated a thought: (There you are. How are you?) But there was no trace from him -- no awareness that he knew she was there. So she spoke. "Hello, Mark. Do you read me?"
"Oh! Oh, yeah, um..." There was brief silence. "I don't get any thoughts from you, but I hear your voice."
(That's weird.) No, she had to say it. "That's weird. Sometimes it seems you hear my thoughts and other times I hear yours, but never both at once."
"I guess that's true." He said it out loud, but she picked up the thought directly too. "So this time I don't have to talk, I guess?"
"I got your letter."
(Uh, OK... )
"You know what getting the letter means? It means you're real!"
Exasperation. (Of course I'm real.)
"But now I know it for sure, see?"
She sensed Mark's thoughts churning, then a verbal thought. (Hallucinations. All hallucinations. But it would be kind of insulting if she is real and I don't believe her.) "I don't know you're real just because you got my letter. I have to get yours."
"Um, I didn't send one."
"Didn't get around to it yet."
"Well, that wasn't nice." (Irresponsible bitch. Oops, could I learn to control thoughts?) "I can't tell you're real until you send me a letter. You can say you got my letter, but my imaginary friend in my head would say that anyway, wouldn't she?"
"Oh, I guess you're right. Say, what time is it there?"
"Ten past four."
"Makes total sense. It's ten past seven here. Time zones."
"Hard to imagine it could work any other way." (If it was real! Damn it! I have to wait for a letter to come. It's not going to come. I'm crazy... )
"What thoughts of mine have you gotten?"
(Oh, get lost.) But Lisa sensed in his mind a dim shadow of her naked in school and her own embarrassment -- that would be her dream. Then she sensed from his mind more strongly the real Lisa, naked, looking at herself in the mirror as she put her bra on. Then Mark's explicit thought: (Oh, great, I'm remembering thinking about you naked.)
Lisa felt an echo of embarrassment herself. "It's OK, it's OK. If this keeps up we're going to get to know each other really well. I wonder if we'll have any secrets..."
(Oh, fuck you. Get lost. Shove it up your cunt. Get out of my head! You're just a hallucination!)
"I thought you said you were nice," said Lisa, a bit stung.
"I'll be nice if you're real, how's that? And mean if you're not real." (This is kind of funny.) "There's an incentive for you to write me that letter."
"OK, bye," said Lisa. But it didn't stop her reading his thoughts. They were all over the place. She could dim them by trying to focus on her own homework, but it was hard. But then, half an hour after she had said goodbye, it stopped. She relaxed. Life was so much simpler when you just had your own thoughts.
Mark wanted his letter. So she dashed off a note, pretty much copying what Mark had put in his, and put it in the mailbox that very afternoon.
Lisa woke in the middle of the night to powerful feelings. Sexual arousal and images of a girl -- the one whose inner thigh had aroused him that day. She was reading Mark, and decided to stay very quiet. She was aware of having a hard penis, which was a strange sensation. She also felt his fingers stroking it. Finger touch and penis touch correlated, and it felt very nice. Mark was imagining that girl on his bed, naked, spread wide for the taking. Every time his fingers slid up and down the shaft of his penis, it felt exquisite. But he was driven to do more.
Suddenly into his thoughts came the memories of Lisa and their conversation. What if she was real and was listening in? That would be so embarrassing.
Lisa considered talking to him, but was a little ashamed. She'd already been listening in on an intimate moment without making her presence known.
She was then aware of Mark's frustration as he pulled his underpants back up and his penis began shrinking.
He got her letter, a few days later. She was in her last class of the day when his thoughts flooded her mind. She shook her head, which she hoped would look to any of her classmates like she was just trying to clear out the cobwebs. But these were no cobwebs.
He'd gotten it the afternoon before and had been hoping he could reach her. He had tried relaxing, concentrating -- trying whatever he could to try to make the connection, but to no avail. But mostly she got his thoughts, over and over: (Oh, shit. She really is real! This is amazing. Who could I tell? No one... ) "Are you there, Lisa?" (Why don't you show up, now I know you're real? I've never been able to control when the connections come and go. I wonder if she can... )
"Hi, Mark," she whispered very softly.
"Thank God!" he said. "Where do we start? You're whispering."
"I'm in class ... What about 8 tonight, your time..."
"Oh, you're in class. Hmmm, that's inconvenient. Uh, OK, 8 tonight. But there's no way of knowing for sure if you'll show up. Damn!" (But hmmm, if she's in class, maybe I should calm down so she can concentrate... )
"That would be nice."
His thoughts did become calmer and less intrusive, and she was able to pay attention at least some of the time for the rest of the class.
At 11, Lisa had finished her bedtime routine. She lay in bed and concentrated, then relaxed, then concentrated again. Yeah, she really had no idea how to make the connection happen.
There was nothing, and her mind wandered. Suddenly an awareness of his room came to her.
"Oh, hi! Finally! OK, wow..."
"Calm down, if you can. Can you read my thoughts, Mark?"
(Right, time to calm down.) "No. I can just hear you. It's one of those times when thoughts flow west to east, I guess. Let me think of something."
(Seven. Seven. Seven.)
A brief pause. "Yeah, I can read yours just fine. Seven, a fine number. What a profound thought, you were thinking about seven."
"Why don't we both think really hard about reading the other person's thoughts..."
A minute passed. Lisa thought silently: (Earth to Mark's brain. Come in Mark's brain... ) She smiled. (Three, three, three.) No echo came back through his thoughts.
At the same time, she clearly picked up, (Listen for Lisa. Where is she? Maybe I could relax a little more. OK, I give up. ) "Nope."
"I knew you'd say nope. I knew it before you said. You didn't need to say 'nope'."
(Well, aren't you Miss Smarty Pants.) "I can't tell what thoughts of mine you're getting. It's really confusing." (But did I really call her a cunt the other day. Oops. that's not very nice.)
"Yeah, it wasn't very nice." But she was actually having fun, she realized.
"Sorry. Yeah, maybe we should just both talk. Keep a rhythm of conversation going." (And so maybe I won't think about words like 'cunt' and 'fuck' and about masturbating ... And she probably knows all this... ) "Yeah, but in my position right now, I better not lie, or you'll know!"
"Bwa-ha-haaaa! I knew. You just thought some four-letter words."
(Shit.) "But I'll get my turn to listen to your every little thought."
"Not if I can help it!"
(Uh-oh. My worst thoughts? Sex, sex, sex ... Picking my nose ... Think good thoughts, Mark. Sweet thoughts!)
Lisa smiled. But all her worst thoughts would come through sooner or later. If they were going to have mingling minds, best to be on good terms? Make a real effort to like him? But she didn't really need to fight revulsion at Mark's thoughts. She imagined what it would be like if he was a real jerk...
"But seriously, Mark, seriously..."
"OK." (What's she up to?)
"I ... I like you, Mark. And ... while we might not have much choice about this, I think we can make something good out of it. I mean, I'd like to be your friend."
(This is so strange ... How can it be real?) "Scientists would love to study us. This is the first solid evidence of mind-reading. We could even prove it ... Unless the connection never came back when they were listening in."
"I don't want to be a government project. And ... Maybe the whole thing is a dream ... Maybe I just imagined getting your letter."
"Yeah, I thought that too. But it's all so very real." (What were we talking about before? Oh yeah, being friends. This makes me nervous.)
"Yeah, I know. I'd be suspicious too. I'm sorry. But I meant it. And you'll be able to tell later, right. I'd like to be there for you."
She felt a surge of positive emotion from him. "Me too, I'd like to be there for you. Help you whenever I can."
There was a brief pause.
"Whoa!" said Mark, but now it sounded different to Lisa -- more like a voice at arm's length.
"That sure is disconcerting," said Lisa.
"It switched! Now I'm getting your thoughts."
"Right. And I'm not getting yours." Lisa felt her mind clear, in a sense. Just one person's thoughts, just her own. She relaxed. But at the same time she felt confusion, embarrassment, vulnerability. And he would know that.
"That's right," said Mark. "It's more work to be the one listening in, more stressful in a way. But then when you're being spied on ... you feel helpless."
"Yeah, I'd say so."
"And your voice switches, too. I wonder if it's just voice. When you were in class, I couldn't hear the teacher or anything."
They discovered that Lisa could not hear the sound of Mark whacking a book down on his desk. She couldn't hear anything over the radio or the rustle of his bedclothes or him rubbing his hands. It was just the vocalization, the words or whispers or throat-clearings or groans. Later they would confirm that it was symmetrical when the connection reversed.
Lisa thought to herself. (So, what are the secrets you really don't want Mark to know? Oh, shit, now he's going to find out how ugly I am.)
"There's no keeping secrets, really. Because when it swaps back you can kind of tell what the other person was thinking about before."
(Did you hear me think I'm ugly?)
"Yeah ... So why don't you go to the mirror and settle it."
Lisa felt panic, dread -- and resignation.
"Maybe you'll think I'm ugly too."
Lisa couldn't recall Mark looking at his own image. Maybe boys were luckier that way, less concerned about appearance. Feeling miserable, she walked over to the mirror and stood in front of it.
"Uh, can you get more light?"
She switched on the overhead light and resumed her position.
"Well, if you'd smile that would help."
She realized she had been scowling. So she smiled a little.
"You're really quite pretty."
"Liar. Remember, I'll know it later."
"Right. Quite pretty ... God, this is hard. But if you find I'm lying later it will be even more embarrassing."
(Oh God, it's true. I'm ugly as sin.)
"You won't be homecoming queen. But I like looking at you. You've got a nice smile. And great teeth. And everything else is OK, too. And ... If I was your boyfriend, I'd love to kiss you."
Lisa felt a turmoil of vulnerability and embarrassment. (Is it true, he'd like to kiss me? Or is he just saying that?)
"Yeah, it's true. Though I don't know, sometimes I don't say just what I meant. Sometimes I don't know what I want to mean."
(Everyone must feel that way. But I like the humility.) "What if one of us starts to, you know, 'like' the other but the other one doesn't?"
"Hmmmm. I don't know ... I guess we take it as a compliment?"
Lisa thought. What else was embarrassing? It came to her again, the heart of the whole sex business. She lay on her back, naked, legs spread wide, a boy lowering himself on her, this time equipped with the best her imagination could supply of a large, stiff penis, the huge thing poking against her opening. (You can read all of that, right? Lisa the slut ... or worse, the pathetic ugly bitch that no boy would fuck for a million bucks. His penis wouldn't even get hard.)
"Oh, shit, Lisa ... I ... I'd love to fuck you, I mean, make love with you. I'd like that so much."
On the surface Lisa felt stung by his words. But then into her mind came the memory of Mark masturbating.
"You were there? Oh, no..." Mark whimpered.
(I guess I hadn't thought of it until now, so he's just finding out.) "It was OK. It's natural. All boys masturbate, right? It sure felt good to me, through your mind."
"Yes! I mean, I've never been a boy, but when you stroked your hand up and down -- I could feel how good it felt."
"Well, that's nice..." Mark said, but without conviction.
"I kinda wish you'd kept going and finished. It felt good when you were doing it, but I felt frustrated when you stopped -- just like you, I figure?"
"Yeah, just like me." There was a pause. "Really, no secrets from each other at all. None."
For a moment, Lisa felt her emotional nakedness more deeply than ever.
And just then, the connection broke.
Mark and Lisa were both smart and inquisitive. They rapidly mapped out the mechanics of their mind-reading.
Lisa could not force her way into Mark's mind. But if he decided he'd let her in, then she could often make the connection to read his thoughts. Interestingly, if he decided the last thing he wanted to do was let her read his mind, she could often get in then too. She'd sometimes be drawn in then without really trying. It was a bit like, "Don't think of an elephant!" She was least likely to get through if he was just intently involved in something else. And the rules were exactly the same in the other direction. They could never swap who was reading whose mind, even if they both wanted to. But it occasionally happened.
They talked about the difference between telling the truth, lying, and leaving things unsaid. Lisa was a little hurt that Mark thought her eyebrows were too dark and prominent. But he couldn't help feeling that way, and she knew it. It was obvious that saying he thought they were perfect was no good, as his lie would be uncovered. But it was somehow better to leave his negative reaction unsaid, and just let her discover it later. Because to actually go out of his way to say it was being unkind.
When Lisa first took a look through Mark's eyes, looking at himself in the mirror, she thought he had bad acne and big ears. When he found this out later, he was not in the least surprised. She also thought he was not built like an athlete. But he was delighted to find that in spite of all that, she thought he was sexy. That part she said out loud, with some embarrassment to both of them, but later he could tell it was true. He had fantasized about girls plenty before, including what he might do to get a girlfriend. In the past when he imagined himself asking Anne out on a date, he imagined himself through her eyes as hideous. And now he knew that through Lisa's eyes, at least, he was pretty sexy. Someone a girl could fantasize about in a positive way. A girl might reject him, but maybe she wouldn't think it was ridiculous that he had asked.
And Lisa in turn learned all this when thoughts were flowing from west to east.
"Ooohhh! What's that feeling? Are you sick?" asked Mark.
"Me, no. Why?"
"Is it indigestion?"
"No ... Oh, cramps! Welcome to cramps, Mark. Not especially bad ones."
"Shit, let me out of here."
"Ah, c'mon, suck it up. It comes with the territory of being a girl."
"But I'm not a girl."
"I guess you are for the moment." (At last, a boy who knows a little about what cramps are like.)
"I'll never again think a girl is a sissy for complaining about cramps."
(Good boy! Oops, that's kind of condescending.)
"That's OK ... that's OK."
Lisa concentrated hard on her homework and pretty soon Mark was released.
"So that's how a urinal works," said Lisa.
"It kind of burns just a little when it comes out. Not too bad ... Then shake, shake, shake, and stuff it back in your pants. No toilet paper."
Mark was opening the boys' room door into the corridor, so he didn't speak out loud. (Well, with you, you let it go and it like falls out of you instantly. Psssssst. All done!)
"I guess so," said Lisa with a laugh. "You're not just prolonging the experience of peeing because you think your penis is just SO cool?"
(Yeah, right. Well, it IS pretty cool ... Oops, she'll pick that up.)
"Actually, you're right, it IS pretty cool."
"What the heck is that? It's like you haven't eaten in a week ... Oh, oh, I see."
What Lisa saw was a very pretty girl standing in front of Mark in the lunch line. She wore a short red skirt. Her low-cut top didn't fully hide a rather skimpy bra, which in turn didn't really hide a pair of sizable breasts. She rocked back and forth on her feet as she talked with her girlfriend. The intensity of Mark's attraction was very uncomfortable.
Mark didn't formulate any thoughts for Lisa's consumption. But the girl sure was hot, and his penis was getting partially erect.
"A pretty girl. A gorgeous girl. I can see that. But your desire! Man, I think I'm beginning to get where rape comes from," murmured Lisa.
Mark couldn't suppress a laugh.
The two girls turned. "What?"
"Nothing, nothing," he said. "Just a strange thought that came into my mind."
The two girls looked at him like he was weird, and turned back.
(Hey, don't crack me up at the wrong moment.)
"Sorry," murmured Lisa.
Lisa stormed into her room and slammed the door behind her.
"Hmmmm," came Mark's voice.
"Oh, you were there? Now you know what an awful witch my mother is!" They had just been fighting over whether Lisa could wear a particular rather short skirt to school the next day.
Mark didn't say anything, so Lisa repeated. "Hello? My -- mother -- equals -- horrible -- witch!"
"Ummm, yeah, I guess."
"What! You're taking her side?"
"Well, I've got to be kind of honest, right?"
"No! Not if you're my friend!" Brief pause. (Sometimes I wish I didn't have to know what you think.) "OK, I guess so, but what do you know about mothers and daughters?"
"The skirt is pretty short."
"Yeah, but you've seen some of the other girls, right? Is it different in California? Well, of course not! That girl you almost raped in the lunch line, for example!"
"And just how much fun was I having in the lunch line looking at Mandy's short, short skirt?"
"Yeah, well of course we want to look attractive. And it's cool. It's the latest."
"I don't know fashions, but it would be just as cool if it was three inches longer. That's a boy's perspective, at least."
"With your mom, too, you said an awful lot of mean things."
"Did not! She deserves every word and worse!"
"Well, I had an idea."
"OK, Ann Landers." Sarcasm, both audible and mental.
"Why not say that you accept what she says and that you are not going to wear the skirt to school. But also say you want her to know that you think it would be just fine if you did."
He explained it again.
"OK. But I'm on your side. It's what I thought might work best."
"It was stupid."
"Give it a try. What do you have to lose?"
Lisa had much to say about what she had to lose.
But she tried later, when she was not connected to Mark. Her mother was obviously relieved that she agreed not to wear it to school. And that made Lisa mad because it felt like her mother had won. Then she got to the harder part.
"I won't wear it, but I still think it would be OK to wear it."
"That's ridiculous. It's too short!"
Lisa fumed. And then she heard Mark clear his throat. He had apparently slipped into her head unnoticed.
She was seething and couldn't think of anything to say.
Mark presumably sensed that, because he dared to tell he what she should say, word for word.
And because Lisa was so upset, she trusted him and just repeated what he said. "That's not the point ... The point is that I think it would be OK to wear it ... You think I'm wrong. But I don't ... I have my own opinions ... And I want you to recognize that that's what I think." The pauses came as she waited for Mark to cue each line. It felt weird to say those things, but she realized she believed everything she'd said. At least she thought she did. "What?" Her mother looked startled. "Are you feeling OK?"
"I'm fine." She felt angry and confused, but there was a little bright spot. Mark was on her side.
Her mother paused, thinking hard. "You want to get into who's thinking what?"
"Yes," said Lisa, unprompted. "I have my own opinions. Sometimes they're different from yours. And I want you to recognize that."
Her mother's brow was furrowed. "OK, Lisa, I recognize that's your opinion. You're allowed to have your own opinions." And Lisa could tell she meant it. Sort of meant it. Meant it enough.
And while it was in one sense a silly detail, it was also somehow very important. It opened a crack of understanding between them. They still fought plenty, but less. They could sometimes find that crack and defuse a situation. They were two different people, with opinions that had to be respected. Sometimes the arguments went Lisa's way and sometimes they didn't. But it was much better. And Mark had somehow seen it. He later explained how he'd been around the edges of groups in Berkeley where adults learned to communicate more clearly, and a little of it rubbed off.
Mark lay in bed, remembering Mandy that day saying something nice to him and smiling. His cock was stiff. What he'd like to do to Mandy ... But what if Lisa came into his mind, uninvited as usual? She'd said before that she'd felt his desire and pleasure, and kind of wished he'd finish. And he trusted her more, he guessed. The desire burned in him. He pulled down his underpants so he had free access. Then he stroked away, imagining his cock poking between Mandy's legs, finding the opening, finding and absorbing the warmth within.
But then he realized he hadn't done any foreplay. What would Lisa think? So he pulled out his imaginary cock and kissed Mandy, then fondled her breasts, then stroked her between the legs with his fingers, aware that he had no idea what he was doing. He wondered if that was enough, and then figured to hell with it. Those thoughts of foreplay had been compressed into just a couple seconds. What he wanted was to fuck Mandy. Shove his cock up her pussy, pound away ... He figured Lisa wasn't listening in, but she had said she'd felt the same pleasure. When he came, would it be kind of like making her come too?
It was an erotic dimension all its own, and multiplied his pleasure. Yes, he would truly love to be mounted on Mandy, her legs wide apart as she welcomed him inside, smiling up at him. In his imagination her hair was mussed, intimate and inviting, her eyes and face so pure and fresh and hot. Her breasts stood out, but down below her smooth curves led over a mound, between silky thighs, all to the female center he craved. He occupied it, fully and insistently, he pounded away, making her all his, and he felt the pleasure building. It felt SO fantastic, and then the pleasure crashed in a wave of satisfaction and he was spurting his juice deep up her cunt. Imaginary Mandy shuddered with her own orgasm as Mark delivered his load. He lay panting, inevitably aware that he had of course spurted on his own chest, and not inside a girl. After a while he took a fistful of tissues from the box beside his bed and cleaned up. (Are you there, Lisa?) There was no answer.
But Lisa had been there, staying quiet as a mouse. She was delighted with the pleasure and the relief -- that's what an orgasm felt like? But she was a little surprised at the spurting part. She knew sperm came out the end of a penis, but had no idea of the details, like the multiple globs. And somehow she expected there would be a thought like, "Now shoot the sperm out." There was none. Mark felt the overwhelming pleasure and the release, but the sperm part was automatic, something that just happened.
Lisa was reading Mark the next evening. She got his thought that he had picked up from her that she HAD been tuned in when he masturbated.
"Yeah, jerking off ... Your orgasm feels fantastic. Kind of gross making a big mess, though."
(It's embarrassing -- it's so personal... )
"Yeah," she sighed. "Sorry about that. I liked the feeling a lot. If I'm going to have to join you in feeling like raping Mandy in the lunch line, I'd like to join you in relieving the urge when you're alone later. But I have a question. Would you like me to tell you when I'm listening in?"
(Hmmmm. Hot idea, but kind of scary too.) "Maybe better not ... What about you? I can tell you used to masturbate a little, now and then, and sometimes I've felt the thought go through your mind since we got connected, but you won't consider it because I might drop in any time."
(I've been with you in the shower, I've been through changing tampons and pads, through some smelly poops... )
"Yeah, but those are just things girls have to do. Sex is different. It's embarrassing if I do something like that that I don't have to do."
"Yeah, that makes sense." (I guess ... But I've sure loved to know what it feels like for a girl ... And not just any girl, for Lisa... )
Lisa felt a little thrill.
"Oh, you heard that. She's always nagging me like that. I just ignore her."
"It's stupid. My room's fine like it is. Have you ever seen Tom's room?"
"No, but I'm sure yours is not the messiest room around."
"I'd like it if you'd clean it up a little."
"You? You don't live here!" (Are you going to be a nag?) She felt his hurt and confusion.
"Well, I kind of do, a fair amount, right?"
"You mean you care about it?" (It's none of your damn business!)
"Yeah, I do. You can't even get across the room without stepping on something."
"So, I step on things. So what?"
"So, maybe I have an idea."
(Oh, I helped you with your mother, and now you think you can help me with mine. Ha!) She felt his dread at the thought of cleaning up. Many memories of contemplating a hopeless task.
"So, what about trying to think about clean-up a different way ... Let me help you. One step at a time. Just be my robot."
(I wish you'd just go away. But OK... )
"Pick up the clothes, one thing at a time."
"You're not cleaning up your room. You're just doing what Lisa says, right now."
(OK, for you... ) "I can never tell if something's dirty."
"It's all dirty. Or just assume it is. No harm if you're wrong ... But it mostly is, believe me. That one's inside out, fix it ... Unwad the sock ... Good job ... Don't worry about the crumbs, just brush them off into the wastebasket ... Oh, the wastebasket is overflowing ... Just dump them over there for now..."
Mark stopped. (If I do this, I'm giving in. My mom will have won.)
"She offered you a bunch of stuff, you know. Like getting the car on Saturday sometimes. That calculator you've been wanting."
"But it's all on her terms. Her game."
"Hmmm. Well, propose your own terms."
"Say you'll clean your room if she promises to let you buy $100 of new clothes."
"What? Clothes shopping? Blech!"
"Say you get to pick everything."
"I have no idea what clothes to get."
"No, but I do. I know what's decent. What girls would like."
"It sounds boring."
"It might be, but just a couple hours and you'll be all done."
Suddenly the connection reversed, and Mark was seeing the inside of Lisa's picked-up room, through Lisa's eyes. Lisa's thoughts including her adjustment to being blind to anything in California. She only heard Mark's voice.
"Hmmm," said Mark. "Maybe that's God's way of saying I don't need to clean my room."
"Yeah, right ... One thing ... You've got to propose the deal before you've cleaned the room up all the way. So you've got some leverage." She laughed. "I guess I didn't need to convince you to stop cleaning the room."
But he didn't stop right away. He asked her a few questions, even though all she had to go on now was what he said. And then the connection broke.