E09: Beachcombing

DAY 83. 1,100 MI. TO GO

16 min read
This is me in the middle of one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.

I knew I wasn’t really interested. But I hadn’t listened, I had ignored my best instincts, and now I was in the passenger seat of Jolene’s minivan, hanging onto the door handle for dear life. The minivan was careening down the wet freeway, rain was cascading down the windshield, the wipers were working overtime, and Jolene was cackling on the speakerphone with her sister like she was just out for a Sunday drive.

The minivan was slaloming across the yellow line. Oncoming cars were flashing their high beams. For the third time in five days—stop me if you’ve heard this one before—I was sure I was about to die.


We pulled off the freeway on the outskirts of Arcata (Ar-KAY-ta), a college town just north of Eureka on the expansive flats surrounding the vast inland Humboldt Bay. There was a Motel 6 sign turning slowly, looming over the exit.

The parking lot was half-empty, but the office vestibule was jammed full with a queue of impatient guests waiting for their room for the night. All of the guests shared the same hideous stench that can’t be unsmelled—a rank mélange of cigarette smoke, body odor, and other unidentifiable grossness that I had come to associate with drifters.

The smell made me think about DJ, and I shuddered because the association was so clear.

One guy took his key and left the vestibule. Another bearded, stanky bro took his place. They were all men, and all of them were younger than DJ. Fairer skin, defined muscles, hope left in their eyes. Trimmers, one of the guys confirmed. Thousands descended on Humboldt County every autumn to shear the local marijuana crop into saleable quantities. These guys had spent the last few weeks living at a “scene”, trading labor for cash, smoking as much as they wanted. “It’s paradise out there,” the guy said. Didn’t smell like it. He furrowed his bro. “You’re walking down the coast? So what the fuck you doing here?”

I thought about it, but couldn’t—or wouldn’t—stop myself from blurting out the honest answer.

“I’m here to get some pussy.”

The guy’s eyes sparkled. “Nice.” He offered me his fist, and I pounded it.


The pussy in question had appeared out of nowhere. It fell in my lap. No, be more specific: it struck up conversation with me the moment I walked into a place called the Beachcomber Café.

It. What’s wrong with me? Pussies don’t talk. (Or if they did, I hadn’t yet learned their language.)

Jolene was her name. By coincidence—as she explained, less than a minute after meeting me—that day was one of the most meaningful of her life. Earlier that morning, Jolene had left her home in a small town in what I would later learn was the most notorious place in California so she could drive to Eureka, the county seat, to file her divorce papers, officially ending her relationship with the man she’d been with since she was a teenager.

“This is actually my first meal as a single woman in my life!” she exclaimed, eyes dancing.

I picked up my half-eaten sandwich and moved to her table.

No, no: it wasn’t what you think. I didn’t want to sleep with her; I wanted to hear her love story. Jolene agreed immediately, and before I could take another bite of my sandwich, I was already rapt—wrapped up in a Story that was just about the most gruesome thing I’d ever heard. Even worse than Jack the Chicken Man. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, drug addcition: Jolene’s story had a Bingo-card worth of traumas, and she seemed to delight in recounting them in a booming voice that echoed inside the Beachcomber. Unhappy patrons leering at us and frowning. Jolene didn’t give a fuck. She was a proud oversharer. In the middle of the part of the story when—while she was in labor with her fourth child—her husband left her bedside to make a move on their eighteen-year-old doula, which caused her—Jolene—to hang onto the kid for five more days, even though she—Jolene—was already six centimeters dialated, and when she couldn’t hang on any longer and he—her asshole husband, who she understands much more now, and might even still love him—she—Jolene—found a friend who wasn’t actually a midwife but had gone to midwifery college for a couple months and agreed to care for her, not that she—Jolene—needed the help, because she—Jolene—had already delivered three children and what the fuck was the problem, she could do this fucking thing in her sleep, she could do it in the desert if she had to, because that’s how she—Jolene—was designed, that’s how the greatest god of all, the fucking Goddess made her, and she—Jolene—pulled that fucker out of there in forty-five minutes flat without any drugs besides her own Goddess-made adrenaline—anyway, in the middle of that part of the story she—Jolene—paused to give away the ending: “This is all a part of the process of falling in love with myself, by the way,” she said.

There was nothing for me to say besides, amen, sister.

Whatever I said—or didn’t say—worked. When I returned to the minivan, motel key in hand, Jolene was still wearing that same eager grin she’d been wearing since I sat quietly for fifty-two minutes and forty-one seconds listening to her process of falling in love with herself. I grabbed my backpack, and we hurried through the pouring rain and up the stairs to a tiny room tucked on the second floor with just a single window facing out into the hallway. I knew I wasn’t really interested. But I hadn’t listened, I had ignored my best instincts, and now I was sure I was going to die.

Fortunately, my body took over, saying for me what I refused to find the words to say. It was a migraine. I get short, intense bursts of them on occasion. They appear like clockwork: thirty minutes of a hazy, unfocused aura, followed by thirty minutes of headache. When the aura arrived, I wondered if the redwood trees were sending me a message.

I was feeling faint. I wondered if this was the first indication of death. Did every enlightened being disappear in an aura? We were sitting on the edge of the bed, and Jolene’s expression had shifted to something more generous: maternal concern.

“I’m so sorry,” I was mumbling. “It’s just…” I grasped at every lie I could find. “I’m tired…It’s been a long day…I’m not used to spending so much time with one person.”

I couldn’t find the words to say I don’t really like you, I’m not particularly attracted to you, and all things considered, I think I’d be happiest if you left. I’m sorry for leading you on, and I’ll respect it if you think I’m an asshole.

“Do you want me to leave?” asked Jolene.

“No!” I lied. “I just need some time alone. Why don’t you come back in an hour?”

The moment Jolene left the room, I switched off all the lights, slumped next to the toilet, and held my head in my hands. I knew there was only one way out of this situation.


An hour later—on the dot—there was a knock at the motel room door. I was still slumped next to the toilet.

“Coming,” I cried. I stood up, switched on the lights and splashed water on my face. Then I considered myself in the mirror. My eyes were heavy. My expression was dead. I looked like I was being sent to detention.

“Come on, Jordan,” I muttered. “Man up. You’re about to get some pussy.”

I thought I knew better than to look a gift cunt in the mouth.

Back at the Beachcomber, in a flirtatious moment post-Story and post-sandwich, we had made a deal that was centered around a photoshoot. I had fantasized for months about photographing a woman naked, about using my camera to slowly seduce her. In my imagination, I had pictured someone a little prettier than Jolene. When Jolene stripped off her shirt and her pants, the kindest thing I could think to think about her body was that it looked like it had borne four children.

Dressed in a lacy camisole and a pair of deep purple knickers that were the same velvet material as the curtains in the auditorium at my high school, Jolene got onto the bed on her knees and beamed into my camera. It felt like an onerous task to try to make her look beautiful.

The problem wasn’t just the panties, or the anonymous motel room, or the nausea building in my stomach. The problem, I thought, was the bedspread. It was the only distinctive feature in the bland room—a bright mix of blues and reds and oranges that depicted an idealized, sanitized, corporatized version of road-tripping across America. I studied it through the lens: red rocks and cactuses, empty roads, vibrant cities, and not a single marijuana trimmer or just-divorcéd woman or talking redwood tree in sight. In my fantasy, the camera was an instrument of power; with every click and snap, the tension built—goosebumps raised, nipples hardened, lips licked over lingering glances—but in actuality, in the motel room, atop the corporate bedspread, Jolene was posing as naturally as if she was at the beach, and not showing off the dozens of DIY-tattoos that dotted what I could see of her exposed body. She toured me through them: a cupcake, a pineapple, a portrait of her dead grandmother.

“You know,” she said, “I think I’d be a little more comfortable if we were both naked.”

When I took off my pants, I was shocked to see that I had an erection. I felt like it was a dick that belonged to someone else. But it was there and it was attached to me, and I’d be damned if I didn’t know what I was supposed do with it.

But first Jolene wrapped me in a condom before lying prone on the bed.

The overhead lights were on, and outside the rain was pounding on the pavement.


Here, naturally, is the place for the description of the sex. You’ve probably seen sex in movies; perhaps—don’t ask, don’t tell—you’ve experienced it IRL. I won’t describe every movement, every thrust, mostly because there wasn’t any. I felt the telltale onset of ejaculation the moment I slipped in, and it took every clenched muscle in my body—and every thought of my grandmother naked—to fight tooth-and-nail against it.

I won that battle. At first.

I knew I wasn’t really interested. But I hadn’t listened, I had ignored my best instincts, and now I was inside of this stranger—a woman who, that very morning, had left her small town in what I would later learn was the most notorious place in California so she could drive to Eureka to file for divorce from the man who, by all accounts—i.e. hers—was a complete asshole.

Paging Dr. Freud. Dr. Freud to the Motel 6 on the outskirts of Arcata.

Sorry. Dr. Freud is pre-disposed at the nuthouse in the basement.

What could I do? I couldn’t thrust in, because I was already in as deep as it gets into what was, by all accounts—i.e. Jolene’s—one hell of a talented pussy. And I couldn’t thrust out, because all that sensation on the side of my shaft was sure to overwhelm the hideous image I had of my grandmother with a dildo. The most reasonable compromise seemed to be to keep my shaft securely in place while rotating my hips firmly in the generally vicinity of where I had heard that they stored the clitoris.

I did this for a few seconds, wiggling like a drunk uncle at a bar mitzvah, until Jolene looked at me with an expression so confused and emasculating that it literally made me shrivel.

It was a miracle from the Goddess! I had never felt so relieved to be dysfunctional. I pulled out and unwrapped my softening penis. “Sorry,” I mumbled. “It must have been the headache.” I must have been full of shit. “Sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. Sorry.”

I wasn’t sure whether Jolene spoke Canadian, but she let my trangression slip. Sorry, I wanted to say, for not redeeming your faith in masculinity. But my attempt to be a Man had failed.

I lay on my side, and Jolene spooned up behind me. For the briefest moment, everything felt still, and when I reached for the light, I convinced myself that all of this was just one bad memory—yet another bad mistake that I would somehow talk my future self into believing was all a learning experience.

At least, I thought, as I shut my eyes, Jolene will be gone by the time I wake up in the morning. At least I’ll never have to see her again.


Maybe it was the sound of the rain outside, maybe it was that it felt like it had been raining non-stop for months. Whatever it is, I found myself dreaming of moisture and wetness, of dripping and tingling, of… holy-fucking-shit-am-I-ever-turned-on.

When I opened my eyes, it was pitch black, and besides the sound of the rain, the motel room was chock full of the sounds of slurping and sucking as Jolene eagerly went down on me. And this—I was delighted to discover—was one hell of a blow job. She—Jolene—had a Ph.D in sucking dick.

Half-awake, my mind lit up with other, similarly crude thoughts. With the lights out, as my arousal heightened, I found it easy to imagine that the woman down there who was doing that was a girl of my fantasies, and not the loudmouth mother-of-four covered in stick-and-poke tattoos who I had stumbled into while I was beachcombing.

But holy shit was I ever turned on.

A condom appeared. It was affixed. I was raring to go, grandmother-with-dildo be damned. Jolene straddled my hips and held my head against her slit, running me from edge to edge. Every time I thrust, she parried. I reached forward to grab her by the hips; she caught me en route and dug her fingernails into my wrists, pinning my hands above my head.

Her nipple emerged from the darkness. She dragged it across my lips. I lurched forward, and she removed it. I groaned and fell back, and the other nipple reappeared.

“Suck it,” she moaned. Her voice was deep and guttural. “Suck my fucking tit.”

I lurched for it again, and she removed it, cackling all the while, sliding down the first inch of my shaft, and then releasing it just as quickly, so my dick smacked against my hairy belly. I moaned; she put her nipple gainst my lips again, and I pursed them, refusing it. “Suck it.” She ran her nipple from cheek to cheek. I couldn’t refuse her. I opened up, and she slipped the fucker in.

Jolene’s kisses were hot and wet. They explored beyond the lines, her tongue overlapping onto my face, her saliva matting in my beard. Earlier, at the Beachcomber Café, I knew I wasn’t really interested, but I hadn’t listened, I had ignored my best instincts and invited her to go to bed with me because she was newly single and obviously available, and that’s what I told myself that a Good Man was supposed to do: give this girl the fucking of her life. At that point in my life, I had slept with about fifteen women, and I had the strong hunch that I had given none of those women the fucking of their lives. I didn’t even know what that meant.

My cock was at Jolene’s lips again. She eased down an inch, then two inches, before letting me out just as quickly. I moaned and tensed at her grip, but she wouldn’t release me.

“What do you want?” she purred. “Do you want to fuck me?”

There was a knot in my throat. “Yes,” I gasped.

“Tell me.”

“I want to fuck y… OW!”

I yelped when her nails dug into my wrists.

For the briefest of moments, I thought about the talking redwood trees. We called you here…your whole life has been about… But then I felt Jolene’s heat hovering over my shaft, and the connections in my brain went cuckoo again. I knew I didn’t like her, but why the fuck did that matter? She was naked, she was here. I just wanted to feel that rush of orgasm. I strained against her grip, thrusting my hips off the mattress, but Jolene parried again.

“No,” she said sternly.

I moaned. I hated all this build-up.

Then, in one firm motion, Jolene buried me to the hilt. I relaxed; there was no threat of impending orgasm, this wasn’t going to end prematurely, I probably had two, maybe three minutes of fucking ahead of me. Before I could even thrust, Jolene had bent over at the waist, using her ample weight to pin my hand even more firmly against the mattress. She rocked her hips forward, firmly, slamming the headboard against the wall. I gasped at the way the sound echoed. Her cunt was like a river, her wetness was flowing down the crook of my thighs and matting on my balls, and the temperature of the room was rising quickly.

We felt safely cocooned, surrounded by the sound of the rain.

The headboard SLAMMED. Jolene’s tongue found my earlobe. “Do you want to fuck me?” she whispered hotly.

“Yes,” I moaned. For the first time, it wasn’t a lie.

SLAM!

Her tongue explored my ear cavity. I winced at the sudden wet Willy, but my willy was so wet that I didn’t even mind, I was so dying to fuck.

SLAM! Jolene rocked her body so easily. SLAM! SLAM! Her tongue made its way to my other ear. “Tell me.”

“I want to fuck you.”

SLAM! “Tell me again.” SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! “Tell me you want to give me what I want.”

I wanted… I wanted to give her she wanted. “What do you want?”

SLAM! “Do you want to know what I want? SLAM! SLAM! “I want…you…” She was nibbling on my ear; my whole body was on fire. “…to fuck me…like a…MAN!”

With the last word, her teeth bit down on my earlobe. Hard. Something inside of me snapped. I yanked my hands out of her grip and threw her off of me, so hard that she went tumbling off the bed. I hesitated in terror—oh no, I did it again. But something primal had overtaken me, and the moment I recognized that she was okay, I picked her up, threw her on the mattress and plunged into her.

SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! The headboard was pounding against a wall, and Jolene was babbling ecstatically. SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! as she made noises that were beyond human, noises that were animal, noises that sounded like one of those wind-up kids toys that make different barnyard sounds. She growled and grunted and whinnied and oinked and mooed and even gave out a hee-haw as she screamed out and then cock-a-doodle-doo’d when she came and came again. SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! It wasn’t me, this wasn’t the way that I normally fucked, this was way more than two or three minutes. I felt like it was a dick that belonged to someone else, but it was there and it was attached to me, and I’d be damned if I didn’t know what I was supposed do with it. SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! The lamp went tumbling from the bedside table, the sheets were stripped from the mattress, and we were screaming—both of us were screaming—so loudly that there was no way that anyone was still sleeping in the motel, no matter how much free weed the trimmers had been smoking.

SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM!

SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM!

Until finally, I pulled out, tossed off the condom, and grabbed Jolene by the back of her short hair as I came on her face.

She burst out laughing. “Where did that come from?”

I went to retrieve a towel from the bathroom, but by the time I returned, she was already snoring.


Until that moment, I hadn’t even known that men could experience sexual awakening. I figured that dicks were something that you intuitively knew what to do with, because no guy I had ever met—including Paul—had ever given me a crash course on how you were supposed to use your dick. But as I lay next to snoring Jolene, full of self-satisfaction, I felt like I had leveled up on dick. And I didn’t even need to buy a penis pump.

The next morning, Jolene was eyeing me like I was a God. (I decided that I owed some of the credit to the redwood tree, though I kept a bit for myself.) Leaving the motel, we got in her minivan and drove back to the Beachcomber Café. It was twenty miles north of the Motel 6 in Arcata. I thought that’s where my Jolene saga would end. We would have one final high-five. I would pose for a picture for posterity. She would keep it folded in her wallet, and she would always remember the strange, mythical bearded character who strolled out of the redwoods and gave her the fucking of her life. I was, I reasoned, her gift from the Goddess.

But that’s not the way it went down.

Outside the Beachcomber, Jolene asked whether I wanted to share a meal. How could I say no after what we’d just experienced? I pretended not to be annoyed as she spent an hour telling me how she—Jolene—had just gone to Hawai’i to celebrate her thirtieth birthday, where she—Jolene—honored her relationship to the Goddess by conducting a beachside ceremony where she—Jolene—could marry herself. She—Jolene—thought that I—me—should come back with her to the small town in what I would later learn was the most notorious place in California, so we could spend a few more days hanging out together. I could stay with her. Her ex-husband wouldn’t mind, neither would her four children. I tried to be polite because I was, after all, her gift from the Goddess, and anyway I was still riding that post-orgasmic high. But the high was fading quickly.

After breakfast, Jolene asked me if I would mind if she walked with me to the lighthouse at the end of the street. By the end of the day, we were still together, having walked the entire twenty miles from the Beachcomber Café to Arcata, while she—Jolene—talked about herself pretty much incessantly, and I wondered about the statute of limitations and responsibilites that comes with giving a woman the fucking of her life, especially because I was arriving in a college town, and I hoped that I would be able to repeat the same experience, only with someone prettier and substantially less self-involved.

The problem was that she—Jolene—was stuck. It was dusk in Arcata and her minivan was twenty miles away. How was she going to get back to the Beachcomber, pick up her vehicle, and then drive it all the way to the small town in what I would later learn was the most notorious place in California? The town—Garberville—was an hour’s drive away. She wouldn’t get there until her children’s bedtime; she didn’t like driving at night. Would I drive her car for her? She looked at me pleadingly. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t getting the picture. Why didn’t she understand that I wasn’t really interested? It was written all over my body language. Couldn’t she read my mind?

The solution was Phoenix. Phoenix was a guy we met in the middle of the afternoon who was out among the sand dunes, playing his banjo while sheltered from the wind. Phoenix smelled like a trimmer, but he wasn’t actually a trimmer. He’d found God a few years earlier while walking the entire Appalachian Trail without money or food; he’d welched his supplies from other hikers. Now, he’d just finished driving his station wagon across the country, along with his dog, Abby, so he could attend a homeopathic medicine program at a college in Arcata. He’d just arrived in Arcata that very night. Pheonix gave her—Jolene—his phone number. When she—Jolene—called, he generously offered to give her a lift back to her minivan.

“Actually,” he said, “I’m at the Motel 6, and they gave me a room with two Queen beds. Y’all are welcome to the other one.”

We drove up to the Beachcomber Café, picked up Jolene’s minivan, and then returned to the same Motel 6. This room was better, with windows facing outside. The rooms on either side were packed full of trimmers, the weed was plentiful and I smoked as much of it as I could get my hands on. Jolene was watching me like a hawk.

When it was finally time to go to bed, Phoenix threw on a DVD—it was the original Borat movie. He—Phoenix—got into one of the Queen beds and guffawed as he—Borat—made other people look like stupid assholes. She—Jolene—tried to spoon me again, but I turned away, creating so much space between us that I was practically falling off the mattress. I could tell that she—Jolene—was hurt, but I didn’t address it. I was angry. I knew I wasn’t really interested. But I hadn’t listened, I had ignored my best instincts, and now I was in the same situation all over again. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Phoenix was already snoring when Borat ended. The film reverted to the DVD menu, where the same sixty-odd second piece of Soviet-inspired march music played again and again. And again and again. And again and again. And again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and as agonizing as it was, I still couldn’t get myself to get off my ass and walk five yards to turn it off.

Where’s the fucking remote control?

Why won’t he do it?

Why won’t sheJolenedo it for herself?

Jolene was gone when I woke up in the morning, and I told myself that I had got off lucky by avoiding the fight.

I told myself that at least I’d never need to see her again.